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"They can't censor the gleam in my eye."

British-American actor (1899-1962). He was a round guy with sleepy eyes and chubby lips--he looked like he was born to play portly English butlers and portly English noblemen and portly English MoPs, but he was able to play a wide variety of characters, comic and dramatic, heroes and villains, both on film and on the stage.

Born in the Victoria Hotel in Scarborough, Yorkshire, Laughton actually started out as a hotel clerk before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art after World War I. He made his debut on the London stage in 1926 and, while starring in a play called "Alibi" in 1928, was the first actor to portray Agatha Christie's supersleuth Hercule Poirot.

Laughton started making some short film comedies in 1928. He met and married actress Elsa Lanchester in 1929, and they traveled to America in 1931 in a play (and its film adaptation) called "Payment Deferred". He was quickly getting regular work in Hollywood, appearing in "The Old Dark House", "The Sign of the Cross" (as Emperor Nero), "Jamaica Inn", "The Island of Lost Souls" (as Dr. Moreau), "Mutiny on the Bounty" (Oscar-nominated for playing Captain Bligh), and "Les Miserable" (as Javert).

Laughton won an Academy Award for "The Private Life of Henry VIII" and received acclaim for "Ruggles of Red Gap", "Rembrandt", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", "The Canterville Ghost", and "Captain Kidd". After World War II, he also turned in well-received performances in "The Big Clock", "The Man on the Eiffel Tower", and "Young Bess" (again playing Henry VIII).

Laughton directed only one film: the haunting thriller "The Night of the Hunter", starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish, in 1955. In my opinion, this movie is an outstanding example of film noir--tense, dark, shadowy, and exciting but also lyrical, dreamlike, and undeniably beautiful. Mitchum once said that Laughton was the best director he'd ever worked for. Laughton directed no more films, and that's a pity. He continued acting, however, appearing in "Witness for the Prosecution" (another Oscar nomination for that one), "Spartacus", and "Advise and Consent", his last film.

He died of cancer on December 15, 1962, in Hollywood.

Addendum: dannye sez: "I don't know if you ever saw the 'I, Claudius' series, but we just got finished with the DVD set. The last one has an extra called 'The Epic that Never Was' where Charles Laughton plays the role of Claudius in a movie version that never got finished. Very interesting stuff. Some of the scenes from what is left are comically bad, and some are just overwhelming." I don't know what it is, but Laughton did indeed seem to have a talent for playing Roman emperors...

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) and from enjoying good movies.

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