Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cary Grant "playing" harp in The Bishop's Wife

It is always a treat to see a Hugo Friedhofer/Gregg Toland film (the composer and the cinematographer, respectively). The Bishop's Wife also has great stars (like Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven), and it is a true feel-good feast, complete with ice skating sequences (done with body doubles), and harp playing (what else should an angel play?). The hands in the close-up shots are those of Gail Laughton, who you can read a little about here. Biographical information about Laughton seems to be absent from the internet (and that includes historical newspapers). If you know anything about him, please let me know. Or better still, leave it in a comment!


Michael Leddy said...

I know nothing, but I wonder — could he be related to Charles Laughton? I’m wondering only because Elsa Lanchester (married to CL) is in the film.

Elaine Fine said...

I wondered about that too. Charles Laughton had two brothers. One was named Tom, and the other was named Frank.

There is a photo of Charles Laughton playing the harp though (he's playing the part of Nero).

Anonymous said...

Hi I am Charles T. Laughton (Gail's father)'s great grandson. My family has always acknowledged a relation to Charles Laughton the actor, however it's been hard to verify so far. Thank you for these posts. You have resolved a long standing question. We had been told Gail played for Harpo and that his hands were filmed instead of the actors. Well Gail DUBBED the harp for Harpo (though Harpo was a very gifted harpist, it's said it was because Gail could read the scores and was quicker, not because Harpo couldn't play) and now I know that it was for Cary Grant, not Harpo that Gail reached through and his hands are in the film. Thank you - John Bruner
Verificatin -

Anonymous said...

I'm researching some history of orchestras in Oklahoma City and discovered that Gail Laughton was 16 years old when he was selected to be in the 1937 WPA Federal Orchestra in OKC. He made front-page news when he played for Henry Ford and my information says that he played a harp made by his father in the family's harp-making shop in Oklahoma. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 21, 1921 and died in LA on September 9, 1985 according to my source. His middle name was "Gail" and his first name was actually Denzil.

ShatterKindBlog said...

I would love to be contacted regarding your research. Gail was actually 15 when he joined the WPA (verifiable on the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra's website), he did indeed play harps made by his father Charles Thomas Laughton a Claremore Okla. harp maker and the entire family played for Henry Ford at Ford's home where Charles Sr. tuned Ford auto's to play a tune in the song list. For this Mr. Ford gave them a Model A. His name was indeed Denzil and your info is correct. Additionally, he played for many MGM films, Looney Tunes and famously he is who you hear playing for Harpo Marx in the Marx Bros. Films. Charles T. Laughton taught at Panhandle A&M and Gail's sister Charlotte Tinsley played with Spike Jones.

Sandy Driscoll said...

Hi - I wanted to comment on this link about Gail Laughton, because I recently found out the he owned and lived in my home for several years prior to my purchasing it in 1975. I'm thrilled to think that he played beautiful music here, probably in my living room!

Sandy Driscoll
Los Angeles
email -

C.A. Chicoine said...

The video of "Cary Grant 'playing' the harp in "The Bishop's Wife" you have in your blog post has been removed. But here is another that I found for you to replace it with. Cheers.