Monday, July 05, 2010

Almost Human

The dapper fellow above is one Charles Laughton, and today is not his birthday. His actual birthday was July 1st, 1899, and he was born in Yorkshire, England. As with yesterday, today did not live up to its promise and provide us with a hero, so I had to bring one in off of the hero bench. A place that is getting mighty thin, but when you have a fellow like Laughton on the bench, quality is more important that quantity.

He was born the son of a hotel keeper, managed to get himself educated, then was shipped off to fight in World War I (in which he was gassed), and then came back home to settle into the family business. It was while doing this, that he began to act as an amateur at first, but then his family allowed him to pursue his dream, and he became a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. After graduation, he began what was to be an extremely successful career of stage acting, and he was well known as a top notch stage actor when he decided to try his had at the big screen. Lucky for us he did, after a couple of films, he won an Academy Award for his part in "The Private Lives of Henry VIII." Laughton, had the perfect physique to play the larger than life (in more ways than one) Henry VIII. In 1935, he made "Mutiny on the Bounty" alongside Clark Gable, it was one of his most famous roles, and one for which he is probably most remembered.

However, it is for his role as Quasimodo in 1939's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" that puts him on our hero podium for today. He plays the hunchback to perfection, never muttering a coherent sentence, he shows us in his facial expressions (he once said that he had "a face that would stop a sundial") the full range of human emotions. He was that good, and he shows us that the "almost human" Quasimodo is really more of a human that 90 percent of the rest of the people in the film. That takes some talent, and Laughton had a ton of talent. Maybe that is why I like the film so much, he shows us that almost human is probably the best that any of us can be. The ugliest fellow in the world has more humanity about him that any of the rest of us. It is an object lesson for us all to watch the film, and see Laughton in action. It reminds us that a twisted back does not have to keep a person from having a straight character. His performance makes the movie the best production of the story that has ever been, or is likely to ever be done.

He made tons of other films (another one I like is "Witness for the Prosecution" but not for the reasons you may think), but it is for those fleeing moments when you see him express what the rest of us can only hope to feel while playing a man who could barely grunt that makes him our hero of the day. So, for that role that holds up a mirror that the rest of us "humans" are very afraid to look into, Charles Laughton (July 1st, 1899-December 15th, 1962, at the age of 63, of cancer of the gall bladder), you are my (316th) hero of the day.

No comments: