Thursday 18 January 2018

a king, a mutiny and a monster smash

Paul Whitington

Though it's true that Hollywood never really knew what to do with Charles Laughton, he did record a number of remarkable performances in both British and American films. In 1934 he followed the success of The Private Life of Henry VIII with a tremendous turn as a bullying patriarch in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

He oozed menace opposite Clark Gable as the odious Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). And he delivered perhaps his most famous performance of all in William Dieterle's 1939 adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, playing a monster more sinned against than sinning.

In 1954 Laughton gave possibly the best performance of his later years in David Lean's comic drama Hobson's Choice, playing a hard-drinking Victorian widower who falls out with his eldest daughter.

He was at his bombastic best as a supercilious London barrister in Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and was excellent as a worldly Roman senator in Spartacus (1960), his penultimate film.

Irish Independent

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