Boris Karloff

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Boris Karloff

Born

11/23/1887, Camberwell, London, England, UK

Died

2/2/1969

Birth Name

William Henry Pratt

Gender

Male

Also Known As

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9.6
out of 10
User Rating
14 votes

Biography

EDIT

The very first time William Henry Pratt stepped out onto the stage it was as the "Demon King." He was nine years old.



Those in attendance at the Enfield parish production of Cinderella that December evening in 1896 hadn't an inkling that they were participating in dramatic…more

Credits

Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • After his death, Boris was cremated, following a requested low-key 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.

    • Boris lived out his final years at his appropriately named cottage, 'Roundabout,' in the Hampshire village of Bramshott back in his home country of England.

    • Boris was known in real life as a very kindly gentleman who gave generously especially to children's charities.

    • Boris wasn't called to fight in WWI due to health reasons.

    • Boris once lived in Minot, North Dakota for a year, performing in an opera house above a hardware store.

    • Boris often claimed Russian ancestry to explain his exotic looks, though his daughter Sara Karloff publicly denied any knowledge of Slavic forebears.

    • Boris' maternal grandmother was Eliza Julia Edwards, a sister of Anna Leonowens, whose stories about life in the royal court of Siam (now Thailand) were the basis of the musical The King and I.

    • Boris was the son of Edward John Pratt Jr, the Deputy Commissioner of Customs, Salt and Opium, Northern Division, Indian Salt Revenue Service, and his third wife, Eliza Sarah Millard.

    • Boris' first goal in life was to join the foreign service -- his brother, Sir John Henry Pratt, became a distinguished British diplomat.

    • Boris attended Enfield Grammar School before moving to Uppingham School in Rutland, and eventually went on to the University of London.

    • Orphaned in his youth, Boris was raised by his elder brothers and sister.

    • Boris' natural eye colour was brown.

    • Boris lent his face and name to the comic book Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery which featured the actor narrating horror stories, Rod Serling-style. The comic continued to feature Karloff for more than a decade after his death.

    • Boris appeared in the following TV commercials:
      Schaeffer Pens in 1966
      Butternut Coffee in 1966
      Ronson Lighters in 1968
      A-1 Sauce in 1968
      Volkswagen in 1967

    • Boris received two Stars on the Walk of Fame. The first is for his contributions to the Motion Picture industry, it's located at 1735 Vine Street. The second is for his work in Television, and it's located at 6664 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA.

    • When Boris was told that Bobby "Boris" Pickett, who recorded the hit song "Monster Mash", was a big fan of his, by a mutual friend, Karloff replied, "tell him I enjoy his record very much." Pickett still considers that the greatest compliment he's ever gotten, and Karloff eventually sang the song himself on a television special.

    • Boris had East Indian heritage on this mother's side. This gave Karloff a dark skin tone. In silent films he was cast in roles such as Arabs and American Indians.

    • Boris' favorite author was Joseph Conrad. In the 1950s he was cast as Kurtz in a production of Conrad's Heart of Darkness on Playhouse 90 (1956).

    • When Boris traveled to England to shoot The Ghoul (1933), it was the first time in nearly 25 years that he returned to his home country and reunited with the surviving members of his family.

    • In the final years of Boris' life, walking, and even just standing, became a painful ordeal. Some filmmakers would modify his roles so that they could be performed in a wheel chair to make him more comfortable.

    • Boris had the habit of marking his lines in the script. Jack Nicholson saw this and adopted the procedure himself.

    • In 1956 Boris was a celebrity contestant on The $64,000 Question. The category he chose was children's fairy tales. He won the $32,000 level and quit due to tax considerations.

    • Often thought of as a very large man, Boris was in actuality a slim man of medium height who wore massive lifts and padding to look large as Frankenstein's monster.

    • On June 30, 1912, a then-unknown Boris had taken some time off to canoe while touring around the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. When he came back to the city, he returned to find his accomodation had been destroyed by a tornado that killed 28. He organized a concert that raised some much needed funds for the city.

    • According to his daughter, Sarah, Boris had to have 3 major back surgeries in his lifetime, which were first brought on by the scene in the original Frankenstein where he had to carry Colin Clive up several flights of stairs.

    • Boris refused to reprise his role as the Frankenstein Monster in Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), because he felt spoofs wouldn't sell to the audience.

