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Creator / Boris Karloff

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"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."

"I'm not so sure I want to be down in the cellar with him. Look at that puss. He looks like Boris Karloff."
Officer Klein in Arsenic and Old Lace, regarding Jonathan Brewster, who was originally played by Karloff himself
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Born William Henry Pratt, Boris Karloff (23 November 1887 -– 2 February 1969) was a much-beloved English-born character actor who worked in a variety of genres and whose career spanned fifty years (albeit all too often in films that were criminal wastes of his talents). He is most remembered, however, for his work in horror films (perhaps most particularly the Universal Horror cycles of the 1930s and 1940s), where his distinctively sinister lisping voice and gaunt, heavy-browed appearance were a definite advantage.

He was born as the youngest of nine siblings in Surrey (now London), England. Most of his brothers went into higher education and eventually all got jobs at different leves of the British diplomatic corps, and the young Willaim was originally set to follow in their footsteps, and studied for time at King's College London, but he eventually dropped out of university, and instead journeyed over the Atlantic to Canada where he occasionally worked as a farm labourer and did various odd jobs until happening upon acting. As he started acting in different theater troupes, he chose his stage name of Boris Karloff. From theater, he eventually drifted into acting on film as the medium started gaining popularity, and eventually he ended up in Hollywood, where he acted in bit part for years. Finally, at the age of 44, he had his major breakthrough as an actor, when he played the Monster in the 1931 version of Frankenstein. Karloff proved to be the breakout role of the film, and he since reprised the role several times, most notably in Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein.

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Among his other more famous roles are: the resurrected Egyptian villain Imhotep in The Mummy (1932), and supplying the narration for the classic Chuck Jones adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. In 1939, he appeared in the original run of the play Arsenic and Old Lace as a man whose plastic surgeon had watched too many horror movies; he was unable to appear in the film version because, ironically, his play contract had not yet run out.

His career in films waned somewhat in The '50s and Sixties, as he was reduced, more or less, to playing caricatures of himself in films such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966). He found more fulfilling work on television in this period; he starred in the series Colonel March of Scotland Yard, hosted (and sometimes acted in) the horror anthologies Thriller and The Veil, and guest starred on series such as The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (in drag!), The Wild Wild West and Route 66.

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Nearing the end of his career and life, he achieved a personal Crowning Moment of Awesome in the Peter Bogdanovich nail-biter Targets, playing... Byron Orlock, a veteran horror-movie actor nearing the end of his career and life. An earlier Real Life Crowning Moment Of Awesome occurred in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1912, when as an unknown actor in a travelling theatre troupe he led fundraising efforts to help the victims of a devastating tornado - and ended up raising more money for the victims than the federal government.

In an ironic twist the actor would have appreciated, for more than a decade after his death, he continued to entertain readers of the eponymous Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery comic book from Gold Key/Western Comics as he was depicted introducing each issue, Rod Serling-style, becoming a Posthumous Character. Between this and the fact How the Grinch Stole Christmas continued to air like clockwork every holiday well into the 21st century, it often comes as a shock to younger people to learn he died over a half-century ago.


Boris Karloff has appeared in the following works:


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