Actor. For over four decades, he terrified movie audiences by playing monsters, mad scientists and other menacing characters. Karloff will be forever remembered for his portrayal of Frankenstein's creation "The Monster" in the classic 1931 picture "Frankenstein." He repeated the role in the sequel "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). In real life, Karloff (who possessed a memorable, gentle voice) was a charming, sweet and good nature person. A contrast to his on-screen characters. Born William Henry Pratt, in the London, England suburb of Dulwich his father Edward was a civil servant who died during William's early youth. He studied at King's College in London, initially preparing for a career as a diplomat, however he developed an interest in the theatre and after marrying for the first time, he relocated to Canada in 1910. During this period, he took the name Boris Karloff (the last name was from his mother's side) and worked his way to Western Canada, as he held such occupations as a land-clearer on a farm, shoveling coal and laying tracks for street- cars. After settling in Vancouver, he joined his first repertory company and would go on to perform in scores of plays in Canada and the United States over the next several years. During a stay in Los Angeles, he made his motion picture debut as an extra in the film "The Dumb Girl of Portici" (1916). For the next fifteen years, he played a wide range of parts, in scores of films, before achieving stardom as the "Frankenstein Monster." It took legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce several hours each day to perfect Karloff's appearance in preparation for filming. After the success of "Frankenstein," a rivalry between Bela Lugosi ("Dracula") and Karloff resulted. During the course of their careers, they collaborated on the films "The Black Cat" (1934), "The Raven" (1935), "Son of Frankenstein" (1939), "Black Friday" (1940), "You'll Find Out" (1940) and "The Body Snatcher" (1945). Karloff played the title role in the film "The Mummy" (1932), however he expanded his versatility with the character, the detective "Mr. Wong" from the film series. Other notable films during the 1930s include "Scarface" (1932), "The Lost Patrol" (1934) and "Charlie Chan at the Opera" (1936). In addition to films, he also appeared frequently on radio. He made his first impression on the Broadway stage with his origination of 'John Brewster' in the production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1941 to 1944). During the 1940s, he had memorable roles in the films "Bedlam" (1946), "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947) and "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome" (as 'Gruesome'). He showed a flair for comedy in "The Boogie Man Will Get You" (1942) and as the menacing 'Swami Talpur' in the Abbott and Costello picture "Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff" (1949). He was reunited with the comedy duo in the film "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1953). He had memorable performances playing 'Doctor Hook' in the Broadway production of "Peter Pan" (1950 to 1951) and received a Tony Award nomination for the play "The Lark" (1955 to 1956). He appeared less frequently in films during the 1950s, however he would have memorable roles in the pictures "The Haunted Strangler" (1957) and "Corridors of Blood" (1958), the later co-starred Christopher Lee who Karloff would share the screen with years later in the film "Curse of the Crimson Altar" (1968). In 1962, novelty singer Bobby Pickett scored a gold single with his impersonation of Karloff on the hit "Monster Mash." In 1963, Karloff was reunited with old friends Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone in the film "The Comedy of Terrors." He had worked with them in previous films; Price and Rathbone in "The Tower of London" (1939) and Lorre in "You'll Find Out" (1940) and "The Boogie Man Will Get You" (1942). During the 1960s, Karloff found himself more in demand thanks to a series of Roger Corman pictures which include "The Terror" (1963) and "The Raven" (1963). Other films include "Black Sabbath" (1964), "Die Monster Die!" (1965), "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini" (1965) and "Targets" (1968). Additionally during the decade, he hosted the popular TV series "Thriller" (1960 to 1962) and appeared as a guest star in such television programs as "The Wild, Wild West" (1966) and "I Spy" (1967). In 1967, he narrated the TV special "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and received a Grammy Award for his effort. Karloff's last films were a series of international pictures in which his scenes were filmed in a studio and later edited in. They include "The Snake People" (1968), "Cauldron of Blood" (1968) and "The Incredible Invasion" (1968). A longtime cigarette smoker, Karloff suffered from emphysema for which reduced his breathing capacity down to one half of functioning lung. During his last few pictures, he required breaks in order to intake oxygen. He died in a hospital in his native England. He was cremated at Guildford Crematorium and his ashes were placed in their Garden of Remembrance. Karloff was the recipient of two stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame for his work in film and television.
Bio by: C.S.
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