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‘Man Behind the Monster’ Shows There Was More To Boris Karloff Than Halloween Scares

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‘Man Behind the Monster’ Shows There Was More To Boris Karloff Than Halloween Scares
16th February 1965: Veteran horror actor Boris Karloff (1887 – 1969), famed for his role as the definitive monster in the 1931 version of ‘Frankenstein’. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Express/Getty Images)

On a happy but nervous day in 1969 I moved into my first serious home in one of New York’s most famous, historic, glamorous and coveted Victorian landmark buildings, The Dakota.  It would have been a big step under any circumstances for a fledgling novice, new in town, green as chlorophyll, and just beginning a hopefully successful writing career, but I was doubly excited because my new next door neighbor was the one and only Boris Karloff!

Unfortunately, my timing was lousy.  Because, you see, the crowning monarch of movie horror had just died at age 88, and although The Dakota was also home to John Lennon, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Nureyev and other notables, Karloff was the one I wanted to know most.  I found a cache of his fan letters in a garbage can near the service elevator but was too respectful to rescue them for posterity (and possibly sell them on eBay).  So I would never meet the Frankenstein monster in person.  Glumly, I confided my disappointment to the doorman.  “I’ve always loved him and now I live so close and yet so far and I will never meet him,” I confessed.  Without missing a beat, the doorman soberly replied: “He’ll be back.”


BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER ★★★★
(4/4 stars)
Directed by: Thomas Hamilton
Written by:Thomas Hamilton, Ron MacCloskey

Starring: Boris Karloff,
Running time: 1 hour, 39 mins.


And so he will—every year at Halloween, when a whole new generation discovers the art of his madness and mayhem all over again in an annual marathon of his greatest hits from The Black Cat to The Old Dark House and everything in-between.  Now he’s back to stay in a terrific documentary called Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster that sheds new light on the darkness that has shrouded him in mystery for nearly nine decades.  Fastidiously researched and directed by Thomas Hamilton, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ron MacCloskey, it unmasks the true identity of a soft-spoken British gentlemen born William Henry Platt but known throughout the civilized world as the most terrifying man alive and the father of the horror film industry.  Proceed at your own peril.

     With the aid of Karloff’s only daughter Sara, much of the film concentrates on his most celebrated role—the menacing monster made of nails, bolts and human organs in Frankenstein, James Whale’s 1931 classic adaption of Mary Shelley’s novel that turned an unknown actor into the stalking robotic freak of the title.  The movie made him a star, but the years of struggling to make ends meet, the accidental way he got the role, and the numerous problems encountered while making the film are catalogued with riveting detail.  A gentle man, he hated the scene where the monster throws the innocent child picking daisies into the black waters of the lake to drown.  He called it “wanton brutality” and managed to get it deleted, alienating the director and causing havoc.  He wasn’t even invited to the premiere.  But hidden behind hours of daily makeup without a word of dialogue, he became a phenomenal overnight sensation, and went on to play assorted vampires, mummies and even a Chinese sadist with realistic demonic powers that made audiences scream (and scream for more) without losing any of his own sense of humor. When an interviewer asks him if he spoke any Chinese on the controversial 1932 film The Mask of Fu Manchu, the real voice of Karloff laughs it off incredulously: “Good lord, no.  It was a shambles—simply ridiculous!

1631915295 400 ‘Man Behind the Monster Shows There Was More To Boris
Boris Karloff as the monster sitting lakeside with little girl in a scene from the film ‘Frankenstein’, 1931. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Biographical details are sketchy, and I would prefer fewer references to film technology and juicier personal anecdotes.  But what’s there is mesmerizing.  His father was a diplomat in Bombay with seven children who brutalized his family and left them penniless.  His Anglo-Indian heritage subjected him to racist insults.  He had bow legs, a lisp and a stammer which never qualified him for stardom but he never bothered to correct them. He left home and ended up as a Hollywood extra in silent films in 1920, where his dark complexion and penetrating eyes made him a standout in ethnic and exotic roles.  Struggling through the Depression with no money and no work, he was instrumental in unionizing the studios, which won him admirers among fellow actors, but prosperity and fame came slowly. There were lean years and eight marriages, then Frankenstein changed everything.  Teaming up with his close friend Bela Lugosi in The Black Cat (1934) and speaking for the first time as the monster in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) certified his status, but eventually he grew tired of type casting. Stuck in a rut, the way out was Broadway.  So he gambled with a comedy called Arsenic and Old Lace, playing a man “who looked like Boris Karloff”.  It ran for three years.

