William Henry Pratt, an English actor better known as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, a Hungarian immigrant were major Hollywood stars in the very early days of Horror Movies. They appeared in 8 films together, but away from the limelight they were very different people.
Gregory William Mank has written an incredible book about the pair, and the updated version with new interviews and pictures is a wonderful and touching insight into the men behind the legends.
Were you a fan of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff before you wrote the book?
Yes, Ive been a fan of Lugosi and Karloff since I was six years old and saw the old horror films on TV’s Shock Theatre in the late 1950’s. The film that really enchanted me was Son of Frankenstein; Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster, Lugosi as broken-necked old Ygor. They were terrific and the movie played like a fairy tale for adults. I was hooked — forever.
After the original release, why did you decide to produce the expanded version?
I decided to produce an expanded version because of all the people I interviewed and information I learned after the first book was published in 1990. For example, I talked to Marilyn Harris, who was “Little Maria,” the child Karloff’s Monster drowns in the lake in Frankenstein; in fact, I found the precise location where that scene was shot at Malibou Lake. I interviewed both leading ladies of 1934’s The Black Cat, Julie Bishop and Lucille Lund; the little boy from Son of Frankenstein, Don Dunagan; and many more.
Especially informative and colorful was Hope Lugosi, Bela’s widow. She married him in 1955; he was 72, she was 36; he died about a week before their first anniversary. It was a very stormy and touching marriage and Hope was very candid about it all including the day she came home from work and found him dead. There was a great deal more about both men, personally and professionally, to report in this book.
How long did it take you to research and write the book?
I worked on the revised book off and on for about seven or eight years. Just when I thought it was finished, there’d be some new discovery. It was so much fun to research and write that I actually didn’t want to finish. My wife Barbara, who’s joined me on many of my research adventures, finally said, “Greg, it’s time, the book has to go to the publisher.”
Where did manage to get all the photos from?
I’ve been collecting them for many years. I used to order them from Hollywood shops while I was away at college in the early 1970s. Some of the photos I took myself with my own camera. Shortly before I finished the book, for example, I found the house where Karloff lived at the time of Frankenstein.
It was in the Hollywood Hills, at the top of 100 steps. I climbed up there on a very hot day and, by luck, a realtor was showing the house. I explained what I was doing and she let me explore the place. A shot I took from the bedroom window shows all the steps Karloff had to climb when he came home at night after an exhausting day’s work as the Monster.
What do you think was so special about the pair as actors?
Both Lugosi and Karloff (pictured right as The Mummy) were excellent actors. They approached their horror roles with total respect for the characters they portrayed and the audiences who came to see them. In the films they made together especially in The Black Cat, Son of Frankenstein and The Body Snatcher they had a strange, striking chemistry.