Boris Karloff


Boris Karloff


Boris Karloff, 1887-1969, British actor.

Karloff was born William Henry Pratt. In 1909 he traveled from his native England to Canada and thence to America, where he began getting small stage and film roles; his new stage name combined the surname of distant relations with "Boris," which he claims to have pulled "out of the air." In the teens he had become a popular stage villain, but by the late twenties and (especially) early in the Depression, Karloff's money had run out, and he was forced to support himself by driving a truck.

A series of small film parts—Criminal Code (1930), Five Star Final (1931), The Mad Genius (1931)—brought him to the attention of James Whale, who had been hired by Universal Studios to produce a film version of Frankenstein . Both Bela Lugosi and John Carradine had turned down the role for its lack of dialogue, but Karloff accepted. This was the deciding moment in his career, and throughout the thirties and forties Karloff was a widely sought actor.

Four years after the huge success of the first movie, Karloff reprised his role as the Monster in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Son of Frankenstein (1939), but after this latter vowed never again to appear in the role. As he later recalled:

There was not much left in the Monster to be developed. We had reached his limits. I saw that from here on, he would become rather an oafish prop, so to speak, in the last act of something like that, without any great stature.
He continued, however, to appear in various horror films, occasionally as "Dr. Frankenstein" himself, as in Frankenstein 1970 (1958).