×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Charles Higham, celebrity biographer, dies

Wrote controversial tomes about Errol Flynn, Orson Welles

Celebrity biographer Charles Higham, who wrote, often controversially, about the lives of Lucille Ball, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Howard Hughes and others, died in Los Angeles on April 21 of an apparent heart attack. He was 81.

Higham penned dozens of biographies, many of them sensational tomes asserting that his subjects led lives filled with political and sexual intrigue.

In 1980’s “Errol Flynn: The Untold Story,” Higham wrote that the matinee idol was a Nazi spy.

Later biographers asserted that Higham’s revelations were fabricated; Higham defended the book, but he told the New York Times that he had no documents saying Flynn was a Nazi agent.

The author penned the first authorized biography of Hepburn, which became his first bestseller. His book on Hughes, in which he asserted that the eccentric mogul had an affair with Cary Grant, was the basis for Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.” He also wrote controversial books on Orson Welles and discovered the lost footage of Welles’ “It’s All True.”

Other books included 1984’s “Sisters: The Story of Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine,” “The Art of the American Film,” a biography of Florenz Ziegfeld and “Murder in Hollywood: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery,” on the death of silent-film director William Desmond Taylor.

Higham also co-wrote biographies of celebrities including Grant and Merle Oberon.

He was born in London and in 1954 moved to Australia, where he was a book and movie critic, saw some poetry published and was editor of the Bulletin, the country’s top weekly magazine.

His autobiography “In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer’s Memoir” was published in 2009.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More Film

  • Atmosphere91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball

    Inside the 2019 Oscar Parties

    Stars party all around Hollywood before, during, and after the Oscars. Here, Variety hits the town to give you the inside scoop on all the star-studded soirées. Keep checking back throughout the weekend for the latest updates… Variety x Armani Beauty Makeup Artistry Dinner Sunset Tower, Los Angeles, Feb. 20Variety and Giorgio Armani Beauty honored makeup artists Molly [...]

  • 'Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ Heads

    'Monty Python's Life of Brian' Gets 40th Anniversary Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” is heading back into movie theaters to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the classic comedy film. Trafalgar Releasing took the rights to the film last year. The event cinema specialist is planning a 400-screen release on April 18 that will span the U.K. and U.S. as well as territories [...]

  • Korea's CJ CGV Switches Turkey CEOs

    Korea's CJ CGV Switches Turkey CEOs as It Battles With Local Industry

    Yeun Seung-ro has been appointed as CEO of CGV Mars Entertainment, the Korean-owned company that operates Turkey’s largest cinema chain. He replaces Kwak Dong Won, another veteran of the CJ-CGV group. The change of personnel may reflect two ongoing battles within the Turkish film industry. CJ-CGV, which bought Mars for some $650 million in 2016. [...]

  • Woody Allen Developing Next Film With

    Woody Allen Teams With Spain’s Mediapro for Next Film

    MADRID — Woody Allen is re-teaming with Spain’s Mediapro, one of Europe’s biggest independent film-TV companies, to develop his next film with an eye it seems to shooting in Spain. Mediapro co-financed and co-produced two of Allen’s highest-grossing movies, 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which grossed $96.4 million worldwide, and 2011’s “Midnight in Paris” which earned [...]

  • 'Stitches' Review: Berlin Film Festival

    Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches'

    An elegant hybrid of true-story exposé and slow-moving arthouse thriller, Serbian director Miroslav Terzić’s sober sophomore feature “Stitches” takes a familiar idea — a lone crusader taking on a corrupt system in pursuit of the truth — but delivers an unusually thoughtful, psychologically compelling character study. Taking its cue from Snežana Bogdanović’s eerily composed but fathomless [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content