Sara Karloff Interview
With Anthony Servante
Originally Published in The Black Glove Zine
When Bela Lugosi turned down the role of the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN, Boris Karloff accepted the part and became an icon of Horror overnight. We are speaking today with Sara Karloff, daughter of the film, radio, and TV star.
Anthony: I am Anthony Servante.
Ms. Karloff: Nice to meet you. I’m Sara Karloff.
Sara Jane Karloff Pratt
Anthony: It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Karloff. I’d like to start the interview with a little background on the subject of Sara Jane Karloff Pratt. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Ms. Karloff: (slight laugh at hearing her full name). I’m the only child of horror movie star Boris Karloff, also known as William Henry Pratt, and I was born on my father’s 51st birthday. I have two sons and three grandchildren, and I live in
Anthony: What kind of childhood did you have with such a famous father?
Ms. Karloff: Well, my father didn’t bring his work home; he was a very modest, self-effacing man, the very antithesis of the role he played, so my childhood was not would one would have expected of a child of a movie star.
Boris Karloff and young Sara
Boris and Sara a few years later
Anthony: So, when did you decide to carry on the legacy of your father?
Ms. Karloff: Well, I’m not carrying on his legacy. The fans of my father do that. I just try to oversee,--to make certain that when the persona of my father is used, it’s done appropriately and with respect. It’s due to the fans that his legacy has such long legs and his fans are absolutely amazing.
Anthony: Boris Karloff is one of the few
stars who has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Can you tell us about
Ms. Karloff: Well, one is for film and one is for television. And he did an enormous body of radio work as well. He did over 170 films, and on television he had three series, and he was one of the very few Hollywood stars to embrace the new medium of television in the 1940s and he moved back to New York in 1949 and he starred on all the prominent shows of the day as a guest star, and as I said, he had three television series of his own: first, THRILLER, and COLONEL MARCH, and THE VEIL; so he was very, very active in television as well, of course, in film, radio, and on Broadway.
Anthony: What are some of your favorite memories of your father?
Ms. Karloff: Well, I think that the principal legacy that he left was that he was a man of great personal integrity and kindness.
A dapper Boris Karloff
Karloff as the Monster
Anthony: That’s nice. Having a father who’s an icon of Horror, how do you feel about the genre of Horror?
Ms. Karloff: Well, one of the worst kept secrets is that I do not like scary movies, and so it was the world’s worse casting me as my father’s daughter. I leave the room during MURDER SHE WROTE. When the music starts, I’m out in the hall. I don’t like scary movies. I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like being discomforted by film. I like to be entertained, and I think that my father would be not only disquieted but disgusted by the flesh and gore horror film of today.
Anthony: I agree with you. Sometimes the movie is shot around the gore and not the story.
Ms. Karloff: It leaves nothing to the imagination, and it really doesn’t involve anything but the gut reaction of the movie-goer. My father felt—well, he didn’t like the word ‘horror’; he preferred the word ‘terror.’ To involve the audience’s participation and intelligence was far more important to revolting them. And that’s why he preferred the word ‘terror.’
Anthony: But he isn’t only an icon of horror, he’s also become an icon of the Holidays with How The Grinch Stole Christmas…
Ms. Karloff: Oh, yes, that is such a wonderful part of his legacy that he left his family and his fans. He won a Grammy for How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Anthony: So how did Boris Karloff hook up with Dr. Seuss?
Ms. Karloff: Well, my father could do most anything with his voice. It was a wonderful brilliant casting and a blending of great talents when they cast my father. Not only did he do the voice of The Grinch he was the narrator of the story. My father absolutely loved doing that program. The night it was to air, he called me; he said, “I want you to sit down with your sons and watch this—it is such a wonderful program.”
Boris voices the Grinch
Anthony: It’s a TV program that enters many homes during the Christmas season.
Ms. Karloff: It’s part of the Christmas season just as my father’s horror films have become iconic during the Halloween season.
Anthony: One of my favorite Boris Karloff movies is Black Sabbath. In the American version, he hosts and introduces each of the episodes of the movie. Did this give him the idea to host a show like The Twilight Zone or One Step Beyond?
Ms. Karloff: Well, he hosted Thriller, and introduced all of the episodes in the Thriller series, and he acted in several of them as well. The Thriller series was a remarkably well-written directed and performed series. It had marvelous actors of the time, some superb directors such as Bob [Robert] Vaughn and Ida Lupino, suberb actors from the time, and some wonderful scripts. It was along the line of The Twilight Zone, but it was just a wonderful, wonderful series. And my father introduced each episode.
Karloff come to TV
Anthony: And he also did THE VEIL?
Ms. Karloff: Yes, as well as COLONEL MARCH OF
YARD, which was a British TV series.
Anthony: Can you tell us some of the important events for your father?
Ms. Karloff: One of the events of which my father was most proud was his work with the Screen Actors Guild. His card number was 09; he was one of the founding fathers. When the Guild was founded, those screen actors who founded the Guild were putting their careers on the line because they were forming a union against the all-powerful studio bosses, and it was altogether possible that those actors would never work again, but my father and the other actors who were involved in the formation of the guild felt it was very important that once they had reached a point in their own careers to speak out on behalf of those who had not yet reached that point in their careers, and so I know my father, although he seldom ever spoke about his work with the guild, was very pleased to have been a part of that time with the Screen Actors Guild.
Anthony: Do you like attending the Horror Conventions honoring your father?
Ms. Karloff: Well, I am fortunate in that I am invited to conventions around the country and sometimes out of the country, and it gives me an opportunity to meet my father’s fans and it gives me an opportunity to thank them for their interest in my father’s career and his work.
Anthony: When is the next convention?
Ms. Karloff: That would be the Monsterpalooza in
[held every year]. Burbank,
Anthony: I hear there’s a new book out on your father’s career?
Ms. Karloff: Yes, a terrific author in
named Stephen Jacobs has written the absolute infinitive superbly researched
biography on my father, and it’s called “Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster”.
And it’s unbelievably researched. I mean, I’ve learned things about my father
and his career and his family on every page. It’s just an amazing and in-depth
research on my father’s life, his family, and his career. For any fan of my
father and his work it is a must-read biography. And we offer it on our
website: http://www.karloff.com/ (link
only—no pic). And I would encourage people to visit our website; we have an
artists’ gallery on which we show the wonderful Karloff art that various
artists have submitted to us. It’s just the way we can help the artists display
their art. We have a gift shop where you can pick up the biography and other licensee
Anthony: Thank you for taking this interview on such short notice.
Ms. Karloff: It’s been my pleasure. You made it very comfortable and very pleasant. Make sure you send me a copy of the interview when it comes out.
Anthony: I’ll be sure. Have a good afternoon.
Ms. Karloff: You have a good afternoon as well.
I interviewed Ms. Karloff by phone. It was my first interview. I was overwhelmed and awed, but I pushed on. When I transcribed the tape of our conversation, I couldn't believe how coherent it came out, and how we touched on a few controversial topics, such as Boris Karloff's work with the Screen Actors Guild. Unions were not popular back then in early Hollywood.
I hoped you enjoyed my visit with Ms. Karloff. Please comment and share. Thank you.
Servante of Darkness
February 2, 2014