Elsa Lanchester in ‘Passport to Destiny’ (1944)

Elsa Lanchester made her name as a comedienne and chanteuse in revue and cabaret in 1920s London, as well as an actress in the straight theatre and films. Such was her fame that H. G. Wells wrote three silent film ‘shorts’ especially for her, all made in 1928. It was around that time that she met and married Charles Laughton, whose own stage career was rocketing skyward. Hollywood soon beckoned and although Laughton was to become an international film star, Elsa found herself taking something of a back seat. She did play some excellent parts in early 1930s movies, such as Anne of Cleves in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ with Laughton winning the Oscar for the title role, and she is still remembered even today as ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935). Her later films included an Oscar-nominated supporting role in ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ (1957) which again starred Charles Laughton.

The one Hollywood film in which she received top billing was a B-picture called ‘Passport to Destiny,’ released early in 1944. Halliwell’s ‘Film Guide’ describes it as “one of the silliest movies ever made, even by the standards of wartime propaganda. The risible narrative makes no sense at all, though Lanchester acts as if her life depended on her performance.”

In brief, Elsa plays a cockney charlady who believes she is protected by a ‘lucky charm’ owned by her late husband (shown in a photo to be Charles Laughton himself!). At the height of the London blitz she sets off to Berlin, armed with her bucket and brush and the ‘lucky charm,’ with the intention of assassinating Hitler. She stows away on a boat across the English Channel and then, by pretending to be deaf and dumb, scrubs her way across Occupied Europe to Germany. Language problems are solved by all the Germans speaking English! Elsa gets a cleaning job in Hitler’s Chancellery (it looks remarkably like a Los Angeles bank) but he’s out at the time so she doesn’t get to assassinate him after all.

There’s a sub-plot involving a good German officer whose girlfriend has been locked up by the Gestapo and it is with his help that Elsa is flown back to London. Back home she discovers that the so-called ‘lucky charm’ was in fact part of a job-lot of glass eyes! It is of course all pure nonsense but is uploaded here for its curiosity value and for Elsa’s top-billed performance.


29 Replies to “Elsa Lanchester in ‘Passport to Destiny’ (1944)”

  1. I bet there are many stories during the war where some people survived against all odds and on multiple occasions.Then there would have been those that would have simply glanced out their window and been killed by some stray shrapnel.The older i get ,the more i realise if your number is up there is not much you can do about it.

  2. She was a pip! Extremely talented, loads of charisma, excelling in these spunky Cockney characters, Elsa L was classically trained & could recite & do justice to the Bard with the best of them!

  3. Elsa Lanchester (1902 – 1986) married Charles Laughton (1899 – 1962) in 1929 and they remained married until his death although he told her shortly after the wedding that he was gay. They appeared in twelve films together and this is the only Hollywood movie that gave her star billing. In 1957 the couple both appeared in the brilliant Witness for the Prosecution and both won Oscar nominations for their roles – she for Best Supporting Actress and he for Best Actor. She did win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. She has a long and successful film and stage career and made her mark early in the USA in Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

  4. Great amusing film set in WW2. Elsa is excellent as the British cleaner who decides to go to Berlin to assassinate Hitler because she believes she is protected by a magic eye left by her old man. In real life her husband, Laughton, was bisexual at a time when it wasn't as socially acceptable as it is today. But they stayed together through thick and thin. A very talented couple. Shame Laughton, a great actor, only directed one film – The Night of the Hunter starring Robert Mitchum…for it is brilliant.

  5. The man in the photo is Elsa’s real life husband Charles Laughton. His Oscar-winning role as Henry VIII was spoofed in Elsa’s 1935 vehicle, the James Whale classic “Bride Of Frankenstein”.

  6. Blooming heck, it's blinking marvellous to hear a bit of Cockney again after leaving London years ago. Flipping ain't no more like that these days in bleeding Camberwell – gawd luv a duck.

  7. I watched this movie as a child and always wanted to see it again. I did not remember the name but came across it by "accident" while looking through the movie section of the newspaper and then proceeded to watch it. I finally got to see it again and enjoyed it after all these years. I am sure I was about age 10 when I first saw this movie and now am 71 years old and it is a movie I will always remember as one of my favorites!

  8. The charming Elsa Lanchester does not disappoint in this film. Did anyone notice that the picture of her husband, Mr. Wiggins, was her real-life husband Charles Laughton? I think it was very brave to have made a film criticizing Hitler and the Nazis in the middle of WW2.

  9. What a Cracking Film. I started watching this a couple of Months ago but gave upon it after the Bonb Scene, Glad I gave it another go as really enjoyed it this time round. Thanks for the upload.

  10. What a very delightful film this is ! – Wish I coulda been in the audience in some cinema in London when this was a new release – I can't remember ever having scene Elsa so charmingly make fools out of one bad guy after another with such Grande Finesse ! And the bad guys are well done – Their swastikas are all not quite upright, swastikas on flags, ditto – Bad Erich Stroheim haircuts! – That makes them all look sloppy – Brava Madama Lanchester ! TNX 4 posting this!

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