Boris Karloff

William Henry Pratt (23 November 1887 – 2 February 1969), better known by his stage name Boris Karloff (/ˈkɑːrlɒf/), was an English actor who was primarily known for his roles in horror films.[2] He portrayed Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He also appeared as Imhotep in The Mummy (1932).

In non-horror roles, he is best known to modern audiences for narrating and as the voice of Grinch in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966). For his contribution to film and television, Boris Karloff was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Boris Karloff
Borris Karloff still
Born
William Henry Pratt

23 November 1887
Camberwell, Surrey, England
Died2 February 1969 (aged 81)
Midhurst, Sussex, England
OccupationActor
Years active1909–1969
Spouse(s)
  • Grace Harding
    (m. 1910; div. 1913)
  • Montana Laurena Williams
    (m. 1920; div. 1922)
  • Helene Vivian Soule
    (m. 1924; div. 1928)
  • Dorothy Stine
    (m. 1930; div. 1946)
  • Evelyn Hope Helmore
    (m. 1946; his death 1969)
ChildrenSara Karloff (daughter), with Dorothy Stine[1]

Early years

William Henry Pratt alias BORIS KARLOFF 1887-1969 Actor was born here
English Heritage Blue plaque marking Karloff's birthplace at 36 Forest Hill Road, London

Boris Karloff was born William Henry Pratt on 23 November 1887,[3] at 36 Forest Hill Road, Camberwell, Surrey (now London), England,[4] but Pratt stated that he was born in nearby Dulwich.[5] His parents were Edward John Pratt, Jr. and Eliza Sarah Millard. His brother, Sir John Thomas Pratt, was a British diplomat.[6] Edward John Pratt, Jr. was an Anglo-Indian, from a British father and Indian mother,[7] while Karloff's mother also had some Indian ancestry, thus Karloff had a relatively dark complexion that stood out in British society at the time.[8] His mother's maternal aunt was Anna Leonowens, whose tales about life in the royal court of Siam (now Thailand) were the basis of the musical The King and I. Pratt was bow-legged, had a lisp, and stuttered as a young boy.[9] He conquered his stutter, but not his lisp, which was noticeable throughout his career in the film industry.

Pratt spent his childhood years in Enfield, in the County of Middlesex. He was the youngest of nine children, and following his mother's death was brought up by his elder siblings. He received his early education at Enfield Grammar School, and later at the private schools of Uppingham School and Merchant Taylors' School. After this, he attended King's College London where he took studies aimed at a career with the British Government's Consular Service. However, in 1909, he left university without graduating and drifted, departing England for Canada, where he worked as a farm labourer and did various odd itinerant jobs until happening upon acting.[10]

Acting career

Pratt began appearing in theatrical performances in Canada, and during this period he chose Boris Karloff as his stage name. Some have theorised that he took the stage name from a mad scientist character in the novel The Drums of Jeopardy called "Boris Karlov". However, the novel was not published until 1920, at least eight years after Karloff had been using the name on stage and in silent films, opening the possibility that the Karlov character might have been named after Karloff after the novel's author noticed it in a cast listing and liked the sound of it rather than simply being a coincidence. Warner Oland played "Boris Karlov" in a film version in 1931. Another possible influence was thought to be a character in the Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy novel H. R. H. The Rider which features a "Prince Boris of Karlova", but as the novel was not published until 1915, the influence may be backward, that Burroughs saw Karloff in a play and adapted the name for the character. Karloff always claimed he chose the first name "Boris" because it sounded foreign and exotic, and that "Karloff" was a family name (from Karlov—in Cyrillic, Карлов—a name found in several Slavic countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria[11]). However, his daughter Sara Karloff publicly denied any knowledge of Slavic forebears, "Karloff" or otherwise. One reason for the name change was to prevent embarrassment to his family. Whether or not his brothers (all dignified members of the British Foreign Service) actually considered young William the "black sheep of the family" for having become an actor, Karloff apparently worried they felt that way. He did not reunite with his family until he returned to Britain to make The Ghoul (1933), extremely worried that his siblings would disapprove of his new, macabre claim to world fame. Instead, his brothers jostled for position around him and happily posed for publicity photographs. After the photo was taken, Karloff's brothers immediately started asking about getting a copy of their own. The story of the photo became one of Karloff's favorites.[12]

Karloff joined the Jeanne Russell Company in 1911 and performed in towns like Kamloops (British Columbia) and Prince Albert (Saskatchewan). After the devastating tornado in Regina on 30 June 1912, Karloff and other performers helped with clean-up efforts.[13] He later took a job as a railway baggage handler and joined the Harry St. Clair Co. that performed in Minot, North Dakota, for a year in an opera house above a hardware store.

