Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Charles Laughton

Closeted gay stage & screen actor

Charles Laughton (1899-1962) was an English-American stage and film actor, screenwriter, producer and director. Born into a wealthy family of hotel owners in Yorkshire, England, he was raised a strict Catholic, leading to his tormented and guilty adult struggles with his homosexuality. After his father’s death, he left the innkeeping field and studied acting, his first love. He quickly became successful and  maintained careers simultaneously in England, New York and Hollywood. Laughton became a naturalized American citizen in 1950 and carved a career as a great character actor, since his portly figure and decidedly un-handsome face meant that most lead roles were not open to him.

While his pervasive unhappiness may have contributed to his accomplishment as an actor, it adversely affected his personal life. Tormented throughout his career by suppressed homosexuality and self-loathing, Laughton died in Hollywood in 1962, still deeply ashamed of his homosexual longings. He never publicly discussed or declared his homosexuality, except to his wife, Elsa Lanchester, an actress whom he married in 1929.

In the film The Private Life of King Henry VIII (1933, photo at left), he starred as King Henry along side his wife, who played Anne of Cleves. For this role he won an Oscar for Best Actor, and The Private Life of Henry VIII won Best Picture.

He went on to play the eccentric Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), and other great roles followed, most notably the lead role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton was hesitant to accept the role. Having long detested his own looks, the character of Quasimodo was perhaps a little too close to home. Nevertheless, he decided to take on the project, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame became Laughton’s best-known film role.

In addition to acting and directing, he embellished his career by becoming a noted orator and story-teller, giving hundreds of readings in wildly popular one-man shows.

According to Richard Bartone, “To dissipate his loneliness, Laughton sought the companionship of beautiful young men, many of whom began as his masseur or personal assistant. With a few of them, he developed long romantic relationships. He was happy and productive when involved in these affairs, but when certain men parted, work was disrupted and loneliness returned.”

Many of the actors and actresses with whom Laughton worked knew of his homosexuality, and it was rarely an issue on set or stage. But Laughton felt that his homosexuality rendered him vulnerable to attack by others. In Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Clark Gable's homophobia created so much tension on the set that producer Irving Thalberg had to intervene.

Although Laughton trembled at a possible public scandal, he always brought lovers onto the sets of films to help him relax. Laughton's worst fear materialized while directing Henry Fonda in the play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (1954). Fonda, angry at the play's development and execution, lashed out at Laughton by sneering. "What do you know about men, you fat faggot?"

Although Laughton generally played unsympathetic characters, he did so with passion and imagination. Some of Laughton's internalized homophobia was alleviated in 1960, after he and his wife bought a house in Santa Monica next door to gay writer Christopher Isherwood and his artist companion Don Bachardy. The two couples became close friends, and Isherwood's and Bachardy's gay militancy and pride helped Laughton achieve a degree of acceptance.

Following Laughton's death in 1962, Elsa wrote a book alleging that they never had children because Laughton was homosexual. She claimed that she and Laughton had never had sex, but she had not known Laughton was homosexual when they first married. “Remember,” she once commented. “He was a GREAT actor.”

In any case, it was known that Laughton greatly disliked children. Because of his disdain for them and the fact that he had to work with them while directing the film The Night of the Hunter (1955), most of the scenes with the children were directed by star Robert Mitchum, who had three children of his own. Mitchum stated that Laughton was the best director he had ever worked for. Laughton was severely disappointed by the commercial failure of The Night of the Hunter, which is today regarded by critics as one of the best films of the 1950s. It has been selected by the United States National Film Registry for preservation in the Library of Congress.

Laughton and Lanchester remained a couple, however, and their marriage was considered one of the most touching relationships in Hollywood, in spite of Laughton’s torturous emotional problems and the rumors that Lanchester herself had lesbian tendencies. Perfectly convenient.

Elsa Lanchester in her most famous role: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)


  1. Well, now we know that Laughton had no "alergy" to children. He was responsible for directing all the scenes of the night of the Hunter and his treatment with the small actors was very friendly.

