Boris Karloff played Santa for children in the hospital

Here comes Franken-claus, here comes Franken-claus...

The Everett Collection

Boris Karloff's deep voice and ability to sound serious when using words like "floo-floobers" made him a Christmas legend when 1966's How The Grinch Stole Christmas! premiered on TV. Karloff, fans may already know, not only narrated the TV special but voiced the mean, green antagonist as well.

"I’ve always thought Boris Karloff’s last great role was as the snarling, malevolent voice of the Grinch," opined one critic in The Chicago Reader. It's true that Karloff passed in 1969, a scant three years after Grinch, which led to Captain Hook voice actor Hans Conried replacing him for the Halloween sequel, Halloween is Grinch Night.

However, did you know that Karloff was already a Christmas icon, long before he voiced the Seuss character?

"The Christmas spirit got Boris 'Frankenstein' Karloff," the Associated Press announced in 1940. "At a party for [disabled] children tomorrow, the role of Santa Claus will be played by Karloff."

At that point, Karloff had already gained fame primarily as a horror star with Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The year before he played Santa, he donned the monster makeup once more for Son of Frankenstein (1939).

Karloff continued the tradition the following year, leading the Associated Press to declare "In films, he portrays inhuman monsters — blood-thirsty beasts calculated to strike horror in the imaginations of movie-goers. In real life... he donned a Santa Claus costume, complete with a white beard, and distributed Christmas gifts to 200 child patients at Beekman hospital."

"I really love children," Karloff said, as the kids gathered around, "and I'm not half as bad as I'm painted."

Perhaps Karloff loved children so much because they shared an understanding of the tragic nature of his most famous role. He received, according to another article from the Associated Press, an "avalanche" of mail, long after he no longer played the creature. Most of the letters, Karloff said, came from children.

"They seemed to understand that [Frankenstein's monster] was the victim of something beyond his control," Karloff said. "He was bewildered and afraid. It was his great strength and panic that made him dangerous... they (the children) always expressed great compassion."

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31 Comments

Mike 2 months ago
Boris Karloff's GREATEST role?
"Targets", from 1968 - one of the final roles he did.
Boris played "Byron Orlok", a horror-movie star who wanted to quit, but couldn't - until he made a final appearance at a drive-in movie.
What he didn't know - there was a sniper at the drive-in, hiding in wait, to shoot the customers. What happens at the end -
- no spoilers here; here's hoping TCM - or Svengoolie - or SOMEONE - runs "Targets" very soon.
It wasn't exactly Karloff's final film - but it made a great exit.
BrittReid Mike 2 months ago
'TARGETS' was Karloff's last role in an American film.
BlueRabbit20 2 months ago
I think that was wonderful that Mr. Karloff did that for the children. He and Lon Chaney, Jr are part of my absolute favorite monster actors with Bela (I am going to spell his last name wrong, I know it) Laghosi, right after them.
WGH 2 months ago
William Henry Pratt AKA Boris Karloff
PerryMasonGirl 2 months ago
And did you know that one of Boris Karloff's favorite pastimes was growing roses?!
CouchPotato19 2 months ago
He had a prominent lisp from his false teeth.
George58 2 months ago
On a side note, regarding "How The Grinch Stole Christmas", I always wondered why they never gave Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of Tony The Tiger) a credit at the end for singing the songs in the show. With today's advanced technology & shows being "remastered". Why haven't they added his name at the end credits after the show? A glaring mistake in my book.
George58 2 months ago
Boris Karloff was host of a TV series called, "Thriller". I bought the DVD set years ago. Its a great series with spooky stories sort of in the vein of "The Twilight Zone". Why this show is never seen on TV in syndication is a mystery to me? I'm willing to make a bet that a lot of people never even heard of the series.
Yesss, the Thriller was wonderful episode after episode. Boris was amazing beyond words.
Art1957 George58 2 months ago
It's so weird that you mentioned Thriller, Earlier today I watched a really good one on YouTube called 'Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper' (Thriller Season1 Episode28) It was great!
WGH George58 2 months ago
It was on MeTV Sunday nights at 3:00 a.m. eastern for a long time. But there aren't that many episodes. It'll probably be in the rotation again soon
George58 WGH 2 months ago
Thanks. I didn't know that. I have the full 14 DVD set. There are a total of 67 episodes. I would consider that enough to show it. Considering there are shows with less episodes that get shown. For instance the classic Honeymooners episodes are only 39 episodes.
FrankensteinLover 2 months ago
I loveeeee Boris so much, don't let my name give it away. He was such a good Actor and have heard even a better person.
I agree! Plus he had a 400 pound pet pig named Violet! How loveable is that?
He was great in so many ways, his Daughter Sara is adorable as well and a treasure to meet in Person. Just wish Boris had an actual Grave like Bela does where I could thank him for making my childhood better.
Rick 2 months ago
It must have been terrifying to be one of the children with him as Santa!

No disrespect, I know he was kind, and I get that children can relate to a monster who gets in trouble for breaking a rule he didn't understand, but I'm picturing an 8 foot Santa with a voice so low you can feel it in the furniture! Santa is scary in person already!
Runeshaper 2 months ago
Boris Karloff was a WONDERFUL man and a FANTASTIC actor! (-:
Bapa1 2 months ago
Hopefully he didn't throw any kids into a lake. In all seriousness, he seemed like a pretty good guy. And speaking as someone who has played a Santa, it's not easy.
JHP 2 months ago
off topic

BRING BACK THRILLER!
RicardoShillyShally JHP 2 months ago
I've always hated the Grinch. He was mean to his dog. And the story wasn't Christmassy. Bring back "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
It always upset me that he was mean to Max. I love A Charlie Brown Christmas! Wish it was still on regular tv.
daDoctah 2 months ago
Another actor with significant horror chops, Basil Rathbone famously recorded a recitation of "A Visit from St Nicholas" (aka "'Twas the Night before Christmas") that was played every year on radio from then on.
MrsPhilHarris daDoctah 2 months ago
I just listened to it. I think I remember hearing it as a kid.
justjeff 2 months ago
Boris Karloff (William Henry Pratt) was the *voice* of the Grinch, but the singing voice belonged to Thurl Ravenscroft - an actor and singer with close ties to Disney AND who was the long-time voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes. He also sang with a group called The Mellomen...

If you want a quick sample of Ravenscroft's pop singing - he's the bass voice asking the questions in Rosemary Clooney's "This Old House" [the flip side of the record was another hit - "Hey There", from "The Pajama Game"]...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mOOHhRh09s

Here's a picture of the handsome Mr. Pratt at the age of twenty-six in 1913...
BrittReid 2 months ago
Boris was great in all his work.
cperrynaples BrittReid 2 months ago
Well according to Bela Lugosi, Karloff wasn't good enough to smell his...well, go watch the movie!
I've always wondered about all the talk of the two, I've heard the media made stuff up between the two to sell there BS, but have also heard Bela was jealous of Boris and had a problem with him. Both there Kids Sarah Karloff and Bela Lugosi Jr said all that negative talk was made up by the media.
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