Today is Bela Lugosi’s birthday. Please don’t say “Who is Bela Lugosi?" as a friend of mine did the other day --it will only upset me and reveal your lack of cultural refinement. There are some classic actors and actresses that people should know and Bela Lugosi is one of them. So, just in case your education is lacking in the finer things, like classic movies, Bela Lugosi was the actor who defined and became the greatest and most famous vampire of all time, Count Dracula.
As a child, his portrayal of the evil vampire used to haunt me and keep me awake at night after watching him on our families console black and white TV. (Yes, they had TV's when I was a kid. I remember watching Abraham Lincoln's campaign ads on ours)
Here is a brief biography of one of the scariest stars from the 30’s through the 50’s.
Name: Bela Lugosi
Real name: Béla Blasko
Date of birth: October 20, 1882
Date of death: August 16, 1956
Place of birth: Hungary
Place of death: Hollywood, California, USA
Bela Lugosi trained on the Budapest stage and appeared in some German films before arriving in the USA in 1921. He made his indelible mark as "Dracula" in a popular New York stage production and successfully reprised the role in Tod Browning's 1931 film adaptation. His macabre appearance, strikingly theatrical performance style and rich Hungarian accent made him the very incarnation of evil in scores of horror films through the 1950s. His peak came early with such films as "White Zombie" (1932), "The Black Cat" (1934), and "The Raven" (1935). Lugosi's fine supporting turn as the stern commissar in the Greta Garbo vehicle "Ninotchka" (1939) showed that he could play outside the horror and mystery genres, but his career degenerated in the 40s to killer and mad doctor roles in many lackluster B flicks. He nonetheless gave of his best, using his remarkable charisma to breathe some kind of entertaining life into a series of roles as mad doctors and monsters in many films unworthy of his genuine talent.
Lugosi's will decreed that he be buried in his trademark Dracula cape.
1994 Portrayed by Martin Landau (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in "Ed Wood"
1956 Last film, "Plan 9 from Outer Space", directed by Wood; died during production; a double, keeping his face partly covered with a cape, stood in for Lugosi in several scenes (this is without question the "best" "worst" film ever made -really a "must see")
1953 First of three films for director Edward D Wood Jr "Glen or Glenda?"
1948 Played the role of Dracula for a final time in "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"
1939 Had a cameo role in "Ninotchka"
1934 Appeared in the first of eight films which also featured noted horror star Boris Karloff, "The Black Cat"
1931 Achieved star status in films playing the title role in Tod Browning's film, "Dracula"
1927 Enjoyed success on Broadway playing the title role in a stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, "Dracula"
1923 US film debut in "The Silent Command"
1922 Settled in NYC and formed the Hungarian Repertory Theatre
1922 Made US stage debut in "The Red Poppy"
1921 Immigrated to USA
1919 To avoid political trouble in Hungary, moved to Germany
1917 Screen debut (billed as Arisztid Olt) in "A Leopard"
1911 Appeared in stage productions in Hungary
1902 Began acting on stage in Dera, Hungary, under the name Bela Lugossy
“The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”
Live Long and Prosper....