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L Entries
Elsa Lanchester
Martin Landau
Robert Lansing
Glen A. Larson
Jack Larson
Christopher Lee
Mark Lenard
John Lennon
John Lithgow
June Lockhart
Robert Longo
Peter Lorre
Eugene Lourie
George Lucas
Bela Lugosi
William Lundigan
 
LANCHESTER, ELSA
(1902–1986). British actress.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: The Bride of Frankenstein (James WHALE 1935); The Ghost Goes West (Rene Clair 1936); The Bishop's Wife (Henry Koster 1947); The Secret Garden (Fred M. WILCOX 1949); Androcles and the Lion (Charles Erskine 1952); Alice in Wonderland (tv special) (1955); The Glass Slipper (Charles Walters 1955); "Mother Goose" (1958), episode of Shirley Temple's Storybook; Bell, Book, and Candle (Richard QUINE 1958); The Flood (animated tv special; voice) (1962); Pajama Party (Don Weis 1964); "The McGregor Affair" (1964), episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Mary Poppins (Robert STEVENSON 1964); "The Brain-Killer Affair" (1965), episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; Blackbeard's Ghost (Stevenson 1968); "Aunt Henrietta's Premonition," "Aunt Henrietta and the Poltergeist," "Aunt Henrietta and the Jink" (1971), episodes of Nanny and the Professor; Willard (Daniel Mann 1971); "Green Fingers" (1972), episode of Night Gallery; Terror in the Wax Museum (George Fenady 1973).
 
Hers surely qualifies as the most significant cameo appearance in the history of science fiction film; for Elsa Lanchester's Bride of Frankenstein, on screen for only about ten minutes, has emerged as a popular culture icon as ubiquitous and recognizable as the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman, prominently featured in venues like the cover of John STANLEY's Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again and her appearance precisely replicated by Madeleine Kahn in Young Frankenstein and Yvonne DE CARLO in The Munsters. And the character's prominence is not simply due to Jack PIERCE's innovative makeup, since Lanchester's performance is striking as well; as the only Frankenstein monster to build upon the notion of the monster as a child of electricity, she uniquely moves with abrupt jerks and turns as she comes to life and confronts her frightening suitor.

It is not as well known as the story of director James WHALE spotting Boris KARLOFF in the Universal cafeteria and recognizing him as an ideal monster, but Whale was equally perceptive in observing Lanchester's performance with her husband Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII and realizing that she could serve as an excellent companion for Karloff. From one perspective, Lanchester invites consideration as an English equivalent to Agnes MOORHEAD, a talented but not particularly attractive actress prematurely forced into roles as maids and spinsters; but there was also something about Lanchester's manner and voice that made her seem ethereal, not quite part of this world, which could bring an extra dimension to her performances. Thus, in The Bride of Frankenstein, she was persuasive in a manner Moorhead could not have mustered in her other cameo appearance as Mary Shelley, the demure young woman nonetheless capable of crafting the horrific Frankenstein story, and she was sought out by producers for roles in mainstream Hollywood's milder counterparts to horror movies, ghost stories like The Ghost Goes West and gentle fantasies like The Bishop's Wife and The Secret Garden. To demonstrate her versatility, in the same year that she projected maternal warmth as Mother Goose in an episode of Shirley Temple's Storybook, she sparkled as an eccentric witch in Bell, Book, and Candle.

Laughton's death in 1962 didn't slow Lanchester down, and though opportunities for aging actresses are always limited, she was effective as the frustrated predecessor to Mary Poppins, as a sinister doctor working for THRUSH in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and as a vengeful ghost in an episode of Night Gallery. In 1971, the producers of Nanny and the Professor, undoubtedly recalling how Moorhead had long enlivened another sitcom fantasy, Bewitched, hired Lanchester to perform similar duties in a recurring role as their Poppins-clone's Aunt Henrietta, though she was understandable unable to rescue that program from well-deserved oblivion. Her last memorable performance came in Willard as the mother of the troubled boy trafficking with homicidal rats—a former monster's bride now a monster's mother, and in her characteristic fashion both accessibly genial and a bit strange.

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