Whilst he was trying to establish his acting career, Karloff had to perform years of manual labour in Canada and the U.S. in order to make ends meet. He was left with back problems from which he suffered for the rest of his life. Because of his health, he did not enlist in World War I.

During this period, Karloff worked in various theatrical stock companies across the U.S. to hone his acting skills. Some acting companies mentioned were the Harry St. Clair Players and the Billie Bennett Touring Company. By early 1918 he was working with the Maud Amber Players in Vallejo, California, but because of the Spanish Flu outbreak in the San Francisco area and the fear of infection, the troupe was disbanded. He was able to find work with the Haggerty Repertory for a while (according to the 1973 obituary of Joseph Paul Haggerty, he and Boris Karloff remained lifelong friends). According to Karloff, in his first film he appeared as an extra in a crowd scene for a Frank Borzage picture at Universal for which he received $5; the title of this film has never been traced.[14]

Hollywood

Early Films

Frankenstein's monster (Boris Karloff)
Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Once Karloff arrived in Hollywood, he made dozens of silent films, but this work was sporadic, and he often had to take up manual labour such as digging ditches or delivering construction plaster to earn a living.

His first on screen role was in a film serial, The Lightning Raider (1919) with Pearl White. He was in another serial, The Masked Rider (1919), the first of his appearances to survive.

Karloff could also be seen in His Majesty, the American (1919) with Douglas Fairbanks, The Prince and Betty (1919), The Deadlier Sex (1920), and The Courage of Marge O'Doone (1920). He played an Indian in The Last of the Mohicans (1920) and he would often be cast as an Arab or Indian in his early films.

Karloff's first major role came in a film serial, The Hope Diamond Mystery (1920). He was Indian in Without Benefit of Clergy (1921) and an Arab in Cheated Hearts (1921) and villainous in The Cave Girl (1921). He was a maharajah in The Man from Downing Street (1922), a Nabob in The Infidel (1922) and had roles in The Altar Stairs (1922), Omar the Tentmaker (1922) (as an Imam), The Woman Conquers (1922), The Gentleman from America (1923), The Prisoner (1923) and the serial Riders of the Plains (1923).

Karloff did a Western, The Hellion (1923), and a drama, Dynamite Dan (1924). He could be seen in Parisian Nights (1925), Forbidden Cargo (1925), The Prairie Wife (1925) and the serial Perils of the Wild (1925).

Karloff went back to bit part status in Never the Twain Shall Meet (1925) directed by Maurice Tourneur but he had a good support role in Lady Robinhood (1925).

Karloff went on to be in The Greater Glory (1926), Her Honor, the Governor (1926), The Bells (1926) (as a mesmerist), The Nickel-Hopper (1926), The Golden Web (1926), The Eagle of the Sea (1926), Flames (1926), Old Ironsides (1926), Flaming Fury (1926), Valencia (1926), The Man in the Saddle (1926), Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927) (as an African), Let It Rain (1927), The Meddlin' Stranger (1927), The Princess from Hoboken (1927), The Phantom Buster (1927), and Soft Cushions (1927).

Karloff had roles in Two Arabian Knights (1927), The Love Mart (1927), The Vanishing Rider (1928) (a serial), Burning the Wind (1928), Vultures of the Sea (1928), and The Little Wild Girl (1928).

He was in The Devil's Chaplain (1929), The Fatal Warning (1929) for Richard Thorpe, The Phantom of the North (1929), Two Sisters (1929), Anne Against the World (1929), Behind That Curtain (1929), and The King of the Kongo (1929), a serial directed by Thorpe.

Karloff had an uncredited bit in The Unholy Night (1930) directed by Lionel Barrymore, and a bigger parts in The Bad One (1930),The Sea Bat (1930) (directed by Barrymore), and The Utah Kid (1930) directed by Thorpe.

Howard Hawks: The Criminal Code (1931) and Scarface (1932)

A key film which brought Karloff recognition was The Criminal Code (1931), a prison drama directed by Howard Hawks in which he reprised a dramatic part he had played on stage.

He did another serial for Thorpe, King of the Wild (1931), then had support parts in Cracked Nuts (1931), Young Donovan's Kid (1931), Smart Money (1931), The Public Defender (1931), I Like Your Nerve (1931), and Graft (1931).

Another significant role in the autumn of 1931 saw Karloff play a key supporting part as an unethical newspaper reporter in Five Star Final, a film about tabloid journalism which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

He could also be seen in The Yellow Ticket (1931) The Mad Genius (1931), The Guilty Generation (1931) and Tonight or Never (1931).

