There is a lot that is of interest in this book, but it's constantly undermined by its author's tendency to condescension, and even more by his fatal fondness for pretending he knows more than he does. At least, he loves his subject - Callow's admiration for Laughton is very well-known, and we are given no reason to believe it's not sincere. Alas, this leads to a tendency to gush and a reluctance to face up to the actor's less admirable qualities; more than that, anyone at all who makes even the mildest criticism of Laughton comes in for Callow's sneers. It's quite clear from numerous interviews that Alfred Hitchcock, for instance, had the greatest affection for Laughton, as well as admiration for his skills, but Callow seems not to have noticed this. Hitch's mild criticisms of Laughton's occasional awkwardness, and his tendency to express his fondness in jokes about him (rather than fawning admiration) makes him, for Callow, an enemy, which is preposterous. William Gargan, who disliked working with Laughton, is dismissed as a terrible actor, which is irrelevant to his comments. Worst of all is Callow's treatment of Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester. Never can this much-loved, highly talented actress have been so denigrated! Callow avoided meeting her - she might have told him a few things about his hero he'd rather not know. It's still pretty clear that marrying her was the luckiest thing that ever happened to Laughton, who spent their long marriage cheating on her with other men. It must be said that Callow writes very well about acting - very difficult - and some of Laughton's most famous performances are outstandingly described. But he relies far too much on other people's accounts of the actor, and seems reluctant to have done much original research of his own. For a lot of his "facts", he has depended on the notorious and ridiculous Charles Higham, seeming not to have known that Higham was a grotesque joke-figure amongst serious film buffs, or that his 1976 biography of Laughton was not only badly-written and shallow but inaccurate and dubious. Callow's book is a lot better than that, but it fails to be the major study its best passages suggest it might have been.