This biography is bolstered by the support and recollections of Laughton's widow Elsa Lanchester and is consequently somewhat less skimpy and more ""intimate"" than Higham's Kate and The Warner Brothers of last year. Born into a strict middle-class Yorkshire family, Charles Laughton was a ""sensitive"" youth traumatized by his Jesuit schooling and a WW I gassing. A student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art thereafter, the ""drastically uneven"" actor made his London debut in 1926 and subsequently wedded the ""freethinking"" Miss Lanchester. The union proved to be ""a marriage of intellect, and a marriage of kindred spirits. . . a love that survived the loss of sexual communion""--she accepted her husband's homosexuality and he her lovers for better than 30 years. Launched by his Oscar-winning performance in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Laughton enjoyed a distinguished film career with the likes of Ruggles of Red Gap, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Witness for the Prosecution. Laughton's self-faulting perfectionism and ""divine artistic discontent"" made him the supreme actor that he was. And Higham is too journeyman a writer to do him more than factual justice.