Before appearing in horror films, Karloff had a small role as a mob boss in Hawks' gangster film Scarface, which was not released until 1932 because of censorship issues.

Frankenstein

Karloff acted in eighty movies before being found by James Whale and cast in his eighty-first movie, Frankenstein (1931). Karloff's role as Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein propelled him to stardom. The bulky costume with four-inch platform boots made it an arduous role but the costume and extensive makeup produced the classic image. The costume was a job in itself for Karloff with the shoes weighing 11 pounds (5.0 kg) each.[15] Universal Studios was quick to acquire ownership of the copyright to the makeup format for the Frankenstein monster that Jack P. Pierce had designed.

It took a while for Karloff's stardom to be established with the public - he had small roles in Behind the Mask (1932), Business and Pleasure (1932) and The Miracle Man (1932).

As receipts for Frankenstein and Scarface came in, Universal gave Karloff third billing in Night World (1932), with Lew Ayres and Mae Clarke.

Horror Star

Karloff was reunited with Whale in The Old Dark House (1932), an old dark house horror movie at Universal.

MGM borrowed him to play the title role in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), which gave him top billing.

Back at Universal he was cast as Imhotep who is revived in The Mummy (1932). It was as success at the box office as were the other two films and Karloff was established as a horror star.

Karloff returned to England to star in The Ghoul (1933), then made a non-horror film for John Ford, The Lost Patrol (1934), where his performance was highly acclaimed.

Karloff was third billed in a non horror at Twentieth Pictures, The House of Rothschild (1934) with George Arliss, which was highly popular.[16]

Horror, however, had now become Karloff's primary genre, and he gave a string of lauded performances in Universal's horror films, including several with Bela Lugosi, his main rival as heir to Lon Chaney's status as the leading horror film star. While the long-standing, creative partnership between Karloff and Lugosi never led to a close friendship, it produced some of the actors' most revered and enduring productions, beginning with The Black Cat (1934) and continuing with Gift of Gab (1934),th had cameos.

Karloff reprised the role of Frankenstein's monster in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) for James Whale. Then he and Lugosi were reunited for The Raven (1935).

Karloff went to Columbia to make The Black Room (1935) then he returned to Universal for The Invisible Ray (1936) with Lugosi, more a science fiction film.

Karloff went to Warners to do a horror, The Walking Dead (1936).

Non Horror Period

Britain banned horror films, leading to a decline in horror films in the second half of the 1930s. Karloff went into other genres, making two films in Britain, Juggernaut (1936) and The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936).

He returned to Hollywood to play a support role in Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936) then did a science fiction film,Night Key (1937).

At Warners he did two films with John Farrow: playing a Chinese warlord in West of Shanghai (1937) and a mystery, The Invisible Menace (1938).

Karloff went to Monogram to play the title role in Mr. Wong, Detective (1938), a Chinese detective which led to a series. Karloff's portrayal of the character is an example of Hollywood's use of yellowface and its portrayal of East Asians in the earlier half of the 20th century.

He had another heroic role in Devil's Island (1939).

Son of Frankenstein and Horror Revival

Universal had great success reissuing Dracula and Frankenstein so decided to start making horror films again starting with Son of Frankenstein (1939). Karloff reprised his role, with Lugosi co starring as Ygor and Basil Rathbone as Frankenstein.

After The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939) and Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) he signed a three picture deal with Columbia, starting with The Man They Could Not Hang (1939).

Karloff returned to Universal to make Tower of London (1939) with Rathbone, playing the murderous henchman of King Richard III.

British Intelligence (1940) still 1
Karloff with Margaret Lindsay in British Intelligence

Karloff made a fourth Mr Wong film at Monogram The Fatal Hour (1940). At Warners he was in British Intelligence (1940), then he went to Universal to do Black Friday (1940) with Lugosi.

Karloff's second and third film for Columbia was The Man with Nine Lives (1940) and Before I Hang (1940). In between he did a fifth and final Mr Wong film, Doomed to Die (1940).

Karloff appeared at a celebrity baseball game as Frankenstein's monster in 1940, hitting a gag home run and making catcher Buster Keaton fall into an acrobatic dead faint as the monster stomped into home plate.

Karloff finished a six picture commitment with Monogram with The Ape (1940). He and Lugosi appeared in a comedy at RKO, You'll Find Out (1941), then he went to Columbia for The Devil Commands (1941) and The Boogie Man Will Get You (1941).

