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Elsa Lanchester !


misswonderly3
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I just finished watching The Big Clock, for maybe the 5th time.  Great little movie, I love it. But that's not what I want to talk about here.   What I want to talk about is how funny, how likable  (because she's funny),  how quirky,  how memorable Elsa Lanchester is in everything she touches.

As was the case most of the time with Elsa,  she has a small  but important role in The Big Clock.  As usual, she plays a quirky side character, not a lead, but her part plays a key role in the story.  This is also the case with another great little noir,  Mystery Street.  

What can I say?  Anyone who's seen this extremely unusual and talented actress knows how she takes a character and makes them completely her own.  No matter what you see her in,  no matter how small the part,  you remember her.  And god,  what a natural comedian she was !  She's so damn funny,  her voice,  her mannerisms,  the way she says her lines.  She's a treasure to classic Hollywood  (not to mention other earlier British films she was in)   and I love everything I've ever seen her in.  She brightens the screen with her oddball presence - she's hilarious !  I love her.

 

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I love her very much!

She definitely brings a special smile to every role. I love her dearly as the slightly addled and more than slightly inept witch in: Bell Book and Candle (1958). She is perfect as the saucy nurse in: Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

I could go on and on because she was quite wonderful in every role.
 

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Not a movie, but I love Elsa in her episode of "I Love Lucy" where Lucy and Ethel mistake her for an escaped hatchet murderess based on a radio report and circumstantial evidence.  Meanwhile, Elsa mistakes Lucy for the escaped hatchet murderess based on another radio report that indicates that the grey-haired woman may have dyed her hair red.  Elsa, Lucy and Ethel are on pins and needles throughout most of their trip, until Elsa ditches the girls about a 100 miles away from their destination.

Elsa's character is so delightfully wacky and weird, that you don't blame Lucy for thinking that there's something off with her.  But Lucy herself is also a nut, that you also can't blame Elsa for thinking the same thing about Lucy.

My favorite part:

ETHEL: What's that you're eating?

ELSA: Watercress sandwich

(Lucy and Ethel start eating Watercress sandwiches)

LUCY: Very tasty.  If you love buttered grass.

(Ethel tries to take Lucy's sandwich)

LUCY: I love buttered grass!

---

I also love Elsa in The Spiral Staircase where she plays one of the weird servants at Ethel Barrymore's house. At one point, Elsa's character is passed out in the kitchen, having drunk all the brandy.

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And something of a dish in her heyday, if I may say so! Her Bride of Frankenstein has such a spark (forgive the on the nose phrase) because she treads this bizarrely alluring line between monster and sex symbol, which set the tone for that quirkily appealing quality you describe in her body of work.

She was also one of those character players who were equally at home in high-brow and low brow-productions. She could elevate B material with her high-tone theatricality and yet not seem incongruously pretentious for the effort, perhaps a side effect of that same quirky gameness. I remember seeing her in a very silly but entertaining technicolor adventure of the 1950s, Buccaneer's Girl, in which she basically plays a placage madame in old New Orleans, and she's as delightful and committed to her craft in that as any of her finer films. It's just a joy to watch!

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Thanks MissWonderly3 for starting this thread! Elsa Lanchester is great in everything she does, although Hollywood didn't use her talents as much as I would have liked. She really used her voice a lot to convey charactor, it's amazing she did not speak in her most well known role.

Her autobiography "Herself", is rare, rare, rare & I was lucky enough to find a completely beat up copy a couple decades ago. Fascinating read, insightful.  She had a tough upbringing, but you absolutely see why she went into acting, it was natural for her.  She describes her life with Laughton with fondness even though the relationship brought her heartbreak. Truly a great, strong woman-so glad she shared her talent with us!

I think she was very beautiful, here's a few pretty shots of her:

600full-elsa-lanchester.jpg

Those EYES!

d5e7e6d79daa4e1e3bb3ed3e291701cc--the-fl

afd732274dee6f1b5b617cab255031c3--elsa-l

Such a beautiful bow mouth:

9999014450-l.jpg

 

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14 hours ago, SansFin said:

I love her very much!

. She is perfect as the saucy nurse in: Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

I could go on and on because she was quite wonderful in every role.
 

She was great in that role.  I wish TCM would more often show the other films they made together.  

I tried but couldn't find a clip of their "Frankie And Johnny" duet from "Comets" but found this.

Sepiatone

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She had memorable roles in 5 different decades.

