Neither legend played Santa on screen, but they both did in real life!
Having provided the voice of the grumpy hermit known as the Grinch in 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, horror icon Boris Karloff is a staple in most homes during the holiday season; but the real Karloff wasn’t actually a Christmas curmudgeon.
Along with fellow icon/longtime rival Bela Lugosi, Karloff was known to don the Santa suit in December, as evidenced by a handful of vintage photos that you’ve probably seen across social media at one time or another. But what’s the story behind them?
After doing some digging, I learned – via Gregory William Mank’s book, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration – that both Karloff and Lugosi took part in the Hollywood Christmas Parade in the late ’30s and early ’40s, which has taken place annually on Hollywood Boulevard’s “Santa Claus Lane” since 1928.
Originally called the Santa Claus Lane Parade, the parade features celebrities riding in Santa’s sleigh each year, and Lugosi rode alongside John Wayne and Russell Gleason for the December 10, 1940 event – Karloff rode in the parade in the years prior.
We can only assume, as there’s no further information on them, that the photos came from those events, where Lugosi and Karloff put aside scaring kids in favor of donning fake beards, red suits and spreading a little Christmas cheer in Hollywood.
Warms the heart, doesn’t it?