Monday, October 19, 2009

Boris Karloff

We’re going to start the Halloween celebration this week with a not-so-scary look at a monster and a witch. Next week we’ll get into the scary stuff, which, ironically, has nothing to do with monsters or witches, but with the economy.

Above we have the Hollywood Walk of Fame star for Boris Karloff, one of two which honors the iconic actor. This one, you can see by the little TV below his name, is for his career in television. He did quite a few guest appearances on shows through the 1950s and ‘60s, and hosted the “Thriller” anthology. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame in this period is voicing The Grinch.

The Grinch wasn’t exactly a cuddly person, but he found redemption through being nice and returning the roast beast, cans of Who Hash, etc. Boris Karloff went through several phases in his real life as well, but he was always a much sweeter and gentler man than his monstrous characters.

Karloff’s real name was William Henry Pratt, who left his home in England to tour Canada and the USA in theatrical groups, filling in the lean times with manual labor. He took some minor roles in silent films to make ends meet, and was all of 44 years old before his big break came, “Frankenstein” in 1931.

After that enormous hit, it was hard for some to picture Mr. Karloff as anything else, but some who celebrate his famous horror film appearances may forget he was nominated for a Tony Award for his Broadway role in “The Lark”, a drama about Joan of Arc, with Julie Harris. Or, they may be unaware entirely that Karloff won a Grammy Award for his spoken record of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Karloff made other records as well, for children, reading fairy tales with his unique (but not very sinister this time) lisp.

There’s a story about Karloff recounted on the IDMb website where the crew of “Frankenstein” were concerned about the little girl in that famous scene would be terrified of Karloff when she first saw him in full makeup. No worries. She happily ran right up to her new buddy. Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster had something special that elicited our sympathy. Maybe it was something “human” about him.


Anonymous said...

When I think of him I believe in “human" nature.
Maybe because the line is very thin on the steps of the "monsters" and the "humans". I my country Karloff is famous and that's a miracle if you know what kind of cinema the people in my country liked.
The first film that I have seen with Karloff it was the last or from the lasts but I will not forget it

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"When I think of him I believe in “human" nature. Maybe because the line is very thin on the steps of the "monsters" and the "humans".

Very well put, Don Corleone.

John Hayes said...

I love weaving the Grinch into the story--I always forget that Karloff did that, & the animated version is such a great holiday movie. I think I liked Karloff in "The Mummy" as well as I do in "Frankenstein."

panavia999 said...

TCM, October 30 2009, is Boris Karloff Day!
Program your Tivos, DVR's, VCR's. ;-)

And the Boris Karlof Blogathon:

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, John. I think the "Grinch" is one of my most favorite Christmas cartoons. Karloff had such a spectacular voice.

Thanks, Panavia, for the heads up on TCM's Karloff Day and the blogathon. I didn't know about either one.

iasa said...

Heh, I intoduced my boys to The Old Dark House and The Body Snatcher this weekend by telling them the Grinch was in them!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Welcome, Iasa. That's funny.

Richard Hourula said...

Karloff is perhaps at his creepiest and scariest as a totally unethical reporter in Five Star Final. Love that lisp. Nice post, thanks.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks, Richard. I've not seen "Five Star Final", but I'll be on the lookout for it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wonder if Boris Karloff fans ever heard of a western movie (maybe made in three parts) each was about 30 minutes long and had Boris Karloff,Sammy Davis Jr and Victor Jory in it was on Tv in the 50ies when the all-metal, all-vacuum tube, "cube" by Phillips got into houses...
Ever heard of that?
Many thanks

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I've never heard of this movie, but maybe some of our readers will know. Thanks for stopping by.

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