    • Boris played cricket for Enfield Cricket Club (just north of London, England) before emigrating, and the club has his picture hanging in the pavilion.

    • When Boris died, the newspaper obituary featured a picture of Frankenstein's monster. Unfortunately, the image was actually Glen Strange in full make-up, not Karloff.

    • During the production of Frankenstein (1931) there was some concern that seven year old Marilyn Harris, who played Maria, the little girl thrown into the lake by the creature, would be overly frightened by the sight of Boris in costume and make-up to play the scene. When the cast was assembled to travel to the location, Marilyn ran from her car directly up to Karloff, who was in full make-up and costume, took his hand and asked "May I drive with you?" Delighted, and in typical Karloff fashion, he responded "Would you, darling?" She rode to the location in the star's limo with "The Monster."

    • Boris celebrated his 52nd birthday during the production of Son of Frankenstein (1939) and remarked that he received the best birthday present ever: the birth of his daughter Sara Jane. He reportedly rushed from the set to the hospital in full makeup and costume.

    • Boris was one of the founding Members of the Screen Actor's Guild. His daughter recounts that, due to the Hollywood Studio System's distrust of unions, one of her earliest memories of her father was that he always had carried a roll of dimes in his pocket. This was because he always had to use payphones when dealing with union business, since he knew his home phone had been tapped.

    • Boris was portrayed by Jack Betts in the film Gods and Monsters (1998).

    • Boris was considered a late bloomer in Hollywood. Frankenstein (1931) premiered when he was 44 years old.

    • Boris shared a birthday with his daughter Sara Karloff.

    • Boris was the great-nephew of Anna Leonowens.

    • Boris was 5' 11" (1.80 m) tall.

    • Boris' nickname was "The Uncanny."

    • Boris received a Tony nomination in 1956 for his dramatic role in The Lark.

    • Boris was the original inspiration for the first illustrations of the Incredible Hulk.

    • Boris was pictured on two of a set of five 32¢ US commemorative postage stamps, issued 30 September 1997, celebrating "Famous Movie Monsters". He is shown on one stamp as the title character in The Mummy (1932) and on the other as the monster in Frankenstein (1931).

  • Quotes

    • (After filming "Frankenstein 1970" in 1958.)
      Karloff: I'll never play the monster again because I have sentimental affection for the character. I owe him so much that I owe him a little respect, a little rest.

    • Boris Karloff (on his appeal to children, who empathized with the monster): I don't really scare them any more than do Jungle Jim, Dan Dunn, Tarzan, and the other heroes of the comic sections.

    • Boris Karloff: My wife has good taste. She has seen very few of my movies.

    • Boris Karloff: When I was nine I played the demon king in Cinderella and it launched me on a long and happy life of being a monster.

    • Boris Karloff (On whether or not he resented being typed as a "horror star): One always hears of actors complaining of being typed - if he's young, he's typed as a juvenile; if he's handsome, he's typed as a leading man. I was lucky. Whereas bootmakers have to spend millions to establish a trademark, I was handed a trademark free of charge. When an actor gets in a position to select his own roles, he's in big trouble, for he never knows what he can do best. I'm sure I'd be damn good as little Lord Fauntleroy, but who would pay ten cents to see it?

SUBMIT REVIEW
  • This is "The Horror Actor of the 20th Century"!!!

    10
    Boris Karloff, is without a doubt, the greatest Horror actor of the 20th century. From his days as traveling stock player to his wonderful roles in such films as "The Black Cat" and my personal favorite, "The Tower Of London", Karloff has proved his mettle. "Frankenstein", will never be anyone else, but Karloff. He brought such a sensitivity to the role that no other actor could have ever equaled. It is a shame that Karloff could not have been recognized for the sheer talent he was during his lifetime. He is now an icon and remembered as being the best "Monster" of all. Bravo, Mr.Karloff, I salute you, Sir!!!moreless
  • Boris Karloff was a brilliant amazing actor. If you never saw the movie Frankenstein (1931) then you are missing an amazing performance. As the creature he speaks no words but his hands and tortured face speak volume. An award winning performance!moreless

    10
    Brilliant and a masterful artist. His resonant voice which could entice you to believe his every word and then you realize your caught in his web. He was the master of darkness. My favorite movie of his is Frankenstein. As the monster, his performance is brilliant. I highly recommend to see an old classic starring Boris Karloff.
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