Elsa Lanchester


Actor
Elsa Lanchester

About

Also Known As
Elizabeth Sullivan Lanchester
Birth Place
Lewisham, England, GB
Born
October 28, 1902
Died
December 26, 1986
Cause of Death
Bronchial Pneumonia Following A Stroke

Biography

Gifted character actress, often in eccentric yet wistful parts, in the US from 1934. Perhaps best remembered for her dual roles in "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), as both the monster's mate and his "creator," author Mary Shelley, Lanchester also brought her slightly dizzy, perennially scene-stealing charm to films as diverse as "Rembrandt" (1937), "Mystery Street" (1950), "Bell, Book...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Charles Laughton
Husband
Moved in together c. 1927; married from February 9. 1929 until his death; became US citizen in 1950.

Bibliography

"Elsa Lanchester Herself"
Elsa Lanchester (1983)
"Charles and I"
Elsa Lanchester (1939)
"Gamut of Girls"
Elsa Lanchester and Forman Brown

Biography

Gifted character actress, often in eccentric yet wistful parts, in the US from 1934. Perhaps best remembered for her dual roles in "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), as both the monster's mate and his "creator," author Mary Shelley, Lanchester also brought her slightly dizzy, perennially scene-stealing charm to films as diverse as "Rembrandt" (1937), "Mystery Street" (1950), "Bell, Book and Candle" (1958) and "Murder by Death" (1976). Lanchester was married to actor Charles Laughton from 1929 until his death in 1962; besides working memorably together with him in "Rembrandt" she also played the nurse who endlessly fidgets over his misbehaving barrister (both of them received Oscar nominations) in Billy Wilder's delightful "Witness for the Prosecution" (1957).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Die Laughing (1980)
Sophie
Murder By Death (1976)
Arnold (1974)
Hester
Terror In The Wax Museum (1974)
Julia
Willard (1971)
Henrietta Stiles
Me, Natalie (1969)
Miss Dennison
Rascal (1969)
Mrs. Satterfield
In Name Only (1969)
Blackbeard's Ghost (1968)
Emily Stowecroft
Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)
Madame Neherina
That Darn Cat (1965)
Mrs. MacDougall
Mary Poppins (1964)
Katie Nanna
Honeymoon Hotel (1964)
Chambermaid
Pajama Party (1964)
Aunt Wendy
Bell, Book and Candle (1959)
Queenie Holroyd
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Miss Plimsoll
The Glass Slipper (1955)
Widow Sonder
3 Ring Circus (1955)
The bearded lady
Hell's Half Acre (1954)
Lida O'Reilly
Androcles and the Lion (1953)
Megaera
The Girls of Pleasure Island (1953)
Thelma
Les Miserables (1952)
Madame Magloire
Dreamboat (1952)
Dr. Mathilda May Coffey
Frenchie (1951)
Countess Marie Duvarre
The Petty Girl (1950)
Dr. Crutcher
Mystery Street (1950)
Mrs. Smerrling
Buccaneer's Girl (1950)
Mme. Brizar
Come to the Stable (1949)
Miss Amelia Potts
The Secret Garden (1949)
Martha
The Inspector General (1949)
Maria
The Bishop's Wife (1948)
Matilda
The Big Clock (1948)
Louise Patterson
Northwest Outpost (1947)
Princess Tanya
The Razor's Edge (1946)
Miss Keith
The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Mrs. Oates
Passport to Destiny (1944)
Ella Muggins
Forever and a Day (1943)
Mamie
Lassie Come Home (1943)
Mrs. [Helen] Carraclough
Thumbs Up (1943)
Emmy Finch
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Mrs. Smith
Son of Fury (1942)
Bristol Isabel
Ladies in Retirement (1941)
Emily Creed
The Beachcomber (1939)
Martha Jones
Rembrandt (1936)
Hendrickje [Stoffels]
The Ghost Goes West (1936)
Miss Shepperton
David Copperfield (1935)
Clickett
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley/[The Monster's Mate]
Naughty Marietta (1935)
Madame d'Annard
The Private Life of Henry VIII (1934)
Anne of Cleves
Potiphar's Wife (1931)
The Stronger Sex (1931)
The Love Habit (1931)
Mr. Smith Wakes Up (1929)
The Constant Nymph (1928)
Bluebottles (1928)
The Tonic (1928)
Day-Dreams (1928)
One of the Best (1927)

Music (Feature Film)

Rembrandt (1936)
Composer

Cast (Special)

Heidi (1955)
Frau Rottenmeier

Cast (Short)

Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (1940)
Herself

Life Events

1919

At age 16, organized the Children's Theatre (date approximate)

1923

Stage acting debut alongside John Gielgud in "The Insect Play

1926

Appeared in the musical revue "Riverside Nights"

