[He] was the opposite of what appeared on the screen. He was very urbane, very well read, very well educated, soft-spoken, a real English gentleman. –Robert Wise, Academy Award-winning movie director
Do you think you have a good idea who the gentleman is who is the subject of that quote? Although you may find it hard to believe, it ain’t yurs truly. The fact is that mistermuse (despite qualifying in every other respect, including gentleman) does not happen to be English. Also, although a handsome devil, mistermuse is not a movie star. But that was a very logical (if mistaken) assumption on your part, so I will give you 24 more guesses.
Here’s a hint. Since 20 November, when last we met (“NOVEMBER 20 POEMS ARE CHILD’S PLAY”), someone’s birthday has come and gone who not only meets the above criteria, but whose film persona might have made an interesting subject for one of those English nursery rhymes, such as “Who Killed Cock Robin?” or “Jack the Ripper and Jill.”
Time’s up. The gentleman in question is none other than that horror-able actor famous for his roles in such pictures as FRANKENSTEIN (1931), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939): Boris Karloff (born London, Nov. 23, 1887). Karloff also starred in another of my favorite films of that genre, THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), which was directed by the above-quoted Robert Wise.
What made those films a cut above the average horror movie? Among other things, atmosphere — black and white and gray atmosphere — not necessarily the stuff that screams are made of, but with setting, mood, memorable characters, imagination of story….all the things that, if lacking, no amount of gore and technology can bring to life.
Here are some interesting facts about Karloff you may not have known:
His real name was William Henry Pratt.
He was the youngest of nine children.
As a young boy, he stuttered and had a lisp.
He married five times and had one child, Sara (born as SON OF FRANKENSTEIN was being filmed). You’ll find a message from her on the official Boris Karloff web site:
Let us end with an interview of the man himself: