Charles Laughton


Charles Laughton (1 July, 189915 December, 1962) was an English Academy Award-winning stage and film actor, screenwriter, producer and one-time director. He became an American citizen in 1950. While best known for his historical roles in films, he started his career as a remarkable stage actor. During a time when many serious stage actors despised the motion picture medium, seeing it only as a source of income, Laughton showed keen and serious interest in the pioneering possibilities of film, and later other media, such as radio, recordings, and TV, proving that quality work could be made available to audiences other than theatre-goers.


Early life and career

Laughton was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, the son of Robert Laughton by his wife Elizabeth (née Conlon). His mother was a devout Catholic and he attended Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit school, in Lancashire, England. He served during World War I (in which he was gassed) with the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Regiment and later with the Northamptonshire Regiment.

He started work in the family hotel business, while participating in amateur theatricals in Scarborough. Finally allowed by his family to become a drama student at RADA in 1925, Laughton made his first professional stage appearance on April 28, 1926 at the Barnes Theatre, as Osip in the comedy The Government Inspector, in which he also appeared at the London Gaiety Theatre in May. Despite not having the looks for a romantic lead, he impressed audiences with his talent and played classical roles in two plays by Chekov, The Cherry Orchard and The Three Sisters. He played the title role in Arnold Bennett's Mr Prohack, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot in Alibi, the title role in Mr Pickwick after Charles Dickens, Tony Perelli in Edgar Wallace's On the Spot and William Marble in Payment Deferred. He took this last play across the Atlantic and in it he made his debut in the USA on September 24, 1931, at the Lyceum Theatre (New York). He returned to London for the 1933-34 Old Vic Season and was engaged in four Shakespeare roles (as Macbeth and Henry VIII, Angelo in Measure for Measure and Prospero in The Tempest). In 1936 he went to Paris and on May 9 appeared at the Comedie Francaise as Sganarelle in the second act of Moliere's Le Medecin malgré lui, the first English actor to appear at that theatre, where he acted the part in French and received an ovation.

Laughton commenced his film career in England while still acting on the London stage. He took small roles in two short silent comedies starring his wife Elsa Lanchester, Daydreams and Blue Bottles (both 1928) and he made a brief appearance as a disgruntled diner in another silent film Piccadilly with Anna May Wong in 1929. He appeared with Elsa Lanchester again in a "film revue," featuring assorted British variety acts, called Comets (1930) in which they duetted in 'The Ballad of Frankie and Johnnie', and made two other early British talkies: Wolves with Dorothy Gish (1930) from a play set in a whaling camp in the frozen north, and Down River (1931) in which he played a murderous, half-oriental drug-smuggler.

His New York stage debut in 1931 immediately led to film offers and Laughton's first Hollywood film was The Old Dark House (1932) with Boris Karloff in which he played a bluff Yorkshire businessman marooned during a storm with other travellers in a creepy mansion in the Welsh mountains. He then played a demented submarine commander in The Devil and the Deep with Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant and followed this with his best-remembered film role of that year as Nero in Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross. He also turned out a number of other memorable performances during that first Hollywood trip, repeating his stage role as a murderer in Payment Deferred, playing H. G. Wells's mad vivisectionist Dr. Moreau in Island of Lost Souls, and the meek raspberry-blowing clerk in the brief segment of If I Had a Million that was directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

His association with film director Alexander Korda began in 1933 with The Private Life of Henry VIII (loosely based on the life of King Henry VIII of England), for which Laughton won an Academy Award. However, he continued to act occasionally in the theatre, and his American production of Galileo by (and with) Bertolt Brecht is legendary.

Film career

Laughton soon gave up the stage in preference for a movie career and returned to Hollywood where his next film was White Woman (1933) in which he co-starred with Carole Lombard as a cockney river trader in the Malaysian jungle. Then came The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) as Norma Shearer's malevolent father; Les Misérables (1935) as Javert, the police inspector; Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) as Captain Bligh, one of his most famous screen roles, co-starring with Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian; and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) as the very English butler transported to early 1900s America.

Back in England, and again with Alexander Korda, he played the title role in Rembrandt (1936). In 1937, also for Korda, he was to have starred in the ill-fated film version of the classic novel, I, Claudius, by Robert Graves, which was abandoned part-way into filming due to the injuries suffered by co-star Merle Oberon in a car crash.

