Sunday, August 7, 2011
Charles Laughton (July 1, 1899 – December 15, 1962), even though he did not have the looks for a romantic lead, he impressed audiences with his amazing talent.
He performed in three short silent comedies starring his wife Elsa Lanchester: Daydreams, Blue Bottles and The Tonic (all 1928) which had been written for her by H. G. Wells. He made a brief appearance in another silent film, Piccadilly(1929), with Anna May Wong. He performed with Elsa Lancheste,r again in a "film revue", Comets (1930), in which they duetted in, 'The Ballad of Frankie and Johnnie' and made two other early British talkies: Wolves, with Dorothy Gish (1930), Down River (1931), in which he played a murderous, drug-smuggler.
His New York stage debut in 1931 landed him film his first Hollywood film, The Old Dark House (1932) with Boris Karloff, in which he played a Yorkshire businessman, marooned during a storm with other travellers in a gloomy mansion in the mountains.
He then played a demented submarine commander in the film, The Devil and the Deep, with Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. He followed this film as Nero in Cecil B. DeMille's, The Sign of the Cross. He also played a murderer in the film, Payment Deferred, playing H. G. Wells's mad Dr. Moreau in, Island of Lost Souls and the mild mannered clerk in the film, If I Had a Million.
His first film with director Alexander Korda, was in 1933 with the film, The Private Life of Henry VIII, for which Laughton won an Academy Award, the first British actor to win.
Laughton, also performed in the film, White Woman (1933), with Carole Lombard, as a river trader in the Malaysian jungle. Then came, The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) as Norma Shearer's father, Les Misérables (1935) as Javert, the police inspector, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), as Captain William Bligh, one of his most famous screen roles, co-starring with Clark Gable and Ruggles of, Red Gap (1935) as the English butler.
He and German film producer Erich Pommer, started the production company Mayflower Pictures, in the UK, which produced three films starring Laughton: Vessel of Wrath (US Title The Beachcomber) (1938), based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, in which Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester, co-starred St. Martin's Lane (US Title Sidewalks of London), a story about London street entertainers that also featured Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison and Jamaica Inn, with Maureen O'Hara and Robert Newton and the last film Alfred Hitchcock directed in Britain, before moving to Hollywood, in the late 1930s. Laughton, more or less took over the film, changing his own role from a minor role to a bigger part as the villain. The company was saved from bankruptcy when RKO Pictures offered Laughton, the title role of Quasimodo, in the film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). The outbreak of World War II, ended the company.
Laughton's, performance in The Private Life of Henry VIII, made him as one of the leading interpreters of the costume and historical drama parts for which he is best remembered.
He played an Italian vineyard owner in the film, They Knew What They Wanted (1940), The Tuttles of Tahiti (1942), Stand by for Action (1942), Forever and a Day (1943), Man from Down Under (1943).
There are some very memorable 1940's Laughton's films: This Land is Mine (1943), The Suspect (1944), Tales of Manhattan (1942) and The Canterville Ghost (1944).
He also performed in two comedies with Deanna Durbin, It Started with Eve (1941) and Because of Him (1946). He played a pirate in, Captain Kidd (1945), The Paradine Case (1948), The Big Clock (1948). He had supporting roles as a Nazi in, Arch of Triumph (1948), The Girl from Manhattan (1948), The Bribe (1949), The Blue Veil .
Laughton, made his first color film as Inspector Maigret in, The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949) and worked with Boris Karloff, as a mad French nobleman in, The Strange Door (1951). In one of his funniest roles, he played a tramp in O. Henry's Full House (1952), in which he had a one-minute scene with Marilyn Monroe. He became a pirate again, in Abbott and Costello, Meet Captain Kidd (1952). He played Herod Antipas in, Salome (1953), with Rita Hayworth and repeated his role as Henry VIII in, Young Bess (1953).
Laughton received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role as Sir Wilfrid Robarts, in the screen version of Agatha Christie's play, Witness for the Prosecution (1957).
He played a British admiral in, Under Ten Flags (1960) and worked for the only time with Laurence Olivier in the film, Spartacus (1960). His final film was Advise and Consent (1962).
In 1955, Laughton directed (but did not act in) The Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. At the time of its original release, it was a box-office failure and Laughton never had another chance to direct.
Lanchester appeared opposite Laughton in several films, including Rembrandt (1936), Tales of Manhattan (1942) and The Big Clock (1948). She wittily 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.
(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.
Please click here to learn more about Charles Laughton's performances.