The 1940s and 1950s

Doomed to Die (1940) 1
L-R: Marjorie Reynolds, Boris Karloff (seated), Raymond Hatton and Grant Withers in Doomed to Die (1940)

Arsenic and Old Lace

An enthusiastic performer, he returned to the Broadway stage in the original production of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1941, in which he played a homicidal gangster enraged to be frequently mistaken for Karloff. Frank Capra cast Raymond Massey in the 1944 film, which was shot in 1941, while Karloff was still appearing in the role on Broadway (the play's producers allowed the film to be made under the condition that it not be released until the play closed). (He reprised the role on television in the anthology series The Best of Broadway (1955), and with Tony Randall and Tom Bosley in a 1962 production on the Hallmark Hall of Fame.)

In 1944, he underwent a spinal operation to relieve his chronic arthritic condition.[17]

Return to Films

Karloff returned to films in The Climax (1944), an unsuccessful attempt to repeat the popularity of Phantom of the Opera (1943).

More liked was House of Frankenstein (1944), where Karloff played the villainous Dr. Niemann and the monster was played by Glenn Strange.

He reprised the role of the "mad scientist" in 1958's Frankenstein 1970 as Baron Victor von Frankenstein II, the grandson of the original creator. The finale reveals that the crippled Baron has given his own face (i.e., Karloff's) to the monster.

Val Lewton

Karloff made three films for Val Lewton at RKO: The Body Snatcher (1945), his last teaming with Lugosi, Isle of the Dead (1945) and Bedlam (1946).

In a 1946 interview with Louis Berg of the Los Angeles Times, Karloff discussed his arrangement with RKO, working with Lewton and his reasons for leaving Universal. Karloff left Universal because he thought the Frankenstein franchise had run its course. Berg wrote that the last installment in which Karloff appeared—House of Frankenstein—was what he called a "'monster clambake,' with everything thrown in—Frankenstein, Dracula, a hunchback and a 'man-beast' that howled in the night. It was too much. Karloff thought it was ridiculous and said so". Berg explained that the actor had "great love and respect for" Lewton, who was "the man who rescued him from the living dead and restored, so to speak, his soul."[18]

Non Horror Films

Horror films experienced a decline in popularity after the war, and Karloff found himself in other genres.

For the Danny Kaye comedy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), Karloff appeared in a brief but starring role as Dr. Hugo Hollingshead, a psychiatrist. Director Norman Z. McLeod shot a sequence with Karloff in the Frankenstein monster make-up, but it was deleted from the finished film.

Karloff appeared in a film noir, Lured (1947), and as an Indian in Unconquered (1947). He had support roles in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), Tap Roots (1948), and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

Boris Karloff radio show WNEW 1950
Karloff had his own weekly children's radio show on WNEW, New York, in 1950. He played children's music and told stories and riddles. Although the programme was meant for children, Karloff attracted many adult listeners as well.

During this period, Karloff was also a frequent guest on radio programmes, whether it was starring in Arch Oboler's Chicago-based Lights Out productions (including the episode "Cat Wife") or spoofing his horror image with Fred Allen or Jack Benny. In 1949, he was the host and star of Starring Boris Karloff, a radio and television anthology series for the ABC broadcasting network.

Peter Pan

He also appeared as the villainous Captain Hook in the play Peter Pan with Jean Arthur.

Karloff returned to horror films with The Strange Door (1951) and The Black Castle (1952).

He was nominated for a Tony Award for his work opposite Julie Harris in The Lark, by the French playwright Jean Anouilh, about Joan of Arc, which was reprised on Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Red Skelton Boris Karloff Red Skelton Show 1954
Karloff played a foreign scientist who hoped to gain defence secrets from Cookie the Sailor (Skelton) on The Red Skelton Show in 1954.

During the 1950s, he appeared on British television in the series Colonel March of Scotland Yard, in which he portrayed John Dickson Carr's fictional detective Colonel March, who was known for solving apparently impossible crimes. Christopher Lee appeared alongside Karloff in the episode "At Night, All Cats are Grey" broadcast in 1955.[19] A little later, Karloff co-starred with Lee in the film Corridors of Blood (1958).

Karloff appeared in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1952) and went to Italy for The Island Monster (1954) and India for Sabaka (1954).

Karloff, along with H. V. Kaltenborn, was a regular panelist on the NBC game show, Who Said That? which aired between 1948 and 1955. Later, as a guest on NBC's The Gisele MacKenzie Show, Karloff sang "Those Were the Good Old Days" from Damn Yankees while Gisele MacKenzie performed the solo, "Give Me the Simple Life". On The Red Skelton Show, Karloff guest starred along with horror actor Vincent Price in a parody of Frankenstein, with Red Skelton as "Klem Kadiddle Monster". He served as host and frequent star of the anthology series The Veil (1958) which was never broadcast due to financial problems at the producing studio; the complete series was rediscovered in the 1990s.

