He didn’t worry about being typecast, he said—typecasting is just being given a brand, and some people pay a lot of money for that. So the quiet, dignified William Henry Pratt didn’t mind being Karloff, the monster. Even though he seems to have been a decent guy, if you leave aside the serial adultery, he doesn’t seem to have minded that all most people knew him as was one variety of monster or another. To my knowledge, the only time he refused to play the Monster was when the Monster met Abbott and Costello, because he didn’t believe the public would be interested in crossovers like that.
Wikipedia and IMDb disagree on his ancestry. In fact, IMDb contradicts itself by first claiming that he could not, as often cited, be the nephew of Anna Leonowens, because he claimed to have been the result of his mother’s affair with an Egyptian and then saying he had Indian ancestry on his father’s side. Wikipedia, meanwhile, says that Karloff’s mother was the daughter of Leonowen’s sister. However, it’s believed that the sisters’ maternal grandmother was Indian or of mixed race, given the utter lack of information about her, meaning that there would be Indian blood on that side of Karloff’s family regardless of who his father was.
This, in fact, is part of a larger problem with tracing things in Karloff’s life; it seems not unlikely that he made quite a lot of stuff up. The allegedly penniless actor had in fact done quite nicely for himself as a real estate agent in Canada; he did not participate in a benefit concert in his early acting days. I don’t know if we have any documentation that his legal father wasn’t his biological father or just his bare word. Wikipedia says he was married five times; IMDb says “seven or eight.” IMDb further says he didn’t like talking about his private life, to the extent of not wanting a biography published. So who even knows?
And honestly, the thing I think most modern people know about his personal life is that Bela Lugosi hated him, and I don’t know what the original source is on that, either. He did say that he thought Lugosi’s problem was that he never really learned English, which does not seem entirely wrong, and it appears he inherited the role of the Monster when Lugosi turned it down, though again, I don’t know the source for that. Either way, the men would remain paired for their entire careers as the two great horror actors of the golden age of Universal monster movies, and I’m not sure how Lugosi felt about that.
One place I wholeheartedly side with Karloff is a wish that he’d been allowed to play Jonathan Brewster in the movie version of Arsenic and Old Lace; Raymond Massey looked slightly like Karloff, but the role had been written for him, after all, and not having him in the lead diluted the joke. He was also a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, in part because of the strain playing the Monster had put on his body, and I’m pleased with him for that as well. No matter who his father was or was not.