Spring 2019

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72 SAG-AFTRA | Spring 2019 | Snapshot by Valerie Yaros "I t is commonly said that no man is indispensable. If that means no man is irreplaceable, I disagree. The acting profession and the Screen Actors Guild have just lost an irreplaceable man: Boris Karloff." Thus began the March-April 1969 Screen Actor magazine tribute to Karloff, who had passed away on Feb. 2, 1969, at age 81, written by John L. "Jack" Dales, then the executive secretary of Screen Actors Guild. Karloff, whose performing career spanned more than five decades of stage, film, radio, sound recordings and television, largely portrayed villainous or menacing characters, including the creature in the first Frankenstein sound films beginning in 1931 and the title character in the 1966 animated Dr. Seuss TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But he was anything but a villain. A gentle gentleman, beloved by friends and colleagues as "Dear Boris," he remains an icon of film and popular culture a half century after his passing. The English-born Karloff, member #9 of Screen Actors Guild, held a life membership and served as a board member, officer and union organizer. He also abhorred prejudice and worked to combat its presence in the film world. A 1947 newspaper article revealed that "Karloff is planning … to fight definitely for race equality in Hollywood, and tells of some of the plans he has laid before the Screen Actors Guild. He and Negro screen star Louise Beavers are members of the Screen Guild committee to fight prejudice against Negro actors. 'Our job is to get more work for Negroes in films,' he said. 'We plan to insist that in all scenes at least 10 percent of the characters be Negroes moving about ordinary business the same as other people.'" Dales further explained: "Boris was not the type to go along for the ride. He was a courageous and aggressive force. He felt injustice and he reacted to it. He continued to serve his fellow actors as an active member of the Guild board until the early 1950s … an outspoken, challenging advocate for the many who dared not speak for themselves, innovative, intelligent and articulate. As an actor, he was equally dedicated, and he wore his success with becoming modesty. He honestly believed — and often reiterated — that all credit was due others, his makeup man, his director, his co-workers. Although in recent months working was an agonizing effort, he recently told me, 'All they have to do is lean me against a prop, give me a shot of oxygen and I'm ready.' One yearns to believe that all performers — particularly the newer generation — realize their indebtedness to Boris and his kind. We have lost a true professional. If an epitaph were needed, it would be 'He loved his fellow man." Screen Actors Guild founding member Boris Karloff's legacy has endured because of his portrayals of Frankenstein's man-made creature (above in Bride of Frankenstein, 1935) and as Dr. Seuss' Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), left. But on the semicentennial of his death, the unionist is also remembered for working with African American performers such as fellow SAG board member Louise Beavers, far left, to better the ways performers of color were portrayed on screen. Screen Stole the SAG-AFTRA SPECIAL COLLECTIONS X2; GRINCH: ©WARNER BROS. Remembering Karloff, the Gentleman Grinch

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