The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Mary Shelley and the hissing Monster's mate

Come To The Stable (1949) -eccentric artist who helps a couple of nuns

Witness For The Prosecution (1957) -the bossy but concerned nurse

That Darn Cat (1965) -the nosy busybody who do anything to spy on her neighbors

Willard (1971)-nagging mother to rat loving Bruce Davison

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14 hours ago, SansFin said:

I love her very much!

She definitely brings a special smile to every role. I love her dearly as the slightly addled and more than slightly inept witch in: Bell Book and Candle (1958). She is perfect as the saucy nurse in: Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

I could go on and on because she was quite wonderful in every role.
 

What's extra interesting about Elsa in  Witness for the Prosecution is that,  of course as you know,  she was married to Charles Laughton.  There she is, as his nagging nurse,  always trying to get him to stop smoking cigars and take his medicine, etc.,  and he's her husband in real life !

I have heard that despite the, shall we say, unusual understanding they had in their marriage, that it was in its own way a happy one.

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6 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

Thanks MissWonderly3 for starting this thread! Elsa Lanchester is great in everything she does, although Hollywood didn't use her talents as much as I would have liked. She really used her voice a lot to convey charactor, it's amazing she did not speak in her most well known role.

Her autobiography "Herself", is rare, rare, rare & I was lucky enough to find a completely beat up copy a couple decades ago. Fascinating read, insightful.  She had a tough upbringing, but you absolutely see why she went into acting, it was natural for her.  She describes her life with Laughton with fondness even though the relationship brought her heartbreak. Truly a great, strong woman-so glad she shared her talent with us!

I think she was very beautiful, here's a few pretty shots of her:

600full-elsa-lanchester.jpg

Those EYES!

 

...or maybe not  About the level of happiness, I mean, in her marriage to Charles Laughton.  You certainly know more about that than I do,  TikiSoo, if you've read her autobiography.  I wonder if she knew about Laughton's sexual orientation before she married him?  did they have some kind of agreement?  I always thought they did, but I'm not sure now where I got that impression, it may be incorrect.

You are lucky to have found a copy of Elsa Lanchester's autobiography,  thanks for telling us about it.  ( I didn't even know such a bio existed.)

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26 minutes ago, misswonderly3 said:

What's extra interesting about Elsa in  Witness for the Prosecution is that,  of course as you know,  sahe was married to Charles Laughton.  There she is, as his nagging nurse,  always trying to get him to stop smoking cigars and take his medicine, etc.,  and he's her husband in real life !

I have heard that despite the, shall we say, unusual understanding they had in their marriage, that it was in its own way a happy one.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is a favorite movie of my sweetie and mine.  We've watched it twice together. And we both love Elsa Lanchester in this movie and in others we've seen together and  on our own.  

Knowing that Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester  were married in real life puts an interesting spin on how insulting his character in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is to hers: at one point he says he can think of nothing more revolting than seeing her without her clothes on!

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Elsa Lanchester was indeed a treat and a unique talent.    She does leave an impression well beyond the few minutes of screen time she gets.   Some of my favorite roles (other than those mentioned),  are:

Ladies in Retirement,   The Spiral Staircase,  The Razor's Edge,   The Bishop's Wife,    Hell's Half Acre,   and Bell, Books, and Candle.  

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Since my favorite films Elsa was in have been mentioned, I'll add a charming, small role she had in The Razor's Edge. Elsa sings a song to herself in the film. It's lovely, she gives Tyrone an invitation for dying Clifton Webb. Another sweet role I don't think anyone's mentioned was in The Bishop's Wife.

Elsa was always a joy to watch no matter the role.Wonderful actress.

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I love Elsa Lanchester! She was masterful at revealing  the eccentricities of the characters she played without ever crossing the line into caricature, at least not in any of her performances that I have seen. 

She appeared in three Disney movies beginning  with Mary Poppins where she played Katie Nanna, whose resignation as the nanny for the Banks children paved the way for the hiring of Mary Poppins.  Katie Nanna's attempt to quit and collect her pay is delayed when Mrs. Banks bursts into the song "Sister Suffragette."  Elsa Lanchester's mother Edith had actually been a suffragette!

Elsa Lanchester also appeared in That Darn Cat! and Blackbeard's Ghost.

 

 

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Thanks to everyone who's posted here about this delightful actress.

