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Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff (November 23, 1887 - February 2, 1969), born William Henry Pratt, was a famous actor in horror films. Born in London and educated at the University of London, Karloff's first goal in life was to become a diplomat, but instead he fell into acting. In 1908, he travelled to Canada and the USA, changing his name to something more in keeping with his new vocation. He made several silent films, before appearing as the Monster in Frankenstein (1931), the film that made his name.

Karloff was a very fine actor who played a wide variety of roles in other genres besides horror. He gave an excellent performance in the 1934 John Ford epic The Lost Patrol. He also narrated the famous cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Due to an error in the credits, it is sometimes erroneously stated that Karloff sang the famous song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" but this was in fact voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft.

In contrast to the characters he played on screen, Karloff was known in real life as a very kindly gentleman who gave generously especially to children's charities. Karloff was also a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, and was especially outspoken as regards working conditions on sets (some extremely hazardous) that actors were expected to deal with in the mid-1930s.

In a time when it was considered unacceptable for public figures to be any nationality other than European, Karloff claimed Russian ancestry to explain his exotic looks. In fact, some of his ancestors were from India. His daughter Sara publicly denied any knowledge of Russian forebears.

An enthusiastic performer, he was able to return to the Broadway stage in the original production of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1942. Somewhat less successful was his work in the J. B. Priestley play The Linden Tree . He also appeared with Jean Arthur as Captain Hook in the play Peter Pan, and was nominated for a Tony Award for his work opposite Julie Harris in The Lark .

In later years, Karloff hosted and acted in a number of television series, most notably Thriller and The Veil, the latter of which was never broadcast and only came to light in the 1990s. In the 1960s, Karloff successfully spoofed his image in the 1963 cult classic film The Terror , directed by Roger Corman, and appeared as "retired horror film actor" Byron Orlok (a lightly-disguised version of himself) in Peter Bogdanovich's critically acclaimed 1968 film Targets which was one of his final film appearances.

After battling emphysema for a number of years, Boris Karloff died from its complications at his home in Midhurst, Censored page, England on February 2, 1969 at the age of 81. He was interred in the Mount Cemetery in Guildford, Surrey, England. Three films Karloff shot in Mexico just prior to his death were released over a two-year period after his passing, but were dismissed as undistinguished efforts by critics.

External links

  • His profile in the Internet Movie Database

Last updated: 02-10-2005 19:43:42
Last updated: 02-24-2005 14:56:13