Actor and director
July 1, 1899 - December 15, 1962
Born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, UK
Married to actress Elsa Lanchester
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A Lot of Favorite Memories of Charles Laughton
- As credited director of just one film, but a mastepiece — the poetic and suspenseful Night of the Hunter (1955), based on the novel by Davis Grubb,
and scripted by James Agee (with Laughton as uncredited collaborator).
- As the bluff but likable self-made man, "Sir William Porterhouse," in the dark comedy-horror The Old Dark House (1932),
directed by James Whale, based on a novel by J. B. Priestley.
With Melvyn Douglas, Lilian Bond, Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, Boris Karloff,
Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Elspeth Dudgeon and Brember Wills.
- As "William 'Willie' Marble," a desperate poor man who murders his nephew and becomes an even more desperate rich man,
in Payment Deferred (1932), directed by Lothar Mendes, based on a play by Jeffrey Dell.
With Maureen O'Sullivan, Dorothy Peterson, Verree Teasdale, Ray Milland, Billy Bevan and Halliwell Hobbes.
- As "Phineas V. Lambert," a mild-mannered clerk given a million dollars by a dying tycoon,
in one of the many segments of the comedy-drama If I Had a Million (1932).
Laughton's story and one other are directed by Ernst Lubitsch with his usual touch; others
are directed by James Cruze, H. Bruce Humberstone, Norman McLeod, Stephen Roberts, William A. Seiter,
Norman Taurog and Lothar Mendes.
The huge cast includes Gary Cooper, George Raft, Jack Oakie, Richard Bennett, Charles Ruggles,
Alison Skipworth, W.C. Fields, Mary Boland, Roscoe Karns, May Robson,Reginald Barlow, Frances Dee,
Samuel S. Hinds, Marc Lawrence, Lucien Littlefield, William V. Mong, Clarence Muse,
Tom Ricketts and Willard Robertson.
- As the lascivious "Emperor Nero" in The Sign of the Cross (1932), directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
With Fredric March , Elissa Landi, Claudette Colbert, Ian Keith, Nat Pendleton, William V. Mong, Joyzelle, Richard Alexander,
Charles Middleton, Mischa Auer, Lionel Belmore , Joe Bonomo, Henry Brandon, John Carradine, Dave O'Brien,
Tom Ricketts, Stanley Ridges, Arthur Shields and Angelo Rossitto.
- As "Dr. Moreau" in Island of Lost Souls (1933), directed by Erle C. Kenton, based on the novel Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells.
With Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Kathleen Burke (Lota the Panther Woman), Arthur Hohl,
Stanley Fields, Paul Hurst, Hans Steinke, Tetsu Komai, Joe Bonomo, Buster Crabbe, John George, Alan Ladd, Randolph Scott, Duke York,
and Bela Lugosi (Sayer of the Law).
- As "King Henry VIII" in Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), directed by Alexander Korda.
Laughton won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the title role.
The fine supporting cast includes Robert Donat, Franklin Dyall, Miles Mander, John Loder, Claud Allister, Merle Oberon and Wendy Barrie.
- As "Edward Moulton-Barrett" in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), directed by Sidney Franklin.
Starring Norma Shearer and Fredric March, with Maureen O'Sullivan, Ralph Forbes, Ian Wolfe, Una O'Connor and Leo G. Carroll.
- As "Marmaduke Ruggles," an English butler who goes West and teaches the Americans something about Democracy in the comedy-western
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), directed by Leo McCarey.
With Charles Ruggles, Mary Boland, Zasu Pitts, Roland Young and Leila Hyams.
- As "Inspector Javert," fanatically dogging the reformed hero in Les Misérables (1935),
directed by Richard Boleslawski, based on Victor Hugo's novel.
Starring Fredric March as Jean Valjean, with a fine cast including
Cedric Hardwicke, Rochelle Hudson, Florence Eldridge, John Beal, Frances Drake,
Eily Malyon, John Carradine, Sam Baker, Reginald Barlow, Harry Cording, Olaf Hytten, Murdock MacQuarrie
and Leonard Mudie.
- As ruthless "Captain William Bligh" in MGM's classic nautical adventure Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), directed by Frank Lloyd.
Co-starring Clark Gable, with a cast including Franchot Tone, Herbert Mundin, Eddie Quillan, Dudley Digges, Donald Crisp, Henry Stephenson,
Spring Byington, Movita, Mamo Clark, Douglas Walton, Ian Wolfe, Stanley Fields, Lionel Belmore, James Cagney,
Harry Cording, Ray Corrigan, Mary Gordon, Robert Livingston, Doris Lloyd, David Niven, and Gil Perkins.
