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Charles Laughton Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (34) | Personal Quotes (8)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 1 July 1899Victoria Hotel, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, UK
Date of Death 15 December 1962Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (cancer of the gall bladder)
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Son of Robert Laughton and Elizabeth Conlon. Educated at Stonyhurst, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (received gold medal). First appearance on stage, 1926. Formed own film company, Mayflower Pictures Corp., with Erich Pommer in 1937. Became American citizen 1950. A consummate artist, Laughton achieved great success on stage and film, with many staged readings (particularly of George Bernard Shaw) to his credit.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: <z115aa@tamvm1.tamu.edu>

Spouse (1)

Elsa Lanchester (9 February 1929 - 15 December 1962) (his death)

Trivia (34)

Interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Court of Remembrance.
In the 1928 play "Alibi" he became the first actor to play Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot.
Robert Mitchum once stated that Laughton was the best director he had ever worked for, ironic in that Laughton never directed another movie after The Night of the Hunter (1955) with Mitchum.
For the film Advise & Consent (1962), Laughton based his character of Sen. Seab Cooley on real-life Mississippi Sen. John C. Stennis, and went so far as to have Stennis read the character's lines into a tape recorder so he could get Stennis' accent and rhythms the way he wanted them.
Became an American citizen in 1950.
Although he directed only one film, The Night of the Hunter (1955), Laughton was a prolific stage director, staging the original Broadway productions of George Bernard Shaw's "Don Juan in Hell" (in which he also appeared), Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" and Stephen Vincent Benet's "John Brown's Body".
Gave highly successful one-man reading tours for many years, his material ranging from the Bible to Jack Kerouac's "The Dharma Bums".
A highly regarded drama teacher, whose students included Albert Finney and William Phipps, Laughton would play Billie Holiday records for his students as an illustration of vocal inflection techniques.
Was an acquaintance of Rev. Felton H. Griffin, a pioneering Alaska minister who founded the Alaska Baptist Convention in the 1940s. Griffin was an avid hunter and fisherman, and on occasion, he flew Laughton to his cabin at Coal Lake, Alaska for weekend retreats.
After making Island of Lost Souls (1932), Laughton humorously claimed that he couldn't go to a zoo for the rest of his life. He based the appearance of his character, Dr. Moreau, on his dentist. His character had to use a whip in the film to tame his "creations", but Laughton already knew how to use one, having learned from a London street performer for an earlier stage role.
In the opening scene of It Started with Eve (1941), an assistant newspaper editor comments that if Jonathan Reynolds Sr. had lived two centuries earlier, he would have made a great pirate - "Captain Kidd himself." Three years later, Laughton, who played Jonathan Reynolds Sr., played the title role in Captain Kidd (1945) and again in Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952).
He greatly disliked children. Because of his disdain for them and the fact that he had to work with them in The Night of the Hunter (1955), most of the scenes with the children were directed by star Robert Mitchum, who had three children of his own.
Discovered actress Maureen O'Hara at the age of 18 and immediately signed her under contract as his protégée.
In a memoir written after his death, Laughton's widow, Elsa Lanchester, stated they never had children because he was homosexual. According to Maureen O'Hara, however, Laughton once told her that not having children was his biggest regret, and that it was because Elsa could not bear children as a result of an botched abortion she had early in her career while performing burlesque. It is possible both stories are true. Whether Lanchester ever had an abortion (which would have been illegal at the time) is not known, but it is known that Charles Laughton was gay. That fact, however, would not have precluded parenthood. There is, additionally, Laughton's reputed great dislike of children. It is possible he said what he did to Maureen O'Hara because he knew she was a VERY devout Roman Catholic and, having been schooled by Jesuits himself, he wanted to play a little joke on her sensibilities.
Served in First World War. In spite of having Public School education and Officer Training (in Stonyhurst College's OTC), he chose to join the Army as a private in 1917. He served with the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Regiment, and later with 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment in the Western Front. Shortly before the armistice he became a casualty due to mustard gas.
Was the stand-in for Ed Sullivan for Elvis Presley's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) in 1956. Later his wife Elsa Lanchester had a small role in Elvis' movie Easy Come, Easy Go (1967).
He was very disappointed by the commercial failure of The Night of the Hunter (1955).
Became an agnostic after his experiences as a soldier during World War I.
