Boris Karloff's Height
5ft 11in (180 cm)
English actor best remembered for his three turns as Frankenstein's Monster, as well as roles in The Criminal Code, The Mummy, Scarface, The Old Dark House, The Black Cat, The Walking Dead, The Body Snatcher, Black Sabbath and Targets. In the 1930's he was being described in official pressbooks as Six Foot and 170 pounds.
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Jack said on 3/Jul/16
What was the average height back then? 5'11 is slightly above average now, but I imagine it was considered quite tall in the 30's.
Ian C. said on 20/Dec/15
In an unseemly descent into false modesty, Karloff said of his performance in Frankenstein that "any actor with a large frame" could have played the part as well as he had. Now that ain't true on two fronts. First of all, Karloff was implying that he himself had a large frame, when he was only a little taller than average, and rather thin to boot. Secondly, no one on this Earth has ever played that monster as well as Karloff, because no one who has tried so far has had that remarkably sinister yet beautiful face. Karloff could look menacing and not say a word. Oddly, he was said to be an unusually kind and generous man, who was popular with children.
Sam said on 15/Oct/15
It is possible that Karloff was in the 5'10"-5'11" range at his peak...although certainly can look a taller than average guy even in non-monster roles which he would have been, as the average was in the range of 5'7" in his day.
Arch Stanton said on 19/Aug/15
@Sam I saw Targets recently, yeah it's good, I'll never go to a drive in cinema now hehe!!
Sam said on 18/Aug/15
Yeah, his spine was seriously curved by that point, he was practically hunchbacked. You can see in his final film Targets (a great flick BTW) Peter Bogdanovich, who I believe was a weak six footer at his peak, can seem considerably taller but Karloff obviously had lost many inches, looked like more loss than Clint Eastwood has had.
Jen said on 3/Jun/15
In 1968 Karloff was standing behind me on Leicester Square Tube Station, and when I turned round I was looking straight in his eyes. I was 5'5 at the time. I remember being suprised at how small he was.
Sam said on 27/Oct/14
I will check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.
Arch Stanton said on 23/Oct/14
@Sam, one film I recommend is The Man with Nine Lives. One of his lesser known ones but quite enjoyable set in a mysterious house on a lake in which he freezes people. You've probably seen it but recommended to anybody who is Karloff fan and not seen it.
Sam said on 22/Oct/14
Thanks! Great picture BTW and great actor.
Robster said on 21/Oct/14
As a lifelong fan, for info: Lugosi & Karloff in an early 1930's dinner event picture social attire on the side-street see's Lugosi only marginally taller. The 6ft 1" & 6ft quoted heights were from studio publicity and 'nicely' agreeable figures. The 1931 Boots' extra sole added only about 3 to 4". That's why he's taller than Colin Clive but not leading man John Boles. The Bride & Son Boots were redesigned and it's not sure how much, if any?, extra height they added. Famously the Mirror scene with Rathbone in Son see's height about even, a poorly shot scene that could easily have been cured with a small platform. Apparently Ian Lad used one a lot in Shane (the Western). Boris's back troubles were incidently from labouring work with cement bags. I gather Boris himself said once on interview 5' 10" to 11". But he seemed to shrink alot with a stoop as he aged, stand in a mirror try the same stance with chin down and you look about 4" shorter. The average height for a British man in 1900 was only around 5'5". So karloff was tall but not exceptonally so. James Whale's comment of K's physique was weaker than ideal' said it all. Boris was small for the part but the costume made up the difference, which was Whale's view and proved right. Chaney and Strange were taller but anything much more than 4" lifts begins to look pantomineish. Any movement dangerous to the ankles. Lugosi got the worst deal, being cast in Meets the Wolfman beside a Bulky Chaney and strapping Patric Knowles. He was clearly even in costume around only evens in heigh and 'smaller' than both, but guess he got away with it. Tall stuntman Ed Parker doubled for action shots but was, discretely, also the first face shot of an ice clad Monster. You can clearly see it's not Lugosi. Still from all of those actors, one of cinema's best loved Monsters, but a human one too - that was the magic ingredient above all. Not bettered in the 83 years since either!
Sam said on 20/Oct/14
Rob, could you revise his credits to "best remembered for his three turns as Frankenstein's Monster, as well as roles in The Criminal Code, The Mummy, Scarface, The Old Dark House, The Black Cat, The Walking Dead, The Body Snatcher, Black Sabbath and Targets."?
said on 8/Oct/14
Arch, I've seen a bunch of photos with Lugosi and Karloff and I think the difference looks more 2 than 3 inches...I know Lugosi was taller in The Black Cat but haven't seen it recently.
