Out of all the actors in the horror genre, Boris Karloff has always been my favorite. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that Frankenstein is one of my favorite films, where his performance there has never lost its impact on me. But even though he was typecast as a “boogyman”, he didn’t mind it, nor did it stop him from having such a diverse career, working in so many different genres, on film as well as the stage. He was also never ashamed of his work in the field, especially with the role that made him immortal, often calling the creature his “best friend”.
There have been quite a few books written on Karloff over the years. I even have 10 different titles in my own collection, such as Dear Boris by Cynthia Lindsay, Karloff by Peter Underwood, and The Films of Boris Karloff by Richard Bojarski and Kenneth Beals, which was a title that I was eventually told to stop checking out at my school library because I needed to give other people a chance to get it! One of the best biographies I had read on him was Boris Karloff: A Gentleman’s Life by Scott Allen Nollen, which came out in 1999. I learned so much more about this great man reading this book. But now, I have recently finished another biography that I have to say surpasses that incredible volume. And that would be Boris Karloff: More Than A Monster by Stephen Jacobs.
This huge volume contains so much information on the actor, starting at the very beginning of his life and career. We learn not only about his years as a struggling stage actor, but also some of the contradictory facts about his life that Karloff had mislead people about. We hear stories of his early days of “walking the boards”, barely making enough to survive on, slowing making his way to Hollywood where his big break would come. Jacobs has done some extraordinary amount of research, finding newspaper announcements of plays and their reviews, where Karloff was mentioned. He also has gathered an remarkable amount of input from people that worked with the actor over the years. The book never becomes a piece of puff journalism and shows the light and dark of the star and his life. Not that here is any deep dark secrets being revealed here, but Jacobs doesn’t gloss over anything.
With being well over 500 pages, this massive volume really is a must have for fans of Karloff. Filled with tons of photos, reviews, and is littered with quotes from the man himself about life, politics, his work, and his fellow actors and the people he is working with. It really gives us fans an sight to this amazingly talented performer, how kind and generous he was to his fellow actors, and just how much of a true gentleman he was.
This book won the Rondo Award for Best Book in 2011, and was rightly chosen.