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In this miniseries of BAFTA themed blog posts we plan to explore some of British Pathé’s brilliant archive footage of the BAFTAs, formerly known as the British Film Academy Awards.

First up it’s one of BAFTAs four founders, the splendid Charles Laughton. We’re backstage in 1930 watching Laughton demonstrate to aspiring actors how to become a “swell fella”… This could be the oldest make-up tutorial on the internet today.

Born in Scarborough, Laughton became one of Hollywood’s biggest names, famous for playing period drama parts and characters with lavish costumes such as Henry VIII, Nero and Rembrandt. And evidently he was not scared to over indulge in the powder room.

 Today Laughton wants to be an Italian gangster. He claims the point of make-up is “To make myself look less like a pudding, and more like a Chicago-Italian gangster than usual”. Compared to modern-day make-up tutorials with their nauseating airbrushed perfection and seemingly invented scientific terms, Laughton’s make-up tips are refreshing, matter-of-fact and quite comical. “Observe the secrets of the boudoir” Laughton teases before embarking on a rigorous routine: “First an Italian complexion… Greta Garbo eyelashes…Some dark red lips.”

Several of the stages he claims to be horrible or uncomfortable! He applies dark brown shading to get the effect of dark eyes, gives himself “villainous eyebrows and a nasty little black moustache” and explains how he must paint his hair black to match.

There’s a striking resemblance between Charles Laughton and the contemporary British actor and comedian Matt Lucas. Perhaps Laughton’s husky voice and mannerisms inspired Matt Lucas’ parody of Shirley Bassey or the glamorous authoress in Little Britain? Keep checking the British Pathe blog for more backstage BAFTA footage from the glamorous days of old soon…

www.britishpathe.com – www.bafta.org/archive

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