Sunday, July 01, 2018

Born Today in 1899, Academy Award-Winning Actor Charles Laughton


Charles Laughton was born today, July 1, 1899. He was an English stage and film actor, director, producer and screenwriter. Laughton was trained in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and first appeared professionally on the stage in 1926. In 1927, he was cast in a play with his future wife Elsa Lanchester, with whom he lived and worked until his death.


He played a wide range of classical and modern parts, making an impact in Shakespeare at the Old Vic. His film career took him to Broadway and then Hollywood, but he also collaborated with Alexander Korda on notable British films of the era, including The Private Life of Henry VIII, for which he earned an Academy Award for an Actor in a Leading Role. He portrayed everything from monsters and misfits to kings. 

Among Laughton's biggest film hits were The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Mutiny on the Bounty, Ruggles of Red Gap, Jamaica Inn, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Big Clock. In his later career, he took up stage directing, notably in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, and George Bernard Shaw's Don Juan in Hell, in which he also starred. He directed one film, the thriller The Night of the Hunter.

Laughton has been seen by one actor as one of the greatest performers of his generation. Daniel Day-Lewis cited him as one of his inspirations, saying: "He was probably the greatest film actor who came from that period of time. He had something quite remarkable. His generosity as an actor, he fed himself into that work. As an actor, you cannot take your eyes off him."


In 1927, Laughton began a relationship with Elsa Lanchester (at right with Laughton), at the time a castmate in a stage play. The two were married in 1929, became US citizens in 1950, and remained together until Laughton's death. Over the years, they appeared together in several films, including Rembrandt (1936), Tales of Manhattan (1942) and The Big Clock (1948). Lanchester portrayed Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, opposite Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII. They both received Academy Award nominations for their performances in Witness for the Prosecution (1957)—Laughton for Best Actor, and Lanchester for Best Supporting Actress—but neither won.

Although Laughton's bisexuality has been corroborated by several of his contemporaries and is generally accepted by Hollywood historians, actress Maureen O'Hara, a friend and co-star of Laughton, has disputed the contention that his sexuality was the reason Laughton and Lanchester did not have children. According to her biographer, Charles Higham, the reason Lanchester did not have children was that she did not want any.

Charles Laughton died on December 15, 1962, from renal cancer.


Laughton as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

No comments: