Link should be good for 7 days:
Oxford DNB: Lives of the week
On behalf of a friend in the US:
Thanks for your help
It is universally known that British-born William H. Pratt (1887-1969)
changed his name to Boris Karloff after he emigrated to Canada, and
eventually to the USA. Clearly, this name-change from Pratt to Karloff
happened at some point in time after the immigrant-manual laborer
Pratt undertook a new career as an actor.
But EXACTLY WHEN the obscure, gypsy-like, struggling young actor
Pratt renamed himself Karloff does not seem to be documented by
any contemporary records. Karloff books by Lindsay, Nollen,
Buehrer, and others, and web-sites like Wikipedia (excerpted below)
touch upon this chronological mystery, but they all seem to rely on
Karloff's casual memories expressed (to Lindsay) decades later, and
on photos autographed by Karloff, which he dated ("1912, 1914"),
but which dates could have been approximations added by the actor
years after the fact. Apparently no one has managed to confirm by
contemporary records (e.g., theatre reviews/advertisements in local
newspapers) whether Pratt became Karloff before, or after, writers
like Edgar R. Burroughs or even Harold McGrath invented literary
characters with similar names (Boris of Karlova, Boris Karlov).
Anything is possible, including coincidence. But it seems equally
probable that the obscure young actor touring small towns on the
Canadian and US frontier, as one member of obscure barnstorming
troupes, borrowed his Russian-sounding stage name from nationally
published authors (Burroughs or even McGrath), as to assume that
such writers would have lifted their characters' names from the
nonentity which young Mr Pratt was in the decade 1909-1919...
However, the above puzzle remains unconfirmed to this day. In the
words of an Edgar R Burroughs website, "ERB [i.e., Burroughs]
certainly had ties to Hollywood at that time , but as far as I
know, the Karloff connection is still [a] mystery waiting to be solved."
Or has some recent research finally come up with a documented
Steven P Hill,
University of Illinois.
He gave Hannah Weinstein a home in Paris or something and that led to her becoming a TV Producer in Britain on the back of Col. March. and the Department of Queer Complaints (surely the x-files of its day!).
Was Karloff involved with the post-war Anti-American Activities farrago somehow?Weinstein left America because of it and it's difficult to see how else she would have been friendly with Boris........
Nothing suggested in that biog.........
Looking up Karloff's filmography, I see he appeared in Arsenic and Old Lace in three separate productions (1962, 1955, and 1949) as Jonathon Brewster, the role he originated on Broadway. I can't find any of them for sale, just the mediocre 1968 version with Fred Gwyne. Man, that's frustrating. We all want to hear Boris Karloff say, "He said I looked like Boris Karloff." It's not as funny when another actor says it. By the way, Bela Lugosi was in the touring production and the line was changed so he said his own name.
Karloff also did several radio versions of "Arsenic and Old Lace" - some you can find online.
I really like "The Veil" series that he did.
TVTimes, 20-26 November 1955
Boris was currently starring as Colonel March of Scotland Yard. The episode that week -The Second Mona Lisa:
$30 a week??!! That sounds like a fortune for 1915. Even by 1940 the average wage in the USA was only $956, which was $18 per week. Repertory actors were generally on average working-class wages, in the UK at least.
much like today, movie stars are shown to have earned far more than the average American's $956 annual wage.
The National Archives website shows that then-actor Ronald Reagan, and his wife, actress Jane Wyman, reported incomes of more than $5,000 a year and noted that their Los Angeles home was worth $200,000.
Measuring Worth site
In 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), £15 0s 0d from 1915 was worth £938.00 using the retail price index or £4,310.00 using average earnings.
Either way, that's pretty good for a week's work. Not a fortune, but quite a respectable wage.
I'd have to dig back through my stuff but I'm sure I recall Patrick McGoohan talking of earning £8 a week as a leading man at Sheffield Repertory, and because his wife earned similar, they considered themselves very affluent just then. But that was as late as 1951 or so.
I guess there were a lot more dollars to the pound, back in 1915 too.
Last edited by Moor Larkin; 21-11-12 at 10:17 AM.
I read that Karloff said he changed his name because a numerologist said his current one was bad luck. Boris Karloff had the numbers for success.