Charles Laughton – An Intimate Biography (Charles Higham – 1976)

Charles Laughton – An Intimate Biography (Charles Higham – 1976)

The Night of The Hunter
The Night of The Hunter

On “The Night of The Hunter”…

lillian gish, cheryl callaway, bill chapin, 1955 the night of the hunter

Charles felt that the greatest of the Griffith actresses was Lillian Gish. Her vibrant responsiveness to the demands of scenes was so complete that nothing, no trick or artifice or use of gesture, no single member of her body or even pore of her skin, held her apart from a totally instinctive sense of what her part meant. Her purity and the innocent directness of her approach left him astounded. Tiny and seemingly fashioned of finest steel, she used her narrow face, huge fluttering liquid eyes, and pursed butterfly mouth with the formal precision of a Kabuki actor. Her control of bodily expression was indeed almost Japanese. Given Charles’s love of Japanese art, one can see the appeal she would have for him—the appeal of a great artist in miniature.

At tea at the Algonquin Hotel (Night of The Hunter)
At tea at the Algonquin Hotel (Night of The Hunter)

At tea at the Algonquin Hotel, Charles told Miss Gish of his warm devotion to her work, and the reason for that devotion. James Agee joined them, but refused the tea and suddenly drank alcohol instead, barely saying a word.

At tea at the Algonquin Hotel (Night of The Hunter)
At tea at the Algonquin Hotel (Night of The Hunter)

Finally, he drifted away, while Charles offered Lillian the part of the spinster in the story. She promised him she would read the script. She liked it and agreed to appear in the film. 

The Night of The Hunter
The Night of The Hunter

Lillian Gish enjoyed working with Charles as intensely as Mitchum did. She told a story to the New York Times years later (June 8, 1969):

He wanted me to do a dozen takes of one scene. I kept pitching my acting higher and higher and then I said, “Is that what you want?” Laughton answered, “No, the first take was fine. I just wanted to see how many different ways you could do it.”

The Night of The Hunter
The Night of The Hunter

Lillian Gish is flawless as Miss Rachel, a figure at once tough and saintly, forbidding and adorable. And the children are excellent: the tough, resilient, illusionless little boy, the obnoxious little girl who’s caught between a nervous evasion of the money’s hiding place, and a cowardly disclosure of it.

Charles Laughton – An Intimate Biography (Charles Higham – 1976)

Charles Laughton, an Intimate Biography
Charles Laughton, an Intimate Biography – cover

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