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Elsa Lanchester

Elsa Lanchester

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Also Known As: Elizabeth Sullivan Lanchester Died: December 26, 1986
Born: October 28, 1902 Cause of Death: bronchial pneumonia following a stroke
Birth Place: Lewisham, England, GB Profession: actor, dancer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL 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).

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).

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Die Laughing (1980) Sophie
2.
 Murder By Death (1976) Jessica Marbles
3.
 Arnold (1974) Hester
4.
 Terror In The Wax Museum (1974) Julia
5.
 Willard (1971) Henrietta Stiles
6.
 Rascal (1969) Mrs. Satterfield
7.
 Me, Natalie (1969) Miss Dennison
8.
 In Name Only (1969) Mrs Caruso
9.
 Blackbeard's Ghost (1968) Emily Stowecroft
10.
 Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) Madame Neherina
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1919:
At age 16, organized the Children's Theatre (date approximate)
:
Founded The Cave of Harmony, a theatrical group whose members included James Whale, H G Wells and Charles Laughton
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:
Offered courtesy contract by MGM
1933:
Acted in several plays with Laughton at the Old Vic in London
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"
:
Worked with the L.A. theater company The Turnabout
1944:
Played leading role in the RKO film "Passport to Destiny"
1946:
Cast the cook in the thriller "The Spiral Staircase"
1946:
Appeared as a spinster secretary opposite Tyrone Power in "The Razor's Edge"
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:
Played the stepmother in "The Glass Slipper", a musical retelling of the Cinderella story; Estelle Winwood also in cast
1955:
Acted in a TV musical version of "Heidi" (NBC)
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:
Returned to acting after Laughton's 1962 death with guest appearance on the TV show "Burke's Law"
1964:
Appeared in the Disney feature "Mary Poppins"
:
Had recurring role as the school principal on the NBC sitcom "The John Forsythe Show"
1967:
Dueted with Elvis Presley in "Easy Come, Easy Go"
:
Had recurring role on the ABC sitcom "Nanny and the Professor"
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"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Isadora Duncan's Bellevue School: -
Morris School of Dance and Drama: -

Companions close complete companion listing

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

Family close complete family listing

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

Bibliography close complete biography

"Charles and I"
"Gamut of Girls"
"Elsa Lanchester Herself"

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