Karloff made some horror films in the late 1950s: Voodoo Island (1957), The Haunted Strangler (1958), Frankenstein 1970 (1958) (as the Baron), and Corridors of Blood (1958).

Last years

Karloff donned the monster make-up for the last time in 1962 for a Halloween episode of the TV series Route 66, which also featured Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr.[20]

During this period, he hosted and acted in a number of television series, including Thriller and Out of This World.

AIP

Karloff appeared in Black Sabbath (1963) directed by Mario Bava. He made The Raven (1963) for Roger Corman at AIP. Corman used Karloff in The Terror (1963). He made a cameo in AIP's Bikini Beach (1964) and had a bigger role in that studio's The Comedy of Terrors (1964), and Die, Monster, Die! (1965). British actress Suzan Farmer, who played his daughter in the film, later recalled Karloff was aloof during production "and wasn’t the charming personality people perceived him to be".[21]

In 1966, Karloff also appeared with Robert Vaughn and Stefanie Powers in the spy series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., in the episode "The Mother Muffin Affair," Karloff performed in drag as the titular character.

That same year, he also played an Indian Maharajah on the installment of the adventure series The Wild Wild West titled "The Night of the Golden Cobra".

In 1967, he played an eccentric Spanish professor who believes himself to be Don Quixote in a whimsical episode of I Spy titled "Mainly on the Plains".

Karloff's last film for AIP was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1967).

The Grinch

In the mid-1960s, he enjoyed a late-career surge in the United States when he narrated the made-for-television animated film of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and also provided the voice of the Grinch, although the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" was sung by the American voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft. The film was first broadcast on CBS-TV in 1966. Karloff later received a Grammy Award for "Best Recording For Children" after the recording was commercially released.[22] Because Ravenscroft (who never met Karloff in the course of their work on the show)[23] was uncredited for his contribution to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, his performance of the song was often mistakenly attributed to Karloff.

He appeared in Mad Monster Party? (1967) and starred in the second feature film of the British director Michael Reeves,The Sorcerers (1966).

Targets

Karloff starred in Targets (1968), a film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, featuring two separate stories that converge into one. In one, a disturbed young man kills his family, then embarks on a killing spree. In the other, a famous horror-film actor contemplates then confirms his retirement, agreeing to one last appearance at a drive-in cinema. Karloff starred as the retired horror film actor, Byron Orlok, a thinly disguised version of himself; Orlok was facing an end of life crisis, which he resolved through a confrontation with the gunman at the drive-in cinema.

Final Films

Around the same time, he played occult expert Professor Marsh in a British production titled The Crimson Cult (Curse of the Crimson Altar, also 1968), which was the last Karloff film to be released during his lifetime.

He ended his career by appearing in four low-budget Mexican horror films: Isle of the Snake People, The Incredible Invasion, Fear Chamber and House of Evil. This was a package deal with Mexican producer Luis Enrique Vergara. Karloff's scenes were directed by Jack Hill and shot back-to-back in Los Angeles in the spring of 1968. The films were then completed in Mexico. All four were released posthumously, with the last, The Incredible Invasion, not released until 1971, two years after Karloff's death. Cauldron of Blood, shot in Spain in 1967 and co-starring Viveca Lindfors, was also released after Karloff's death.

While shooting his final films, Karloff suffered from emphysema. Only half of one lung was still functioning and he required oxygen between takes.

Spoken word recordings and horror anthologies

He recorded the title role of Shakespeare's Cymbeline for the Shakespeare Recording Society (Caedmon Audio). The recording was originally released in 1962. A download of his performance is available from audible.com. He also recorded the narration for Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra under Mario Rossi.

Records he made for the children's market included Three Little Pigs and Other Fairy Stories, Tales of the Frightened (volume 1 and 2), Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories and, with Cyril Ritchard and Celeste Holm, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes,[24] and Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.[25]

Karloff was credited for editing several horror anthologies, commencing with Tales of Terror (Cleveland and NY: World Publishing Co, 1943) (compiled with the help of Edmond Speare).[26] This wartime-published anthology went through at least five printings to September 1945. It has been reprinted recently (Orange NJ: Idea Men, 2007). Karloff's name was also attached to And the Darkness Falls (Cleveland and NY: World Publishing Co, 1946); and The Boris Karloff Horror Anthology (London: Souvenir Press, 1965; simultaneous publication in Canada - Toronto: The Ryerson Press; US pbk reprint NY: Avon Books, 1965 retitled as Boris Karloff's Favourite Horror Stories; UK pbk reprints London: Corgi, 1969 and London: Everest, 1975, both under the original title), though it is less clear whether Karloff himself actually edited these.

