Horror Legend Boris Karloff Reads Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

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, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Epis­te­mol­o­gy of Dr. Seuss & More Phi­los­o­phy Lessons from Great Children’s Sto­ries

Neil Gaiman Reads Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham

New Archive Show­cas­es Dr. Seuss’s Ear­ly Work as an Adver­tis­ing Illus­tra­tor and Polit­i­cal Car­toon­ist

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.

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