Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The passing of the King
Today I'm remembering the King of Terror, Boris Karloff, and BLACK FRIDAY.
Not the 1940 film Karloff made with Bela Lugosi, but Friday, February 2nd, 1969. Forty-two years ago today--the day the King of Terror was taken by Prince Sirki, and all horror film fandom wept.
I know I did. I was 7 years old when my father told me my favorite actor was gone. I cried hot tears in my bedroom. I had looked forward to growing up with new Boris Karloff films! Wasn't he the man who vowed to never stop working? Hadn't Famous Monsters magazine informed monster kids everywhere of his future film plans? I couldn't imagine Forrest Ackerman no longer cheerfully reporting on Boris' busy schedule of appearances on TV and film. Karloff's workload was amazing for a man in his 80's, despite crippling, painful arthritis and debilitating emphysema. He seemed to be imbued with the immortal life force that Frankenstein's monster was given. But like the films Boris appeared in, that was only a wonderful illusion.
He was a man I wanted to be like. He was courteous, energetic, and dedicated to a profession that made others happy. Respected and loved, his life was productive, despite his ailments and in spite of his experiencing the tragedy of divorce. My young life had known a lot of illness, and my family had suffered through divorce. But Mr. Karloff had overcome these problems, so I believed life was not as scary as the films I watched Boris in.
And now he was gone, joining Bela Lugosi for a final time. My mother had died a year before, and the power of death to change life for the worse was absolute, it was clear. So I sobbed until I couldn't anymore. I lay on the bed, miserable.
My father came back with a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I said nothing. He said nothing. He just smiled an awkward smile, set it on my bed, and left.
Inside were new photos of Boris not run before. I lost myself in the pictures, imagining the stories they seemed to tell. Boris' baritone was speaking words of menace and power, and in the back of my mind was the thought that there were future issues of FM to look forward to. And no one ever died in Famous Monsters of Filmland.
I wish I still had that issue.