Scope and Content
Title: Charles Laughton Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1920-1964
Date (bulk): (bulk 1940-1962)
Collection number: 851
Creator: Laughton, Charles, 1899-1962
Extent: 24 boxes (12 linear ft.) 1 oversize box
Abstract: Charles Laughton (1899-1962) was a theater and film actor, radio personality, and public performer. The collection consists
of photographs, publicity materials, press clippings, correspondence, radio and theatre scripts, screenplays, assorted readings,
and miscellaneous items.
University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department
of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
Charles Laughton was born July 1, 1899 in Scarborough, England to hotel proprietors Robert and Eliza Laughton. He attended
the public Jesuit school Stonyhurst College and enlisted into the army during the First World War in 1917. In 1924, Laughton
enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study acting and drama. His performances earned him much respect and admiration,
and soon Laughton was starring in many professional theatrical and film productions in London. In 1927, Laughton met the actress
Elsa Lanchester. They were married in 1929.
Laughton and Lanchester first traveled to the United States in 1931, where Laughton was hired to perform the successful English
Payment Deferred. For the next 19 years, they spent the majority of their time in the United States. Laughton became one of the most well-respected
film actors of the era, capturing roles in the films
Island of Lost Souls (1933) and
The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), for which he won the Academy Award for best actor. Other notable productions include:
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935),
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939),
The Man from Down Under (1943), and
The Paradine Case (1947). Laughton and Lanchester became American citizens in 1950 and settled in Southern California.
During the Second World War, Laughton began reading selected passages to wounded soldiers at local hospitals. For the rest
of his life, Laughton would devote much of his time to reading selected passages from his favorite authors. Recognized for
his powerful voice and presence, Laughton's readings led to a number of reading tours, spoken-word albums, performances, and
Tell Me a Story (1957) and
The Fabulous Country (1962). Laughton made his directorial debut in 1955 with
The Night of the Hunter starring Robert Mitchum. Although the production was not a financial success, it was critically lauded as one of the better
films of the decade, and is considered a masterpiece of American cinema. Laughton also performed on radio and, occasionally,
Laughton's health declined in the early 1960's. After a year of fighting cancer, Charles Laughton died at his home on December
15, 1962. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of Charles Laughton's photographs, publicity materials, press clippings, correspondence, scripts,
screenplays, assorted readings, and miscellaneous items documenting Charles Laughton's 35-year career as an actor in theater
and film, and as a public performer. Of particular interest are photographs of Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's
reading selections, correspondence, and miscellaneous items such as Laughton's award for the Academy nomination of best actor
Witness for the Prosecution (1957). The collection also contains numerous scripts from his work in theatre and radio, screenplays from films, and selected
readings that Laughton used in his reading tours, publications, and performances.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Laughton, Charles, 1899-1962--Archives.
Theatrical producers and directors--Archival resources.
Lanchester, Elsa, 1902-1986--Correspondence.
Genres and Forms of Material