Tales of the Frightened (Belmont Books, 1963), though based on the recordings by Karloff of the same title, and featuring his image on the book cover, contained stories written by Michael Avallone; the second volume, More Tales of the Frightened, contained stories authored by Robert Lory. Both Avallone and Lory worked closely with Canadian editor and book packager Lyle Kenyon Engel, who also ghost-edited a horror story anthology for horror film star Basil Rathbone.

Personal life

Beginning in 1940, Karloff dressed as Father Christmas every Christmas to hand out presents to physically disabled children in a Baltimore hospital.[27] He never legally changed his name to "Boris Karloff." He signed official documents "William H. Pratt, a.k.a. Boris Karloff."[28]

He was a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, and he was especially outspoken due to the long hours he spent in makeup while playing Frankenstein's Monster. [29]

He married five times and had one child, daughter Sara Karloff, by his fourth wife. One marriage was in 1946 right after his divorce.[30][31] At the time of his daughter's birth, he was filming Son of Frankenstein and reportedly rushed from the film set to the hospital while still in full makeup.[32]

Death

He spent his retirement in England at his country cottage named Roundabout in the Hampshire village of Bramshott. A longtime heavy smoker, he had emphysema which left him with only half of one lung still functioning.[33] He contracted bronchitis in 1968 and was hospitalised at University College Hospital.[34][35] He died of pneumonia at the King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, in Sussex, on 2 February 1969, at the age of 81.[36][3]

His body was cremated following a requested modest service at Guildford Crematorium, Godalming, Surrey, where he is commemorated by a plaque in the Garden of Remembrance. A memorial service was held at St Paul's, Covent Garden (the Actors' Church), London, where there is also a plaque.

During the run of Thriller, Karloff lent his name and likeness to a comic book for Gold Key Comics based upon the series. After Thriller was cancelled, the comic was retitled Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery. An illustrated likeness of Karloff continued to introduce each issue of this publication for more than a decade after his death; the comic lasted until the early 1980s. In 2009, Dark Horse Comics began publishing reprints of Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery in a hard-bound edition.

Legacy

For his contribution to film and television, Boris Karloff was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1737 Vine Street for motion pictures, and 6664 Hollywood Boulevard for television.[37] Karloff was featured by the U.S. Postal Service as Frankenstein's Monster and the Mummy in its series "Classic Monster Movie Stamps" issued in September 1997.[38] In 1998, an English Heritage blue plaque was unveiled in his hometown in London. The British film magazine Empire in 2016 ranked Karloff's portrayal as Frankenstein's monster the sixth-greatest horror movie character of all time.[39]

Radio appearances

Program Episode Date Notes
Lights Out "The Dream" March 23, 1938 [40]
Lights Out "Valse Triste" March 30, 1938 [41]
Lights Out "The Cat Wife" April 6, 1938 [42]
Lights Out "Three Matches" April 13, 1938 [43]
Lights Out "Night on the Mountain" April 20, 1938 [44]
Screen Guild Players "Arsenic and Old Lace" November 25, 1946 [45]
Lights Out "Death Robbery" July 16, 1947 [46]
Lights Out "The Ring" July 30, 1947 [47]
Philip Morris Playhouse "Journey to Nowhere" February 10, 1952 [48]
Theatre Guild on the Air "The Sea Wolf" April 27, 1952 [49]
Musical Comedy Theater "Yolanda and the Thief" November 26, 1952 [50]

