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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Of looks and millinery


Elsa Lanchester:
Before any production, Charles would play with his new props–putting on a hat and taking it off, hanging it up, putting it down, at home, in his dressing room, or in the producer's office. This was a time of fun for Charles and any audience around him. He could look at you from under a hat brim like nobody else could. He knew he could captivate and mesmerize.


There's so much talk, and ink on paper, on the topic of "Charles not standing his face in the mirror", that I often wonder if this was really so, all of the time. Laughton may have been, in Simon Callow's deft definition "A disappointed narcissist", but, personally, I don't think he was as emo about his looks as Higham depicts him (often bordering the caricature), in fact, I'd go with Callow when he writes that "(Charles') ugliness, one might say, was a technique, rather than a condition". And Elsa's above quote underlines Charles' knowledge about his own power to charm people, in short, a Charles who was well aware of his attractiveness.


Charlie as a lad of twelve, in an early rehearsal of his under-the-brim bussiness, and not yet looking too bad, in his own opinion

So, he could look himself into a mirror (otherwise, the daily shaving would have been quite a chore). There's in fact, an interesting quote by Peter Bogdanovich:
When I was sixteen or seventeen, my parents used some connections they had to arrange for me to go backstage and meet Charles Laughton, who I believe was playing in Shaw's Don Juan In Hell (which he also directed). He was quite heavy and awfully nice in a slightly gruff yet self-deprecating way. When I told him I wanted to be an actor he said, "Well, you should have no trouble–you're a good-looking boy. I've looked like the hind end of an elephant since I was twenty-one."


So, at least, up to being 21 of age, Charles seemingly didn't consider himself ugly-looking. One ponders if it was merely a manner of speaking, or whether something happened to him around that age which made him look into the mirror in a different way for ever more...

Well... Happy belated 111th birthday, Charles! (because your birthday was on July 1st... Today, of course, is Tura Satana's birthday)

Sources:
Simon Callow's Charles Laughton, A Difficult Actor; Elsa Lanchester's Elsa Lanchester Herself; Peter Bogdavich's Who the Hell's in It: Conversations with Hollywood's Legendary Actors

11 comments:

David said...

Yo fui (soy) consciente de lo feo que era en cuanto perdí pelo y eché barriga...para colmo, dudo que posea el encanto y magnetismo de Charles...
Lo de afeitarse.. Podía ir al barbero para evitar mirarse. Yo no lo hago, que sale muy caro.
Un saludo.

Gloria said...

Bueno, me consta, por fuentes diversas, que Charles se afeitaba él solito con cierta frecuencia. Es cierto que podía permitirse un barbero, pero no siempre tenemos un barbero al lado de casa, y a veces hay que salir pitando de casa al trabajo, y afeitado.

Permíteme citar la reacción de Elsa cuando Charles le vino una vez quejándose de su aspecto: "How dare you presume you're unattractive! Hold your shoulders back, keep your head up and smile, so that I can hold my head up with other women"

Amigo David, hay que combatir con saña y fiereza esa imbécil idea, tan corriente hoy en dia, de que uno es el clon de Brad Pitt (o Angelina Jolie) y tiene menos de 21 años, o no vale para nada.

He andado últimamente leyendo a Edith head, e interesándome en el trabajo de los grandes modistos/as de los estudios Hollywoodenses. La Sra. head tenia una máxima que es absolutamente de sentido común "Uno ha de potenciar sus virtudes y ocultar sus defectos".

La belleza de muchos iconos del cine se debe a que tenían de tras a unos enormes profesionales que sabían cómo vestirlos: leyendo a (y sobre ) la Head, salen muy a menudo mencionado el hecho de que el culazo de la actriz x, o el poco pecho de la actriz, o lo tapón o lo chimenea que eran W y P, y de cómo se solventaba el asunto con un buen traje o un buen vestido. Mientras uno no sea nudista talibán, un buen trapo encima puede arreglar muchas cosas: piense que Ray Dominguez también ha echado tripita y mire lo bien que luce con su traje y corbata y lo interesante que queda.

Y por lo de tener algo menos de pelo que a los 15, lo mismo: Cubra la cabeza con buen Panamá de paja en verano (con lo cual lucirá bien pincho y se evitará insolaciones) y un fermoso Borsalino de fieltro en invierno. Un buen sombrero sobre la cabeza vale un Perú (Si fuera menos tímida, yo misma iria por ahí luciendo Canotier)

David said...

