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c. 1930

Boo! A spoooooooky cup of tea with Boris Karloff

See vintage photos on the set with Frankenstein's monster and his friends

These behind-the-scenes pictures show another side of legendary horror movie star Boris Karloff—or rather, another side to Billy Pratt, which was Karloff’s birth name. The name “Boris Karloff” was an invention, and a very effective one.

Karloff made numerous Hollywood silent films without attaining success. It wasn’t until his 81st movie, when he was 44, that Karloff’s breakthrough role occurred with the 1931 movie Frankenstein. He would revisit the role in 1935 with Bride of Frankenstein and in 1939 with Son of Frankenstein.

The Frankenstein film franchise was an enormous success for Universal Studios, and by 1953 had grossed around $13 million.

The role of the Monster was originally intended for the man who would become Karloff’s sparring partner on screen, Bela Lugosi. Lugosi turned the role down, saying: “I was a star in my country and I will not be a scarecrow over here.”

Surprisingly, Karloff was not unusually tall, standing 5’ 11’’. For Frankenstein, he wore platform boots, each weighing 11 lbs. To further enhance the illusion of abnormal height, filming took place at a low angle, and Karloff wore a jacket with sleeves that were too short.

Karloff was a British man—hence the cup of tea. Born in South London, he retired to a cottage in the English countryside. But before he did, he narrated and played the Grinch in the 1966 version of the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

c. 1935
Karloff relaxes on the set of “Bride of Frankenstein”.
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
c. 1931
Karloff enjoying cup of tea during wardrobe fitting in between scenes from the film “Frankenstein”.
Universal/Getty Images
c. 1935
Still wearing the monster make-up for his role in “Bride of Frankenstein,” Karloff sits down for a snack on set.
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
c. 1935
Karloff, Colin Clive and Ernest Thesiger pause for a cigarette break on the set of “Bride of Frankenstein.” They are still in costume as two mad scientists and the monster.
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
c. 1931
Makeup artist Jack P. Pierce applies make-up and combs the hair of Karloff in “Frankenstein”.
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images
c. 1935
Pierce works to transform Karloff into the monster for “Bride of Frankenstein.”
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
c. 1931
Boris Karloff with cigarette is dirtied by director James Whale in between scenes from the film “Frankenstein,” 1931.
Universal/Getty Images
c. 1935
Boris Karloff during filming of “Bride Of Frankenstein”.
Universal/Getty Images
c. 1935
From left to right, actors Ernest Thesiger, Colin Clive, Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester examine some snowy landscapes on the set of “Bride of Frankenstein”.
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
c. 1938
In his Frankenstein makeup, Boris Karloff cuts the cake at the surprise birthday party and baby shower given by fellow performers during the making of the “Son of Frankenstein,” to celebrate the birthday of Karloff and his daughter, Sara Jane.
Getty Images

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