- As the great artist "Rembrandt van Rijn" in Rembrandt (1936), directed by Alexander Korda.
With Gertrude Lawrence, Elsa Lanchester, and a large supporting case including Roger Livesey, Raymond Huntley,
Abraham Sofaer, Evelyn Ankers (uncredited) and Wilfrid Hyde-White.
- As "Edward Claude 'Ginger Ted' Wilson," a layabout plagued by a spinster missionary in Vessel of Wrath (1938, US title: The Beachcomber).
Directed by Erich Pommer, based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel.
With Elsa Lanchester, with Robert Newton and Tyrone Guthrie.
- As lustful "Sir Humphrey Pengallan," in league with a gang of piratical shipwreckers in Jamaica Inn (1939),
directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on Daphne Du Maurier's novel.
With Maureen O'Hara, Leslie Banks and Robert Newton.
- As "Quasimodo," the grotesque but soulful cathedral bellringer, in the historical drama The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939),
directed by WIlliam Dieterle, based on Victor Hugo's novel.
With Maureen O'Hara (Esmeralda), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (delightfully despicable as Frollo),
Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O'Brien, Alan Marshal, Walter Hampden, Harry Davenport, George Zucco, Fritz Leiber,
George Tobias, Sig Arno, Alexander Granach, Charles Halton, Otto Hoffman, Cy Kendall, Victor Kilian, Elmo Lincoln, Rondo Hatton
and Nestor Paiva.
- As brilliant but impoverished composer "Charles Smith," experiencing the worst night of his life (and the greatest)
because of a tailcoat in the episodic comedy-drama Tales of Manhattan (1942), directed by Julien Duvivier.
With Charles Boyer, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, Henry Fonda, Edward G. Robinson,
Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Thomas Mitchell, Eugene Pallette , Cesar Romero,
Roland Young, Victor Francen, George Sanders, James Gleason, Harry Davenport, J. Carrol Naish, Sig Arno,
Morris Ankrum, Clarence Muse, Don Beddoe, E.E. Clive, W.C. Fields and Rondo Hatton!
- As "Albert Lory," a timid schoolteacher terrified of the Nazis occupying his village, but finally finding the courage to stand up to them,
in This Land Is Mine (1943).
Directed by Jean Renoir.
With Maureen O'Hara, George Sanders, Walter Slezak, Kent Smith, Una O'Connor, Philip Merivale, Thurston Hall and George Coulouris.
- As a prop in his wife Elsa Lanchester's starring vehicle Passport to Destiny (1944), about a plucky charwoman planning to assassinate Hitler —
a photo of her late husband, Sergeant Major Henry Albert Muggins, is Laughton!
Directed by Ray McCarey.
With Gordon Oliver, Lénore Aubert, Lionel Royce, Fritz Feld, Gavin Muir, Lloyd Corrigan, Lumsden Hare and Olaf Hytten.
- As cowardly "Sir Simon de Canterville," and the restless spirit he became, in the wartime fantasy The Canterville Ghost (1944),
based on Oscar Wilde's story, and directed by Jules Dassin.
With Robert Young, Margaret O'Brien, William Gargan, Reginald Owen, Una O'Connor, Lumsden Hare, Mike Mazurki,
Jack Lambert, Frank Reicher, and Tor Johnson (uncredited, as Sir Guy, the formidable jousting opponent that caused Simon's death).
- As guilt-ridden "Philip Marshall" in the period crime drama The Suspect (1945).
With Ella Raines, Molly Lamont, Stanley Ridges, Henry Daniell, Maude Eburne, Edgar Norton and Ernie Adams.
- As the pirate "Captain William Kidd" in the seagoing adventure Captain Kidd (1945), directed by Rowland V. Lee.
With Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton, John Carradine, Gilbert Roland, John Qualen, Sheldon Leonard, William Farnum,
Henry Daniell, Reginald Owen, Harry Cording, Lumsden Hare and Edgar Norton.
- As "Judge Lord Thomas Horfield," presiding over the English courtroom drama The Paradine Case (1947), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Gregory Peck, Alida Valli, Louis Jourdan, Ann Todd, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore, Leo G. Carroll,
Lester Matthews, Edgar Norton, Elspeth Dudgeon and Alfred Hitchcock (carrying a cello case).
- As the Nazi nemesis "Ivon Haake" in Arch of Triumph (1948), directed by Lewis Milestone.
With Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Louis Calhern, Ruth Warrick, Roman Bohnen, J. Edward Bromberg,
Curt Bois, Art Smith, Richard Alexander, William Conrad, Byron Foulger, Nino Pipitone, Gene Roth and Irene Ryan.
