Sara Karloff, daughter of Frankenstein 23

Boris Karloff’s only daughter doesn’t like frightening movies.

“The Wizard of Oz” scared me when I was seven. Now I leave the room during “Murder, She Wrote,” said Sara Karloff, an elegant woman of a certain age, born when her father was 51.

The dark-skinned beauty’s coal-black hair sports an amazing white streak, reminiscent of the bride of you-know-who.

Chit-chatting genially at a book signing at Hollywood’s Larry Edmunds Book Shop organized to mark the publishing of the authorized biography, Boris Karloff, More Than a Monster, Ms. Karloff admitted she was already 19 when she first saw her father’s iconic performance in the Universal horror classic, “Frankenstein“: “I was out of sync [with the culture].”

“I was sitting in my stepfather’s living room and it came on t.v. one afternoon. I watched it closely, alone, thinking, hmnnn….”

boris-and-sara-karloffShe’s since seen the film innumerable times. (Her words, “I’ve had to see it many, many times.”) Carefully defending her father’s full range of talent — he did film, television, radio, spoken word, and theater throughout his career — she shared a daughter’s view of the Big, Flat-Headed One.

One element of the Frankenstein performance that she loves is, “the pathos in his hand movements. He had beautiful hands. And the angle of his body as he walked. And the angle of his arms, pulled slightly back, his fingers splayed…” She added with a murmur, “pure genius.”

“The film was James Whale the director, Jack Pierce, the make-up artist, and the manner my father portrayed the monster. It was a marriage of all those things.”

Sara, who lives in San Diego county, oversees a website dedicated to her father’s career. She was the actor’s only child (and his heir) from his five marriages, and the two share the same birthday, November 23. Evidence of a deep father-daughter connection was on view in rare family Kodachrome home-movie footage, real treasures, the most touching footage shot on the day of Sara’s christening. In them, the clearly overjoyed Karloff canoodles with his dark-haired newborn baby girl.

In a video of Karloff’s appearance on Ralph Edwards’ “This is Your Life” television broadcast in 1957, Karloff re-encounters a series of acquaintances from his humble climb to international stardom; among them, Jack Pierce, who transformed the lanky and strong-featured actor into a formidable, giant golem. Karloff says in the video, “Best make-up man in the world, I owe him a lot.”

A self-made man, Karloff essentially dropped out of school in the U.K., stowed away on a steamer to Canada, and, by sheer will, became an actor, learning on the job. He acted up till his death in 1969.

The man who starred in three Frankenstein franchises [“Frankenstein,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” “Son of Frankenstein”] was, “modest, self-effacing. He never talked about his career. He didn’t talk about other actors. He was the kindest, most warm-hearted man,” said Sara Karloff.

Frankenstein’s daughter admitted “my father was a very handsome man, too.”

The clip below demonstrates Karloff’s robust Frankenstein portrayal, starting with James Whale’s terrifying first view of the monster. That sequence must have scared the bejesus out of matinee ladies in 1931, because it freaks me out now.

photo credits: thank you Howard Lavick, also draculand

23 thoughts on “Sara Karloff, daughter of Frankenstein

  1. Earl David Norman Apr 16,2017 8:01 pm

    Dear Miss Karloff, My name is Earl “David” Norman and I first became a fan of your father when I was about 10 years old and first saw the original Frankenstein movie on a late show. I admit to having been totally terrorized at the time and had to hide my eyes when certain scenes played. Despite the incredible make up and the magnificent job of acting that your father contributed to the movie, when they showed close ups of his face I found that I could still see a kindness in his eyes. From that point on I wanted desperately to get to know your father but never had the opportunity. Now that I have seen you in a Biography of your father I hope against hope that I might in some way become acquainted with you and learn about your life growing up in the Karloff house and learn more about you and the person you have become. If you would be willing to correspond with me please either email me at oezdave@yahoo.com or mail me at 230 Hawthorne Road Apt G-02 Elkin, North Carolina. 28621. I am 67 years old and this would fulfill a 57 year old dream to be able to correspond with and get to know a member of the Karloff Household. I do not mean to intrude on your life and privacy but would greatly appreciate a reply from you.
    Sincerely
    Dave Norman

  2. Igor Mar 26,2017 6:14 pm

    The Father of Horror, the King, a voice known across the land. Ohh the noise the noise the noise. Excuse me while I get me a roast beast sandwich.

