Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was an English actress with a long career in theatre, film, and television, who appeared in the Disney films Mary Poppins, That Darn Cat!, Blackbeard's Ghost, and the television movie My Dog, the Thief.
Lanchester was born in Lewisham, London and studied dance in Paris as a child. When the school was discontinued due to the start of World War I, she returned to the UK. Later, she started the Children's Theatre and the Cave of Harmony, a nightclub at which modern plays and cabaret turns were performed. These performances led to more serious stage work and her future husband, Charles Laughton. The two would appear together in films and theater productions, like Payment Deferred, Peter Pan, and Jane Arden's The Party.
She made her film debut in 1925 with The Scarlet Letter before appearing prominently in film, like The Private Life of Henry VIII and her most iconic role as the titular Bride of Frankenstein. Her other film appearances include Potiphar's Wife, David Copperfield, Rembrandt, Vessel of Wrath, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Merry Widow, Tales of Manhattan, Forever and a Day, The Razor's Edge, The Bishop's Wife, The Big Clock, Come to the Stable, The Inspector General, 3 Ring Circus, Androcles and the Lion, The Glass Slipper, Pajama Party, Easy Come, Easy Go, Willard, Murder by Death, and Witness for the Prosecution, for which she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
Her television credits include Burke's Law, Nanny and the Professor, I Love Lucy, The Ford Show, The Eleventh Hour, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Night Gallery, and Here's Lucy.
Lanchester also wrote the autobiographies Charles Laughton and I (1938) and Elsa Lanchester Herself (1983). After the release of the latter, her health began to decline. Within 30 months, she suffered two strokes and required constant care and was confined to bedrest. She died on December 26, 1986 at the Motion Picture Hospital from pneumonia. Her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.