How tall was Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff's Height

5ft 11 (180.3 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 170 pounds and listed himself in the Spotlight Directory as 6 feet.

Boris Karloff

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Add a Comment62 comments

Average Guess (40 Votes)
5ft 11.17in (180.8cm)
Larry James said on 2/Sep/23
You must see a wild wild West episode with Boris Karloff in it. I remember seeing it when it originally aired in the 1960s and I was shocked at how thin and how slim and how short Karloff’s was. It was legendary at how short Robert Conrad was. He look at Karloff’s and it’s shocking. I agree. They not only had built up those boots quite a bit, but they did everything they could to rise the monster up on floors that were higher than that around him. The amazing thing is how he gets into the chamber where Frankenstein‘s fiancé is. Frankenstein monster comes through the window. It’s difficult to see how he did it, but somehow Karloff in that get up and with those boots on, was able to come through the window.
Sandy Cowell said on 2/Dec/22
I spoke a little too soon, as when Boris becomes possessed, he looks perishing revolting! 😂😂😂

He’d previously screamed when he saw a mouse, but now, the mouse would scream if he saw Mr Karloff! 🐁🐭
Sandy Cowell said on 2/Dec/22
I’ve just started Boris Karloff’s film called The Haunted Strangler. The actor doesn’t look in the least bit frightening; he is civilised and well-spoken. This movie is from 1958 and in black and white.

It opens with a scene in which a man is hanged, and Boris is endeavouring to set out to prove his innocence; he is a reporter. One thing that disgusted me was that some evil old crones laughed as the man was hanged. It beats me that people went to see such events, let alone life-giving women.

Apparently, the reporter wants to set out to prove the man’s innocence, and insodoing, becomes possessed by his spirit.

I’m giving Boris 5ft11.
Ian C. said on 22/Jul/22
Estimates of Karloff's height are complicated by his inability, even in his mid-forties, to stand erect. In Frankenstein, he can stand at his full height for brief periods, but when he walks it is always with a stoop.

I have just come across a short-lived British TV series starring Karloff, broadcast in 1953. "Colonel March of Scotland Yard," made when Karloff was 65. He walks at 65 exactly as he did when he made Frankenstein, when he was 45. The monster's lurching, stooped walk was not an affectation, but Karloff's natural walk, probably because he was arthritic, even in middle age.

So, five foot eleven might have been his height when he was twenty, but not when he was 45.
Ian C. said on 11/Jun/22
Once you've begun to suspect that Karloff was not that tall, it's pretty easy to confirm the suspicion. I have Frankenstein on DVD and, if you go through the Karloff scenes in it frame by frame, and there is not one frame where the Monster is on a level floor with another character and that character is standing erect. Nobody goes near the Monster unless he is flexing his knees or bending over at the waist.
Ian C. said on 21/Jan/22
On a Karloff-related tangent, Thurl Ravenscroft, who sang "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," in the Karloff-narrated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was six foot four and a half. So there was a man who was the same size as his voice.
Ian C. said on 17/Aug/21
Karloff is unusual in the history of movies because he became a star by playing villains. He wasn't funny, he didn't play dashing heroes or romantic heartthrobs, and he didn't sing or dance. He played sinister, vicious, depraved murderers, and people bought tickets to see movies in which he was the featured star. I will watch anything with him in it. He is, to me, like Elvis is to Elvis fans.
Ian C. said on 8/Feb/21
I have serious doubts that Karloff was anything like five foot eleven. In Frankenstein, he chases an actress named Mae Clarke around a room. They're on a level floor, you can see both players from head to toe, and Karloff is wearing his big monster boots. But they seem roughly the same size. Karloff might be two inches taller, but no more than that. Now maybe Clarke was an unusually tall woman, but Karloff just wasn't a big guy. So I think the "five foot eleven" was the movie guy variety of that height, which translates to "five foot nine but not having enough nerve to claim to six foot."
Ian C. said on 5/Dec/20
That's quite a list you've compiled Alex, although you forgot Robert De Niro. (And understandably so.)

You notice that the best Frankenstein was the shortest. Karloff is the only Frankenstein. The rest were all pale imitations. Google up Fankenstein's Monster, and very few nonKarloffs (like about three) are in the first hundred images. Google up Dracula and only half the images are of Bela Lugosi. Google up James Bond and less than a quarter of the images are of Sean Connery. None of the first 100 images for Tarzan are of Johnny Weissmuller. No actor in the history of the movies has so dominated the public perception of a long-running character as Karloff as Frankenstein. (Frankenstein became the popular name of the character, so that's the name I use.)
M.P.R.Stephenson. said on 5/Sep/20
He always looked tall , but the parts he played often demanded that . In his Colonel March days , he still looked tall . I'd say he was a full 6 feet tall !
Arch Stanton said on 21/Jul/20
Interesting Sam. I thought Karloff had a more southeastern Europe look about him, Turkey, Bulgaria sort of thing.
Tall Sam said on 16/Jul/20
I think Boris wore those monster boots with lifts only for work, he did not seem to sport lifts like some other famous actors do to seem tall at events. I infer he was also wearing lifts and padding in The Old Dark House too because he realistically intimidated presumably taller guys like Melvyn Douglas and Raymond Massey. He looked tall in regular shoes I believe in early roles like The Criminal Code and Scarface but definitely didn't stand out near tall guys like Victor McLaglen in The Lost Patrol.

