Premiering in 1966, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas TV special is a perfect (snow?) storm of creative folks working at the top of their game, with Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss providing the original 1956 book on which it’s based, Chuck Jones brilliantly interpreting Geisel’s own drawings in his own animated style, and making the Grinch’s long-suffering dog companion Max much more of a moral sidekick. It also gave us several musical numbers written by Albert Hague using Geisel’s lyrics.
And then there’s Boris Karloff, who narrates the special from beginning to end and supplies the Grinch’s voice. The English actor was best known in his early career for portraying Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy in the original Universal horror movies of the same names (and numerous sequels), and was a go-to character actor to play all sorts of nefarious criminals.
Later he would have a second career capitalizing on his horror pedigree, hosting anthology shows on television, and reading not just tales of Edgar Allan Poe on vinyl, but other not-so-scary children’s lit, like Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Unlike Bela Lugosi, who suffered from being typecast his entire career post-Dracula, Karloff was able to make a good career from that breakthrough performance with good humor.
Karloff’s reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is pretty much taken straight from the animated TV special with some judicious editing and no commercials to get in the way. Side note: It is not Karloff but Thurl Ravenscroft singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” He was not credited in the original cartoon and Dr. Seuss profoundly apologized after the fact. The record would go on to earn Karloff a Spoken Word Grammy Award, the only such entertainment award he ever won. You can also listen to it on Spotify below:
If you have been feeling Grinchy in any way as we approach the holiday season, prepare to get your heart melted. This reading will be added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.