1927

Acted on stage opposite Laughton in "Mr. Prohack"

1927

Made screen acting debut in the silents "One of the Best" and "The Constant Nymph"

1928

Starred in three short films written by H G Wells, "Bluebottles", "The Tonic" and "Daydreams"

1931

Played Laughton's 12-year-old daughter in the London stage play "Payment Deferred"; made Broadway debut in the role, although neither production was successful

1932

Appeared as Anne of Cleves to Laughton's Tudor king in "The Private Life of Henry VIII"

1933

Acted in several plays with Laughton at the Old Vic in London

1933

Offered courtesy contract by MGM

1934

Immigrated to USA

1934

Played the maid Clickett in "David Copperfield"; Laughton had originally been offered role of Mr. Micawber but withdrew and was replaced by W C Fields

1935

Portrayed author Mary Shelley and the titular "The Bride of Frankenstein"; film reunited her with James Whale who directed; role eventually became her best known

1936

Starred with Laughton in "Rembrandt"

1938

Had what she felt was her best her screen role in "The Beachcomber/Vessel of Wrath", playing a spinster missionary

1941

Acted on Broadway in "They Walk Alone"

1944

Played leading role in the RKO film "Passport to Destiny"

1946

Appeared as a spinster secretary opposite Tyrone Power in "The Razor's Edge"

1946

Cast the cook in the thriller "The Spiral Staircase"

1947

Played a maid in "The Bishop's Wife", starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven

1949

Received first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for "Come to the Stable"; played an artista who allows a group of nuns to use her stable as a dispensary

1954

Cast a circus bearded lady in the Martin & Lewis vehicle "Three-Ring Circus"

1955

Acted in a TV musical version of "Heidi" (NBC)

1955

Played the stepmother in "The Glass Slipper", a musical retelling of the Cinderella story; Estelle Winwood also in cast

1957

Earned second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for "Witness for the Prosecution"; Laughton also nominated as Best Actor

1958

Returned to the stage opposite Laughton in "The Party"

1958

Supported Kim Novak and James Stewart in "Bell, Book and Candle"

1959

Debuted one-woman show "Elsa Lanchester in Person", staged by Laughton

1964

Appeared in the Disney feature "Mary Poppins"

1964

Returned to acting after Laughton's 1962 death with guest appearance on the TV show "Burke's Law"

1967

Dueted with Elvis Presley in "Easy Come, Easy Go"

1971

Played Bruce Davison's nagging mother in "Willard"

1976

Reteamed with Estelle Winwood in the Neil Simon-penned spoof of detective fiction "Murder By Death"; played Dame Jessie Marbles

1980

Final film, "Die Laughing"

1983

Suffered a stroke that left her incapacitated

1998

Portrayed by Rosalind Ayres in Bill Condon's award-winning fictional biography of James Whale, "Gods and Monsters"

