biography

Born William Henry Pratt in London, England, on November 23, 1887, actor Boris Karloff was born into a family of British diplomats. He married stage actress Olive Wilton in 1909, and Karloff himself was bitten by the acting bug. The marriage didn't last long, and he soon left Britain for North America, where he honed his skills as an actor. He made his film bow in 1916, and by 1919 Karloff was appearing in films frequently. Throughout the 1920s, Karloff acted in dozens of films but never had the breakthrough role he needed. But in 1931, when Bela Lugosi turned down the role of the monster in the Universal Studios film Frankenstein, Karloff finally found success at age 43.

Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi

With frequent costar Bela Lugosi

Universal's horror films kept the struggling studio afloat in the difficult times of Depression-era America. Studio executives hit upon the idea of putting their two most famous horror actors, Karloff and Bela Lugosi, in a film to boost box office revenues. Karloff and Lugosi first costarred in the 1934 film The Black Cat. The film was indeed a success, ensuring Karloff and Lugosi would be teamed again. In total, they made seven films together, including The Raven (1935), The Invisible Ray (1936), and Black Friday (1940). Their final film teaming came in the 1945 RKO release The Body Snatcher.

the films of boris karloff

Frankenstein (1931)

Boris KarloffBoris KarloffBoris KarloffBoris Karloff

Karloff in Universal's Frankenstein

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

Boris Karloff and Charles Starrett

Boris Karloff begins to torture Charles Starrett in MGM's horror flick The Mask of Fu Manchu

The Mummy (1932)

Boris Karloff in The MummyBoris Karloff in The MummyBoris Karloff in The Mummy

From Universal's The Mummy, my favorite Karloff film. RIGHT: With Zita Johann. CENTER and RIGHT: As Imhotep, aka Ardath Bey

The Black Cat (1934)

Boris Karloff

Still from Universal's The Black Cat, the studio's top earner for 1934

The Lost Patrol (1934)

Boris Karloff

As a prisoner in RKO's The Lost Patrol

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Boris KarloffBoris Karloff

From The Bride of Frankenstein. LEFT: Horror make-up artists softened the look of Frankenstein's monster to make him look less menacing and more deserved of sympathy. RIGHT: Karloff has a smoke on the set

Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

Boris Karloff

As the title character, Karloff made five films in Monogram's Mr. Wong series; this photo is from the first, Mr. Wong, Detective

Devil's Island (1939)

Boris Karloff

Karloff in an uncharacteristic role as the victim in the drama Devil's Island

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Bela Lugosi and Boris KarloffBasil Rathbone and Boris Karloff

LEFT: Bela Lugosi as Ygor supports Boris Karloff in his last outing as Frankenstein's monster in the stylish Son of Frankenstein. RIGHT: With Basil Rathbone

Black Friday (1940)

Boris Karloff

From Universal's noirish horror flick Black Friday

The Fatal Hour (1940)

Boris Karloff

As Chinese detective Mr. Wong in Monogram's The Fatal Hour

You'll Find Out (1940)

Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, and Boris Karloff

With Peter Lorre and Bela Lugosi in the RKO comedy You'll Find Out

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)

Maxie Rosenbloom, Boris Karloff, Jeff Donnell, Larry Parks, and Peter Lorre

From the backlot Columbia comedy The Boogie Man Will Get You with Maxie Rosenbloom, Jeff Donnell, Larry Parks, and Peter Lorre

The Body Snatcher (1945)

Boris Karloff

From RKO's The Body Snatcher

Isle of the Dead (1945)

Boris Karloff and Marc Cramer

With Marc Cramer in RKO's horror flick Isle of the Dead

Bedlam (1946)

Boris Karloff, Robert Clarke, Anna Lee, and Billy House

From the RKO thriller Bedlam with Robert Clarke, Anna Lee, and Billy House

The Black Castle (1952)

Boris Karloff

As Doctor Meissen in Universal's The Black Castle

Frankenstein 1970 (1958)

Boris Karloff

From the Allied Artists' release Frankenstein 1970

Corridors of Blood (1962)

Boris Karloff

As Dr. Thomas Bolton in the effective thriller Corridors of Blood

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price

Campy promotional shot from American International's comedy/horror flick The Comedy of Terrors with Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price

The Terror (1963)

Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson

With Jack Nicholson in AIP's cult favorite The Terror

later years

Although in his later years he was very ill and often confined to a wheelchair, into the 1960s Boris Karloff worked steadily, often for American International Pictures in such films as The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966; with Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk) and Bikini Beach (1964; with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello). One of his final acting assignments came in the brilliant low-budget Peter Bogdanovich effort Targets (1968), in which Bogdanovich also acted. Karloff passed away at age 81 on February 2, 1969, after a long battle with emphysema. A few Mexican and Spanish-made films, shot between 1966 and 1968, were released after his death, including Cauldron of Blood (1970; with Jean-Pierre Aumont).