After I, Claudius, he and the legendary German film producer Erich Pommer teamed up, founding the company Mayflower Pictures in the UK, which produced three films starring Laughton: Vessel of Wrath (1938), based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, in which Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester co-starred; St. Martin's Lane, a story about London street entertainers that also featured Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison; and Jamaica Inn, with Maureen O'Hara and Robert Newton, based on a novel about Cornish smugglers by Daphne du Maurier, and the last film Alfred Hitchcock directed in Britain before moving to Hollywood in the late 1930s. (Note: Hitchcock returned to London to film Frenzy in the early 1970s.) The films produced were not successful enough, and the company was saved from bankruptcy when RKO Pictures offered Laughton the title role of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton and Pommer had plans to make further films, but the outbreak of World War II, which implied the loss of many foreign markets, meant the end of the company.

Laughton's film roles in the 1930s were among his finest and consisted almost entirely of the costume and historical drama parts for which he is best remembered (ie: Nero, Henry VIII, Mr. Barrett, Captain Bligh, Rembrandt, Quasimodo, etc). In his modern-dress film roles in his 1940s movies his acting style often led to variable results, particularly in a number of roles for which he was not ideally cast. He played an Italian vineyard owner in California in They Knew What They Wanted (1940); a South Seas patriarch in The Tuttles of Tahiti (1942); (1942); an American admiral in Stand by for Action (1942); a butler in Forever and a Day (1943) or an Australian bar-owner in The Man from Down Under (1943).

Still, some of these post-thirties performances could be remarkable when he came across a good script or a perceptive director, such is the case of a cowardly school-master in occupied France in This Land is Mine (1943), by Jean Renoir, in which he engaged himself most actively , in fact, while Renoir was still working in an early script, Laughton would talk to him about Alphonse Daudet's story "the last lesson", which suggested to Renoir a relevant scene of the film.. He gave also an interesting portrait of a henpecked husband who eventually murders his wife in The Suspect (1944), Directed by Robert Siodmack, who would become a good friend of Laughton . He played sympathetically an impoverished composer-pianist in Tales of Manhattan, and managed to transmit the eagerness of a little man who suddenly gets his only big chance to have success. He would also star in an up-dated version of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost (1944), and in spite of Wilde's original flavour being mangled in order to turn the story in a piece of wartime propaganda, he was able to recover irony and weary melancholia of the character as Wilde originally devised him.

Apart from these, he would enjoy his work in two comedies he made with Deanna Durbin, It Started with Eve (1941) and Because of Him (1946). He also seemed to enjoy himself both as a blood-thirsty pirate in Captain Kidd (1945) and as a malevolent judge in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1948). Laughton was on top form again as a megalomaniac press tycoon in The Big Clock (1948). He had supporting roles as a Nazi in pre-war Paris in Arch of Triumph (1948); as a bishop in The Girl from Manhattan (1948); as a seedy go-between in The Bribe (1949); and a kindly widower in The Blue Veil (1951). (Note: He played a Bible-reading pastor in the multi-story A Miracle Can Happen (1947) but his sequence was deleted and replaced with another featuring Dorothy Lamour, and in this form the film was re-titled On Our Merry Way. However, an original print of A Miracle Can Happen was sent abroad for dubbing before the Laughton sequence was deleted and in this form it was shown in Spain under the title Una Encuesta Llamada Milagro).

Laughton made his first colour film in Paris as Inspector Maigret in The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949) and hammed it up enormously alongside Boris Karloff as a mad French nobleman in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Door (1951). He was a tramp in O. Henry's Full House (1952) in which he had a one-minute scene with Marilyn Monroe. He became a pirate again, buffoon-style this time, in Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952). He guest-starred in an episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour on TV which also featured Abbot and Costello and was notable for his delivery of "The Gettysburg Address". He played Herod Antipas in Salome (1953, with Rita Hayworth in the title role) and repeated his role as Henry VIII in Young Bess (1953). He returned to England to star in Hobson's Choice (1954) directed by David Lean.

Laughton received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role as Sir Wilfrid Robarts in the screen version of Agatha Christie's play Witness for the Prosecution (1957). (He had been the first actor to portray Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot when he starred in Alibi - a stage adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - in 1928.)

He played a British admiral in Under Ten Flags (1960) and worked for the first and only time with his chief acting rival, Laurence Olivier, in Spartacus (1960) as a wily Roman senator.

His final film was Advise and Consent (1962), for which he received favorable comments for his performance as a southern U.S. Senator (for which accent he studied recordings of the late Mississippi Senator John Stennis). Laughton worked on the film, which was directed by Otto Preminger, while he was dying from bone cancer.