  3. William carl Dec 25,2016 9:21 am

    I loved all your father’s work to me he was an amazing actor and human being God bless

  4. Nicholas Pinhey Nov 29,2016 8:42 pm

    Hello Sara,

    My father and his parents were members of the “British colony” in Hollywood in the late 1920’s. My father played rugby at the time and used to tell me that Boris Karloff refereed the games. There were other celebrities involved, but my memory of their names has faded.

  5. Gary W. Kidd Oct 9,2016 8:52 pm

    Hi miss sara, my name is gary w.kidd. My mom’s maiden name was pratt. So we always thought we are part of the family. Even we may distant relatives. I love your dad’s movies. I’m trying to see all his film’s. I like to watch TCM. I hope you are well and may God bless you.

  6. Paul Becker Oct 5,2016 9:42 pm

    Sara. At the age of 86 I guess I’ve seen just about every actor and actress since the beginning of the sound you hear in 1928 – 1929. There is no doubt in my mind that your father had a wider and broader range than any of them. I can’t thank him for all the many years of entertainment but I can certainly pass my thanks along to you as his daughter. My good friend Ginger Rogers always closed with one word. Blessings. My blessings to you.

  7. Sidney T. Bey Sep 20,2016 8:56 am

    Ms. Karloff, Simply put….your Dad was to acting as Sunshine is to summer…his affect on the profession was unsurpassed and Never will be/CAN be duplicated.. He Redefined the Horror genre as
    we all know.. May God continue to Bless You….Mr. Sidney Travis Bey.

  8. Marian Pratt Feb 10,2016 6:45 pm

    Hello Sara i hope you read this or somebody could pass this message on to you.My name is Marian Julia Pratt and i belive your father is my late father Raymond pratt’s relation his fathers name was maurice pratt we have managed to trace so far bback on the family tree so we know we are definitely your relations. We have photos of my father and of maurice and the pictures of your father are so alike they could be the same person i even look a bit like you my mother said .It would be wonderful if we could correspond.Yours sincerely Marian Julia Pratt.

  9. Maurice H Jan 19,2016 9:46 pm

    Hi Ms Sara, and as others here, I loved your dad, but as much as he is remembered for the monster roles, I thought he was marvelous as the religious zealot in John Ford’s much unappreciated The Lost Patrol. How did he find working with both Ford and Victor McLaglen. Both were becoming huge in Hollywood.

  10. john spoulos Nov 12,2015 10:34 am

    Hello Sara, I wanted to ask you if you might be willing to do a phone interview for my Theatre of Horror radio show here in NJ? I have call ins, interviews, as well as movie highlights etc. If you see this request, please let me know at broncofan54@aol.com which is my email or 732 604 6096 my phone contact. I think an interview with you would be the highlight of the year. Thank you for your time and consideration. John Spoulos

  11. Brian Magnafici Oct 15,2015 8:26 am

    Sara hi ! What did you go as for Halloween ? Me> the monster, wolfman, creature from the black lagoon…

  12. tom Wright Sep 23,2015 8:54 pm

    Hello;
    I’m a huge fan of your dad.
    I’m a long retired rugby player (72), and when I was playing for the L.A. Rugby Club, there was a rumor that he fund-raised about 10k for a tour to England, and someone absconded with the $$.
    True?
    Thanks for your time!
    Tom

  13. George Socci Sep 18,2015 5:05 pm

    Hello beautiful Sara.At one point i did read a story that your father did indeed bring his work home.I read that he went home with his makeup on.He was actually doing garden work with his makeup on.And the people had stop their cars just to see the gentle monster at work in his garden.Sara i love your father.He did scare the hell out of me But ,a good happy scare.Sara i use the word love not loved because it means passed tence.I will always love your father cause he is in my thoughts,my mind and everywhere i go.Frankenstein will always be the BOSS of monster films.Love you both Sara dear.Stay well. P.S.Smoke good,drink good,fire no good ,friend good LOL.

