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Final Resting Place of Charles Laughton.
1st.July 1899 - 15th.December 1962.
Located in the Court of Remembrance.
Cause of Death - Spinal Cancer.
Charles Laughton was an English stage and film actor. He became an American citizen in 1950. While best known for his historical roles in films, he started his career as a remarkable stage actor. In a moment when stage actors despised movies as a legitimate medium, only being interested in them as a source of income, Laughton showed keen and serious interest in the pioneering possibilities of film, and later other new media as radio and TV, proving that it was worth that quality work could be available to larger audiences other than theatre goers.
Laughton was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire. His mother was a devout Catholic and he attended the famed Jesuit school, Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, England. He served during World War I (in which he was gassed). At first he went into the family business (hotels), while participating in amateur theatricals in Scarborough. Finally allowed by his family to become a drama student at RADA in 1925, he would make his first professional stage appearance in 1926. Despite not having the looks for a romantic lead, he impressed audiences with his talent and played many classical roles before making his film debut in 1932. His best-remembered film role of that year was as Nero in Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross, although in this year he turned out a number of memorable performances like Dr. Moreau in Island of Lost Souls, and the little clerk in the segment of If I Had a Million directed by Ernst Lubitsch. His association with the director Alexander Korda began with The Private Life of Henry VIII (loosely based on the life of King Henry VIII of England), for which Laughton won an Academy Award. However, he continued to act in the theatre, and his American production of Galileo by (and with) Bertolt Brecht is legendary. Later films included The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Les Miserables (1935), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (as Captain Bligh, one of his most famous screen roles, co-starring with Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), Rembrandt (1936) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). In 1937, he was to have starred in an ill-fated film version of the classic novel, I, Claudius, by Robert Graves, which was abandoned only part-way into filming due to the injuries suffered by co-star Merle Oberon in a car crash.
After I, Claudius, he and the legendary German film producer Eric Pommer teamed up founding the company Mayflower Pictures in the UK, which produced three films starring Laughton: Vessel of Wrath, based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, St. Martin's Lane, a story about London street entertainers, and Jamaica Inn, based in a novel by Daphne du Maurier, and the last film Alfred Hitchcock directed in Britain before moving to Hollywood in the late 1930s. (Note: Hitchcock returned to London to film Frenzy in the early 1970s.) The films produced were not successful enough, and the company was saved from bankruptcy when RKO Pictures offered Laughton the role of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton and Pommer had plans to make further films, but the outbreak of World War II, which implied the loss of many foreign markets, meant the end of the company.
Laughton received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role as Sir Wilfrid Robarts in the screen version of Agatha Christie's play Witness for the Prosecution (1957). He was the first actor to portray Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot when he starred in Alibi - a stage adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - in 1928. He worked for the first and only time with his chief acting rival, Laurence Olivier, in Spartacus (1960). His final film was Advise and Consent (1962), for which he received favorable comments for his performance as a southern U.S. Senator (for which accent he studied recordings of the late Mississippi Senator John Stennis). Laughton worked on the film, which was directed by Otto Preminger, while he was dying from bone cancer.
Laughton took a stab at directing a movie, and the result was the legendary The Night of the Hunter (1955), starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. This movie is often cited among today's critics as one of the best movies of the 1950s; unfortunately it was a critical and box-office flop when it was originally released. Laughton never had another chance to direct his own movies. He did not appear in the film, but worked solely as a director.
He had a long and resilient marriage to actress Elsa Lanchester, although, in her autobiography, Lanchester claimed that Laughton was homosexual. According to her own account, she was shocked to learn about this, but eventually decided to remain married to him; however she claims as a result of this, she decided not to have children with him. The decision caused him great grief, as he longed to become a father, as many friends of Laughton, among them Maureen O'Hara and Stanley Cortez, have stated. Elsa Lanchester appeared opposite him in several films, including Rembrandt (1936) and Witness for the Prosecution for which both received Academy Award nominations. Laughton for Best Actor, and Lanchester for Best Supporting Actress. Neither won. In 1950, the couple became American citizens.