I knew that about one of his parents but I did not know that both of his parents had some Indian heritage and he was ostracized as a boy for being of slightly dark complexion, bow legged and having a stutter before developing his signature lisp (kids can be so cruel always, but such childhoods are common for our great screen actors). Funny that my kids today are still familiar with his distinct voice after all this time.
greg99 said on 17/Feb/20
Karloff looks about an inch shorter than Bela Lugosi in publicity shots, I think he was 6' or fractionally shorter, but likely nearer to 6' than 5'11". He lost a ton of height in older age through posture changes etc.
Alex Katch said on 16/Dec/19
Frankenstein's Monsters

John Bloom 7' 4"?
Roger W. Morrissey 7' 4"
William Engesser 7' 3"
John Lebar 7' 2½"
Carel Struycken 7' 0"
Robert Maillet 6' 9"
John DeSantis 6' 9"
Guillaume Delaunay 6' 9"
Ted Cassidy 6' 8"
Fred Gwynne 6' 5¼"
Tom Noonan 6' 5"
Christopher Lee 6' 4½"
Glenn Strange 6' 4"
Lon Chaney Jr. 6' 1½"
Bela Lugosi 6' 1"
Boris Karloff 5' 11"
Lamont Cranston said on 6/May/19
I don’t doubt Karloff’s listed height here, but many actors must have been tiny back in the 1930’s (even more so than one would think!)

I just saw (for the first time since I was a child) ‘Charlie Chan at the Opera’, and BK, was great in it,

He also looked at least half a head taller than many of the male leads.
Rising - 174 cm said on 23/Dec/18
He mostly looks somewhere around 5'10"-5'11" range to me in his films when he doesn't wear massive platform heels like in Frankenstein films, The Mummy or The Walking Dead. The interesting thing is in Son of Frankenstein, there's a scene where Karloff in costume with his massive platform boots strangely doesn't look taller than 186 cm Basil Rathbone for much of the scene or at least struggles to look taller: Click Here
Ian C said on 15/Dec/18
Fascinating facts, wishbone. I think it's funny in an ironic way that one of the great screen villains of all time was personally kind, generous and courageous. (Although he was divorced at least three times. Which could happen to anybody.)

But Karloff was probably the champion lift-wearer of all time. Never mind the boots he wore in Frankenstein, he seems very tall in The Mummy. Like, at least six foot four. Had to be lifts.

There are pictures of him shirtless, being made up as the Monster, and he's not thin, exactly, but certainly not beefy or unusually strong. The menace he so successfully projected is all in his strange, sinister face, and his dead-eyed, malevolent stare.
Rich Paul said on 6/Dec/18
By the time Karloff appeared on This is Your Life, he was only an inch taller than Ralph Edwards who was about 5’8’’.
wishbone said on 16/Oct/18
Of all the things 6' horror movie kingpin Boris Karloff made,one would think his performance in Frankenstein was his best. But I think his best performance came very late in his gifted career as narrator AND voice of the Grinch in the Christmas classic Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas. But amazingly he did that battling crippling lupus,severe rheumatoid arthritis,having lost a kidney to cancer,and a whole lung and needing an oxygen cylinder just to breathe due to crippling emphysema! And he was very funny in Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein! If more people would see one of Karloff's horror classics,you'll rate him as the king of horror!
Sandy Cowell said on 2/Aug/18
@ Ian C - Well, that's clever, I must say, and something only his more ardent fans would have cottoned on to!

I would never have known myself - until now! 😉
Ian C. said on 2/Aug/18
What I have heard, Rob, is that Karloff's first choice for a stage name was "Tab Hunter." Fortunately, he didn't go with that.

Unfortunately, because I was too lazy to check, I got Karloff's tagline wrong. He says, "... as sure as my name is Boris Karloff." Which isn't quite as funny as "...or my name's not Boris Karloff," but it's still pretty sly.
Ian C. said on 1/Aug/18
Regarding Karloff's introductions to the Thriller episodes, Sandy, each one ended with Karloff saying, "... or my name's not Boris Karloff." And it wasn't. His birth name was William Pratt, and he never changed it legally to Boris Karloff. So his signature line in the intros was actually a sly little joke. Only an Englishman, right?
Editor Rob
I can understand why he liked using the name Boris Karloff. William Pratt doesn't quite leave the same impression!
Sandy Cowell said on 19/Jul/18
@ Ian C - I have only just found your reply. Thanks for that!