  2. Also false is that Laughton and Elsa never had sex. She had an abortion and said the child had been Charles Laughton's baby.

  3. Reportedly Laughton and Lanchester like many couples when first wed had sexual relationships. Lanchester admitted to having two (2) abortions later in life. One she stated was due Laughton having intercourse with her. It was not uncommon during this period for homosexuals to attempt marriage and over time develop penis-insert-vagina-contact, in an attempt to "cure" their homosexuality. Lanchester never spoke of having lesbian desires and there is no reason to assume she was because she remained in this union. Many people, famous or not remain in legal unions that are without sex and sadly without any love. Today we thankfully live in a different world, where hopefully people can live and love whom they wish. Not so back then when homosexuality was considered a "sickness" and actors needed to work and with that gain public acceptance.

  4. Laughton was sexual abused as a child by Catholic priests at a time when these things were not discussed and therapy unavailable. He later went on to develop dangerous fetishes that reflect sexual self loathing such as coprophagia, which likely led to his death from kidney failure.

    1. I had the feeling he had been molested when he was young. When I found out he was Catholic. Those priests should be ashamed of their selves

  5. He was a deviate who was into scat. He was so despicable that Sir Lawrence Olivier wouldn't even speak to him. I will admit that he was one hell of a great actor, though.

  6. "Because of his disdain for them and the fact that he had to work with them while directing the film The Night of the Hunter (1955), most of the scenes with the children were directed by star Robert Mitchum, who had three children of his own."

    Source ? C'mon , you can't just make stuff up and not give a source for it. WHO are YOU anyway ? What qualifications do you have to post this type of statement and not provide any source? If it's true, I'm willing to accept it (if any factual support is offered) , but you haven't provided any proof.

  7. A little angry, aren't we? Who are YOU to say these things aren't true? I don't make this stuff up. Don't be so lazy. Use a search engine and find the facts for yourself. -- your blogger.

  8. Really? Who am I to say it's not true?! So in your twisted little fantasyland anything you say is true unless someone proves it's wrong... Haha, it must be true if you read it on the internet. Puh-leez gossip queen.

  9. You seem to love casting insults -- calling me a "gossip queen" and "a cheap Kenneth Anger wannabe." My sources are books, not stuff I find on the Internet. My body of research over eight years, posted on this blog, has received awards, and not for being "gossip." If you determine that stuff found on the Internet is not reliable, perhaps you should try reading books yourself, instead of reading my blog. Your insults reveal much about your character. -- your blogger

  10. From your blogger --
    I do not know what is provoking this "DAVID T" fellow, but I am not publishing his latest comment, in which he called me "Mommie Queerest." The man needs psychological help, which I am not able to provide.

  11. I love your response the the silly blogger! Classic!

  12. He was a FABULOUS actor. One of the very BEST.

  13. Regardless of his life experiences, Charles Laughton was a great actor who gave much through his films.

  14. From your blogger: I just deleted a comment that quoted biblical scripture that condemns homosexuality. This is not a Christian blog, so using scripture to judge those featured here is not applicable. You are free, of course, to believe whatever you like, but I will not make this blog available to you to demean or condemn others. End of discussion (and why are you reading this blog anyway?).

  15. Love this man,as a actor and a man ,his private,life is just that.

  16. Why do people take anything to do with being different "homosexual" as being dirty and vulgar I am sure he had lots of lovers is what a scorned lover assumed as true?

  17. Whether I do, or do not condone homosexuality, I must say, in my some 80 years of watching stageand screen actors, that to this day I find Charles Laughton to be the finest actor that I have ever seen. That includes some very, very talented actors. Every character that he portrayed has one "believing" that character. Too many actors do not manage to "get away" from who they are in real life. It is said, acting is portraying someone that you are NOT. Mr Laughton has succeeded in doing that in every role he played.Thankyou for your great talent Sir Charles.