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Boris Karloff Sings!

Air Date: March 7, 1957

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Boris Karloff appears on the Rosemary Clooney Show on March 7,  1957.

The Holy Trinity of classic horror films is Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy. One man originated two out of three of those classic movie monsters, Boris Karloff! With that resume, is it any wonder that Karloff is considered the king of horror?

However, Karloff had appeared in over 80 films, both in the silent and sound eras, prior to donning the costume that became iconic. He had migrated to Canada as William Henry Pratt, working in theatre but taking odd jobs to earn a living. Karloff worked in real estate for a while and married his first wife, Jessie Grace Harding. During this time, he changed his name to the stage name, Boris Karloff.

Karloff moved to Hollywood in look of acting work and for over a decade he found work as an extra in movies at first, and later as a character actor. In 1931, director James Whale spotted Karloff eating lunch in the studio commissary and was attracted to the character in Karloff’s unique face. He immediately began making sketches of Karloff, and quickly brought in Universal Studio’s chief make-up artist Jack P. Pierce to help him refine the look. Pierce did extensive research and experimented for three weeks to perfect the costume. When finished, Karloff needed six hours to don the completed outfit.

So effective was the look that it not only became the definitive look for the Frankenstein monster, but it also began a process that would make Karloff a star, earn him respect and a sizable income, but also lock him into the horror roles for many years.

Karloff’s talents were many, and he did try to break out of the typecasting that faced him. He left horror for a while when the demand for the genre waned. In 1941, Karloff returned to the stage in Arsenic and Old Lace as a criminal frequently mistake for Karloff. That role becomes part of a running gag in the classic video clip above.

Karloff was a regular on many early television shows. His recognizable face and voice and multiple talents made him a welcome guest on The Donald O’Connor Show, Red Skelton, The Ernie Kovacs Show, The tonight Show and many others. His voice was heard regularly on the radio and TV. In 1950 he had his own radio show targeted to children.

In that classic TV video clip from 1957 shown above, Karloff’s comedic timing is evident. He sings and displays the persona and charm that made him a household name for decades.

 

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