- As publishing tycoon "Earl Janoth," controlling the investigation of a murder he committed in The Big Clock (1948), directed by John Farrow.
Co-starring Ray Milland and Maureen O'Sullivan, with George Macready,
Elsa Lanchester, Harry Morgan, Richard Webb, Douglas Spencer, James Burke, Barry Norton, Ruth Roman and Noel Neill.
- As "J.J. Bealer," a colorful scoundrel with sore feet in the stylish film noir mystery The Bribe (1949), directed by Robert Z. Leonard.
With Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Vincent Price, John Hodiak, Samuel S. Hinds and John Hoyt.
- As Georges Simenon's detective "Inspector Jules Maigret" in
The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1950), directed by Burgess Meredith (uncredited assistance from Laughton and Irving Allen).
With Franchot Tone, Burgess Meredith, Robert Hutton, Jean Wallace and Wilfrid Hyde-White.
- As the over-the-top villain, "Alain de Maletroit," in Universal's old-fashioned melodrama, The Strange Door (1951),
directed by Joseph Pevney, based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson.
With Boris Karloff, Sally Forrest, Alan Napier, Paul Cavanagh and Michael Pate.
- As the tramp "Soapy," desperately trying to get thrown in jail for a warm and well-fed Christmas in
the "Cop and the Anthem" segment of the five-story anthology O. Henry's Full House (1952), narrated by John Steinbeck.
Laughton's story directed by Henry Koster; with Marilyn Monroe, David Wayne and James Flavin.
Other segments directed by Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Henry King and Jean Negulesco, with casts including
Oscar Levant, Jean Peters, Gregory Ratoff, Dale Robertson, Richard Widmark, Lee Aaker,
Fritz Feld , Kathleen Freeman, Sig Ruman and Herb Vigran
- As "Captain William Kidd," seeming to be having a great time amidst the commotion in
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952), directed by Charles Lamont.
With Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Hillary Brooke, Leif Erickson, Rex Lease and Leonard Mudie.
- As "Henry Horatio Hobson," an overbearing father thoroughly rousted by rebellious daughters in the wonderful English comedy
Hobson's Choice (1954), directed by David Lean.
With John Mills, Brenda De Banzie, Daphne Anderson and Prunella Scales.
- As "Sir Wilfrid Robarts," an aging barrister defending a man accused of murder, in the stunning courtroom mystery
Witness for the Prosecution (1957), directed by Billy Wilder and based on a play by Agatha Christie.
Starring Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich, with Elsa Lanchester (as Sir Wilfrid's nurse), John Williams, Henry Daniell,
Ian Wolfe, Torin Thatcher, Norma Varden, Una O'Connor, Francis Compton, Franklyn Farnum and Ottola Nesmith.
Best Actor Oscar nomination for Laughton, and Best Supporting Actress nomination for Elsa Lanchester.
- As the wily old Roman senator, "Sempronius Gracchus," pulling political strings in Spartacus (1960), directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier , Jean Simmons, Peter Ustinov and John Gavin,
with an epic supporting cast including Nina Foch, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, Tony Curtis, John Dall, Charles McGraw, Woody Strode,
Peter Brocco, Robert J. Wilke, John Hoyt, Ted de Corsia, Johnny Duncan, Richard Farnsworth, Cliff Lyons, Eddie Parker, Regis Parton, Gil Perkins,
Chuck Roberson, Tom Steele, Ken Terrell, Dale Van Sickel and Carleton Young.
- As the wily old South Carolina senator, "Sen. Seabright 'Seab' Cooley," in Advise and Consent (1962), directed by Otto Preminger.
Starring Henry Fonda, Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Walter Pidgeon, Don Murray, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney,
Burgess Meredith, Paul Ford, George Grizzard Will Geer, Edward Andrews, Betty White, Malcolm Atterbury and Tom Helmore.
- As himself, and as the afflicted but magnificent Roman Emperor "Tiberius Claudius," in The Epic That Never Was (1965),
a BBC television production about the aborted attempt to make a film of Robert Graves' novel "I, Claudius" in 1937.
A car accident involving actress Merle Oberon put an end to the filming, but substantial completed scenes and outtakes have been
put together with narration by Dirk Bogarde, and with interviews conducted in 1964 — including director Josef Von Sternberg, author Graves, and stars
Oberon (Messalina), Flora Robson (Livia) and Emlyn Williams (Caligula) — to make this fascinating documentary.
The outtakes give a rare glimpse of Laughton hard at work developing a performance, and some of the completed scenes rank with
his finest work.
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Last revised August 22, 2005 by George "E-gor" Chastain.
Maintained by George "E-gor" Chastain