.., The Strange Case of The Monster’s Home Run (case dated August 1940)
Here’s an old Hollywood urban legend that’s surely just too good to be true: “Did you know that Boris Karloff appeared in full Frankenstein’s Monster makeup for a charity baseball game and hit the home run?.., Oh and all footage of the event was deleted“. 1939s Son of Frankenstein was the last time Karloff would appear in a feature film as The Monster, so could it be that the spectators at The Los Angeles Gilmore Stadium would be amoung the lucky few who can claim to have seen Karloff’s Monster live and in the flesh? Well as amazing and surreal as it sounds, and it gets more surreal, this is completely true and even some footage has survived.
The All-Star charity event was the last of its kind, and what event it must have been. If you had been lucky enough to be there you would have seen Comedians vs Leading Men, with Karloff batting for the later (again remember, in FULL Monster makeup and costume!). Imagine Field of Dreams but with movie legends rather than baseball hall of famers. The lineup included John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Peter Lorre, Errol Flyn, Fred Astaire, and Roy Rogers for the Leading Men, with The Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, Chico Marx, and The Ritz Brothers turning out for The Comedians. Take stock of that lineup for a moment, can you imagine seeing all of these legends in one place at one time…, playing baseball?!
The great bonus for the watching audience was that Karloff wasn’t billed on either team sheet. Emerging from the dugout, and flanked by his legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce, The Monster took to the plate for a pre-rehearsed comedy skit that would see him hit a homer whilst all The Comedians fainted from fear at each base. Here’s how Karloff recollected the whole indulgent event in the Spring 1972 issue of Liberty Magazine (found at www.associatedcontent.com):
“The pitcher tossed the ball in my direction, I swung at it best I could, encumbered as I was in the Monster’s metallic overalls. Luckily enough, I managed to tap the ball, witch bounced crazily in the direction of the pitcher’s box. It should have been an easy out at first. But as I approached each base, the opposition player fainted dead away. And the Three Stooges, who were playing second, all passed out cold. It was a home run but horrible!”
The entire sequence was filmed but apparently deleted, however a very short ten second clip from the newsreel exists and you can see it on Youtube here. Karloff wouldn’t appear on film again as The Monster until a 1962 Halloween special of Route 66, all be it a rather rushed crude makeup job. So this particular appearance is rather unique in both it’s public nature, attention to make-up and costume detail, as well as having a somewhat mythical quality due to the lack of images and information. It’s a bit like a UFO sighting. This is one of those star studded events that epitomises the glamour of Classical Hollywood, and importantly serves as an ultra unique public snapshot of Karloff and The Monster who have become inseparable as horror legends and pop culture icons.