[UPDATE: Our “Reprint Elsa” campaign was just featured on the LOGO TV site The Backlot! Go check it out!]
At our January 2013 Elsa Lanchester tribute show, Meet The Lady publicly announced its intent to have Lanchester’s out-of-print 1983 memoir, Elsa Lanchester Herself, republished.
Currently we have a growing Facebook fan campaign and we’ve submitted a proposal to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which controls her estate. You can track our progress on Twitter via the #ReprintElsa hashtag. The campaign was covered by Fangoria in early 2013.
Elsa Lanchester embodied nearly every facet of the early 20th century zeitgeist. She was born to radical Socialists in 1902, studied dance with Isadora Duncan, became one of London’s notorious Bohemian it-girls, married an Oscar-winning film star, became a Hollywood glamour icon in her own right as “The Bride of Frankenstein,” and spent decades bemusing audiences as a cabaret star and celebrated character actress.
In her time she was greatly overshadowed by the career of her husband, Charles Laughton. Their thirty-year marriage itself was overshadowed by his homosexuality, which Elsa accepted as best she could. This aspect of their private life – and the price they paid for it – reveals itself to be the central story of Elsa Lanchester, Herself.
WHY THIS BOOK?
Unlike many Hollywood memoirs, Elsa Lanchester Herself contains no fluff or PR massaging; it’s written with astonishing candor by a born writer with few regrets and nothing left to lose. Lanchester is an almost frighteningly vivid storyteller, recreating scenes and people in remarkable detail. No one is spared her keen eye and devastating wit, herself least of all.
This book is also a valuable document in GLBTQ history, a detailed insight into a relationship that was both unusual for its time, and still sadly all-too-common. Almost never has an arrangement between a gay husband and his long-suffering wife been so thoroughly or poignantly explored in full public view. Just like their husbands, women like Lanchester are victims of homophobia; her book teaches about the terrible physical and psychological toll this can take on both partners.
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.
No one would describe Lanchester as a major star, but The Bride of Frankenstein endures as one of the most iconic cinematic performances of the 20th century, and her endlessly recycled image remains a point of fascination to this day. Lanchester had no lines in the film (except in the prologue, as author Mary Shelley), but thanks to her book we have a voice worthy of pairing with that unforgettable image.
HOW CAN I HELP?
1. Contact the Motion Picture & Television Fund
The MPTF controls Lanchester’s estate. They have our proposal! In the meantime please contact them and encourage 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)
MPTF on Facebook
2. Join Our “Reprint Elsa” Facebook Group
That will be the fastest place to find recent updates and requests as things proceed.
3. Share Lanchester’s Quotes and Images with Your Friends
Feel free to steal/repost any of our photos and quotes. Linking back to us is great and helps spread the word, but anything that puts Elsa’s name out there is a win for everyone.
4. Buy the Book
Amazon has out-of-print copies of Elsa Lanchester Herself available in both paperback and hardcover. Once you’ve read it for yourself, you’ll be even keener to join our cause.
5. Follow Meet The Lady on Tumblr
We’ll be posting updates here too, but Elsa’s not the only incredible lady we’re interested in. Our various events and projects may catch your eye in the future.