He was shooting a Hollywood version of the H.G. Wells novel "The History of Mr Polly", playing the title role, when war broke out in 1939 and production was abandoned.
He had always wanted to play Lear in the stage production of "King Lear" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, but he passed away before the play was ever staged. He did, however, play Lear on the stage.
Twice was the Mystery Guest on the popular television quiz show What's My Line (1951).
Laughton was originally cast as Micawber in David Copperfield (1935), but resigned after two days of shooting. It was said at the time that "he looked as though he were about to molest the child" (played by Freddie Bartholomew).
Appeared on the cover of the March 31, 1952 issue of "Time" magazine, which was reporting on his tour of the stage production of the "Don Juan in Hell" episode from George Bernard Shaw's 1903 play "Man and Superman." The famous episode, which is part of the third act of the four-act drama, has often been played as its own show. In Laughton's production, he played the character of The Devil. According to the "Time" cover story, entitled "The Happy Ham," the touring show had already raked in a gross profit in excess of $1 million ($1.00 equaling approximately $8.00 in 2008 money, when factored for inflation) by the time he was due to make his third appearance in the show in New York City, at the time the article appeared. The article also reported that during a hiatus in the tour, Laughton launched a separate, six-week-long solo tour in which he gave readings from "Aesop's Fables", the Bible and Charles Dickens. The solo tour grossed $164,000, or which his share was $90,000. The article quoted Laughton as saying, "Contrary to what I'd been told in the entertainment industry, people everywhere have a common shy hunger for literature.".
Was the first actor to play Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, in the aborted film version of Robert Graves' I, Claudius (1937). Production was suspended after Laughton's co-star Merle Oberon, playing his wife Messalina, was involved in an automobile accident in which she crashed through the car's windshield and sustained cuts to her face. The decision was made to shut down the production and the costs were reimbursed to producer Alexander Korda's London Films by Lloyds of London.
Was director-writer Billy Wilder's first choice to play the character of Moustache in Irma la Douce (1963). Laughton, who had been directed to a Best Actor Oscar nomination by Wilder in Witness for the Prosecution (1957) in 1958, agreed to play the role, but died before principal photography commenced.
Was the original choice to play the role of Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). He turned down the part, saying he did not know how to play it convincingly as he did not understand the motivations of the character. He said he only understood the character after seeing the completed film and Alec Guinness' performance.
In later years he was frequently accused by the critics of having a tendency to ham, although he remained a popular star.
He was a close friend of Burgess Meredith.
He was diagnosed with cancer of the gall bladder in January 1962 after being hospitalized with a collapsed vertebrae following a fall in the bath. Over the course of his final eleven months, his weight dropped to just ninety pounds.
He and his wife were both active in liberal politics.
Was the first choice to play Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion (1938) but he, however, turned it down. Leslie Howard was cast instead.
He played a Navy Captain whose crew mutinies against him in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). Appropriately, he went on to direct another story about a Captain with a mutinous crew, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.
He is, so far, the only actor to win an Oscar for playing King Henry VIII of England.
Won an Oscar for playing King Henry VIII of England. Years later, Richard Burton would be nominated for playing the part, making them the first pair of actors to receive an Oscar nomination for playing the same part. The first pair to actually win was Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro for playing Don Vito Corleone in the first two Godfather films. Other pairs included: Jose Ferrer (who won) and Gérard Depardieu (nominated) for playing Cyrano de Bergerac, Jason Robards and Leonardo DiCaprio (both nominated) for playing Howard Hughes, John Wayne (won) and Jeff Bridges (nominated) for playing Rooster Cogburn, and Anthony Hopkins and Frank Langella (both nominated) for playing former President Richard Nixon.

Personal Quotes (8)

They can't censor the gleam in my eye.
I have a face like the behind of an elephant.
It's got so that every time I walk into a restaurant I get not only soup but an impersonation of Captain Bligh.
Hollywood is a goofy place. But I like it. It's the perfect mummers' home. If one weren't a little mad one wouldn't be there.
[on Robert Mitchum] All the tough talk is blind. He's a literate, gracious, kind man and he speaks beautifully - when he wants to. Bob would make the best Macbeth of any actor living.
I have a face that would stop a sundial.
Method actors give you a photograph. Real actors give you an oil painting.
[on Gary Cooper] I knew in a flash Gary had something I should never have. It is something pure and he doesn't know it's there. In truth, that boy hasn't the least idea how well he acts.

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