Charles Higham (biographer)

Charles Higham (biographer)

Charles Higham (born 18 February 1931, London[1]) is an author, editor and poet. Higham is a recipient of the Prix des Créateurs[citation needed] of the Académie Française and the Poetry Society of London Prize.



Higham is the son of MP and advertising mogul Sir Charles Higham.[2] He published two early books of verse in England,[3] before moving to Sydney, Australia in 1954, where at twenty-three he became a prominent book and film critic. He became literary editor of The Bulletin, the country's leading weekly, in 1964, and published three more collections of verse.[4]

In the 1960's, Higham also compiled a number of now-scarce horror anthologies for Horwitz Publishing House, reprinting mainly material by non-Australian writers, the majority of the stories being reprinted from Montague Summers' 1936 anthology The Grimoire and Other Supernatural Stories. Australian writer Terry Dowling contributes an essay discussing the influence of Higham's horror anthologies on his own writing to Stephen Jones Horror: Another 100 Best Books.

Higham was named Regents Professor by the University of California,[5] an honor accorded to leading literary figures in foreign countries, and while at UC Santa Cruz he discovered the lost footage of It's All True, Orson Welles's uncompleted Latin American triptych. In The Films of Orson Welles (1970) and in Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius (1985), he argued that the film maker Orson Welles suffered from a "fear of completion"[6] that led Welles to abandon projects when they were nearly finished in order to be able to blame others for their flaws. Friends of Welles, in particular Peter Bogdanovich, criticised this thesis. Newsweek devoted a full-page spread to Higham as a film detective and the New York Times engaged him as its Hollywood feature writer for the Sunday theatre Section.

Higham's first best seller was Kate (1975), the first authorised biography of Katharine Hepburn.[7] This success was followed by Bette, the Life of Bette Davis, a biography of Lucille Ball, and The Duchess of Windsor (1988, 2005). His book Howard Hughes became the basis of Martin Scorsese's film The Aviator (2004).[8] Higham's Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi American Money Plot 1933-1949 detailed U.S. industry's links with Nazi Germany. He also published Sisters: The Story of Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine in 1984, about the legendary feud between actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.[9]

Higham has also written Murder in Hollywood: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery on the death of William Desmond Taylor and a biography of Jennie Churchill, Dark Lady: Winston Churchill's Mother and Her World (2006).[10]

With Roy Moseley he wrote biographies of Cary Grant, Merle Oberon, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (Elizabeth and Philip: The Untold Story 1991).[11] The co-authors later had a serious falling out. In the first edition of Moseley's memoir of Bette Davis, Higham is called "my great friend", but in the second revised edition he is a "doubtful author" and his name is omitted from the acknowledgements.

Charles Higham published his autobiography, In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir, in 2009.

Errol Flynn controversy

In 1980, Higham published a controversial biography, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story in which he alleged that Errol Flynn was a bisexual fascist sympathiser who spied for the Nazis before and during World War II[12] and had affairs with Tyrone Power, Howard Hughes, and Truman Capote.

Tony Thomas, in Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was (Citadel, 1990) and Buster Wiles in My Days With Errol Flynn: The Autobiography of a Stuntman (Roundtable, 1988) have denounced Higham's claims as fabrications, a claim substantiated by one's viewing the F.B.I. documents, which were altered - rather than quoted verbatim - by Higham.

According to Thomas and Wiles, Flynn was notorious in Hollywood as a womaniser and was a left wing supporter of the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War and of the Cuban Revolution, even narrating a documentary entitled The Truth About Fidel Castro Revolution[13] shortly before his death.

Personal life

In his autobiography Higham talks of his molestation by his stepmother and reveals his early marriage despite his growing awareness of his homosexuality. He and his wife stayed great friends although she later adopted a lesbian lifestyle. Higham lives with his boyfriend Richard V. Palafox, a nurse.[14] in Los Angeles


Theatre and Film

  • The Films of Orson Welles (1970)
  • Hollywood in the Forties (co-written with Joel Greenberg) (1970)
  • Ziegfeld (1972)
  • Cecil B. DeMille: A Biography of the Most Successful Film Maker of Them All (1973)
  • The Art of the American film, 1900-1971 (1973)
  • Kate: The Life of Katharine Hepburn (1976)
  • Charles Laughton: An Intimate Biography (1976)
  • Marlene: The Life of Marlene Dietrich (1977)
  • Celebrity Circus (1979)
  • Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (1980)
  • Bette, the Life of Bette Davis (1981)
  • Sisters: The Story of Olivia De Haviland and Joan Fontaine (1984)
  • Audrey: a Biography of Audrey Hepburn (1985)
  • Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of An American Genius (1985)
  • Cary Grant: The Lonely Heart (1989)
  • Merchant of Dreams: Louis B. Mayer, M.G.M., and the Secret Hollywood (1993)
  • Howard Hughes: The Secret Life (1993)
  • Murder in Hollywood: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery (2004)


  • The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life (1988), (2005)
  • Elizabeth and Phillip: The Untold Story of the Queen of England and Her Prince (1991)


  • The Midnight Tree: A Fairy Tale of Terror (2007)


  • The Adventures of Conan Doyle: The Life of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes (1976)
  • Dark Lady: Winston Churchill's Mother and Her World (2006)


  • A Distant Star
  • Spring And Death
  • The Earthbound
  • Noonday Country
  • The Voyage To Brindisi


  • They Came To Australia
  • Australians Abroad
  • Penguin Australian Writing Today


  • Trading With The Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949
  • American Swastika


  1. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir
  2. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir
  3. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir
  4. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir
  5. ^ Murder in Hollywood: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery, University of Wisconsin Press page
  6. ^ Anna Quindelen "The Magnificent Orsons", New York Times, 15 September 1985
  7. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir
  8. ^ Charles Higham, In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir, pp. ??
  9. ^ Charles Higham, In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir, pp. ??
  10. ^ Charles Higham, In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir, pp. ??
  11. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir
  12. ^ Charles Higham "The missing Errol Flynn file", New Statesman, 17 April 2000
  13. ^ The Truth About Fidel Castro Revolution at the Internet Movie Database (aka Cuban Story)
  14. ^ Charles Higham: In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir

External links

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