By Maureen Storey
This article was published in the August 2020 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
On 4 February 1924 Helen Vivian Soule, a dancer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, married William Henry Pratt, an English actor born in Dulwich, Surrey. The marriage took place in Los Angeles and was Helen’s first marriage but William’s third.
Both had been drawn to Los Angeles in the hope of making their fortunes in the burgeoning film industry. Neither had had much success – Helen had difficulty in finding work as a dancer and although William secured parts in several films it was usually as the villain and he was rarely given any credit. The marriage was short-lived and ended acrimoniously in 1928 with Helen suing William for non-payment of the divorce settlement.
After the divorce Helen disappeared from the records – the only mention of her found to date tells how in 1933 she was deported from Colon, Panama, where she was working as a dancer. She had outstayed her work permit and seems to have fallen on hard times.
William remarried in 1930 and his luck changed for the better. He found his niche in the film industry and his career finally took off. He starred in a string of hit films and became a household name, with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. He died in Midhurst, Sussex, in 1969 and is buried in Guildford cemetery. Like many other actors William adopted a stage name, although he never legally changed his name. However, to ensure people knew who he was he signed legal documents, hotel registers etc. as ‘William Henry Pratt, also known as Boris Karloff’.
William Henry Pratt 1887-1969