Boris Karloff is one of the greatest horror actors of all time. Here we will gain some insight on the legend by way of his daughter, Sara. Before I begin, I want to thank Sara for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Thanks Sara!
“Boris Karloff – The Legend”
JOHN: Of all of the many Boris Karloff movies, which were his favorites? What character, that Boris portrayed, does he most identify with?
SARA: I think my father had favorite films at different times for different reasons. Obviously “Frankenstein” made such a difference in his life both personally and professionally that he was always grateful for that. It kept him a working actor for the rest of his life and allowed him to establish a “trademark” in his profession. It also allowed him to spoof his own bogeyman image later on TV and in films, such as “The Raven” and “A Comedy of Terrors”, where he and Vincent Price and Peter Lorre had such a good time on the sets.
He really enjoyed working with Val Lewton on “The Body Snatcher” and “Bedlam” and “Isle of the Dead”…good scripts and good Director, done in black and white with lots of atmosphere and engaging the audience.. He enjoyed immensely doing Targets with Peter Bogdonovich whom he admired and liked. He liked the film and the role.
JOHN: Describe Boris Karloff’s television career, being that televisions had become popular at the height of his career.
SARA: He was one of the few Hollywood “stars” who embraced early television, and he did so much TV guesting on every popular show of the day and had his own series “Thriller” here and “Colonel March” in England.
JOHN: He seemed to love children with several of his children-oriented projects, such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (1966), “Mad Monster Party” (1967) and recorded many successful albums of children’s stories. Any memories or thoughts on this?
SARA: He loved working with kids. They were not afraid of the Monster. He always said they “got it”, that the creature was the victim and not the perpetrator.
He enjoyed recording the 20-some children’s albums and working on Broadway in “Peter Pan”. He loved the kids coming back stage to try on his hook.
Of course, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” is such a very special legacy to have left the world’s children, and his family each Christmas. He actually left an indelible imprint on 2 holidays…Halloween and Christmas.
JOHN: Actors, like Lon Chaney, Jr., used their father’s name due to studio pressure to build on his father’s success. Boris Karloff’s birth name was William Henry Pratt. How and why was that specific name chosen?
SARA: My Father always said that Karloff came from way back on his Mother’s side of the family and that Boris “came from thin air”. He never took the name legally. I don’t really know when he changed it, but it was when he was in British Columbia I think during his repertory theater days.
JOHN: I’m not sure if you can answer these but if you could, that would be great. Are there any actors that influenced and inspired Boris?
SARA: I know how much my father admired Lon Chaney Sr., but who actually influenced his acting style I don’t know, probably someone from his early days on stage.
JOHN: It’s been said that his favorite author was Joseph Conrad (famous author of “Lord Jim” and “Heart of Darkness”). Why?
SARA: I know Conrad was my Father’s favorite author. He was a voracious reader.
“Boris Karloff – Taking it in Stride”
JOHN: Boris truly didn’t seem to ever complain about being typecast in the horror genre. Did he ever speak of it?
SARA: He felt he was jolly lucky to have been able to have established a ‘trademark’ within his profession. He would ask: “Isn’t that what we all strive for, no matter what our profession might be?”
JOHN: I read that Boris’ health (mainly chronic back problems beginning with his Frankenstein monster costume) caused him pain which, ultimately, required surgery. Did he ever mention his pain much at home or on-the-set?
SARA: Making the Frankenstein film was grueling. He lost 25 pounds and the makeup alone took 4 hours each morning to put on and almost that long each night to take off. He did injure his back during that film, and during his life he had 3 back surgeries. He never complained on or off the set. He was the consummate professional.
“Sara Karloff’s Memories”
JOHN: Did you ever spend time on the studio set with your father? If so, what was it like to meet the other actors and actresses?
SARA: I was lucky enough to visit my father on several sets, both film and TV and also was able to take my 2 boys a couple of times. Neither they nor I ever had any acting ambitions though.
“Boris Karloff – The Future Legacy”
JOHN: What is in the works for upcoming Karloff video releases and merchandise? I read that you are interested in some kind of reprinting of the old comics based on Boris’ old comic books. I hope that comes to fruition. I know I’m interested!
SARA: I am working now on finding a publisher and some new writers for reissuing my Father’s wonderful comic book series from the 1960s, “Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery”. I’m very excited about this project.
JOHN: “Thriller” is one of Boris’ most long overdue project not to get the DVD treatment. Are there any movies or TV series of Boris’ which you would most like to see released to DVD? which are they?
SARA: I wish I could influence Universal to release ” Thriller” on DVD. I can’t imagine why they haven’t. The fans are always asking for it. I have no say in what is released by the studios.
JOHN: In September 1997, the U.S. Post Office released a set of five 32-cent commemorative postage stamps, celebrating famous movie monsters. Two of those five were Boris as “Frankenstein” (1931) and “The Mummy” (1932). How did you feel to have your father be given this prestigious distinction?
SARA: The commemorative stamps which honored Bela and Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr and my Father in 1997 were such a remarkable tribute to those men. The stamps were beautiful and working with the U.S. Post Office was a wonderful experience.
In 2003 my Father was featured on another U.S. Postage Stamp in the black and white 10 stamp series “Behind the Scenes” on the Makeup stamp honoring the work of Jack Pierce.
Stamp collectors tell me that other than U.S. Presidents, my Father is the only person to be on 3 U.S. commemorative stamps. Quite an honor!
JOHN: What legacy of your father do you wish be left behind for future generations?
SARA: My father left a remarkable legacy both personally and professionally. He is one of the very few people in that business about whom nothing negative was ever written or said. Almost everyone always prefaced their comments about him with “Oh, dear Boris,…”
When I’m asked what legacy I would wish left behind for my father for future generation my answer is that he has left his own remarkable, dignified, kind legacy which will be forever cherished by his family and fans.
JOHN: Thank you again for your time, Sara, and I want to thank the late Boris Karloff for the great memories that he left to the world of horror and everywhere he went! He’ll never be forgotten!