Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remembering... Charles Laughton

While you wouldn't exactly call him an oil painting - unless it's one by Lucian Freud - Charles Laughton still managed a distinguished career before the public as an actor on stage, in films, as well as on radio and television; the reason for this grievous lapse - allowing an uggo free run amongst the pretty people - was clearly his staggering talent...

PhotobucketBorn in July 1899, during military service with the Northamptonshire Regiment in World War I he was gassed; originally expected to take over his family's hotel business, he began appearing in amateur theatricals in his home town of Scarborough, and in 1925 he was accepted at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Laughton's first professional stage appearance came in April 1926 at the Barnes Theatre, playing Osip in the comedy The Government Inspector, which later transferred to the Gaiety Theatre; his first film appearances came in 1928. He took his acting skills across the Atlantic in 1931, at which time he made his American debut on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in a stage adaptation of C.S. Forester's novel Payment Deferred. His Hollywood film debut was in 1932's The Old Dark House, opposite another looker, Boris Karloff.

Laughton's enthusiasm for America was matched only by that which he held for men; despite his predilection, he had a long and happy - albeit complicated - marriage to Elsa Lanchester. The Hollywood films for which he was best known - amongst dozens - are The Private Life of Henry VIII (in which he played Henry VIII), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (playing Elizabeth Barrett Browning's domineering father, Edward Moulton-Barrett), Les Misérables (as Javert), Mutiny on the Bounty (as Captain Bligh), Ruggles of Red Gap, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (as Quasimodo). He also had a go at directing; the result was the Robert Mitchum classic, The Night of the Hunter, in 1955.

Charles Laughton died on this day in 1962, having made Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent while terminally ill with bone cancer; he was interred in the Court of Remembrance courtyard, at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His widow survived him until December 1986.

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Gloria said...

He's my favourite actor, yeah he is ;D

"the reason for this grievous lapse - allowing an uggo free run amongst the pretty people - was clearly his staggering talent"

Back when Laughton lived IT WAS POSSIBLE. Today, talent is obviously a secondary question: look at the roooster of any modern film, and wonder, among his cast, who is most likely to get a lead part in his next movie: the non-talented hunk, or the talented not-so-goodlooking actor who just nails his part like nobody.

In the 100% of cases, it's the non-talent hunk who's got a big career in front of him.

michael sean morris said...

Well, there's still Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John C. Reilly, so there's hope for Hollywood yet. After all, those pretty boys are kind of alienating. If the part calls for someone you can relate to, Brad Pitt ain't gonna get it.

Thanks for the comment!

Gloria said...

Aaah... But those are the lucky guys! I think that, had not Paul Giamatti had the chance of working (and shining in) films like "Sideways" or "American Splendor", he would still be doomed to play suport parts for Martin lawrence 8or te likes) in films like "Big Momma's house".

... And while those actors you have mentioned play leads and get good reviews, they hold not the place that Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise do in the industry.... Back in the 1930's Laughton or Wallace Beery were stars in the same league Gary Cooper or Clark Gable were: today, while a good character actor may be liked, appreciated and playing leads, he is still considered, billing-wise, a notch under the hunky star.