The Night of the Hunter

Laughton took a stab at directing a movie, and the result was the legendary The Night of the Hunter (1955), starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. This movie is often cited among today's critics as one of the best movies of the 1950s., and has been selected by the United States National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, at the time it was originally released it was a critical and box-office flop, and Laughton never had another chance to direct a film. He did not appear in the film, but worked solely as a director.


Laughton made his London stage debut in Gogol's The Government Inspector (1926). He appeared in many West End plays over the next few years and his earliest successes on the stage were in roles like Hercule Poirot in Alibi and William Marble in Payment Deferred, in which he made his Lyceum Theatre (New York) debut in 1931. In 1926, he played the role of the criminal Ficsur in the original London production of Ferenc Molnar's Liliom. He gave up the stage for a film career, but after the success of The Private Life of Henry VIII he appeared at the Old Vic Theatre in 1933 for a season of classic revivals. He appeared in roles like Macbeth, Lopakin in The Cherry Orchard, Prospero in The Tempest and had a major personal success as Angelo in Measure for Measure, but felt his appearance in the title role of Shakespeare's play Henry VIII was a mistake because audiences compared it with his Academy Award-winning film. At the end of 1936, Laughton played Captain Hook and Elsa Lanchester played Peter Pan in J. M. Barrie's play at the London Palladium.

Laughton worked closely with Bertolt Brecht on a new English version of Brecht's play Galileo. Laughton played the title role at the play's premiere in Los Angeles on 30 July 1947 and later that year in New York. This staging was directed by Joseph Losey.

Laughton had one of his most notable successes in the theatre by directing and playing the Devil in Don Juan in Hell beginning in 1950. The piece is actually the third act sequence from George Bernard Shaw's play Man and Superman, frequently cut from productions to reduce its playing time, consisting of a philosophical debate between Don Juan and the Devil with contributions from Doña Ana and the statue of Ana's father. Laughton conceived the piece as a staged reading and cast Charles Boyer, Cedric Hardwicke, and Agnes Moorehead (billed as "The First Drama Quartette") in the other roles. It was Boyer instead of Laughton who won a special Tony Award for the performance, possibly because Laughton was well-known for not caring about awards and never attended awards ceremonies when he was nominated for or won one, including the Oscars.

He directed several plays on Broadway. His most notable box-office success as a director came in 1954, with The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, a full-length stage dramatization by Herman Wouk of the court-martial scene in Wouk's novel The Caine Mutiny. The play, starring Henry Fonda as defense attorney Barney Greenwald, opened the same year as the film starring Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg and Jose Ferrer as Greenwald based on the original novel, but did not affect that film's box-office performance. Laughton also directed a staged reading in 1953 of Stephen Vincent Benét's John Brown's Body, a full-length poem about the American Civil War and its aftermath. The production starred Tyrone Power, Raymond Massey (re-creating his film characterizations of Abraham Lincoln and John Brown), and Judith Anderson. Laughton did not appear himself in either of these productions, but John Brown's Body was recorded complete by Columbia Masterworks, as was Don Juan in Hell.

Laughton returned to the London stage in 1958 in John Arden's The Party which also had Elsa Lanchester and Albert Finney in the cast. He made his final theatre appearances as Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1959, although failing health resulted in both performances being disappointing, according to some British critics. The fact that he tried an unorthodox approach to the character of Lear, and was resented by some for having become an American citizen may have also something to do with the lukewarm critical reception, as well, although this is only speculation. His performance as King Lear came in for particular lambasting by critics, with many reviews saying that the portly actor looked more like Old King Cole than Shakespeare's creation, and critic Kenneth Tynan wrote that Laughton's Nick Bottom "...behaves in a manner that has nothing to do with acting, although it perfectly hits off the demeanor of a rapscallion uncle dressed up to entertain the children at a Christmas party". Unfortunately, although a British production of A Midsummer Night's Dream did air on television around this time, it was not the one with Laughton, but rather a 1958 production with Paul Rogers as Bottom.

Although he did not appear in any later plays, he continued to tour the US with staged readings, including a very successful appearance on the Stanford University campus in 1960.


