Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Boris Karloff Blogathon: Day Two

David K. Frasier, Reference Librarian.

Boris Karloff (born William Henry Pratt on November 23,
1887 in Camberwell, London) was a 44-year-old journeyman
actor when director James Whale, unable to convince Bela Lugosi
to accept the role, cast the mild-mannered Englishman as “the
Monster” in the 1931 Universal horror film, Frankenstein. The
actor’s sensitive portrayal of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s
creature made him an immediate star, but forever typecast him
in increasingly low-budget horror and science fiction films from
the 1930s to the late 1960s. In 1966, the veteran actor who had
made some of the most notable genre films in the history of
motion pictures (Bride of Frankenstein, 1935; The Body Snatcher,
1945) had been reduced to appearing in cheapie productions like
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, although that same year he had
done the winning narration for the now-classic animated television
production of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

In 1968, 29-year-old film critic turned director Peter Bogdanovich
gave Karloff his last memorable screen role as aging horror movie
star, “Byron Orlok,” in Targets. Bogdanovich’s directorial debut
(which he also produced, co-wrote, and edited) was inspired by
ex-Marine Charles Whitman’s deadly 96 minute rampage on the
campus of University of Texas-Austin on August 1, 1966. Hours
after murdering his mother and wife in separate incidents, Whitman
amassed a small arsenal of high-powered rifles, and positioning
himself atop the university’s Tower, killed 13, and wounded 31
before being shot to death by a campus security guard. In a more
sedate scene from Targets featured on YouTube.

Bogdanovich (seated on couch) convinces Karloff to retell
W. Somerset Maugham’s short piece, “Appointment in Samarra”
(1933). Karloff died on February 2, 1969, but not before footage
taken of him in late 1968 was added to four low-budget films
shot in Mexico: Cult of the Dead, Alien Terror, House of Evil, and
The Fear Chamber.

The Bogdanovich mss, purchased from the filmmaker in 1995 and
periodically supplemented, is housed in the Auxiliary Library Facility
(ALF). Materials must be requested in advance for use in the Lilly
Library by using the Bogdanovich mss. collection description and
inventory in conjunction with IUCAT. Among the collection’s more
than 100,000 items are production materials, research, related
business correspondence, and scripts for his films including Targets
(1968), The Last Picture Show (1971), Directed by John Ford (1971),
Paper Moon (1973), Daisy Miller (1974), Saint Jack (1979), Mask
(1985), et al. Also included are reel-to-reel audiotapes of interviews
conducted by Bogdanovich with directors George Cukor, John Ford,
Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Sidney Lumet, Otto Preminger, Raoul
Walsh, and Orson Welles. The accompanying photos feature a unique
item from the collection: a 3-pound hand painted fiberglass casting
of Karloff’s bust by veteran Hollywood make-up man and F/X sculptor
Norman Bryn commercially available through Classic Creature Craft, LLC.


No comments: