January 2, 2017


Charles Laughton (1899-1962) b. Scarborough, England.

Charles Laughton

British actor who became one of the most popular stars of the 1930s after his rumbustious, Oscar-winning performance in the title role of Alexander Korda‘s The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). The son of a Yorkshire hotelier and educated at the Catholic public school Stonyhurst, Laughton began his acting career on the stage, appearing with his wife, Elsa Lanchester, in London and on Broadway. In 1928 he made his film debut in two shorts, Daydreams and Bluebottles, directed by Ivor Montagu. Following Broadway success in 1931, he was contracted to Paramount and throughout the 1930s he commuted between Britain and Hollywood, a star on both sides of the Atlantic. By 1939 he had taken up residence in Hollywood and became an American citizen in 1950.

A large actor in every sense, Laughton’s appearance barred him from romantic leads, but the scale of his performance in character leads like Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) or Ruggles in Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) left very little room on the screen for anyone else. Laughton’s performance in Henry VIII has been noted for the sexual innocence of its raunchiness, which John Grierson attributed to the vitality and vulgarity of the music-hall tradition. The association with Korda continued in 1936 with Rembrandt, possibly a better film though a box-office failure, and with the ill-fated I, Claudius (1937), directed by Josef von Sternberg but unfinished. Laughton returned to Britain in 1954 to make Hobson’s Choice with David Lean. Laughton continued his theatrical career throughout his life, collaborating for three years with Bertolt Brecht in the first production of Galileo, directed in 1947 by Joseph Losey. He directed and co-scripted one film, which has acquired cult status, The Night of the Hunter (1955), a baroque and tense thriller starring Robert Mitchum.

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