Testerman Sci-Fi Site
Testerman Sci-Fi Site

Fun with Forrest J. Ackerman, Part 2

Boris Karloff:

"Toward the end of Karloff's life, when he was, I believe, 79 years old, a friend of mine, a make-up man who was the last one who ever made up Karloff when he appeared in "Halloween" on TV, called me up and he said, 'Forry, you know Karloff's in town and I think we really ought to seize the opportunity to get him on a phonograph album.' And he said, 'I've written a little script. Would you give a listen to it and see what you think of it?' (Britannica.com has an entry on Karloff)

"Well, at the time Boris Karloff had just made a film called "The Raven" (1963-editor) with Peter Lorre and Vincent Price. It was kind of a tongue-in-cheek, spoofy thing. So as my friend read me the opening over the phone, and you hear a squeaking door and Boris Karloff say,'Oh,do come.... Oh, be careful of the spiders - they're my friends, you know.'  I said, 'Well, that sounds OK to me.'
"But the next night at 11:00 my friend called, and he said, 'Oh, dear, he let me down very gently but he said, 'No, no, dear boy. I'm afraid this is not my cup of tea.' So I commiserated with him, and he says, 'Well, I'll be right over.' And I say, 'Right over? What for? The crying towel is already soaking wet. What can I do for you?' And he said, 'Well, Mr. Karloff said if by 9:00 tomorrow morning I could show him a script that he liked, he would stay an extra day. I said, 'Where on earth are you going to get that?'

"To my mind, if anybody was going to do a Decca record album for Boris Karloff they would get a couple of collaborators who had an Emmy or whatever the award is for phonograph records. And, you know, they'd probably get together on week-ends on the golf course, and then four or five weeks later they'd have something halfway written out. Then they'd show it to his wife, who'd have a fit because she wasn't given the spotlight....And he says, 'You're going to do it!' I said, 'Are you mad? Look, it's a quarter past 11, I've been at a hot typewriter here all day long, I never wrote a script in my life....' "Twenty minutes later he was there, and I say, 'Well, what do we know? I wish I had about seven years of psychology under my belt.' But I said,
'All we know is, he didn't like the funny stuff, so let's be very serious about it. Let me throw my mind back to times I've been in Boris Karloff's company, and maybe if I feed his own words back to him, things that he'd said that he was pleased with, maybe that'll work....'

"Next evening at 5:00 an exuberant voice on the phone: 'Boris Karloff loved it, his wife OK'd it, his agent said fine....' So for one magic hour every word that came out of Boris Karloff's mouth I had put into it....

"After it was all over we clustered around him. He was the complete opposite of Bela Lugosi. Lugosi was a very vain man. I think, frankly, he fudged about five years off his age. But Karloff was very proud of his advancing years....So it was no embarrassment when someone said, 'Well, Mr. Karloff, you've just done the job here of a man about one-third your age. Can you give us any helpful hint of how you manage to do this?'

"He said, 'Well, I don't know, gentlemen. It's just clean living - up to the age of six.'"
"The dear man had a dreadful drug addiction (inaudible) so he had terrible sciatic pain, and he had to take morphine for it. And finally, it got to be too much for him, and the doctors recommended an operation would cut off the pain. But he found that he still required the drugs. So he very courageously, toward the end of his life, turned himself in to be cured of drug addiction. And I always detested that out came headlines DRACULA DISCOVERED TO BE DRUG FIEND and that kind of thing, you know. And it was just a poor, broken old man trying to kick the habit. 

"I was with him just two weeks before he died, just two blocks away from where he was lying in his coffin in the funeral parlor. I was all alone in there, just looking at him, and thought, 'Well, Bela.... looking over my shoulder in spirit form, and looking at yourself, I think you'd be very pleased with your final performance. He looked so realistic - he had Dracula cape, and medallion - you almost expected the director to call 'Cut!' and that he would open his eyes and get out of the coffin. 

"But two weeks before he died I was with him at the world premiere of his final film, "The Black Sleep." And we were in the mezzanine, he and a young fellow who was very devoted to him. And as we were coming down he would not be seen in public wearing glasses, so he was as blind as the proverbial bat, and everything was just a vast haze out there. 

"But we saw that the TV news people....were motioning for him to come over to the camera. So we said, 'Bela, they want you there for an interview.' And he says, 'Boys, point me in the right direction.' So we got him squared around, and then said, 'Now just take about ten paces forward  (continued next page - 4 more great 4E pages left!)