Gracias por tus estupendos consejos y advertencias, Gloria. ¡El libro de la mujer que inspiró en parte a la modista de Los increíbles!! La que figuró si no recuerdo mal en los créditos lugar de Givenchy (o quien fuera) en Una cara con ángel... Pero que también trabajó diseñando el vestuario de otro montón de pelis. Había un corto sobre ella en algún dvd por ahí (no recuerdo cuál). Decía que era buena, pero que también gracias a su excelenta labor como relaciones públicas se había mantenido tanto tiempo en el trabajo. Tendría que ser una combinación de ambas cosas.
Otro saludo.

VP81955 said...

This might be of interest to you. A Jimmie Fidler column from the July 9, 1940 Los Angeles Times led off with news that at a photo shoot with Laughton and Carole Lombard (presumably for "They Knew What They Wanted"), she gave him a severe tongue-lashing. I have no idea what it was about -- but when Carole got mad (which was rare), she had the fury of a 50-foot woman. Anyway, you can get more on this (and see a Spanish-language novelization of the film from Mexico that's up for sale at eBay) at http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/322033.html.

Gloria said...

David, de la Head se han reeditado los dos libros que publicó en vida, uno en facsímil y otro en versión abreviada para lectores/as del Cosmo y similares (caray! la podrían haber hecho facsímil también). Aunque también son muy interesantes los libros escritos sobre ella.

Si que es verdad que buena parte de su fama se debe a su habilidad para las relaciones públicas y la autopromoción, aunque hay que tener en cuenta que en éste mundo si no se habla de tí, mal asunto, así que no seré yo quien se lo reproche.

Por otra parte, una parte de su éxito también se debe a su alta profesionalidad, así como que la joven Head solía tratar bastante bien a las chicas que hacían de jóvenes figurantes (y a los que otros diseñadores más establecidos no prestaban atención)... Evidentemente, cuando estas chicas alcanzaban el estrellato, tenían a la Head como a su estilista de cabecera.

Otro comentario habitual de las actrices vestidas por la Head era que la ropa que ella diseñaba para las películas era no sólo bonica de ver sino también cómoda de llevar (cosa interesante cuando una actriz llevaba un vestido ajustado con el que tenia, por ejemplo, que bailar). Una excepción sería Mae West, una de las primeras grandes estrellas a las que vistió Head, la cual pedía vestidos tan ajustados a sus curvas que la Head se maravillaba de que sobreviviera a las tomas sin axfisiarse.

Gloria said...

VP81955, thanks for the links! and BTW, I owe you a comment of Charles on Lombard (of the appreciative kind), but I haven't located the book where it was. As soon as I find it, i'll post you that bit.

However, from what I gaher from diverse sources, he alnd Carole didn't get along in neither of the two pictures they made together, apparently, it was so in White Woman, and even more. I recently read in a book on producer Eric Pommer that laughton asked him not to making him work with Carole as from their previous work together, though Eric insisted.

I'd say that part of the trouble lied in the fact that their styles were rather different and to Carole and director Kanin it may have seemed, as S. Callow wrote, that he was making a fuss about nothing: but he always did a very in-depth work for every characterization (which made him unsure in the early days of any shooting)... And I think that this time he was having trouble in getting the character, and his relationship with producer Pommer was about to end (They had produced three films together in the UK which we're not box-office success and the company had subsequently closed: They Knew Waht They Wanted was their last film together)

Nevertheless, in the film, Charles and Carole manage to suggest the growing affection between their characters, something which William Cargan, who is supposed to be Carole's hot lover, never does: I couldn't get why carole's character falls for Cargan, he's hardly sympathetivc and certainlly rather un-sexy in blue jeans.

Still, I have not come across any negative comments made public by Laughton on her: He'd rather be diplomatic about his colleagues even when things hadn't gone smoothly at work: he famously clashed with Gable shooting Mutiny on the Bounty, but they managed to get along better by the end of shooting (And Laughton made rather compimentary remarks about the screen appeal of Gable).

P.S.: I saw that the Spanish DVD of They Knew What They Wanted on sale at Amazon.com, if you didn't have it already ;D

Gloria said...

VP81955, thanks for the links! and BTW, I owe you a comment of Charles on Lombard (of the appreciative kind), but I haven't located the book where it was. As soon as I find it, i'll post you that bit.

However, from what I gaher from diverse sources, he alnd Carole didn't get along in neither of the two pictures they made together, apparently, it was so in White Woman, and even more. I recently read in a book on producer Eric Pommer that laughton asked him not to making him work with Carole as from their previous work together, though Eric insisted.

