Family & Companions
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).
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
At age 16, organized the Children's Theatre (date approximate)
Stage acting debut alongside John Gielgud in "The Insect Play
Appeared in the musical revue "Riverside Nights"
Acted on stage opposite Laughton in "Mr. Prohack"
Made screen acting debut in the silents "One of the Best" and "The Constant Nymph"
Starred in three short films written by H G Wells, "Bluebottles", "The Tonic" and "Daydreams"
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
Appeared as Anne of Cleves to Laughton's Tudor king in "The Private Life of Henry VIII"
Acted in several plays with Laughton at the Old Vic in London
Offered courtesy contract by MGM
Immigrated to USA
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
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
Starred with Laughton in "Rembrandt"
Had what she felt was her best her screen role in "The Beachcomber/Vessel of Wrath", playing a spinster missionary
Acted on Broadway in "They Walk Alone"
Played leading role in the RKO film "Passport to Destiny"
Appeared as a spinster secretary opposite Tyrone Power in "The Razor's Edge"
Cast the cook in the thriller "The Spiral Staircase"
Played a maid in "The Bishop's Wife", starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven
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
Cast a circus bearded lady in the Martin & Lewis vehicle "Three-Ring Circus"
Acted in a TV musical version of "Heidi" (NBC)
Played the stepmother in "The Glass Slipper", a musical retelling of the Cinderella story; Estelle Winwood also in cast
Earned second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for "Witness for the Prosecution"; Laughton also nominated as Best Actor
Returned to the stage opposite Laughton in "The Party"
Supported Kim Novak and James Stewart in "Bell, Book and Candle"
Debuted one-woman show "Elsa Lanchester in Person", staged by Laughton
Appeared in the Disney feature "Mary Poppins"
Returned to acting after Laughton's 1962 death with guest appearance on the TV show "Burke's Law"
Dueted with Elvis Presley in "Easy Come, Easy Go"
Played Bruce Davison's nagging mother in "Willard"
Reteamed with Estelle Winwood in the Neil Simon-penned spoof of detective fiction "Murder By Death"; played Dame Jessie Marbles
Final film, "Die Laughing"
Suffered a stroke that left her incapacitated
Portrayed by Rosalind Ayres in Bill Condon's award-winning fictional biography of James Whale, "Gods and Monsters"