See also

References

  1. ^ "The Monster's Daughter". SFGate. 2006-05-28. Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, 5 February 1969, page 71.
  3. ^ a b Biography Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  4. ^ A commemorative plaque can be seen today on the property marking it as the place of his birth
  5. ^ This Is Your Life TV Show (2:46)
  6. ^ Jacobs, Stephen (Spring 2007). "Karloff in Saskatchewan". Saskatchewan History. 59 (1). ISSN 0036-4908. OCLC 2443952.
  7. ^ Nollen, Scott Allen. Boris Karloff: A Gentleman’s Life. Midnight Marquee & BearManor Media. p. 19.
  8. ^ Nollen, Scott Allen (1991). Boris Karloff: A Critical Account of His Screen, Stage, Radio, Television, and Recording Work. McFarland & Company. p. 24. ISBN 9780899505800.
  9. ^ Nollen, Scott A.; Sara Jane Karloff (1999). Boris Karloff: A Gentleman's Life. Baltimore: Midnight Marquee Press. p. 18. ISBN 1-887664-23-8.
  10. ^ "Boris Karloff". This Is Your Life. Season 6. 20 November 1957. NBC. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  11. ^ "Karlov Surname Distribution". forebears.co.uk. Retrieved 14 February 2015
  12. ^ Mank, Gregory William (2009). Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff : the expanded story of a haunting collaboration, with a complete filmography of their films together. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., Publishers. p. 140. ISBN 0786434805.
  13. ^ Waiser, William A. (2005). Saskatchewan: A New History. Calgary: Fifth House. ISBN 1-894856-43-0.
  14. ^ Beverley Bare Buehrer. 'Boris Karloff: A Bio-bibliography'. Greenwood Press: Westport, Connecticut (1993), pages 5–6.
  15. ^ Buehrer, Beverley B. (1993). Boris Karloff: A bio-bibliography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. p. 88. ISBN 031327715X
  16. ^ Douglas W. Churchill, 'The Year in Hollywood: 1984 May Be Remembered as the Beginning of the Sweetness-and-Light Era', The New York Times, December 30, 1934: X5
  17. ^ "Karloff Undergoes Operation". The New York Times. July 25, 1944.
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External links

Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (the film's poster title), or Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (the onscreen title)—usually referred to as simply Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff—is a 1949 horror comedy film directed by Charles Barton starring Abbott and Costello and Boris Karloff.

In 1956 the film was re-released along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Black Friday (1940 film)

Black Friday is a 1940 American science fiction film starring Boris Karloff. Béla Lugosi, although second-billed, has only a small part in the film and does not appear with Karloff.

Writer Curt Siodmak would revisit this theme again in Donovan's Brain (1953) and Hauser's Memory (1970).

Boris Karloff filmography

This is the filmography of Boris Karloff. Born as William Henry Pratt, he joined a touring company and adopted the stage name Boris Karloff. During these early stages of his career he was mostly left in obscurity. By 1919, Karloff found regular work as an extra at Universal Studios. Karloff's first significant hit film was in Howard Hawks's The Criminal Code (1931). While shooting Graft, director James Whale convinced Karloff to star as a character in one of his most popular roles as Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein which led to him becoming an overnight superstar. After Frankenstein and starring in several high-profile films such as Bride of Frankenstein and Scarface, Karloff spent the remainder of the 1930s continuing to work at an incredible pace, but progressively more into less financially successful films. Karloff starred in a few acclaimed Val Lewton produced horror films of the 1940s and by the mid-1950s, he was a familiar presence on television hosting his own series including Thriller and The Veil and guest starring on such variety programs as The Donald O'Connor Show.

In the 1960s, Karloff was a fixture at Roger Corman's American International Pictures. His final American film was Peter Bogdanovich's Targets, portraying an aging horror film star.

Frankenstein 1970

Frankenstein 1970 is a 1958 science fiction/horror film, shot in black and white CinemaScope, starring Boris Karloff and featuring Don "Red" Barry. The independent film was directed by Howard W. Koch, written by Richard Landau and George Worthing Yates and produced by Aubrey Schenck. It was released theatrically in some markets on a double feature with the Zsa Zsa Gabor film Queen of Outer Space.

Night Key

Night Key is a science fiction crime film starring Boris Karloff and released by Universal Pictures in 1937.

Tap Roots

Tap Roots is a 1948 Technicolor Western war film set during the American Civil War. It is very loosely based on the true life story of Newton Knight, a farm owner who attempted to secede Jones County from Mississippi.Made by Walter Wanger Productions and Universal Pictures, it was directed by George Marshall and produced by Walter Wanger from a screenplay by Alan Le May, based on the 1942 novel Tap Roots by James H. Street, with additional dialogue by Lionel Wiggam. The original music was by Frank Skinner and the cinematography by Winton C. Hoch and Lionel Lindon.

The film stars Van Heflin and Susan Hayward with Boris Karloff, Julie London, Whitfield Connor, Ward Bond and Richard Long.

A radio version of Tap Roots, with Van Heflin, Susan Hayward and Richard Long reprising their film roles, was broadcast by the Lux Radio Theatre on September 27, 1948.

The Black Castle

The Black Castle is a 1952 American film noir thriller horror film directed by Nathan H. Juran starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday and Lon Chaney, Jr.. It was produced by William Alland, who would have better success two years later with Creature from the Black Lagoon. The film was made in the United States but premiered in Sweden.

The Black Cat (1934 film)

The Black Cat is a 1934 American Pre-Code horror film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff. The picture was the first of eight movies (six of which were produced by Universal) to pair the two iconic actors. It became Universal Pictures' biggest box office hit of the year, and was also notable for being one of the first movies with an almost continuous music score. Lugosi also appeared in the 1941 film with the same title.

