Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

TINTYPE TUESDAY: The Cuddly Side of Boris Karloff

Welcome to another edition of TINTYPE TUESDAY, bringing you wonderful movie photos every week!

Shooting the terrifying lake scene in Frankenstein was going to be emotionally fraught enough. But before filming even began, director James Whale faced another problem: Boris Karloff’s makeup required hours to apply, so he needed to be fully “monsterized” by the time the cast and crew drove out to the remote location. Meaning that seven-year-old Marilyn Harris, who played the doomed Maria, would be introduced to her co-star while he was in full green warpaint—lug nuts, stitches and all. How would she react? Would she be too terrified to work that day, or at all?

As it turned out, the sensitive child was a bit kerfuffled: she developed a mad crush on him instantly. Reaching out to him, she asked, “May I ride with you?” And gallantly he replied, “Would you, darling?

“Boris Karloff was a very sweet, wonderful man, and I just loved him,” she recalled. “Immediately from being on the lot and taking his hand, I had no fear of him whatsoever. We seemed to have a rapport together, and it was like magic.”

Clearly she sensed that beneath the fright mask was a gentleman—and a gentle man. Decades before claiming his hold on Christmas as The Grinch, Karloff was regularly playing Santa Claus at a hospital for handicapped children in Baltimore. (The shot below is strictly a Hollywood affair, but you get the idea…) For a while, he even had his own Saturday morning radio show on WNEW-AM in New York, where he read fairy tales and told jokes and riddles. (Plenty of adults tuned in too—just, you know, for the sake of the little ones.)

And in 1948, with storybook in hand, he visited The Children’s Hospital in Brooklyn, leaving us with these wonderful pics:

Karloff himself became a father for the first and only time on his 51st birthday, and it seems fitting to give his daughter, Sara Jane, the last word: “He was an inherently lovely human being—the antithesis of the roles he played.”

TINTYPE TUESDAY is a weekly feature on Sister Celluloid, with fabulous classic movie pix (and usually a bit of backstory!) to help you make it to Hump Day! For previous editions, just click hereand why not bookmark the page, to make sure you never miss a week?


  1. Utterly charming! Thanks for sharing a side of Karloff I’d never heard about (except for The Grinch, of course)!

    • You’re welcome!! He was just a big softie!! ❤

  2. Joan Feder

    Your articles are always informative and a delight.

    • Oh thank you so much, Joan!! That really means a lot to me…

  3. So lovely! Karloff was a true gentleman in being that he was a gentle/man, as well as dignified and courteous one. Thanks for sharing these photos!

    • I’m happy to!! And yes, Boris was everything good about being a gentleman, especially the “gentle” part…

  4. I’ll pause to read most anything on dear Boris. Nicely done and it only serves to reinforce that he was a true gentleman. I just posted this on Monday to tip my hat for his birthday.


  1. TINTYPE TUESDAY: The Ever-Elegant Boris Karloff—And His Secret Ingredient for Guacamole | Sister Celluloid

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