1631915295 685 ‘Man Behind the Monster Shows There Was More To Boris
At the Children’s Hospital, British actor Boris Karloff (born William Henry Pratt, 1887 – 1969) reads to a young patient as she drinks a glass of milk, Brooklyn, New York, New York, 1948. (Photo by Rae Russel/Getty Images) (Photo by Rae Russel/Getty Images)

But there was more to Karloff than “Boo!”  He played Captain Hook to Jean Arthur’s Peter Pan and in one of his most distinguished stage appearances he was nominated for a Tony award opposite Julie Harris’ Joan of Arc in Lillian Hellman’s adaptation of The Lark, which he repeated for NBC’s Hallmark Hall of Fame (an entire scene in the documentary is worth the price of admission alone).  In 1966, when he was retired and almost dead from severe emphysema, his career soared again with his recording How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and in 1968, one year before he died, he surfaced again, winning fresh raves as a retired horror film star whose life parallels the story of the mass murderer perched on top of the tower of the University of Texas in Austin.   Some of the rare footage from his late career includes Karloff spoofing his image by singing to a severed head on the Dinah Shore Show and discarding his wheelchair and oxygen mask to perfectly perform a musical number with Vincent Price and Red Skelton.  Not a wasted or superfluous moment anywhere.

  This movie honors both requirements of any documentary you can call memorable.  It educates and entertains at the same time.  I still live next door to the scariest man in the morgue.  But after Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster I now have another reason to smile every time I pass his front door after midnight.


Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Man Behind the Monster’ Shows There Was More To Boris Karloff Than Halloween Scares

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

ST. LOUIS – Art historians are calling it the holy grail of a find, a rare work of art found in a St. Louis front yard. What looked like a lawn ornament is now headed to a museum in New York.   

It’s a sculpture of two sisters that sat in the front yard of a St. Louis home that’s been on quite a journey. First rediscovered in 2019 by a gentleman named John Foster, an art historian.     

For years the sculpture entitled “Martha and Mary” sat on a bench in the city of St. Louis before an art historian saw it while out on a stroll. 

“That didn’t look like the commonly seen concrete lawn ornament that we are used to seeing,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior curator American Folk Art Museum & Exhibition chair. 

Sally Bliss had inherited this Martha and Mary sculpture, and it sat outside her home in New York when she was a ballet dancer. Years later after her first husband died, she moved to St. Louis when she met her second husband, Jim Connette. 

“I had it and put it out in my garden in Long Island, which was our main house, and brought it with me and put it on the bench,” Bliss said.

“I knew it was valuable. But I knew that nobody would steal it because it looked like it was part of the bench and would be really difficult to pick up that bench and steal the whole thing.” 

This lawn sculpture was originally made by artist William Edmondson, the famed black sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee.

The ‘two sisters’ sculpture had been featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937 in New York and later Paris, France. 

Today, William Edmondson is considered a preeminent black sculptor, although he didn’t start sculpting until 1934 when he was 60 years old, and only made 300 sculptures over the course of 15 years. 

Using limestone from demolished buildings.  

“Like most museums, we have to have supporters to acquire such artwork,” Rousseau said. “Prices for Edmundson sculptures can be $350,000 to $800,000.”   

And after some conversations and a cleaning, Martha and Mary are headed back to New York. This time, the sculpture will be the centerpiece of the American Museum of Folk Art. Debuting this January on the celebration of the museum’s 60th year. 

Thanks to the generosity of a man named Brian Donnelly, this sculpture and its wild ride of a story will reside in the Big Apple.  

“I was sad,” Bliss said. “But I knew that this was the right place for it to go and especially to New York and so many people will see it and he will get his due and to me, that’s more important than me having to be sad because I’m losing that work of art.” 

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Working Strategies: Quitting your job Part 2 — Consider your personal finances

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Working Strategies: Quitting your job Part 1: What to do at work

Do you know what the problem is for people who quit jobs? It’s the timing. People tend to wait too long, then quit all of a sudden, leaving themselves with a pile of unfinished business.

Amy Lindgren

Sometimes that business is emotional, with workers’ feelings of being unappreciated accumulating to a toxic level by the time they exit. There’s usually some unfinished business in the job itself, and in the worker’s career as well, not to mention the feeling of being unprepared personally or financially.

Which brings us back to timing: What’s with that pattern of staying too long and suddenly exiting? For one thing, it’s usually a difficult decision. Most people will delay the real or perceived conflict of quitting for as long as they can, opting to adapt to difficult situations instead.

Others may not recognize that their sense of discontent in life may be rooted in a job that no longer challenges them. If the job itself is reasonable, it’s easy to disregard the nibbling sense that something doesn’t quite fit.

And others may just prefer the known downsides of the current job over the potential (but unknown) upsides of a new position.

Regardless of the reasons for a delay, the truth is, most people eventually do leave their jobs and you probably will too. If you’re near the end of your career, the leave-taking might be through retirement or illness, but otherwise you’re likely to quit for reasons that range from new employment to business startup to just needing time off.

Once you acknowledge that fact, you can take more control of the timing. Instead of disregarding the mounting discontent until you can’t take any more, you can plan steps and processes to follow. Whether these unfold over the course of weeks or years is up to you – which is exactly the point.

To help you organize those steps, last week’s column provided five things to do in your current job before quitting. Today we’ll look at five things to do in your personal finances, and next week’s column will finish the series with a look at five things to do in your career before stepping out the door.

Organize (or pay down) your debt. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have debt, whether that’s a mortgage, car loan, student loan, credit cards, or a combination of all of these. The reason to review these accounts while you’re working is three-fold: One, what you discover may influence your timing; two, if you want to make a major purchase, that will be easier while you’re still working; and three, strategies such as refinancing your mortgage to achieve lower payments will be more difficult after you quit.