As for politeness, I was a very naughty Brownie and then Girl Guide, and I was always having immense fun at the expense of the Guiders! The other kids didn't mind at all... 😝😂😊😉😆

Then when I started Senior/High school, everything had to change, or I would have wasted my parents' hard-earnt money!

The delightful Boris K can have 5ft11. I will let you know, Ian C, when I have checked him out further. I have definitely got a taste for it now, having seen Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in their 'This is your Life' editions and that included many other stars, including Vincent Price. If you go to Price's page, look for the offering from 'Tall In The Saddle'. It's a truly exceptional watch!
Ian C said on 6/Jun/18
Oh. Thanks Sandy. You're always so kind to everybody. I myself make a point of being polite when I post here (as that is a site rule), but in fact I am not the kind of guy you could trust with a slingshot if nobody was looking.
Sandy Cowell said on 29/May/18
@ Ian C - That reply of yours takes some beating! I will most certainly check out these introductions of which you speak via YouTube. They sound more than impressive!

Your comment was beautifully written, I might add! 👍😉
Ian C said on 20/May/18
I'm an admirer of Karloff myself, Sandy, and I'd advise you to go to YouTube and look at episodes of the TV show Boris Karloff's Thriller, for which Karloff did brief introductions for each episode. He's amazing to watch as he speaks directly to an unblinking camera, delivering an elaborately worded opening speech, for three minutes. He does this without a stumble or a stammer, all the time projecting his amazingly sinister yet genial personality, and he did this in his early seventies, when he was in constant pain from various ailments. There are many TV and movie stars (Steve McQueen, for one) who couldn't deliver more than twenty seconds of simple dialogue without a hitch, so Karloff was one talented guy. And, ironically, he made his mark as a star playing a growling mute.
Sandy Cowell said on 18/Mar/18
I am currently watching the film 'Curse of the Crimson Altar', hailing from the year 1968, in which I feel I have been rather privileged to be able to feast my eyes on Boris Karloff!

He is nowhere near as upsetting to look at as I feared and his presence is far from unbecoming! He is beautifully spoken, and in the days when it was rather the norm to have bags under one's eyes after a certain age, the fact that he has them as an aged horror actor doesn't come as a surprise!

Boris is wheelchair-bound in this film, so I'll be none the wiser as to his height for seeing it, but as he sits talking to Christopher Lee and another man commonplace to the horror world, about his collection of instruments of torture, (among the normal day's pleasantries!), I find my interests in him have been aroused, and I certainly see his screen appeal in his capacity as one on the horror all-time greats.

I must laugh at the thought that I only put the 'Horror Channel' on to kill a bit of time while I fished around for the next DVD of the series I began today, 'Boardwalk Empire'! It has also triggered a curiosity in another couple of extremely familiar members of the cast, as well as now wanting to see Boris Karloff standing his full and erect best! Until I do though, I shall go with 5ft11 for him.

👹💀👻 📺 😨😦😧
Jake: 1.84 m - 1.85 m said on 23/Nov/17
Maybe he was a strong 5ft 11in at peak. He loomed above others in 'The Mummy'. He possessed a magnificent, rich speaking voice too.
JJAK said on 22/Oct/17
Well really we all remember him at well over 6 ft but those massive boots were pretty telling.
Remember how big they made tom hardy look in bk knight same same, or better yet vinny as juggernaut.
Saw him in a few "out of costume" roles he did still look above average to tall.
Back then 5 11 was pretty tall especially in tinsel town.
Danimal said on 9/May/17
I could believe 6'0" for him earlier in his career. He still looked tall until he was 70 years old.
mister_lennon said on 4/Mar/17
5'11 or close sounds rigth. About 180-181.
Sam said on 28/Feb/17
If you see him in crowd scenes in films like Scarface or The Criminal Code, he does look about 3 inches over the average guy there, which is consistent with his being 5'11" range.
Mrs Gail J Gray said on 12/Jan/17
I am not a Boris Karloff fan, i loved his films but he and his 2 friends Sir Christopher lee and Peter Cushing i am a fan of the 3 were the best ever horror actors of the world and i love there films as well also Christopher lee had a masterful awesome singing voice. I am only 5ft 2 inches size 1 to 2 shoes.
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."?
Sam 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.
Click Here
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.
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.
Click Here
I've seen some off screen pictures (like the book The Films of Boris Karloff) where Lugosi is clearly a weak couple inches taller.
Arch Stanton 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!

Heights are barefeet estimates, derived from quotations, official websites, agency resumes, in person encounters with actors at conventions and pictures/films.

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