5 Things You May Not Know about Elsa Lanchester

5 Things You May Not Know about Elsa Lanchester


Like that today is her birthday. Happy 114th Birthday to the legend Elsa Lanchester.


1.) She had some pretty hip parents

elsa-lanchester_brotherI couldn’t find any photos of her parents, so enjoy Baby Elsa and her brother..

Elsa Sullvian Lanchester was born to some pretty progressive parents, James Sullivan and Edith Lanchester. They were active members of the Social Democratic Federation and never married, thus the name “Sullivan Lanchester.” The pair pretty much abhorred the conservative society they were born in, and to quote Elsa, “My parents were always a bit arty. They were “advanced”. They supported pacifism, vegetarianism, socialism, atheism and all that.”


2.) She had her own arts driven nightclub


Of course nothing was said arty as the cigarette. How 100 years can change things.

Thanks to her bohemian upbringing, Lanchester was always looking for venues to express her creativity. In the mid-1920s she decided to open a nightclub in London called Cave of Harmony. This gave Lanchester an outlet for performance, as well as becoming a popular meeting spot for London artists and intellectuals such as H.G Wells, Aldous Huxley and James Whales.


3.) She suffered for her art


You think she woke up looking like this?

Lanchester’s most memorable role may have also been her most difficult. In order to play the 7- foot tall character of The Bride, the 5’4” Lanchester was forced to wear stilts that added the extra foot and a half to her height. The bandages were so tight that she couldn’t even move and had to be carried through the studio. She was fed through a straw and used a bird’s cage as the base for the now iconic Bride’s hairdo. How’s that for suffering for your art?


4.) She was married to Charles Laughton


Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton star in Witness for the Prosecution (1957, Billy Wilder director)

OK, you probably already knew that, but did you know that they starred in ten films together? In their final film together, Billy Wilders’ 1957 courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, both received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.


5.) Her career went to the rats


Luckily her character did not

Although Lanchester is best remember as a cult icon due to her work in Bride of Frankenstein, she also played co-star in another cult horror hit, 1971’s Willard. In the film she played the overbearing, unsympathetic mother to the titular character of Willard. While the character wasn’t actually a monster, she did have a hand in creating a metaphoric one.


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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2 Responses to 5 Things You May Not Know about Elsa Lanchester

  1. Chris Teel says:

    She was great in Bride of Frankenstein, arguably the most iconic monster film ever. I remember Willard scaring the almost-literal pee out of me as a child. I still hate rats, nasty little buggers. Regretfully, I haven’t seen Witness for the Prosecution. The combination of Elsa and Charles Laughton is quite promising.

  2. Amy Vlahovic says:

    Love her as the Bride of Frankenstein. Oh but when it came to Willard I could not watch it because every time I did I got totally freaked out. LOL Wouldn’t/couldn’t sleep for days until I was positive there were no rats in house, my room, the ceiling etc. As I got older & older I thought I would be able to watch the movie, well that was not the case. I am 48 yrs old now and the movie Willard still completely freaks me out, but my son absolutely loves Willard & The Bride of Frankenstein. He has my good taste in old horror movies 🙂 So Happy Birthday Elsa Lanchester!!!!!

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