"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."

British actor (1887-1969). Born William Henry Pratt at Camberwell in London. He was born into a family of diplomats, but became interested in acting and eventually moved to Canada, and then to the United States. He toured with a number of acting companies and had his film debut (as a lowly extra) in 1916's "The Dumb Girl of Portici." His career in Hollywood was dominated by minor roles as villains throughout the 1920s, and he got one of the biggest career boosts ever when he took over a part that horror star Bela Lugosi had turned down: Frankenstein's Monster in 1931's "Frankenstein." An immediate success, Karloff shot to the front of the horror-movie pack.

Though he acted in a whole bunch of horror movies (including 1932's "The Mummy" and "The Mask of Fu Manchu", 1935's "The Bride of Frankenstein", and 1939's "Son of Frankenstein"), he also took on many character roles in films ranging from "House of Rothschild" and "Tower of London" to "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and the 1932 version of "Scarface". He even played an aging horror movie star in 1968's "Targets", which is considered by some to be one of his best performances.

Karloff benefitted from a number of important collaborations with producers, directors and actors. He was directed by James Whale in "Frankenstein", "The Mummy", and "The Bride of Frankenstein". He and Lugosi teamed up for a series of films which are still well-regarded, including "The Black Cat", "The Raven", "The Invisible Ray", and "The Body Snatcher". He worked with low-budget producer Val Lewton in "The Body Snatcher", "Isle of the Dead", and "Bedlam". And producer Roger Corman presided over "The Raven", "The Terror", and "The Comedy of Terrors".

Karloff also enjoyed some success on Broadway, appearing in the 1941 run of "Arsenic and Old Lace" (playing a lunatic who's angry that a plastic surgeon has made him look like Boris Karloff) and playing Captain Hook in a production of "Peter Pan". He also guest-starred in many television shows in the 1950s and '60s, as well as acting in live TV plays. He starred in a series called "Colonel March of Scotland Yard" and was the host of an anthology series called "Thriller" in the early '60s. He was also the narrator of 1966's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (he didn't sing, though--that's Thurl Ravenscroft you hear singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch").

As the years went by, Karloff appeared in a huge number of absolute stinkers, sometimes for money, sometimes for contractual obligations, but he always had enough class and acting talent to make even the worst dreck worth watching. He had a number of respiratory problems, and he often had to take breaks while filming to go sit down and breathe through an oxygen mask. He died of emphysema in early February of 1969.

Karloff is still considered one of the giants of horror cinema. Though his image on film was as a grim and gaunt terror, in reality, he was considered a very quiet and cultured man. Even his speaking voice was different than fans of his films would've expected--he had a soft voice and often had to fake up a deep, guttural style of speaking in his movies. He had many friends, both inside and outside of the movie biz, and he loved children, recording a series of records of children's stories.

"One always hears of actors complaining of being typed - if he's young, he's typed as a juvenile; if he's handsome, he's typed as a leading man. I was lucky. Whereas bootmakers have to spend millions to establish a trademark, I was handed a trademark free of charge. When an actor gets in a position to select his own roles, he's in big trouble, for he never knows what he can do best. I'm sure I'd be damn good as little Lord Fauntleroy, but who would pay ten cents to see it?"


Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)