Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Boris Karloff’s Eerie Rose Garden

Karloff as Frankenstein's

Karloff became an international star, in 1931, with his sympathetic but chilling film portrayal of the “monster” in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

Karloff born, William Henry Pratt in 1887, lived with his parents and nine older siblings in Camberwell, South London.

At the age of nine, he portrayed the Demon King in a youth play of Cinderella and was hooked for life, despite his family’s objections.

In 1909, he moved to Canada. At first, it was not easy. He worked as a day laborer when he couldn’t find acting roles. Then when he did find work, his salary was often reduced because he forgot cues, fell over furniture and mumbled his lines.

Boris Karloff
But he was persistent. He worked for almost a decade perfecting his craft in various theatre companies. He met married and then divorced his first wife during this time—money was often scarce.

He moved to Los Angeles, California in 1918.

He again worked manual labor when he couldn’t find work. He was then was cast as an extra and a character actor in silent films. Karloff’s goal was never to be a star; he just wanted to do what he loved.

Two more wives came and went.

The industry took note of Karloff’s performances first on Broadway in 1930 where he played a convict-turned-killer and then in the sound film Criminal Code in 1931. This provided him with better film roles.

In June of 1931, while eating lunch in the Universal Studio commissary Karloff was asked to screen test for a role as the director, James Whale put it,  “a damned awful monster.” A role Bela Lugosi had turned down.

Karloff admitted, at the time, he viewed it as just another job. But his compassionate betrayal of this monster in Frankenstein captured the world’s attention. It provided him more roles and financial security for the rest of his life.

Film poster of 1945's
Body Snatcher
He had found his niche; he starred in many of the finest horror films Hollywood has made. His last name became synonymous with the macabre.

But today, most of his younger fans remember him most for his Emmy award-winning recording and animated special, in 1966, based upon Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas where he did the voices for both the Grinch and the narrator.

Karloff worked in film, on the stage, in radio, and on television until his death in 1969.

His favorite pastime outside of acting was gardening. He took special pride in his rose garden.

Karloff's rose garden
Several friends of his made an unusual request. When they died, they wanted their ashes to be spread amidst his beautiful roses.

Karloff with a wry sense of humor and always an agreeable good friend obliged.

Some people believe by doing this he created one of Beverly Hills most haunted places. Visitors to this garden today recount feeling several otherworldly presences. They state these spirits all felt as if they are at peace.

Most agree that their presence here just gives this rose garden an added ambiance.

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