Laughton's voice first appeared on 78 rpm records with the release of five British Regal Zonophone 10 inch discs entitled Voice of the Stars issued annually from 1934 to 1938. These featured short soundtrack snippets from the year's top films. He is heard on all five records in, respectively, The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Mutiny on the Bounty, I, Claudius (curiously, since this film was unfinished and thus never released), and Vessel of Wrath. In 1937 he recorded Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on a 10 inch Columbia 78, having made such an impression with it in Ruggles of Red Gap.

He made several other spoken word recordings and one of his most famous was his one-man album of Charles Dickens's Mr. Pickwick's Christmas, a twenty-minute version of the Christmas chapter from Dickens's The Pickwick Papers. It was first released by American Decca in 1944 as a four record 78 rpm set, but was afterwards transferred to LP. It frequently appeared on LP with a companion piece, Decca's 1941 adaptation of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, starring Ronald Colman as Scrooge. Both stories were released together on a Deutsche Grammophon CD in time for Christmas 2005. In 1943, Laughton recorded a reading of the Nativity story from St. Luke's Gospel, and this was released in 1995 on CD on a Nimbus Records collection entitled Prima Voce: The Spirit of Christmas Past.

A Brunswick/American Decca LP entitled Readings from the Bible featured Laughton reading Garden of Eden, The Fiery Furnace, Noah's Ark, and David and Goliath. It was released in 1958. Laughton had previously included several Bible readings when he played the title role in the film Rembrandt.

In an unusual move regarding a suspense thriller, Laughton was also heard narrating the story on the soundtrack album of the film that he directed, Night of the Hunter, accompanied by the film's score. This album has also been released on CD.

Also, and deriving from the movie they made together, a complete radio show (18 June 1945) of The Canterville Ghost was broadcast which featured Laughton and Margaret O'Brien. It has been issued on a Pelican LP.

His wife Elsa Lanchester made three LPs in the 1950s entitled Songs for a Shuttered Parlour, Songs for a Smoke-Filled Room, and Cockney London. Laughton introduced the various numbers with spoken introductions on the first two and wrote the sleeve notes for the third.

However, none of Laughton's other record albums have been made available on CD as yet. There are two especially notable ones still waiting. The first is a complete, two LP, Columbia Masterworks recording of the 1950 Broadway staging of George Bernard Shaw's Don Juan in Hell.

The other notable recording unavailable on CD is a two LP Capitol Records album that was released in 1962, the year of Laughton's death, entitled The Story Teller. Taken from the one-man stage shows that Laughton loved to appear in, it culls together dramatic readings from several sources. Three of the excerpts are broadcast annually on a Minnesota Public Radio Thanksgiving program entitled Giving Thanks. The Story Teller won a Grammy in 1962 for Best Spoken Word Recording.

It should be noted that Charles Laughton was the first television host on the Ed Sullivan Show to introduce Elvis Presley to much of America. Ed Sullivan had been injured in a car accident and Laughton filled in for him.

Private life

He had a long and resilient marriage to actress Elsa Lanchester, although, in her autobiography, Lanchester revealed that Laughton was gay. According to her own account, she was shocked to learn about this, but eventually decided to remain married to him. However, she claims as a result of this, she decided not to have children with him. The decision caused him great grief, as he longed to become a father, as many friends of Laughton, among them Maureen O'Hara and Stanley Cortez, have stated. In her autobiographical book, Lanchester relates a story regarding the police approaching Laughton at the door of their London flat, with a hustler whom Laughton had approached (and who apparently wanted to blackmail Charles asking for more money). When Laughton confessed, Lanchester told him not to worry about it, that it didn't matter. "That's why he cried . . . when I told him it didn't matter.

Elsa Lanchester appeared opposite him in several films, including Rembrandt (1936) and The Big Clock (1948). They both received Academy Award nominations for their performances in Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - Laughton for Best Actor, and Lanchester for Best Supporting Actress - but neither won.

In 1950, the couple became American citizens.

Laughton is buried in the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Awards and nominations

Laughton won the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Mutiny on the Bounty and Ruggles of Red Gap in 1953.Academy Awards


Unless otherwise stated the films are US productions in black and white.


