On this day in 1902, the great actor Elsa Lanchester was born. She will always be associated with Bride of Frankenstein. She played both Mary Shelley and “the bride.” And she was wonderful. It’s kind of strange. I remember watching that movie on Creature Features with my older brother and sister when I was maybe 9 years old. I was terrified. Yet now it is a film I watch when I want to get cheered up. It’s so sweet — especially when “the monster” takes the hand of “the bride” and pats it gently. Of course, she doesn’t respond well.
Lanchester had a long and distinguished career. She received two Academy Award nominations for Come to the Stable and Witness for the Prosecution. What I’m most taken with is that she exudes fun up on the screen. Her role as the chatty nurse Miss Plimsoll in the second of these could easily have been annoying, but with Lanchester it is just a delight. She and Charles Laughton were married their whole adult lives until he died. They starred in nine films together. Here she is talking with Dick Cavett about Laughton, Isadora Duncan, and how to pronounce her last name:
Some nice person put together four minutes of clips from various movies, with the Bride of Frankenstein music on top of it. I think her personality comes across really well even without dialog:
Let’s just end with one of her very last films, Murder By Death. In it, she plays a Miss Marple parody, Jessica Marbles. At the end of it, Dora Charleston (parody of Nora Charles from The Thin Man) says, “I like her; I really like her.” And I couldn’t agree more.
Happy birthday Elsa Lanchester!