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Classification: Photograph

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Image of Boris Karloff

Yousuf Karsh
Canadian, born Armenia, 1908–2002

Boris Karloff


Object Type: Photograph
20 in. x 16 in. (50.8 cm x 40.64 cm)
Medium and Support: Gelatin silver print on paper
Accession Number: 2013.0005.0030

Credit Line: Gift of Estrellita Karsh, in honor of Mark M. Johnson, and in memory of Yousuf Karsh
Copyright: © Estate of Yousuf Karsh

Boris Karloff (1887–1969) Born William Henry Pratt, son of a British diplomat, he was orphaned as a child and raised by his elder siblings. After college he moved to Canada, then to Los Angeles, acting and working odd jobs to make ends meet. He got his big break when Bela Lugosi turned down the role of Frankenstein’s monster in 1931. Karloff played the monster in three more movies in the 1930s, and starred in many more horror roles. He also played the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). In real life, Karloff was a thoughtful, kind, and generous gentleman. He supported children’s charities and played Santa Claus for a Baltimore children’s hospital for nearly thirty years. When Karsh photographed him, Karloff lived in a modest room in a private club. He talked with the photographer about English gardens and growing roses. Karsh found him “gentle and scholarly, with an exquisitely modulated voice.” Karloff’s unconventional pose with his clasped hands against his head, the camera’s low angle, and the dramatic lighting combine to suggest something sinister behind the actor’s distant gaze.

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