Boris Karloff


Like Frank Sinatra & Elvis, The Beatles & The Monkees, and Chaplin & Keaton, I think everyone has a favorite when it comes to Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff. You can like them both, but usually just one has a really special place in your heart. I love both of their movies to no end, but if the Boris Karloff DVD collection and the Bela Lugosi DVD collection were both dangling off the edge of a cliff, I know which one I would rescue. Sorry Bela*.

While I love almost all horror movies from the 1930's and 1940's (Val Lewton movies especially) Boris Karloff's performances always stand out as my favorites. A dedicated thespian, Karloff acted for nearly 20 years before being cast as the monster in Frankenstein in 1931. I think that his association with monster movies belittles what a great actor he was (not that great acting didn't exist in monster movies, but you know what I mean.) He brings a softness and depth to even the most ruthless, one dimensional roles. A mummy played by anyone else would be a body wrapped in linen, but Karloff makes it a character.

My favorite Karloff performance is in The Body Snatcher. Karloff plays John Gray, a grave robber who supplies stolen corpses to a slimy doctor, played by Henry Daniell. It's also my favorite scary movie, one that gives me chills (and often nightmares!) every time I watch it.



In real life, Boris Karloff was nothing like the villains and monsters he played onscreen. From what I've read, he seems to have been the sweetest man in Hollywood -- donating his time to cheer up disabled children every Christmas in a Baltimore hospital and recording numerous children's records over the years. Probably his most famous effort for children was his narration of The Grinch in 1966. In a way, The Grinch is almost like a symbol of Karloff, a combination of the man and the character. The monster with a heart of gold.

*Luckily Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff did star in quite a few films together, so there would be some overlap in my Karloff DVD collection :)

15 comments:

Matthew Coniam said...

Lugosi for me, should my collections end up anywhere near a cliff, but Karloff is amazing, and yes, I agree - especially in The Body Snatcher. Plus he got to appear in Targets - Bogdanovich's masterful tribute to golden age culture and values. If only Lugosi had lived long enough for such a valediction...

Raquelle said...

Very nice piece on Karloff Kate.

Millie said...

Kate, this is seriously THE SINGLE MOST BRILLIANT post I've ever read, heck it's the single most brilliant thing EVER written!

However, I keep getting this strange feeling of deja vu? Eh? Well, it's probably nothing!

Hmmmm....then I saw her face...now I'm a believer...

HAHAHAHA!

Tom said...

Besides the Black Cat, how many films did Lugosi and Karloff appear together in?

Kate Gabrielle said...

I think they were in five or six movies together.

orringrey said...

Lugosi and Karloff were in at least seven movies together, including The Body Snatcher. Also The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, Son of Frankenstein, Black Friday, and You'll Find Out.

Kate Gabrielle said...

well I was close..

Tom said...

Thanks!

Sarah said...

I love your Karloff artwork! I am reading Cagney by Cagney right now and his blurp on Karloff was thus: "Boris playing monsters was type casting in reverse".
I have only seen him in The Body Snatcher so far but I was quite impressed.

dgb said...

Kate, very nice tribute. Growing up during the prehistoric era--well, preDVD anyway--it was easy to think that no one felt the kinship to Karloff that I did. (Small town, friends more interested in baseball, etc. You know that story.)
Great blog. I'll be back.
Doug Bentin

Mercurie said...

Well, you already know Karloff is one of my favourite actors of all time. I definitely prefer him to Lugosi (although I like Bela too). I even wrote a long post on him on my blog for his 120th birthday! He was a great actor and from all reports one of the kindest, gentlest people one could know.

Sebina C. said...

Love both too - Karloff the most, though.

thewhiternoise said...

Hi, um I'm not sure if I'm contacting you the right way about your artwork, but I remember seeing a Fred Astaire artwork on your classic artwork page; however, as it no longer appears on the site, I was wondering if it was no longer for sale? I apologize if there's an easier way to contact you! Thanks :)

Kate Gabrielle said...

Hi! I think the only Fred Astaire painting I've done is this one:
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=34925854

I had some issues with flickr so a lot of my images on my blog aren't working right now, I need to re-upload most of them- but I have almost every single painting or drawing that I've done available for sale on one of these links:

http://www.kategabrielle.com/silentsandtalkies.html

http://www.kategabrielle.etsy.com

http://www.flapperdoodle.etsy.com

If you'd like to e-mail me my address is silentsandtalkies103@yahoo.com.

Thanks for commenting, I followed your link & found your blog!! It's fantastic! :D

Keith said...

While I love Bela, Boris is definitely my favorite of the two. I hope you're doing well. Take care. Cheers!