“The children of the night, what music they make”
Dracula (1931), Universal Studios
By Jay Hunter – Along with Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi is regarded as one of the foundations for of horror cinema. His legacy is immortalised in his performances as Count Dracula, but the man himself was shrouded in a mist of melancholy and irony. Born Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó on October 20, 1882, Lugos, Hungary, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), to Paula de Vojnich and István Blaskó, a banker. He was the youngest of four children. During WWI, he volunteered and was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant, and was wounded three times.
The memory of him being ‘just a horror actor’ is unfounded, as Lugosi was a also a distinguished stage actor including roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew and Richard III. Sadly, through a downward spiral of drug-addiction, Lugosi ended up being financially broke, transforming into a ghost in an industry he helped create. On August 16th, 1956, Lugosi fell victim to a heart attack, posthumously becoming a legend of the silver screen.
To celebrate Lugosi’s legacy, 60 years after his death, we countdown 25 things you didn’t know about Bela Lugosi:
25. Born in Lugos, Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), from which he derived his eventual professional surname.
But wouldn’t it be better if he came from here?
24. Were it not for his death, Lon Chaney, rather than Lugosi, would have been the director Tod Browning’s choice for the starring role in Dracula (1931).
23. On the set, he camouflaged his drug addiction by sipping burgundy.
22. Contrary to popular belief, he and Boris Karloff did not hate each other, as the famous scene from Ed Wood (1994) would lead one to believe. Both men’s children have said that the only rivalry that existed between them is when they were both up for the same roles, and in reality, Lugosi and Karloff had almost no relationship off-set. However, near the sad end of his life, Lugosi allegedly had at least one methadone-addled fantasy that Karloff was a bogeyman out to get him.
21. Pictured on one of a set of five 32¢ US commemorative postage stamps, issued 30 September 1997, celebrating “Famous Movie Monsters”. He is shown as the title character in Dracula (1931). Other actors honoured in this set of stamps, and the classic monsters they portray, are Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera (1925); Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941); and Boris Karloff on two stamps as The Mummy (1932) and the monster in Frankenstein (1931).
Better than the Queen
20. He performed in live-action reference footage for the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence of Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940). He was, of course, the terrifying demon Chernabog.
Also see – Top 10 scariest moments in kids films
19. Further immortalised in the song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus, which was featured in American Horror Story (2015) and went on to become a dance mainstay at goth dance clubs in the 1980s. The lyrics of the song described him in his Dracula costume, along with “Undead! Undead! Undead!” being chanted during the song’s chorus.
And it was the only memorable thing about that season
18. His performance in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) created such a sensation that he reportedly received more fan mail from females than even Clark Gable.
17. Lugosi himself perpetrated the myth that he had quit the role of the monster in Frankenstein (1931), which is untrue. Originally, director Robert Florey wanted him to play Dr. Frankenstein, but producer Carl Laemmle Jr. did not want Lugosi in that role and relegated him to the monster role. Lugosi was unhappy with playing the plodding, mute monster under heavy make-up and complained. He had filmed some screen tests with Florey, but Laemmle did not like what he saw and fired both Florey and Lugosi.
No chance in Hell
16. His wife and son had him buried in his cape from his role as the title character of Dracula (1931).
I’m not crying…you’re crying…..
15. Even 60 years after his death, horror film legend Bela Lugosi and the Dracula character that made him famous live on in film, television, music, art, and popular culture.
14. Born Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó, the actor who became best known as Bela Lugosi started his screen career in 1917 under the name Arisztid Olt.
13. After playing Dracula on Broadway for three years, Bela Lugosi starred in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), a role which established the actor as one of the screen’s greatest personifications of pure evil.
12. Bela Lugosi portrayed Dracula again in 1948’s Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, opposite Lon Chaney Jr.
…What? I don’t have to be funny all the time. Sometimes you just have to deliver the facts
11. Although he is best known for playing Dracula, Bela Lugosi also portrayed the henchman Ygor in The Ghost of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s Monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.
Lets take a moment for all the fallen henchmen out there
10. In 1932, he played the sinister “Murder” Legendre in what is possibly the first ever zombie film: White Zombie.
9. Lugosi’s name became such an asset to movie studios that they gave him prominent billing even when he was playing supporting roles such as butlers … or even when he portrayed himself in films like Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla.
Meets a what?
8. Late in his career, Lugosi was befriended by “The World’s Worst Director,” Ed Wood. Lugosi, in turn, lent name recognition to Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster.
7. In 1963, Andy Warhol created one of his first silkscreen prints on paper titled “The Kiss (Bela Lugosi),” featuring an image of Bela Lugosi as Dracula about to bite the neck of Helen Chandler (as Mina Murray). It is valued at over $4 million.
6. Bela Lugosi’s iconic performance as Dracula has defined that character for ages. The character’s widow’s peak, voice, and costume have informed and influenced countless incarnations of Dracula and other vampires, including Count Von Count on Sesame Street.
BIT Phantom of the Opera-ry
5. Still ingrained in popular culture decades later, Bela Lugosi and his Dracula character are referenced frequently in film and television. For example, in an episode of Leave It to Beaver, father Ward tries to convince wife June that horror movies are a rite of passage for boys by telling her that it never hurt him to see Dracula numerous times.
Please look more interested than this.
4. The only other actor as synonymous with Dracula as Bela Lugosi is Christopher Lee, who portrayed the character in 10 films. Nevertheless, Lugosi’s portrayal defined the role, as Lee’s Dracula featured the same iconic styling and costuming.
3. Long after Bela Lugosi’s death, Martin Landau played the actor in Ed Wood, opposite Johnny Depp in the title role. Landau earned an Oscar, an honour Lugosi himself never received.
Nope, not mad…
2. His Los Angeles home was purchased by Johnny Depp, the actor who portrayed his friend Edward D. Wood Jr. in the film Ed Wood (1994).
1. Bela Lugosi starred in 114 movies other than Dracula.
Source – IMDB