* 1928 : Daydreams [directed] by Ivor Montagu (UK)
silent short, with Elsa Lanchester
* 1928 : Blue Bottles by Ivor Montagu (UK)
silent short, comedy crime story, with Elsa Lanchester
* 1929 : Piccadilly by Ewald André Dupont, screenplay by Arnold Bennett (UK)
silent feature, police drama - Laughton's 1-minute official film debut
* 1930 : Comets by Sasha Geneen (UK)
screen variety revue - sings duet with Elsa Lanchester
* 1930 : Wolves by Albert de Courville (UK)
whaling camp drama
* 1931 : Down River by Peter Godfrey (UK)
smuggling drama
* 1932 : Payment Deferred by Lothar Mendes
drama, adaptation of the play he had acted in previously, his first film in the US
* 1932 : The Old Dark House by James Whale
horror film
* 1932 : The Sign of the Cross by Cecil B. DeMille
epic drama
* 1932 : Island of Lost Souls by Erle C. Kenton
horror fantasy - initially banned in the UK
* 1932 : Devil and the Deep by Marion Gering
submarine drama
* 1932 : If I Had A Million by James Cruze, H. Bruce Humberstone, Ernst Lubitsch, Norman Z. McLeod, Lothar Mendes, Stephen Roberts, William A. Seiter and Norman Taurog
multipart comedy drama
* 1933 : The Private Life of Henry VIII by Alexander Korda (UK)
historical comedy drama
* 1933 : White Woman by Stuart Walker
jungle drama
* 1934 : The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Sidney Franklin
romantic drama
* 1935 : Les Misérables by Richard Boleslawski
literary drama
* 1935 : Mutiny on the Bounty by Frank Lloyd
sea adventure drama
* 1935 : Ruggles of Red Gap by Leo McCarey
* 1936 : Rembrandt by Alexander Korda (UK)
* 1937 : I, Claudius by Denis Kavanagh et Josef von Sternberg (UK)
epic drama, unfinished
* 1938 : Vessel of Wrath by Erich Pommer (UK)
comedy drama (The Beachcomber : American title)
* 1938 : St. Martin's Lane by Tim Whelan (UK)
comedy drama (Sidewalks of London : American title)
* 1939 : The Hunchback of Notre Dame by William Dieterle
literary drama, first film at RKO
* 1939 : Jamaica Inn by Alfred Hitchcock (UK)
smuggling adventure drama
* 1940 : They Knew What They Wanted by Garson Kanin
romantic drama
* 1941 : It Started with Eve by Henry Koster
* 1942 : Tales of Manhattan by Julien Duvivier
compendium comedy drama
* 1942 : Stand By for Action by Robert Z. Leonard
war drama (Cargo of Innocents : British title)
* 1942 : The Tuttles of Tahiti by Charles Vidor
South Seas comedy
* 1943 : The Man From Down Under by Robert Z. Leonard
* 1943 : This Land is Mine by Jean Renoir
war drama
* 1943 : Forever and a Day by René Clair, Edmund Goulding, Cedric Hardwicke, Frank Lloyd, Victor Saville, Robert Stevenson and Herbert Wilcox
multipart drama
* 1944 : The Suspect by Robert Siodmak
police drama
* 1944 : The Canterville Ghost by Jules Dassin and Norman Taurog
fantasy comedy
* 1944 : Passport to Destiny by Ray McCarey
war comedy (aka Passport to Adventure) - Laughton appears only in a photo
* 1945 : Captain Kidd by Rowland V. Lee
pirate adventure
* 1946 : Because of Him by Richard Wallace
* 1947 : Galileo by Ruth Berlau and Joseph Losey
short, adaptation of the play by Bertolt Brecht he had acted in previously
* 1947 : The Paradine Case by Alfred Hitchcock
court-room drama
* 1948 : The Big Clock by John Farrow
film noire thriller
* 1948 : A Miracle Can Happen by King Vidor
compendium comedy drama (Laughton segment deleted and replaced: film re-titled On Our Merry Way)
* 1948 : The Girl from Manhattan by Alfred E. Green
comedy drama
* 1948 : Arch of Triumph by Lewis Milestone
romantic drama
* 1949 : The Bribe by Robert Z. Leonard
* 1950 : The Man on the Eiffel Tower by Burgess Meredith, Charles Laughton and Irving Allen (USA/France)
police drama, based on La Tête de l'homme by Georges Simenon
* 1951 : The Blue Veil by Curtis Bernhardt
compendium drama
* 1951 : The Strange Door by Joseph Pevney
horror (aka Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Door)
* 1952 : O. Henry's Full House by Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Henry King, Jean Negulesco and Henry Koster who directed the sketch The Cop and the Anthem in which Laughton appeared with Marilyn Monroe
multipart drama (British title: Full House)
* 1952 : Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd by Charles Lamont
knockabout musical comedy, colour
* 1953 : Salome by William Dieterle
epic drama, colour (aka Salome, The Dance of the Seven Veils)
* 1953 : Young Bess by George Sidney
historical drama, colour
* 1953 : This Is Charles Laughton
TV series
* 1954 : Hobson's Choice by David Lean (UK)
comedy drama
* 1956 : The Ed Sullivan Show
* 1957 : Witness for the Prosecution by Billy Wilder
court-room thriller
* 1960 : Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick
epic drama, colour
* 1960 : Sotto dieci bandiere (Under Ten Flags) by Duilio Coletti (Italy/USA)
war drama
* 1962 : Advise and Consent by Otto Preminger
political drama, his last film


