BORIS KARLOFF Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Born William Henry Pratt, the son of a diplomat, he was educated at London University. Karloff’s initial goal in life was to become a diplomat like his father.


But in 1909, Karloff, then twenty one, and still known as William Pratt, eloped with Olive Wilton, the first of his five wives, and left England for Canada.


After working as a labourer, he joined a series of touring theatre companies, where he became known as a skilled character actor, often donning heavy makeup and playing men many years older. At this time he changed his name to something more in keeping with his new vocation.


Within eight years, Karloff had appeared in forty five silent films for Universal Studios, among them ‘The Last of the Mohicans’, ‘Forbidden Cargo’ and an instalment in the popular ‘Tarzan’ series.


When Bela Lugosi refused to take a role in which he would have his face hidden by makeup and have no lines, the role of The Monster in ‘Frankenstein’ went to Boris Karloff. From then on, Karloff was in dozens of similar films.


He departed from the horror genre only a few times, once in the 1934 film, ‘The Lost Patrol’, and a few times on stage - for example, as Captain Hook in ‘Peter Pan’. In the 1968 film, ‘Targets’, he parodied his earlier career.


He is also well known for providing the voice to the 1965 cartoon version of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’.


Karloff was known within the film industry for his great kindness and gentleness of manner; he was also central to the foundation of the Screen Actors Guild.


After battling emphysema for a number of years, Boris Karloff died at his home in England in February 1969.