Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Career Mashed By a Monster

Dear Aspiring Actors,

Please do not become famous and then complain how you’re tired of your role, or fed up with being typecast. It is an occupational hazard. And a pretty common one.

You become famous and popular because people like seeing you as the character you are performing. And they want to see more of it. Over and over and over until they get tired of it and want someone new. That’s an occupational hazard, too.

Just about every famous film actor has been typecast. All you have to do is say their name and an image pops into your head. John Wayne. Clint Eastwood. Cary Grant. Edward G. Robinson. You don’t picture any of them as “The Disorderly Orderly,” do you?

And what about Boris Karloff? Just like all great actors, he could have played a variety of roles but people remember him for one (well, maybe two, but only when cartoons are on around Christmas). And when the genre he was typecast in died away, pickings became pretty slim (at least he didn’t end up starring in movies about plans from outer space). But he became philosophical about it, as this Associated Press interview from 1949 showed:

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 21.—(AP)—The ghost of Frankenstein’s monster still hovers over Boris Karloff.
The noted actor is back to playing a boogyman, this time with Abbott and Costello in “A. and C. Meet the Killers.” “But I think they’ll probably scare me more than I will them,” he remarked.
No matter where Karloff’s acting career takes him, he always seems to return to the spine-tinglers. He has tried Broadway plays. One lasted five performances. Another folded last month after six tries.
It’s ironic that his only Broadway success was in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” in which he played a madman with a haunting resemblance to the movie actor, Boris Karloff.
Last year he had a run as Indian chief in the movies “Tap Roots” and “Unconquered.” (Actually, his tanned face resembles an Indian more than the English gentleman he is.) He had other offers to play redskins, but turned them down to avoid being typed.
Karloff used to turn down horror roles, too, but he told me he has a new philosophy.
“I have refused many roles in the past two years because I didn’t think they were good enough,” he said. “I think now that was a mistake. From now on I shall take everything that comes along. Out of all that, something ought to turn out to be outstanding.”
The actor hasn’t played Frankenstein’s monster in 15 years, but the shade of the satchel-footed dim-wit still follows him around. He still gets fan mail about it.
When he was in New York, kids asked him for his autograph and said how much they liked him in “Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein.” (Glenn Strange played the role.)
Actually, he doesn’t resent the monster.
“It’s good for an actor to have a role in which he can make a name for himself,” he said.
“I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t played the monster in 15 years, and yet I’ve managed to keep working.” He tapped the nearest piece of wood.


  1. No comments on the "Things I never expect to see..." following this newspaper article including "Bette Davis and Joan Crawford co-starred in the same picture"?

  2. A great attitude to adopt. It probably got him further and gave him better peace of mind than complaining about how everyone thinks of him as Frankensteins monster would have.