Charles Laughton



  • (1899 - 1962) British-born US actor, who made his professionalstage debut in 1926 as Osip in Gogol's The Government Inspectorand quickly built up a reputation as a character actor. From 1933onwards he played under Tyrone Guthrie at the Old Vic, winning particularacclaim in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and as Prospero inThe Tempest. A fluent French speaker, Laughton became the firstBritish actor to star at the Comédie-Française, playingSganarelle in Molière's Le Médecin malgrélui in 1936. That same year he played Captain Hook in PeterPan at the London Palladium, while his wife, Elsa Lanchester (1902 - 87),took the title role.

    In the 1930s and 1940s Laughton worked mainly in Hollywood,becoming famous for his outstanding character performances. He becamea US citizen in 1950 but returned to London eight years later to appearin Jane Arden's The Party, which he also directed. In 1959he was a "ginger-wigged, ginger-bearded" Bottom in PeterHall's Stratford production of A Midsummer Night's Dream andtwo years later he directed his wife in her one-woman show, ElsaLanchester - Herself.

    One night at the Old Vic Laughton took a curtain call in responseto cries from the gallery of "Good old Nero!" (referringto the part he had played in the recent film, The Sign of the Cross).The audience then called for Elsa Lanchester, who was in the audience."Bring her up!" shouted a loud voice in the gallery. Laughtonsnapped back, "Many people have tried to do that, my friend,but they have not succeeded."