This step holds true even if you’re quitting to start a new job, because longevity in your position is often considered in lending decisions. And it’s a hundred times more true if you’re quitting to start a business — one of the most difficult positions from which to re-organize one’s debt.

Retirement accounts. Decisions to roll over a 401(k), to set up a new retirement account, or to convert an IRA to a Roth are all things best considered before quitting, while you have the most options available.

Health insurance. You don’t need to be reminded, but just in case: Be sure you know what health insurance options will be available after you leave your job. If any steps can be handled now, you’ll appreciate not having that burden later, when the timing could be more critical.

Take your sick days. Speaking of health … have you used your sick time? Those days have been set aside for you to use in taking care of your health, so now’s the time to schedule your preventative care. This is especially smart if your sick days are “use it or lose it” in terms of payout.

Figure out your cash flow. If you’re taking another job, this step may be built-in, since you’ve already negotiated your next salary. But if you’re leaving without another source of income, you’ll enjoy the getaway more if there’s gas in the car. Don’t just assume that your savings will cover you. Make a decision about how much of your savings you’re willing to spend before you need a new income source.

If all of these personal finance steps are starting to kill your enthusiasm for quitting, don’t worry. You’ll get your motivation back next week when you review the steps to take in your career to ensure a good transition.

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‘I’m an American, I do what I want’: ‘Squid Game’ VIP actor once ranted, advocated dating Thai women

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Geoffrey Giuliano squid game vip 4

Geoffrey Giuliano, the actor who plays one of the controversial VIP characters in the latest hit drama “Squid Game,” was previously filmed going on a rant in a supermarket in Thailand. Users online are now calling him the “real life” version of his villainous character. 

The supermarket incident: A 2017 DailyMail story showed the actor, now 68, swearing at another customer while purchasing items at a Big-C supermarket in Pattaya. 

  • The customer, an unnamed French expat, claimed that Giuliano jumped in front of him in an express “10 items or less” checkout line and proceeded to throw roughly 25 items on the conveyor belt.  
  • As he began to film the incident, Giuliano said to him, “You’re not intimidating me by that camera, I’m an actor.”
  • In the video, the French customer can be heard replying, “I’m just waiting for the next round, because what you said about America was very interesting.”
  • Giuliano becomes visibly irate and swears at the customer: “Go f*** yourself, OK. Go f*** yourself, OK, let’s get it real straight. You can go f*** yourself, OK.”
  • He continues: “​​I’m an American, I do what I want, we’re the kings of the world, OK. We’re professional a*******. We have taken being a******* to the highest possible f****** level in this world.” 
  • The customer said that Giuliano was initially “aggressive” with how he threw his items down. He started to film once Giuliano spoke about “being American and being able to do what he wanted.”
  • Both Giuliano’s wife and child were present during the ordeal. His wife was described as “friendly” and that she “looked embarrassed by his behavior.” 
  • The story resurfaced on the controversial subreddit r/Aznidentity, with users pointing out the similarities between Giuliano and his character, identified on the show as VIP Four. 

More on Giuliano’s past: In 2016, one year before the grocery store incident, the actor made news when he was involved in an investigation for missing iconic photographs. That same year, he also promoted a website aimed toward men who want to date Thai women. 

  • A Mail on Sunday investigation of the missing photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s wedding led an undercover reporter to Giuliano, who reportedly claimed to have the photos’ negatives worth over $100,000 up for sale. Giuliano put the reporter in contact with a mysterious middle-man. ​
  • ​”Giuliano said he had been instructed to sell the negatives on behalf of a friend but the deal soured when Giuliano suspected the reporter was acting for Ono and refused to sell them before launching into a vile tirade against her,” the report said.
  • In the same year, the actor posted several videos on his YouTube channel promoting a website called “Date Thai Ladies.” Each of the videos show him expanding on several stereotypes of Thai women. 
  • In one video, he addresses the question, “Why Should a Beautiful Thai Lady Want Me?” His answer: “All you want is the love and respect you deserve, the same thing that Thai ladies want — which, quite frankly, they don’t often get from Thai men.” In another video titled “If I Date a Thai Girl I will be Ridiculed by My Friends?” he assures any potential clients that “Thai women are the most beautiful, sensual women in the world.” Finally in another video, he compares his experience of being with Thai women to his 30-year marriage with an American woman. “These Thai ladies are really quite sincere. They’re looking for a family, they’re family-oriented.” 
  • According to his IMDB page, the actor recently appeared in a small role in the Netflix movie “Kate.” He’s also coming out with a TV series titled “Last Tango In Thailand” which features the actor “homing in on the infamous Vietnam era sex-for-sale, seaside town of Pattaya, where he takes a wild ride through the mean streets of the global swinging capitol of the world.”
  • Early on in his career, the actor played McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald before he became a vegetarian and turned his back on the fast food company. He’s been featured in the 1997 documentary “McLibel” about the lawsuit by McDonald’s against environmentalists.

Featured Image via “Squid Game” (left), Daily Mail (right)

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