I'd say that part of the trouble lied in the fact that their styles were rather different and to Carole and director Kanin it may have seemed, as S. Callow wrote, that he was making a fuss about nothing: but he always did a very in-depth work for every characterization (which made him unsure in the early days of any shooting)... And I think that this time he was having trouble in getting the character, and his relationship with producer Pommer was about to end (They had produced three films together in the UK which we're not box-office success and the company had subsequently closed: They Knew Waht They Wanted was their last film together)

Nevertheless, in the film, Charles and Carole manage to suggest the growing affection between their characters, something which William Cargan, who is supposed to be Carole's hot lover, never does: I couldn't get why carole's character falls for Cargan, he's hardly sympathetivc and certainlly rather un-sexy in blue jeans.

Still, I have not come across any negative comments made public by Laughton on her: He'd rather be diplomatic about his colleagues even when things hadn't gone smoothly at work: he famously clashed with Gable shooting Mutiny on the Bounty, but they managed to get along better by the end of shooting (And Laughton made rather compimentary remarks about the screen appeal of Gable).

P.S.: I saw that the Spanish DVD of They Knew What They Wanted on sale at Amazon.com, if you didn't have it already ;D

Gloria said...

VP81955, thanks for the links! and BTW, I owe you a comment of Charles on Lombard (of the appreciative kind), but I haven't located the book where it was. As soon as I find it, i'll post you that bit.

However, from what I gaher from diverse sources, he alnd Carole didn't get along in neither of the two pictures they made together, apparently, it was so in White Woman, and even more. I recently read in a book on producer Eric Pommer that laughton asked him not to making him work with Carole as from their previous work together, though Eric insisted.

Gloria said...

I'd say that part of the trouble lied in the fact that their styles were rather different and to Carole and director Kanin it may have seemed, as S. Callow wrote, that he was making a fuss about nothing: but he always did a very in-depth work for every characterization (which made him unsure in the early days of any shooting)... And I think that this time he was having trouble in getting the character, and his relationship with producer Pommer was about to end (They had produced three films together in the UK which we're not box-office success and the company had subsequently closed: They Knew Waht They Wanted was their last film together)

Nevertheless, in the film, Charles and Carole manage to suggest the growing affection between their characters, something which William Cargan, who is supposed to be Carole's hot lover, never does: I couldn't get why carole's character falls for Cargan, he's hardly sympathetivc and certainlly rather un-sexy in blue jeans.

Still, I have not come across any negative comments made public by Laughton on her: He'd rather be diplomatic about his colleagues even when things hadn't gone smoothly at work: he famously clashed with Gable shooting Mutiny on the Bounty, but they managed to get along better by the end of shooting (And Laughton made rather compimentary remarks about the screen appeal of Gable).

P.S.: I saw that the Spanish DVD of They Knew What They Wanted on sale at Amazon.com, if you didn't have it already ;D

Eudora said...

Es cierto que la "presencia" es un don de ciertos actores y actrices; tiene más ventajas el que la tiene que el que no la tiene. Pero también creo que los hombres, actores, se quieren poco en este sentido, se fijan demasiado en el aspecto estético y, al final, lo que cuenta en realidad es que seas capaz de sobrevivir en el escenario o en el plató. A mi me han fascinado siempre los buenos actores, independientemente de su atractivo. Laughton tenía una voz especial, quizá nunca fue consciente de que no le hacía falta medir 20 cm más o pesar 40 kg menos. ¿Alguien se imagina a otro Rembrant en la película de Korda u otro profe en Esta tierra es mía?

Ahora estoy leyendo la biografía de Scofield, de O'conor, y lo cierto es que este hombre, sin poseer el atractivo arquetípico era un tío guapísimo. Pero recuerdo que, por ejemplo, Eileen Atkins aseguraba que de joven tenía una foto de Alec Guinness en su taquilla, sin ser Guinness ni mucho menos un bellezón... será que las mujeres tenemos una percepción de lo atractivo muy distinta a los hombres.

Gloria said...

Hola Eudora, yo diría que las mujeres solemos tener más "visión de conjunto", vamos, que podemos encontrar a alguien muy atractivo pero si abren la boca y sueltan un rebuzno nos baja mucho en puntos.

Yo creo que Laughton si que era consciente de tener un cierto atractivo o magnetismo, pero sospecho que el hecho de ser gay lo hacía más sensible al hecho, como diría Simon Callow, de no estar a la altura de su propio listón (p.e. carecer del atractivo que él podía encontrar/apreciar en otros hombres).

Por otra parte, los actores y actrices siempre han sido, en general muy sensibles sobre su apariencia, ya que su trabajo se desarrolla de cara al público...Aunque las actrices sufren en este aspecto más que los actores: ¡Cuantas no se habrán visto obligadas a interpretar a la suegra de un actor que les hizo de galán!