Photo Collections

Bell, Book and Candle - Movie Posters
Bell, Book and Candle - Movie Posters
The Bride of Frankenstein - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Universal's The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), starring Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Rembrandt (1936) -- (Movie Clip) Now You Owe Me A Kiss Back in Amsterdam ca. 1652, Charles Laughton (title character) meets cheery Hendrickje (Elsa Lanchester, who was Mrs. Laughton at the time) but tangles with the locals, in Alexander Korda’s Rembrandt, 1936.
Rembrandt (1936) -- (Movie Clip) Open, He Died In Obscurity Opening credit sequence and tony prologue for Alexander Korda's 1936 production of Rembrandt, starring Charles Laughton, Gertrude Lawrence and Elsa Lanchester.
Naughty Marietta (1935) -- (Movie Clip) Chansonette We’ve just met Jeanette MacDonald as flighty French princess Marie, visiting with her musical mentor Herr Schuman (Joseph Cawthorne), then joining his rowdy students for a song from the original operetta by Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young, in her first MGM feature with Nelson Eddy, Naughty Marietta, 1935.
Naughty Marietta (1935) -- (Movie Clip) Tramp, Tramp, Tramp Jeanette MacDonald is princess Marie, posing as one of a group of French would-be mail-order brides, captured by pirates en route to New Orleans, trouble brewing when an ill-defined group of “Yankee Scouts” led by Nelson Eddy appears, his first song in their first feature together, by Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young, in Naughty Marietta, 1935.
Naughty Marietta (1935) -- (Movie Clip) Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life Nearing the climax, in colonial New Orleans, after her first stanza introducing the song, reaffirming her love for brave commoner Richard (Nelson Eddy), he joins politically obligated princess Marie (Jeanette MacDonald) in the most famous song from their first MGM feature, by Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young, in Naughty Marietta, 1935.
Private Life Of Henry VIII (1934) -- (Movie Clip) You're The Nicest Girl I Ever Married Director Alexander Korda exploits legend as the king (Charles Laughton) negotiates an exit from his politically-motivated fourth marriage to savvy Germanic Anne Of Cleves (Elsa Lanchester, also Mrs. Laughton) in a card game, in The Private Life Of Henry VIII, 1934.
Willard (1971) -- (Movie Clip) You Were Born In Pain And Suffering The first dramatic scenes, Daniel Mann directs Ernest Borgnine as boss Al Martin, who dominates Bruce Davison (title character) at work, as does his mother (Elsa Lanchester) at home, in the hit rat-thriller Willard, 1971.
Willard (1971) -- (Movie Clip) Something To Nibble On willard71_somethingtonibbleon_FC
Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) -- (Movie Clip) She's Alive! A spoiler in that it comes a good 70-minutes into the picture, evil Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) has forced Baron Frankenstein (Colin Clive) to create a bride for the monster (Boris Karloff), and darned if it doesn’t work, Elsa Lanchester in the title role, with mixed result, in James Whale’s electric Bride Of Frankenstein, 1935.
Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) -- (Movie Clip) Perfect Night For Mystery And Horror Presumably on their famous Swiss vacation, summer 1816, Gavin Gordon as Byron, Douglas Walton as Shelley, Elsa Lanchester (who will also play the title role) as his wife Mary, imagined by director James Whale, with highlights from his 1931 hit, opening the sequel Bride Of Frankenstein, 1935.
Witness For The Prosecution (1957) -- (Movie Clip) I Never Faint Recuperating Barrister Sir Wilfrid (Charles Laughton) and colleague Brogan-Moore (John Williams), surrendering to nurse Plimsoul (Elsa Lanchester), not immediately expecting the German wife of his new client, Marlene Dietrich as "Mrs. Vole," in Billy Wilder’s Witness For The Prosecution, 1957.
Bell Book And Candle (1959) -- (Movie Clip) Just An Old Bugaboo Shep (James Stewart) has kind-of dragged fianceè Merle (Janice Rule) to the Zodiac in Manhattan to meet new friends Gillian and aunt Queenie (Kim Novak, Elsa Lanchester), whom he does not know are witches, discovering a history, and brother Danny (Jack Lemmon) in the band, in Bell Book And Candle, 1959.

Trailer

Witness For The Prosecution - (Original Trailer) A British barrister gets caught up in a couple's tangled marital affairs when he defends the husband for murder in Witness for the Prosecution (1957).
Bell Book and Candle - (Original Trailer) Beautiful witch Kim Novak places a love spell on James Stewart in the comedy Bell Book And Candle (1959) also starring Jack Lemmon.
Bishop's Wife, The - (Original Trailer) Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven, stars of the romantic fantasy The Bishop's Wife (1947), introduce the...we'll let them explain.
Big Clock, The - (Original Trailer) Ray Milland gets the job of finding the man last seen with his boss' murdered mistress, knowing the evidence will point to him in The Big Clock (1948).
Lassie Come Home - (Original Trailer) A faithful collie undertakes an arduous journey to return to his lost family in Lassie Come Home (1943) starring Roddy McDowall.
Honeymoon Hotel - (Original Trailer) Two bachelors (Robert Goulet, Robert Morse) on the prowl accidentally book a vacation at a Honeymoon Hotel (1964).
Bride of Frankenstein - (Re-issue trailer) To save his wife, Baron Frankenstein must build a mate for his monster in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), starring Boris Karloff.
Inspector General, The - (Original Trailer) Danny Kaye is mistaken for a government official in a small Eastern European village in The Inspector General (1949).
Naughty Marietta - (Re-issue trailer) A French princess in colonial America gets involved with an Indian scout in the musical, Naughty Marietta (1935).
Murder By Death - (Original Trailer) An all-star cast parodies famous detectives in the Neil Simon whodunit spoof Murder By Death (1976).
Mystery Street - (Original Trailer) Criminal pathologists try to crack a case with nothing but the victim's bones as a lead in Mystery Street (1950).
Pajama Party - (Original Trailer) Tom Kirk comes from Mars to lead an invasion and lands in the middle of a Pajama Party (1964) with guest appearances by Elsa Lanchester and Buster Keaton.

Family

James Sullivan
Father
Factory worker. Never married Lanchester's mother.
Edith Lanchester
Mother
Former schoolteacher. Never married Lanchester's father; home-schooled Lanchester.
Waldo Sullivan Lanchester
Brother
Born in 1897.

Companions

Charles Laughton
Husband
Moved in together c. 1927; married from February 9. 1929 until his death; became US citizen in 1950.

Bibliography

"Elsa Lanchester Herself"
Elsa Lanchester (1983)
"Charles and I"
Elsa Lanchester (1939)
"Gamut of Girls"
Elsa Lanchester and Forman Brown