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Thread: Boris Karloff

  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: France HitchcockScholar's Avatar
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    On behalf of a friend in the US:

    Thanks for your help







    It is universally known that British-born William H. Pratt (1887-1969)

    changed his name to Boris Karloff after he emigrated to Canada, and

    eventually to the USA. Clearly, this name-change from Pratt to Karloff

    happened at some point in time after the immigrant-manual laborer

    Pratt undertook a new career as an actor.



    But EXACTLY WHEN the obscure, gypsy-like, struggling young actor

    Pratt renamed himself Karloff does not seem to be documented by

    any contemporary records. Karloff books by Lindsay, Nollen,

    Buehrer, and others, and web-sites like Wikipedia (excerpted below)

    touch upon this chronological mystery, but they all seem to rely on

    Karloff's casual memories expressed (to Lindsay) decades later, and

    on photos autographed by Karloff, which he dated ("1912, 1914"),

    but which dates could have been approximations added by the actor

    years after the fact. Apparently no one has managed to confirm by

    contemporary records (e.g., theatre reviews/advertisements in local

    newspapers) whether Pratt became Karloff before, or after, writers

    like Edgar R. Burroughs or even Harold McGrath invented literary

    characters with similar names (Boris of Karlova, Boris Karlov).



    Anything is possible, including coincidence. But it seems equally

    probable that the obscure young actor touring small towns on the

    Canadian and US frontier, as one member of obscure barnstorming

    troupes, borrowed his Russian-sounding stage name from nationally

    published authors (Burroughs or even McGrath), as to assume that

    such writers would have lifted their characters' names from the

    nonentity which young Mr Pratt was in the decade 1909-1919...



    However, the above puzzle remains unconfirmed to this day. In the

    words of an Edgar R Burroughs website, "ERB [i.e., Burroughs]

    certainly had ties to Hollywood at that time [1915], but as far as I

    know, the Karloff connection is still [a] mystery waiting to be solved."



    Or has some recent research finally come up with a documented

    solution?



    Gratefully,

    Steven P Hill,

    University of Illinois.

  2. #2
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    Link should be good for 7 days:

    Oxford DNB: Lives of the week

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    He gave Hannah Weinstein a home in Paris or something and that led to her becoming a TV Producer in Britain on the back of Col. March. and the Department of Queer Complaints (surely the x-files of its day!).



    Was Karloff involved with the post-war Anti-American Activities farrago somehow?Weinstein left America because of it and it's difficult to see how else she would have been friendly with Boris........



    Nothing suggested in that biog.........




  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: United States will.15's Avatar
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    Looking up Karloff's filmography, I see he appeared in Arsenic and Old Lace in three separate productions (1962, 1955, and 1949) as Jonathon Brewster, the role he originated on Broadway. I can't find any of them for sale, just the mediocre 1968 version with Fred Gwyne. Man, that's frustrating. We all want to hear Boris Karloff say, "He said I looked like Boris Karloff." It's not as funny when another actor says it. By the way, Bela Lugosi was in the touring production and the line was changed so he said his own name.

  5. #5
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    Karloff also did several radio versions of "Arsenic and Old Lace" - some you can find online.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: England faginsgirl's Avatar
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    I really like "The Veil" series that he did.



    xx

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: England cornershop15's Avatar
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    TVTimes, 20-26 November 1955

    Boris was currently starring as Colonel March of Scotland Yard. The episode that week -The Second Mona Lisa:


  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    $30 a week??!! That sounds like a fortune for 1915. Even by 1940 the average wage in the USA was only $956, which was $18 per week. Repertory actors were generally on average working-class wages, in the UK at least.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...-revealed.html
    much like today, movie stars are shown to have earned far more than the average American's $956 annual wage.
    The National Archives website shows that then-actor Ronald Reagan, and his wife, actress Jane Wyman, reported incomes of more than $5,000 a year and noted that their Los Angeles home was worth $200,000.

  9. #9
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moor Larkin View Post
    $30 a week??!! That sounds like a fortune for 1915. Even by 1940 the average wage in the USA was only $956, which was $18 per week. Repertory actors were generally on average working-class wages, in the UK at least.
    Using data from the Measuring Worth site
    In 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), �15 0s 0d from 1915 was worth �938.00 using the retail price index or �4,310.00 using average earnings.

    Either way, that's pretty good for a week's work. Not a fortune, but quite a respectable wage.

    Steve

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    I'd have to dig back through my stuff but I'm sure I recall Patrick McGoohan talking of earning �8 a week as a leading man at Sheffield Repertory, and because his wife earned similar, they considered themselves very affluent just then. But that was as late as 1951 or so.

    I guess there were a lot more dollars to the pound, back in 1915 too.

    Yup.

    Last edited by Moor Larkin; 21-11-12 at 11:17 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: United States will.15's Avatar
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    I read that Karloff said he changed his name because a numerologist said his current one was bad luck. Boris Karloff had the numbers for success.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will.15 View Post
    I read that Karloff said he changed his name because a numerologist said his current one was bad luck. Boris Karloff had the numbers for success.
    Hmmmm... if your name was Pratt, you might think of a better reason...........

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