Today is the birthday of the great Elsa Lanchester (1902-1986). Lanchester was still a going concern in my youth (Murder by Death, Willard and all those Disney movies) hence it took me a little time to put that stout older English lady together with her most iconic role (see above).
She was gorgeous and somewhat wild looking in her youth. Look at this (below). Damn! THIS was the person to play Eva Tanguay, Mitzi Gaynor be damned! (Well, not damned, just fired from The I Don’t Care Girl)
True to form, Lanchester actually WAS wild. She was born of bohemian, socialist, unmarried (on principle) parents, and got her start singing in avant-garde cabarets and night clubs in the late teens and twenties. In 1927 she met fellow cast member Charles Laughton in a play called Mr. Prohack. They married two years later, and maintained a loving, if typically unconventional) relationship (Laughton was gay). The pair played opposite each other from time to time on both stage and screen (e.g., The Private Life of Henry VIII, 1933, and Tales of Manhattan, 1942). Her role in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) was small, but prominent, and her image in the role was to become one of the most iconic in all of Hollywood cinema. Other notable roles included parts in The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Inspector General (1949), Witness for the Prosecution (1957) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958). Then there were those Disney movies I mentioned: Mary Poppins (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965), and Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968). Her last movie was the terrible, completely incoherent “comedy” Die Laughing (1980) starring Robbie Benson. (I don’t know why we watched this one a few months ago, but we did…or some of it).
She also recorded several popular records of bawdy music hall songs, and penned two autobiographical books.