* 1950 : The Man of the Eiffel Tower by Burgess Meredith, Charles Laughton and Irving Allen (USA/France)
police drama, based on La Tête de l'homme by Georges Simenon
Irving Allen only directs the first three days of shooting, Laughton directs when Meredith ist is before the camera (uncredited)
* 1955 : The Night of the Hunter
film noir police drama, with Robert Mitchum


* 1938 : St. Martin's Lane by Tim Whelan (UK)
(Sidewalks of London : American title), participates in the development of the script
* 1947 : Galileo by Ruth Berlau and Joseph Losey
collaborates on the translation of the play by Bertolt Brecht
* 1955 : The Night of the Hunter


* 1938 : Vessel of Wrath by Erich Pommer (UK)
(The Beachcomber : American title)
* 1938 : St. Martin's Lane by Tim Whelan (UK)
(Sidewalks of London : American title)
* 1939 : Jamaica Inn by Alfred Hitchcock (UK)



* 1926 : The Revizor [written] by Nikolai Gogol
first appearance, debut on the London stage (aka The Government Inspector)
* 1928 : Alibi adapted from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
police drama, he is the first actor to play detective Hercule Poirot
* 1931 : Payment Deferred adapted from the novel by C. S. Forester
debut on the New York stage
* 1932 : The Fatal Alibi adapted from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
police drama, Laughton is also the director (American version of Alibi)
* 1947 : Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
* 1950 : The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
* 1951 and 1952 : Don Juan in Hell, the third act of Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
drama, Laughton is also the director
* 1956 to 1957 : Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw
comedy, Laughton is also the director
* 1959 : King Lear by William Shakespeare
classic tragedy


* 1932 : The Fatal Alibi adapted from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
police drama, Laughton also acts in the play.
* 1951 and 1952 : Don Juan in Hell (the third act of Man and Superman) by George Bernard Shaw
drama, Laughton also acts in the play.
* 1953 : John Brown's Body, adapted by Laughton from Stephen Vincent Benét
with Judith Anderson
* 1956 to 1957 : Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw
comedy, Laughton also acts in the play
* 1954 to 1955 : The Caine Mutiny Court Martial adapted from the novel by Herman Wouk
drama, with Henry Fonda, transferred in 1954 to the screen by Edward Dmytryk


* 1955 : 3 for Tonight
musical revue, with Harry Belafonte



  • Brown, William (1970). Charles Laughton A Pictorial Treasury of his Films. New York: Falcon Enterprises.
  • Callow, Simon (1988). Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor. New York: Grove Press.
  • Higham, Charles (1976). Charles Laughton: An Intimate Biography. New York: Doubleday.
  • Jones, Preston Neal (2004). Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of The Night of the Hunter. New York: Limelight Editions.
  • Lanchester, Elsa (1938). Charles Laughton and I. London: Faber and Faber.
  • Lanchester, Elsa (1983). Elsa Lanchester Herself. London: Michael Joseph.
  • Lyon, James K. (1980). Bertolt Brecht in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Parker, John (ed), (1947). Who's Who in the Theatre 10th revised edition. London:
  • Singer, Kurt (1954). The Charles Laughton Story. London: John C. Winston Company.
  • Tell Me a Story (1957) and The Fabulous Country (1962). Two literary anthologies selected by Charles Laughton. They contain pieces which were presented by him in his reading tours across America, with written introductions which give some insight about Laughton's thoughts. This selection presents texts from the Bible, Charles Dickens, Thomas Wolfe, Ray Bradbury, and James Thurber to name just a few.
  • Diverse authors, articles in The Stonyhurst magazine: Charles Laughton at Stonyhurst by David Knight (Volume LIV, No. 501, 2005), Charles Laughton. A Talent in Bloom (1899-1931), by Gloria Porta (Volume LIV, No. 502, 2006)

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