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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Boris Karloff At Home --- Part 2

Here’s something new I learned about Boris Karloff in Scott Allen Nollen’s excellent biography (get it HERE) --- In February, 1958, the "gentle monster" spent two weeks on the French location of Kings Go Forth, serving as an unofficial acting coach for Frank Sinatra! Nancy told Nollen that Boris was "a profound influence on my father". Wow. Just picture those two together, hashing out scenes. "You must learn to act with your voice as well as your face", said Frank’s tutor. Wonder if Karloff shared any of his acting wisdom with Tony Curtis or Natalie Wood (boy, could she have used it). Do you suppose Evie let him hang out with Frank much during off-hours? I’ll bet Sinatra was on his best behavior with Karloff around. Probably like a little kid with his schoolmaster. None of those ring-a-ding-ding anecdotes about bagging Joi Lansing back in Vegas. This is Boris Karloff, man. You don’t waste his time.

Well, here’s the rest of those neat pictures of Boris at home. I love the one with the flowers. He really liked his quiet time in the garden. Too bad his health wouldn’t permit it late in life, but at this point (around 1937), Karloff was a seasoned athlete (remember the cricket shot) and in top physical condition. Scholarly too, as those winnings from Information, Please and other radio quiz programs would soon demonstrate. He used to relax between set-ups by reciting poetry --- from memory, of course, and he’d retained volumes of it. You think Brad Pitt or Heath Ledger could swing that? Me neither. Look at that stack of books he’s carrying under his arm. The caption says he and his wife are stopping off at Southampton en route to Britain. I’ll bet he polished off every tome before they got there. I particularly like shots of stars in their libraries, and how about that coat Boris is wearing --- is that one of those cricket-player jackets? Seems I’ve seen these pictured somewhere before…anybody know? This last one at home shows Karloff filling a well-earned stein behind his own Hollywood reproduction of a "typical English Inn bar". Caption says he went to a lot of effort in recapturing the spirit of home in his Coldwater Canyon digs.

The devastatingly cool portrait with the overcoat and gloves was taken during Karloff’s sojourn at Gaumont-British. There was just no way that I could leave it out of this posting. There’s been so much written on Karloff --- much of it very good --- but one fact about this great actor never ceases to amaze me. Now, bear in mind, he lived 81 years, and was an above-the-title star all the way to the end. This man, who did most of his acting from a wheelchair, or at least seated, for fully half of the last decade of his life, was still playing leads in horror films! Still the recognized chiller king right down to the finish. Did anyone else ever do that, before or since? If they did, I don’t know about it. Well, maybe the answer lay in what Boris said to Frank --- act with your voice --- and with the voice he had, Karloff didn’t need to be ambulatory.


Anonymous Mike In Ohio said...

Great story about Karloff and Sinatra. Frank must have had a weakness for Horror stars as he was also a big Lugosi fan, visiting Bela at the hospital where he had checked himself in for rehab.I think Frank also gave Bela some money to help him durring this dark period of his life. Greay guy, Old blue eyes.

7:02 AM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

Upon seeing these pictures, Karloff puts me in the mind of Jeremy Irons for some reason. There is something of a resemblance between the two Englanders.

12:23 PM  
Blogger dr savaard said...

Something of a resemblance!!

See Irons as the villian in CASANOVA and you'll swear Karloff Walks Among Us!!

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too thought Jeremy Irons, especiallt the library shot.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I've been calling Irons "Boris Karloff" for years. I'd love to see him onstage in a revival of "Arsenic and Old Lace." Karloff appears to be wearing a cricket outfit in the flower picture, too.

2:37 AM  
Blogger Oscar Grillo said...

He was the most handsome monster in cinema history.(Excepting Godzilla, of course)

6:53 AM  
Blogger Ross Barnard said...

I was thinking how much the urbane, at-home Karloff reminds me of George Clooney nowadays.

2:36 AM  
Blogger David Marc Fischer said...

Happy Joi Lansing Day!

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have found least 6 other pics with him in cricket coat, but the Karloff-Wife-Coat: it's the one he has in the pic with H. G: Wells (Mank book, second print) and here: looks like The Body Snatcher. -- It's been around, that that part of wear, at least 10 years. Nothing goes to waste ...
He said he was a quick study - those got the lead parts in stock - so, he trained his memory, probably couldn't read a book without remembering every detail about it, marvellous!

9:43 AM  

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