  14. Pamela StClair Apr 7,2015 2:50 am

    Just wanted to say that I thought your father was a very handsome man, I was only twelve when he passed away but I have always liked horror movies done with some taste anyway. Your father seemed like such a gentle soul. I am 57 y.o. now and I still enjoy seeing him as host on thriller. All the best.

  15. Kenneth Laurendine Nov 8,2014 9:45 pm

    Yes,I can see the compassion you felt for your father in your eyes & face Sara, & am sure his light from his heart shines down from Heaven, like a star in the night, to the delight of all you do for your Father, William Pratt, and to the memory of Boris Korloff. Not a monster by fear by you,but a monsterous sized heart for what he did for us all. God Bless you for your warm dedication to not just an actor , but a father.

  16. Kenneth A Briganti Mar 8,2014 9:19 pm

    Sara my uncle was lou costello he and your dad are imortals of film and when you mentioned your christining its nice that your catholic at that too god bless

  17. gmg Nov 10,2012 6:33 pm

    Sara, your father seemed like such a lovely, lovely man. How lucky you are to have had him as a father. I especially enjoyed watching “This is your life Boris Karloff” on youtube!!

  18. Cheryl Swain Burbage Oct 31,2012 11:57 pm

    From everything I’ve ever read avout him, your dad was a great actor and a truly kind and thoroughly decent man. How nice to know that he was only a monster on film. It’s a;ways a treat to see one of his movies. You must be a very proud daughter.

  19. mary g thompson Oct 19,2012 12:06 am

    ms Karloff

    I am hoping that somebody will finally figure out that your fathers story
    needs to be done in a way which conveys his humanity as well as his
    really stupid type casting(not to mention a glimpse of Hollywood)
    I always knew,even as a child,that he expressed more acting skill than
    was ever given the credit by his studios,etc(I always felt sorry for the monster)

    Anyway I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought of this,but anyway I really loved your father-he was one of the real deals!!!!
    I actually tried to contact Jeremy Irons(I think he resembles him, not sure about if it reached)

    Mary G Thompson

  20. richard (INDY) bowers Jun 29,2012 12:02 pm

    Dear Sara,I am a 51 year old artist living in missouri.I have done work for Ozzie Smith,Frank Sinatra,Stan Musial and many others.This is to let you know i am a serious artist,not an amatuer.I have a compact but,impressive collection of Frankenstien memorablia,including the bust from Universal,and all matter of models,posters,etc..I have also built a full size monster for my haunted house.A few years ago I painted a portrait of your father in costume,adding glasses to the monster to try to meet the intelligent gentle man and the monster,I called it Einstien Frankenstien.The reason for this post is to ask for anything you might you might have with your fathers signature(anything at all)to complete my collection? Yours in the highest regard, Richard”Indy”Bowers you can reach me at my e-mail address or call (636)629-2460 Thank you

  21. Glenn Solomon Mar 20,2012 9:45 pm

    Hi Sara. Enjoyed sitting with you and Lou at the BNP Parabas tournament. Just finished watching “This Is Your Life” on Youtube about your father. You look great in it, and it was great to hear about your father’s life.

    Hope I get to see you again and maybe sit with you at next years tournament. Don’t know if I should give me email in this message for all to see, but possibly you have it, as I was required to post it above; if you feel comfortable conversing with me occasionally. Take care and say “Hi” to Lou for me.

    Sincerely, Glenn Solomon

  22. julie Garfield May 5,2011 9:03 pm

    Sara,
    I loved your father, and I envy you the time you had with him.
    Well done Debra!
    Sincerely,
    Julie Garfield

  23. sara karloff May 4,2011 8:26 pm

    thank you for writing such a lovely article
    Sara

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