Arch Stanton said on 20/Aug/14
Not a chance of 6ft !! Unless Lugosi was pushing 6 ft 3!!
Arch Stanton said on 20/Aug/14
Mmm. Lugosi looks more 3 inches taller in The Black Cat. Either Lugosi was a bit taller than 185 or Karloff was more 5'10 range.
Lorne said on 9/Oct/13
Strange, that so many people talk about how tall he was, yet really 180-181 max! Seriously, interviews with people who met him, and multiple people mentioned his height, and his presence, as if tall! I can believe a solid 5'11 when younger(though could certainly look less) and I imagine back then, you could be described "tall" at over 5'11, but for multiple people to mention it, half a century(and more) later, shows how perception plays such a factor in things like height. I can see it now... 80 year old Cameron Diaz saying Tom Cruise was great, but not more than 5ft5!!!
gedeon said on 7/Oct/13
boris karloff, as detailed on his 1935 california drivers license was 6' tall..
Sam said on 24/Sep/13
Karloff did seem to naturally have a lurching walk...I've heard (don't know how true it is) that his back problems were partially due to the Frankenstein's monster role, due to being made to wear clunky, heavy 6+ inch lifts and carry people for many takes at James Whale's insistence. However, Karloff didn't seem to be as hunched or as curved in the spine in his 1940s Val Lewton movies, after his three turns as Frankenstein's monster, as he was later but it seemed to hit him hard once he was past 60 y/o.
Ian C. said on 2/Aug/13
If you watch Karloff in some of the movies he made before and after Frankenstein, he walks with a lurch, as if he had bad hips. So the lurching walk of the Frankenstein Monster might well have been Karloff's own, natural way of walking.
greg lehmann said on 21/Jul/13
Still terrifies audiences as Frankenstein,but he did great narrating and voicing the Grinch in the 1966 holiday special How The Grinch Stole Christmas despite crippling emphysema,lupus,kidney cancer,a heart ailment,and rheumatoid arthritis!
Ian C. said on 10/Jul/13
Actually, Sam, I just said that five foot eight thing to be argumentative. Sorry about that. Most people who write this site seem pretty sincere, so maybe I should get with the program.
Sam said on 8/Jul/13
Your comments about his age, bad back and sinister face are all true, I don't know if people want him to be taller per say than he was but I do think they perceive him as taller than he was. However, I'd argue against estimating him as low as 5'8" at full height. At 3 inches, it's quite a downgrade. He did seem to be a little taller than average (see his Val Lewton movies) and he didn't seem to look up at a lot of people until he was quite aged and stooped.
Ian C. said on 4/Jul/13
Estimates of Karloff's height are complicated, Sam, by the fact that he didn't become a movie star until he was well over forty. He was troubled by arthritis and a bad back, and many of his movies he walks with a stoop. You really want somebody with that astonishingly sinister face to be tall though, especially if he is playing a brutish murderer who has been assembled from dead men.
Sam said on 2/Jul/13
Ian, Karloff could have been a bit shorter in his barefeet than 5'11". However, there's enough early films (before they would have put in him lifts to play monsters) where he acts in "street clothes" and looks taller than average. Karloff might have been close to 5'10" but not under it.
Ian C. said on 29/Jun/13
Karloff is one of those actors that you want to have been tall, and I think that this is why we can never get a reliable report of his true height. If you watch Frankenstein, he seems to be wearing boots that are practically stilts, and his coat has sleeves that barely cover his forearms, lending the impression that the monster was a giant. It's just that he doesn't seem that big alongside the other actors. I wouldn't be surprised if he were as short as five foot eight. It's just that he played monstrous beings that had to be big to be truly scary, and so we just assume that he himself was big.
Arch Stanton said on 27/Jun/13
Yeah, he could look a bit taller than this certainly Sam.
said on 5/Jun/13
Interesting that in stills from their films together, angles and posturing gave the impression that Bela Lugosi and Karloff were around the same height, with Karloff maybe even appearing taller in some. In The Body Snatcher and Son of Frankenstein, Karloff certainly seems bigger and more imposing due to his characters.
I've seen some off screen pictures (like the book The Films of Boris Karloff) where Lugosi is clearly a weak couple inches taller.
said on 22/May/13
Rob have you seen The Man With Nine Lives? Great little film. He could look tallish in it.
[Editor Rob: not seen that one yet.]
Sam said on 14/May/13
Glad you finally added him Rob. This is accurate I think, he was almost 2 inches shorter than Bela Lugosi, who was 6'1". He had a big screen presence, but Karloff was around 5'11".
Arch Stanton said on 9/May/13
Nice one! Yep, he was 5'11 and played the great monster!