Another film Elsa was featured in was a little-known but very enjoyable noir called Mystery Street  ( which, by  the way, also features another of one of my favourite under-rated actresses,  Jan Sterling.)  I strongly recommend this movie,  it's a wonderfully constructed, taut, suspenseful, and highly entertaining film.  Ricardo Mantalban really carries it, but all the players are outstanding.  

Especially our girl,  Elsa Lanchester !  Oh my god,  she is so funny and amusing as the greedy cunning landlady !   I don't want to put out spoilers  - again, Mystery Street is well worth watching for many reasons, I hope TCM airs it soon -- but I'll just say Elsa , as usual, plays a relatively minor but key part in the film.  Actually, maybe not that minor,  she has several scenes,  all of which are what you'd expect from Miss Lanchester,  engaging and , well, just plain funny.  I think it's partly her voice, which someone else mentioned on this thread  (sorry, can't remember who off-hand.)   She has this kind of fake cultured accent  (after all, she was British),  and she uses it to great effect, especially when she's being all demure and pretending she's an honest  hard-working landlady.  Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth !

There's also her pet parrot-  or budgie, or canary,   I can't recall - and the very important role it plays in the story.  And then there's her visit to the shipbuilder.  She's being so what is now called "passive-aggressive",  she's a riot !  

Anyway,  anyone who has not as yet had a chance to catch Mystery Street, try and watch it if it comes up on TCM or any other way you can-- it's one of my favourite noirs,  and a fine example of Elsa Lanchester at her best.

 

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13 hours ago, BagelOnAPlateOfOnionRolls said:

I love Elsa Lanchester! She was masterful at revealing  the eccentricities of the characters she played without ever crossing the line into caricature, at least not in any of her performances that I have seen. 

She appeared in three Disney movies beginning  with Mary Poppins where she played Katie Nanna, whose resignation as the nanny for the Banks children paved the way for the hiring of Mary Poppins.  Katie Nanna's attempt to quit and collect her pay is delayed when Mrs. Banks bursts into the song "Sister Suffragette."  Elsa Lanchester's mother Edith had actually been a suffragette!

Elsa Lanchester also appeared in That Darn Cat! and Blackbeard's Ghost.

 

 

(i) Just, Did NOT Remember That Elsa and Glynis Were (Ever) In An Identical Film Together ..

    Thank You.

.. .

Haveta Watch it Again (its been awhile); Just to See Those Two Dames...

🎨

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12 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

Thanks to everyone who's posted here about this delightful actress.

Another film Elsa was featured in was a little-known but very enjoyable noir called Mystery Street  ( which, by  the way, also features another of one of my favourite under-rated actresses,  Jan Sterling.)  I strongly recommend this movie,  it's a wonderfully constructed, taut, suspenseful, and highly entertaining film.  Ricardo Mantalban really carries it, but all the players are outstanding.  

Especially our girl,  Elsa Lanchester !  Oh my god,  she is so funny and amusing as the greedy cunning landlady !   I don't want to put out spoilers  - again, Mystery Street is well worth watching for many reasons, I hope TCM airs it soon -- but I'll just say Elsa , as usual, plays a relatively minor but key part in the film.  Actually, maybe not that minor,  she has several scenes,  all of which are what you'd expect from Miss Lanchester,  engaging and , well, just plain funny.  I think it's partly her voice, which someone else mentioned on this thread  (sorry, can't remember who off-hand.)   She has this kind of fake cultured accent  (after all, she was British),  and she uses it to great effect, especially when she's being all demure and pretending she's an honest  hard-working landlady.  Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth !

There's also her pet parrot-  or budgie, or canary,   I can't recall - and the very important role it plays in the story.  And then there's her visit to the shipbuilder.  She's being so what is now called "passive-aggressive",  she's a riot !  

Anyway,  anyone who has not as yet had a chance to catch Mystery Street, try and watch it if it comes up on TCM or any other way you can-- it's one of my favourite noirs,  and a fine example of Elsa Lanchester at her best.

 

I Would Be Interested..

_

Who Are Some (Other) Favourite Actresses of Yours.. ,?

(Unless You Have Named them Down to the last one ..),

. ...

(A Few of) Mine Are

 

   Glynis Johns.

    Karen Sharpe.

   Arlene Dahl.

   Dorothy MaGuire. (sp

 Maureen O'Hara.

and Nannette Fabray.

 

 

..Among;, Very Most Likely Others...

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