I've struggled with indecision surrounding my final post for the Boris Karloff Blogathon. For much of the week, my posts have almost written themselves. As a fan of old time radio, I knew I wanted to highlight a few of Karloff's many radio performances, which have been largely eclipsed by his film career. Yet , I didn't want to simply end the week with another radio program. I wanted something more significant. A more fitting conclusion. In my mind at least.
So I've decided to end as I began. Sort of. I began with my earliest discovery of Boris Karloff. I'll end with my most recent discovery.
I was completely unaware, until I read some of the wonderful blogathon posts on Karloff's early days, that his acting career actually began in Canada. I guess I just assumed he had followed a direct path from England to Hollywood without any detours along the way. And if there had been any detours, they would likely have included New York. Or perhaps Chicago. But Canada?
As a Canadian whose lifelong exposure to media and pop culture has been dominated by the more voluminous output of the United States, I have always felt an odd sort of pride whenever the occasional reference to Canada crops up in American film or television or music. When the name of a Canadian city or town is mentioned. And the more obscure, the better. When an actor is discovered to have Canadian roots. When the setting of a film, ostensibly New York or Nebraska, is recognized as Toronto. Or Vancouver. Or Alberta. Or Newfoundland. And don't even get me started on the thrill I felt when the opening minutes of Johnny Belinda featured a map displaying Cape Breton Island. Or when Carly Simon sang about Nova Scotia in "You're So Vain".
But back to Boris Karloff.
Upon discovering this Canadian connection, I wanted to know more. But more wasn't easy to find. Until I stumbled upon an article that had been written for the journal "Alberta History" about Karloff's days in Canada. And among the anecdotes about his struggles and his fledgling career in theatre throughout the Canadian West, I noticed this quote, referring to his first big break:
"On the train, I concocted my stage name. Karloff came from relatives on my mother's side. The Boris I plucked out of the cold Canadian air."
Could it be? Apparently, William Pratt had become Boris Karloff in Canada. That cold Canadian air is inspiring indeed. And once again, I feel that odd sense of pride.