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Boris Karloff & Frankenstein

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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Mother of

     That could have been Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's personal motto since she was the little lady who wrote Frankenstein on a challenge by Lord Byron.
     She was all of 19 when she and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, were among a group visiting Byron at his home in Switzerland when he decided they needed something stronger than "pretty little love stories."

The Edison Kinetogram
Frankenstein Monster (1910)

     The book is fascinating reading on its own, not only for its literary merits but because you won't recognize it after you've seen the Hollywood version with Boris Karloff.
     You can still find it at the local bookstore and download it (and more) at

Jack Pierce at Work
Dr. Frankenstein in Real Life?!

     [Philip J. Riley recounts Boris Karloff's make-up travails in Frankenstein:  The Original Shooting Script (MagicImage Filmbooks, New York, 1989), page 34 - 35:]
From the beginning, Karloff's approach to his "dear old Monster" was one of love and compassion.  It was an outstanding insight - considering that rarely has an actor suffered so hideously in bringing life to a character.
"It took from four to six hours a day to make me up," said Karloff.  "I felt like an Egyptian mummy as Jack [P. Pierce] ladled the layers of makeup on me."

The First Appearance
of Karloff as the Monster

The company all was 9 o'clock in the morning, so Karloff piloted his old Ford onto the lot at 4 AM to begin the makeup.
To fill out the Monster costume I had to wear a double-quilted suit beneaath it.  We shot in mid-summer.  Aftger an hour's work I'd be sopping wet.  I'd have to change into a spare undersuit often still damp from the previous round.  So I felt, most of the time, as if I were wearing a clammy shroud.  No doubt it addded to the realism!
As the September heat soared, Karloff's makeup proved a torture.  The mortician's wax eyelids he believed so necessary would melt and crumble on the sweltering set, falling into his eyes and causing terrible pain.  Pierce stood by the actor's side constantly, emergency makeup box in tow, ready to fix a bolt if it loosened or ajust the wig if it slipped or share a joke when numor was a necessity.

Mae Clark
As Elizabeth

     Yet Karloff never complained.  Mae Clarke recalls:
Obseving Boris in makeup, taking director instructions:  Towering over the tall Mr. [James] Whale, listening meekly as an obedient child, both so softly spoken I couldn't hear a word - then he'd nod his head and Whale would give him an affectionate push at his enormous, hanging arms and call out, "Ready for Camera."  Boris was unvelievably patient and, as the world now sees, he gave an incredible performance.  He made that Monster understandable and painfully pitiable.
* * * * *
You might want to visit Sara Karloff's website dedicated to
her faher at  It's the only official website
for Karloff and has lots of goodies for you to check out.
Certainly nobody could fill the Frankestein
Monster's makeup like Boris Karloff.
To be honest, of course, Miss Maven wouldn't want to . . . 
except at Halloween and then only around the people
who need to be scared out of their . . . .
Where is Miss Maven's Halloween candy . . . ?
It was right here . . . Aunt Battie, have
you been in my candy again?!
Reprinted from October 10, 2005



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