ART LIFE; POSTCARD BIOGRAPHIES FROM THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

6 Simon Callow on Charles Laughton (1899-1962)
He was fat, complicated and far from conventionally handsome: "My face," he said, "resembles a departing pachyderm." A homosexual, for many years he waged a losing battle against his instincts. Something of the struggle informed his acting. In his lifetime, he was widely derided as a ham, but in retrospect it is clear that he was one of the few actors who were genuinely creative artists, rather than mere interpreters.

Simon Callow by James F Hunkin, 1996 a James Hunkin. Charles Laughton by Howard Coster, 1936 a NPG. To accompany the Art & Life series, the National Portrait Gallery has produced a pack of 25 pull-out post cards offering such delights as Virginia Woolf on George Eliot and Terry Pratchett on Tolkien. It will be on sale, priced pounds 5, in the NPG shop later this month, or by mail order from the NPG (0171 306 0055, x280/ fax 0171 306 0092). Add pounds 1 p&p for up to two packs, pounds 1.50 thereafter.

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