On this edition of Ron’s Amazing Blog, we will explore the American icon, Boris Karloff. We will do this with a good old-fashioned game of True or False. Can you guess the answer before you read it?
William Henry Pratt, better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor who was primarily known for his roles in horror films. He portrayed, most famously, Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939).
Q1 – Sure he was a great character actor, but could he… would he… do Doctor Seuss?
True – His best-known non-horror role was as the Grinch in the animated television special, 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.
Q2 – Boris has a blood link to the movie The King and I?
True – 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.
Q3 – It is said that Borris took his stage name from a mad scientist character,”Boris Karlov”, in the novel The Drums of Jeopardy.
False – That book was not published until 1920 and he was already using his stage name by then. Karloff always claimed he chose the first name “Boris” because it sounded foreign and exotic, and that “Karloff” was a family name from his Slavic roots. However, his daughter Sara Karloff publicly denied any knowledge of Slavic forebears. One verified reason for the name change was to prevent embarrassment to his family. His brothers were all dignified members of the British Foreign Service. He was considered the “black sheep of the family” for having become an actor or at least Karloff apparently worried they felt that way. He did not reunite with his family until he returned to Britain to make The Ghoul in 1933. He was worried that his siblings would disapprove of his macabre world fame. Instead, his brothers jostled for position around him and happily posed for publicity photographs. After the photos were taken, Karloff’s brothers immediately started asking about getting copies of their own. The story of the photo became one of Karloff’s favorites.
Q4 – The last time Boris donned the monster make-up was for the television series Route 66?
True – Karloff donned the monster make-up for the last time in 1962 for a Halloween episode of the TV series Route 66. As part of the story Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Peter Lorre meet to discuss whether their old monster costumes, they used in films, would still scare a TV audience today.
Q5 – Borris worked in Comic Books?
True – Karloff lent his name and likeness to Gold Key Comics based upon the television series Thriller. After Thriller was canceled, the comic was retitled Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery. An illustrated likeness of Karloff continued to introduce each issue of this publication for nearly a decade after his death. In fact, the comic lasted until the early 1980s.
Q6 – Borris delivered his only child in full monster makeup.
True – He married five times and had one child, daughter Sara Karloff, by his fourth wife. 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.
Boris Karloff was truly a special actor who graced us with some of our greatest tales and horrible nightmares. He spent his retirement in England at his country cottage named Roundabout in the Hampshire village of Bramshott. He contracted bronchitis in 1968 and was hospitalized at University College Hospital. He died of pneumonia at the King Edward VII Hospital on 2 February 1969, at the age of 81.
This Week’s Podcast:
On the show this week we will replay one of my favorite episodes from 2017. It is called Tales from Development Hell. You can listen to this podcast on Thursday at Ron’s Amazing Stories, download it from iTunes, stream it on Stitcher Radio or on the mobile version of Spotify. Do you prefer the radio? We are heard every Sunday Night at 8:00 PM (PST) on AMFM247.COM. Check your local listing or find the station closest to you at this link.
June 21 – RAS #333 – Growing Up!
June 28 – RAS #334 – Mason Henry Blue
July 05 – RAS #335 – The Adolphus Bride
July 12 – RAS #336 – Replay Episode #291
July 19 – RAS #337 – Growing Up 2!
July 26 – RAS #338 – Detective Week