DECEMBER 30. 1986/MONTROSE VOICE 7
Actress Elsa Lanchester
Defended Husband's Sexuality
By Linda Rapatonni
United Press International
LOS ANGELES—Elsa Lanchester, the
red-haired pixie who specialized in playing eccentric spinsters and witty
dowagers during a 60-year career that
included the film classic The Bride of
Frankenstein, died this past week at 84.
Lanchester, the widow of Academy
Award-winning actor Charles
Laughton, died of bronchopneumonia
Friday at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, where she was admitted
Dec. 17, spokeswoman Jean Ferris said.
The London-born actress had been
comatose for several years following
several strokes. She left no family or
relatives and requested that there be no
Lanchester twice was nominated for
Oscars, for Come to the Stable in 1949
and Witness for the Prosecution in 1958.
During her prolific career, the actress
delighted audiences with bawdy
cabaret songs and horrified moviegoers
in the titleroleof the 1935 film The Bride
Lanchester made her first Hollywood
film appearance in David Copperfield
earlier that year, and her co-starring
role with Laughton in The Beachcomber in 1988 won her recognition as a
Born Elizabeth Sullivan in Oct. 28,
1902, Lanchester hoped to become a
dancer, but began playing music halls
and small night clubs, and helped
organize the Children's Theater in London at age 16.
She belonged to a group called Cave of
Harmony productions that staged, after
midnight, one-act plays by Anton Chekhov, Luigi Pirandello and A.E. Houseman.
Lanchester claimed that while at the
cabaret she originated the costume of
top hat, ballet tights and high heels,
later used by Marlene Dietrich.
She met Laughton in her first big London stage hit Riverside Nights. When
the play closed, they were married.
Friends said she had no idea her husband had homosexual predilections.
I_ater, Lanchester was asked why she
allowed author Charles Higham to
write about her husband's homosexual
life in Charles Laughton: An Intimate
"Because times have changed, and
such things can be discussed more
openly than they were before," she said.
"And because it might help people who
are faced with the same kind of problem
and must deal with the terrible guilt
that Charles felt most of his life."
lanchester played her first screen
role in the silent version of The Constant Nymph in 1927.
The Laughtons came to the United
States to perform Payment Deferred.
one of their hit shows in London, on
Broadway. I_anchester played Laugh-
The couple returned to Ixmdon in 1933
to make their first talking movie, Henry
VIII, in which she played one of the
monarch's wives, Ann of Cleves. The
movie was a success and they repeated
it as as stage show at the Old Vic.
That performance led to several companion roles for the laughtons, including Ariel and Prospero in The 'Tempest
by Shakespeare; and Peter Pan with she
in the title role and he plaving Captain
Laughton began building a reputation as an actor, and Hollywood lured
him in 1934 for such films as Buggies of
Red Gap, Mutiny on the Bounty and
The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The Laughtons shuttled hack and
forth from London to New York for a hit,
then settled in Los Angeles.
After the filming of The Bride of
Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, Lanchester complained of the three hours it
took to make up her face for the female
"My hair stiffened into a Topsy-like
mop and was to stick out backward on a
little cage," she wrote in her autobiography, Charles Laughton and /."I was
then bound in yards and yards of bandage, all most carefully done by a
Lanchester's more than 50 credits
also included The Ghost Goes West,
1936; Rembrandt, 1937; The Spiral
Staircase, 1935; The Inspector General.
1949; Androcles and the Lion, 1953;
Bell. Book and Candle. 1958; Mary Pop-
pins, 1964; Willard, 1971; Murder by
She also appeared on television in
•Omnibus," 1953-57; "The John For-
stytheShow," 1965-67; and "Nanny and
the Professor," 1971.
After I^aughton's death in 1962 in Los
Angeles, Lanchester remained in Hollywood and performed for several years at
the Turnabout Theater.
She also sang in night clubs and
many of her tunes were recorded in an
album. Songs for a Smoke-Filled Room.
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