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filmography

FILM
The Fear Chamber (1972) with Isela Vega
Isle of the Snake People (1971)
Cauldron of Blood (1970) with Jean-Pierre Aumont and Viveca Lindfors
Mad Monster Party? (1969) with Phyllis Diller
The Crimson Cult (1968) with Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele
Dance of Death (1968)
Alien Terror (1968)
Targets (1968) with Peter Bogdanovich and Nancy Hsueh; written and directed by Peter Bogdanovich
The Sorcerers (1967) with Susan George
The Venetian Affair (1967) with Robert Vaughn, Elke Sommer, and Luciana Paluzzi
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) with Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, Aron Kincaid, Quinn O'Hara, Patsy Kelly, Basil Rathbone, Susan Hart, and Francis X. Bushman
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
Die, Monster, Die! (1965) with Nick Adams and Suzan Farmer
Mondo balordo (1964)
Bikini Beach (1964) with Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, and Donna Loren
The Comedy of Terrors (1963) with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Joyce Jameson
The Raven (1963) with Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jack Nicholson, and Peter Lorre
The Terror (1963) with Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, and Dick Miller
Black Sabbath (1963) with Mark Damon
Corridors of Blood (1962) with Christopher Lee, Betta St. John, Nigel Green, and Yvonne Romain
The Haunted Strangler (1958)
Frankenstein 1970 (1958)
Voodoo Island (1957) with Rhodes Reason and Elisha Cook
Sabaka (1954) with Peter Coe
The Island Monster (1953)
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
The Black Castle (1952) with Lon Chaney Jr.
Colonel March Investigates (1952) with Dana Wynter
The Strange Door (1951) with Charles Laughton and Sally Forrest
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
Tap Roots (1948) with Van Heflin and Julie London
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) with Ralph Byrd
Lured (1947) with Lucille Ball and George Sanders
Unconquered (1947) with Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, and Lloyd Bridges
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo
Bedlam (1946) with Anna Lee and Robert Clarke
Isle of the Dead (1945) with Ellen Drew
The Body Snatcher (1945) with Bela Lugosi
The Climax (1944) with Turhan Bey
House of Frankenstein (1944) with Lon Chaney Jr., Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, and Glenn Strange
The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942) with Peter Lorre
The Devil Commands (1941) with Anne Revere
Before I Hang (1940) with Evelyn Keyes and Bruce Bennett
You'll Find Out (1940) with Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, and Kay Kyser
The Ape (1940) with
Doomed to Die (1940) with Grant Withers
The Man with Nine Lives (1940) with Roger Pryor
Black Friday (1940) with Bela Lugosi and Raymond Bailey
The Fatal Hour (1940) with Grant Withers
The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) with Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, Roger Pryor, Ann Doran, Byron Foulger, and James Craig
Tower of London (1939) with Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price
Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) with Grant Withers
The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939) with Grant Withers
Son of Frankenstein (1939) with Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, and Lionel Atwill
Devil's Island (1939)
Mr. Wong, Detective (1938) with Grant Withers and Evelyn Brent
The Invisible Menace (1938) with Marie Wilson
Night Key (1937) with Jean Rogers
West of Shanghai (1937) with Ricardo Cortez and Sheila Bromley
Juggernaut (1936)
The Man Who Lived Again (1936) with Anna Lee
The Walking Dead (1936) with Marguerite Churchill
The Invisible Ray (1936) with Bela Lugosi and Beulah Bondi
The Black Room (1935) with Katherine DeMille
The Raven (1935) with Bela Lugosi
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester
The Ghoul (1934)
The Black Cat (1934) with Bela Lugosi and David Manners
The Lost Patrol (1934)
The Mummy (1932) with David Manners, Zita Johann, and Edward Van Sloan
The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) with Myrna Loy and Charles Starrett
The Old Dark House (1932) with Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, and Gloria Stuart
Scarface (1932) with Paul Muni and George Raft
The Criminal Code (1931)
Frankenstein (1931) with Colin Clive and Mae Clarke
Pardon Us (1931) with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
Cracked Nuts (1931) with Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey
King of the Wild (1931)
The Sea Bat (1930) with Raquel Torres and Charles Bickford
The Fatal Warning (1929)
King of the Kongo (1929) with Joe Bonomo

TELEVISION SERIES
Out of This World 1962 British TV series
Thriller 1960-1962 TV series
The Veil 1958 British TV series
Colonel March of Scotland Yard 1954-1955 British TV series
Down You Go 1951-1956 game show. Karloff was a panelist during the 1954-1955 season
Starring Boris Karloff 1949-1950 TV series

boris karloff film now showing

Watch Boris Karloff's 1963 horror flick The Terror

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This page premiered August 27, 2001.
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