Podcast #18: Elsa Lanchester

The last part of our 4-part special FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries, produced in December 2018 by Susan Stone.

In a special encore presentation, Dead Ladies Show co-founder Florian Duijsens tells the story of Elsa Lanchester, the actress made famous by her role in 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein. Recorded live at Bard College Berlin.

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Acast.

Show notes:

Here are a few trailers to the movies in which Florian first encountered Elsa:

Elsa’s mother, Edith Lanchester. Read more about her scandalous cohabitation and activism here.

“Male impersonator” Vesta Tilley

Above, Elsa’s early favorite Vesta Tilley, and below, a longer version of Elsa talking about her time with Isadora Duncan in Paris

Lanchester’s Children’s Theatre

Below, a recording of Elsa singing one of her Cave of Harmony hits later in life and introduced by her husband, Charles Laughton

Elsa and Charles (right), along with the Lanchester family parrot (middle)

Here’s the delightful full version of the silent short Bluebottles (1928), one of Elsa’s first movie roles, scripted by H. G. Wells.


Above, Charles Laughton; below, Elsa on a terrifying swing at their country home

Embed from Getty Images

The full version of Elsa Lanchester’s role as Mary Shelley in Bride of Frankenstein, and as the creature’s eponymous bride

And here’s rare footage of Elsa live onstage later in life.

And here’s Elsa duetting with Elvis in 1967.

Elsa and Elvis in Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)

If you want to read more about and by Elsa Lanchester, check out her marvelous autobiography, Elsa Lanchester, Herself.

And as a special treat, here’s a version of the perennially problematic (and delightful) “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a sung on the radio in 1950 by Elsa and her husband.

Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out the first three parts of our FRANKENFRAUEN series for yet more fascinating women involved in some way with the classic story of Frankenstein.

Dead Ladies Show #5

The fifth Dead Ladies Show is upon us, and it brings ladies complicated, competent and completely scintillating. Join us for an evening all about three women who were once at the top of their respective games. In German and English, with plenty of mingling and music – and as usual, with a special drink of the night available at the bar, to make sure your hair stands on end.


Writer and translator Isabel Cole will share her love of:
Scion of an ancient theater dynasty, Ida Lupino (1918-1995) was an idiosyncratic star of Hollywood’s golden age – and in the 1950s she broke down barriers as a woman director/producer who tackled taboo subjects with her own inimitable style and panache.

Regisseurin und Autorin Gabi Hift erzählt uns von:
Unica Zürn, Surrealistin, Schriftstellerin, Malerin, Graphikerin, ist berühmt für ihre Anagramme und für die faszinierenden Erkundungungen aus dem Inneren ihres Wahnsinns. Sie und Hans Bellmer lebten als notorisches symbiotisches Künstlerpaar im Pariser “Hotel de l’esperanze”, er bastelte an den zerstückelten Sehnsuchtskörpern seiner Puppen, verschnürte Zürn zu Fleischpaketen, sie halluzinierte den “Mann im Jasmin”, die beiden waren Komplizen in der Kunst und in der Liebe. Zürn verbrachte immer wieder Monate in der Irrenanstalt, blieb auch dort produktiv, malte die Schrecken und Freuden des Kopfleuchtens. 1970 sprang sie aus dem Fenster- genau wie sie es drei Jahre vorher in einem Roman beschrieben hatte. (“Wer aber verzweifelt stibt, dessen ganzes Leben war umsonst.”- wer zum Teufel sagt denn sowas?!)


And your beloved host Florian Duijsens tells us: Even if her only role had been The Bride of Frankenstein (back in 1935), Elsa Lanchester would have been assured a cult following lasting infinite Halloweens. Yet her lightning-bolt hairdo surely wasn’t her only legacy, as she also hijacked the screen in classics such as Witness for the Prosecution, The Big Clock, and Mary fucking Poppins. Together with her husband Charles Laughton (an esteemed actor himself, plus the director of the DEATHLESS Night of the Hunter), she also recorded several bawdy albums of cockney songs, and with quips like “She looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth – or anywhere else,” she’ll make a perfect addition to our Dead Ladies pantheon!

€4 entry – come nice and early to get a seat!