The Golden Web

The Golden Web is a lost 1926 American drama film directed by Walter Lang and featuring Boris Karloff.

The House of Frankenstein (film)

House of Frankenstein is a 1944 American monster crossover horror film starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr., directed by Erle C. Kenton, written by Curt Siodmak, and produced by Universal Studios as a sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Son of Dracula the previous year. The cast includes a mad scientist (Karloff), the Wolf Man (Chaney), Count Dracula (John Carradine), a hunchback (J. Carrol Naish), and Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange). This "monster rally" approach would continue in the following film, House of Dracula, as well as the 1948 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

The Invisible Ray (1936 film)

The Invisible Ray is a 1936 American black-and-white science fiction film melodrama from Universal Pictures, produced by Edmund Grainger, directed by Lambert Hillyer, that stars Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi.

A scientist creates a telescope-like device that captures light-waves from the Andromeda Galaxy, giving him a way to view the distant past. He and several colleagues go to Africa to locate a large, unusual meteorite the light-waves showed fell there a billion years ago. After discovering that the meteorite is composed of a poisonous unknown element, "Radium X", he begins to glow in the dark and his touch becomes deadly. These radiation effects also begin to slowly drive him mad.

The Mummy (1932 film)

The Mummy is a 1932 American pre-Code horror film directed by Karl Freund. The screenplay by John L. Balderston was from a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer. Released by Universal Studios, the film stars Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan and Arthur Byron. The film is about an ancient Egyptian mummy named Imhotep who is discovered by a team of archeologists and inadvertently brought back to life through a magic scroll. Disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy searches for his lost love, whom he believes has been reincarnated into a modern girl.

The Raven (1935 film)

The Raven is a 1935 American horror film directed by Lew Landers (billed under his real name, Louis Friedlander) and starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi. The picture revolves around Edgar Allan Poe's famous homonymous poem, featuring Lugosi as a Poe-obsessed mad surgeon with a torture chamber in his basement and Karloff as a fugitive murderer desperately on the run from the police. Lugosi had the lead role but Karloff received top billing, using only his last name, Universal Studio's publicity strategy during much of the decade while Karloff was at his height, ending with Son of Frankenstein (1939), in which Boris Karloff was billed with his full name under the titular Basil Rathbone but again above Bela Lugosi despite the Hungarian actor having a larger role.

Almost three decades later, Karloff also appeared in another film with the same title, Roger Corman's 1963 comedy The Raven with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson. Aside from the title and references to the poem, the two films bear no resemblance to one another.

The Raven (1963 film)

The Raven is a 1963 American independent B movie/horror-comedy film produced and directed by Roger Corman. The film stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff as a trio of rival sorcerers. The supporting cast features a young Jack Nicholson as Lorre's character's son.

It was the fifth in the so-called Corman-Poe cycle of eight films largely featuring adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories produced by Roger Corman and released by AIP. The film was written by Richard Matheson, based on references to Poe's poem "The Raven".

Three decades earlier, Karloff had appeared in another film with the same title, Lew Landers's 1935 horror film The Raven with Bela Lugosi.

The Strange Door

The Strange Door is a 1951 American film noir thriller horror film, released by Universal Pictures, and starring Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Sally Forrest and Richard Stapley. Karloff's role is actually a supporting one but his name carried significant weight in the billing. The picture was directed by Joseph Pevney and was based on the short story "The Sire de Maletroit's Door" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Its alternative title was Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Door.

The Vanishing Rider

The Vanishing Rider is a 1928 Western film serial directed by Ray Taylor and featuring William Desmond and Ethlyne Clair. Boris Karloff was also in the cast. The film is now considered to be lost.

The Walking Dead (1936 film)

The Walking Dead is a 1936 American horror film distributed by Warner Bros., directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Boris Karloff, who plays a wrongly executed man who is restored to life by a scientist (Edmund Gwenn). The supporting cast features Ricardo Cortez, Marguerite Churchill and Barton MacLane.

Thriller (U.S. TV series)

Thriller (also known as Boris Karloff's Thriller) is an American anthology television series that aired during the 1960–61 and 1961–62 seasons on NBC. The show featured host Boris Karloff introducing a mix of macabre horror tales and suspense thrillers.

Universal Classic Monsters

Universal Classic Monsters is a phrase used to describe the horror, fantasy, suspense and science fiction films made by Universal Pictures during the decades of the 1920s through the 1950s. They began with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, both silent films starring Lon Chaney. Universal continued with talkies including monster franchises Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The films often featured Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.

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