Saturday, September 10, 2005

Elsa Lanchester

"Elsa Lanchester was born to an eccentric family on October 28, 1902, in England. Her parents (James and Edith) were considered as Bohemians in all aspects of the work, refusing to legalize their union in any conventional way to satisfy the era's conservative society. An older sibling, Waldo, completed the family. Edith's parents even successfully sent her to an asylum for a while, as she refused to wed James even if she wanted to live with him. Shocking! Consequently, Elsa and her family moved numerous times. At 11 years of age, Elsa was enrolled at Isadora Duncan's School of Dance, in Paris. Sadly, the start of the first World War would prevent her to ever graduate and she was sent home.

Still very young at 12, the war situation obliged Elsa to find work, as she soon became a college dance teacher. Four years later, she helped create the Children's Theater in London and gave lessons for some years. Of course, she was part of an artists group, Cave of Harmony Productions, performing many songs and short sketches in cabarets. In 1927, Elsa made her movie debut in ONE OF THE BEST. The same year, as she was part of the cast of the play Mr. Prohack, she met another young actor that would change her life in a definitive way: Charles Laughton."

I've had this record for many years but it's a favourite for adding odd and exotic tracks to compilation tapes, especially the extraordinairy "The Yashmak Song".
She was most famous for her role as the female monster in James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein" and her marriage to Charles Laughton who pops up between tracks on this record to make pertinant remarks and join in on the chorus of the old music hall song "She Was Poor, But She Was Honest".

Elsa Lanchester - The Yashmak Song

Elsa Lanchester - She Was Poor, But She Was Honest

These You Send It files are available for seven days or until exhausted.


Cocaine Jesus said...

she still looks like the bride of frankenstein on the album cover.

michael said...

She was quite stunning looking when she was younger. One wonders what she saw in old Charles Laughton especially since he was gay apparently.

Cocaine Jesus said...

loadsa money perhaps? or maybe a decent nights sleep?

Cate said...

I remember her, especially her voice. She could capture you with that voice, and the spell wasn't broken until she was silent.

P.S. There's a lot to be said for a decent night's sleep.

Gloria said...

Cocaine Jesus: Loads of money? hardly. Laughton had left the family bussiness for an actor's life and was regarded by his family as a black sheep (even when he started being pretty successful in stage & films!). In his early years as an actor, he depended on a small family allowance and would live in hired rooms: only when his parts (and income) got bigger, he could afford Hotel rooms or, later, sharing a flat with Elsa (And not a luxurious one, I must add)

Michael: She didn't know he was gay -or so she claimed in all her statements- when they started dating. What's more, they lived together in a tiny flat for over a year, unmarried, and then decided to pass through the registry office: only *after 3 years of being together* she discovered he was gay... which strongly suggests Charles played the lover part for Elsa rather efficiently.

BTW, Elsa had lots of fervent male admirers, but she settled for Charles... whatever reason why she went for him was certainly not lack of other options. Face it: Elsa chose him above others

michael said...

Thanks for the insights Gloria. One can tell by the mutual love of these old songs that they had a lot in common.

Gloria said...

Hi Michael, you're right. Reading about them it's undeniable that, beyond marriage, outer flings, etc... they had things which made them stick together to the end: you just have to see their chemistry when playing together in films (i.e. "Witness for the prosecution", "Rembrandt").
Simon Callow makes an interesting point in his Laughton biography, saying that, even though that didn't necessarily mean they could work fine as a married couple, they had the makings to become deep friends... I suppose that in more tolerant times, they would have remained friends, tho' probably they would have coupled with someone else, respectively.

BTW: I have that record myself, a very enjoyable one. Elsa has at least another three further recordings around -that I know-

michael said...

Sadly this is the only Elsa recording I own but would love to hear the others. I shall keep my eyes peeled at the boot sales!

Anonymous said...

bloody hell, this is one of those silly seven day links from two years ago.

elsa lanchester ptoduced four lps which i have had, all of them totally enjoyable --- and the eerie, beatlesque
"here comes my lover" being the greatest of her songs in my humble opinion.

song of a psychopath sweetheart working in a whorehouse with quite the wrong expectations. the "beatlesque" is in the music -- just as it is in "lola's saucepan", another great lanchester song.

please try and find it//them

wastedpapiers said...

I have two Elsa Lanchester LP's now- I recently uplaoded one side of one of them I think. Maybe on another of my blogs? Anyway I will try and upload again if the links are broken.
Thanks for your insightful comment.