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Elsa Lanchester – MovieActors.com

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Lanchester in BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE.

About Elsa Lanchester (1902 – 1986)

Elsa Lanchester was born on October 28, 1902, in Lewisham, London, England to unconventional parents; James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester. Her parents were avowed socialists, and didn't believe in marriage or any conventional legality. They loved their daughter though.

Elsa explains, "My parents were always a bit arty. They were 'advanced.' They supported pacifism, vegetarianism, socialism, atheism, and all that."

Elsa's talent for dancing appeared at a very early age. her talent and desire for classical dancing was apparent. At the age of 10, Elsa was sent to PAris to enroll in Isadora Duncan's Bellevue School, where she had two years of instruction before being sent home because of WW1. However, she blossomed in those two years, and was able to attend co-educational boarding school in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England, where her tuition and board was waved in exchange for Elsa to teach dance classes.

After graduating, Elsa was a mover and a shaker, doing things that normal women in her era didn't do, which must of pleased her parents. She knew what she wanted to accomplish, and went to work to achieve it. In 1920, Elsa started a children's theatre in Soho, England, and taught there for several years. She debuted in her first stage play, THIRTY MINUTES IN A STREET.

Elsa and her partner, Harold Scott opened up a London Night Club in 1924, called The Cave Of Harmony where they were the entertainment. They loved to perform one-act plays by Pirandello and Chekhov, and lighten things up a bit by singing Cabaret songs. When Elsa's film career started to take off, she closed The Cave of Harmony.

Elsa had a short subject film debut in 1924 with THE SCARLET WOMAN. Throughout the twenties, she continued to act on stage. In 1927, she made her British film debut in ONE OF THE BEST. In 1928, Elsa was in four films, three of which werewritten for her by H.G. Wells.Elsa became aquainted with a fellow actor, Charles Laughton, in three of these four films. They went on did some stage plays together and wound up marrying in 1929, which probably didn't please her parents. Two years later, Elsa discovered that Laughton was gay, but they remained married anyway, content to have an open marriage.

Elsa and Charles Laughton made ten memorable films together.
In 1935 Elsa Lanchester made her American film debut in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, probably a role that she wished she hadn't done.

In 1936, Elsa and Charles were in the film, REMBRANDT (1936).

Lanchester had two Oscar nominations for her performances in COME TO THE STABLE (1949) and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957).

Elsa summed up her film career by saying, "...large parts in lousy pictures and small parts in big pictures."

Elsa's first love was performing in front of a live audience.

Elsa Lanchester passed away on December 26, 1986 from bronchial pneumonia.

She wrote two autobiographies: Charles Laughton and I (1938) and Elsa Lanchester: Herself (1983)

Elsa Lanchester's notable movie credits include...

DIE LAUGHING (1980)
MURDER BY DEATH (1976)
ARNOLD (1973)
TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM (1973)
ME, NATALIE (1969)
RASCAL (1969)
BLACKBEARD'S GHOST (1968)
EASY COME, EASY GO (1967)
THAT DARN CAT! (1965)
MARY POPPINS (1964)
BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE (1958)
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957)
COME TO THE STABLE (1949)
THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947)
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1946)
REMBRANDT (1935)
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)


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Elsa Lanchester in MARY POPPINS (1964).

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Lanchester in THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945).

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Elsa Lanchester in BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE (1958).

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Elsa Lanchester in THE BISHOP'S WIFE.


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Lanchester in BLACKBEARD'S GHOST (1968).

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Lanchester in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION.

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Elsa in THE INSPECTOR GENERAL.

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Elsa Lanchester in LASSIE COME HOME (1943) .

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Elsa Lanchester in MURDER BY DEATH (1976).