“Keep each person separate in your heart. Don’t have two sex patterns going at the same time. And don’t ever join a conversation about something you know nothing about,” – Elsa Lanchester
For horror addicts like myself, The Bride of Frankenstein is a classic. Certainly if nothing else, for the iconic image of gorgeously skunk-haired Elsa Lanchester. What might surprise some is that Elsa Lanchester’s autobiography (appropriately titled Elsa Lanchester, Herself), is one of the most interesting relics of Old Hollywood, with sass, wit, and wisdom to boot. Out of print for a number of years, the book now has an underground cult following– fans who, through social media campaigns, are attempting to get the memoir reprinted.
While Elsa is a gay icon in her own right, the book explores her tumultuous marriage to her closeted gay husband, famous actor Charles Laughton.
Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester
We learn, in detail, of the daily resentments and tender affections of their relationship. For example:
“I was in bed when Charles came upstairs. ‘Something awful has happened,’ he said to me. ‘I have something to confess.’ He said that he had picked up the boy, and it wasn’t the first time he had done it; that he was homosexual partly, and he cried. I said, ‘It’s perfectly all right, it doesn’t matter. I understand it. Don’t worry about it.’ That’s why he cried. When I told him it didn’t matter. […]
Later on, I would ask Charles what really happened, and once he told me that he’d had a fellow on our sofa. The only thing I said was, “Fine, okay, but get rid of the sofa.” We did. We sold it.”
The campaign, spearheaded by film writer (and, full disclosure, friend of mine) Tom Blunt started it’s life as an experimental cabaret show at the 92Y Tribecca’s Meet the Lady film series in New York. The night was a tribute to the Queen of Monsters featuring performances from New York personalities like Cas Marino, Iris Explosion, and The Outs creator Adam Goldman plus clips of Elsa from various films.
As the official Tumblr campaign page REPRINTELSA reads: “In 1983 when the book was originally published, this was not the kind of story that the mainstream was interested in hearing. Not about Hollywood, nor about homosexuality, and especially not about Charles Laughton. It was simultaneously too old-fashioned and too outré. Thirty years later, Elsa Lanchester Herself seems written far ahead of its time, reaching out to the new century’s artists, intellectuals, sexual voyagers, cultural scavengers, and history buffs, all of whom will find great interest and inspiration in her wild tales.”
If you’re interested in the project you can join the campaign in a number of ways.
- By joining the Reprint Elsa Facebook page
- By contacting the Motion Picture and Television Fund and encouraging them to republish Lanchester’s memoir:
Sharon Siefert, Dir. of Legal Affairs
Motion Picture & Television Fund
The Wasserman Campus
23388 Mulholland Drive
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
MPTF on Twitter (please use #ReprintElsa hashtag)