I Bid You Welcome.

Posted in 1951 British Tour Of Dracula, Bela Lugosi, Bram Stoker, Dark Eyes Of London, Dracula, Mother Riley Meets The Vampie, Mystery of the Mary Celeste, Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi In Britain with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2011 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Welcome to Vampire Over London:

The Bela Lugosi Blog

For eight months in 1951 Bela Lugosi toured the length and breadth of Britain in a stage revival of Dracula. With horror films out of fashion and his career in terminal decline, the 68 year-old actor had been lured across the Atlantic by the promise of a run in the West End, which he hoped would provide the comeback that he longed for. Unfortunately, the West End did not beckon. Physically exhausted by the grueling schedule, a bitterly disappointed Lugosi quit the tour. After resting and recuperating his strength, he made the film Mother Riley Meets The Vampire and returned to America.

As the years passed by, the facts were forgotten and a myth grew around Lugosi’s time in Britain. According to what became an oft-repeated story, he found himself in a threadbare production with a supporting cast of amateurs who couldn’t remember their lines. After a disastrous opening, the tour quickly folded, leaving an unpaid Lugosi and his wife stranded in Britain. To pay their passage back home, he accepted a hurriedly arranged role in a horror comedy .

For fifty years the myth was accepted as fact, but just a casual study of the trail of evidence left behind by Lugosi and the tour made it obvious that a very different story was waiting to be told. In 2000, after ten years of research, Frank Dello Stritto and I were finally able to set the record straight with the publication of Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi In Britain, our critically acclaimed biography of Lugosi. In addition to the 1951 tour and Mother Riley Meets The Vampire, our exhaustive research unearthed new facts about Lugosi’s other British work – Mystery of the Mary Celeste (1935), Dark Eyes of London (1939) and the elusive Lock Up Your Daughters, the existence of which is still hotly debated.

The original goal of this blog was to:

  • make available the written and pictorial material amassed during our research.
  • bring together new material that has emerged since the publication of our book.
  • continue the research.

As the blog grew and developed, I decided to expanded the goal. My intention now is to try to make this blog the ultimate resource for those interested in the life and work of Bela Lugosi and Bram Stoker’s novel.

If you would like to contribute an article to the blog or if you have any information or memorabilia that you would like included on the blog, please contact Andi Brooks at andobi@hotmail.com All contributions will be credited.

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In addition to regular posts, the blog contains the following pages (Click on the links to access the pages):

1951 British Dracula Tour – Exclusive Interviews With The Cast & Company

1951 British Dracula Tour – Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia

Bela Lugosi Filmography – Overview Bela Lugosi Filmography Part 1: 1917 – 1928 – The Silent Years. Bela Lugosi Filmography Part 2: 1929 – 1937 – The Rise and Fall of a Star. Bela Lugosi Filmography Part 3: 1939 – 1948 – The Rebirth Of A Star. Bela Lugosi Filmography Part 4: 1951 – 1959 – The Twilight Years. Bela Lugosi Interviews

Bela Lugosi Letters

Bela Lugosi Obituaries

Bela Lugosi On The Radio

Bela Lugosi On The Stage

Bela Lugosi On TV

Bela Lugosi Product Endorsements

Bela Lugosi Unrealised Projects

Bela Lugosi’s Life As Reported In The Press

Contemporary Reviews Of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dark Eyes Of London

Mother Riley Meets The Vampire

Mystery Of The Mary Celeste

The 1938 Dracula & Frankenstein Double-Bill

The Library – Rare editions of Dracula and books on Bela Lugosi

Vampire Over London: Publicity Interviews

Vampire Over London: The Story Of The Book

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If you would like to use any of the images or text on the blog, a brief request would be appreciated. In return, we would be grateful for an acknowledgement and a link back to the blog.

You can follow the Vampire Over London: The Bela Lugosi Blog on Facebook and Twitter by clicking on the icons on the sidebar.

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To order a copy of Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi In Britain

 please contact Frank Dello Stritto at:

fdellostritto@hotmail.com

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Reviews

“Vampire Over London, which is beautifully produced and of a quality we seldom see today, is a model of documentation and informed and entertaining writing. I was so fascinated by it that I gave up virtually an entire weekend to read it. I cannot claim to be a big fan of Bela Lugosi, but the authors’ enthusiasm, clarity and intelligence were such that I was mesmerized as much as any of Dracula’s victims. A magnificent book.”

- Anthony Slide, Classic Images

“In this impressively researched book the authors’ combined sense of detail is remarkable…Dello Stritto and Brooks cover the six months of the touring company with three-dimensional clarity…you can almost smell the cigars Lugosi smoked while standing in the wings.”

- Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

“Just when you thought everything that could possibly be written about the classic horror stars had already seen print, along comes the fascinating Vampire Over London. It’s an admirable book, written by that rare breed – film historians who actually know how to write…it’s essential.”

- Richard Valley, Scarlet Street

“This tremendous new volume manages to offer a wealth of new information! A must for Lugosi fanatics…the authors have done their research on this subject, and the result is the final word on this portion of Lugosi’s life…It’s a humorous, informative and often touching tribute to a little known slice of Bela’s life.”

- Shock Cinema

“Genre cinema historians Frank Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks perform an invaluable service for Bela Buffs. Their painstakingly researched tome is a book no self-respecting Lugosi lover can afford to be without.”

- The Phantom, Videoscope

“An indispensable tome…exhaustive…Physically, the book is as impressive as the research and writing…will quickly become a collectors item.”

- Tom Weaver, Fangoria

“…a remarkable book…a carefully researched work of scholarship with a concern for accuracy usually reserved for much weightier subjects.”

-  Henry Nicolella, Castle of Frankenstein

“A superb piece of literature! I think Bela must be resting in peace at long last in his satin-lined coffin.”

- John C. Mather, Co-Producer of the 1951 British Dracula tour

“A really splendid piece of research, it has to be definitive.”

- Richard Eastham, Director of the 1951 British Dracula tour

“It is a wonderful epitaph for a very special person.”

- Richard Butler, 1951 British Dracula tour cast member

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While preparing Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain, Frank Dello Stritto and I have conducted extensive research into the life and work of Bela Lugosi and interviewed people who either knew him, worked with him, met him or witnessed him performing on the stage. Our research material has been gathered from archives and individuals in the United Kingdon, Europe, Australia, America, and Canada. We are indebted to the many people who have helped us in our work. I am particularly grateful to Eric Lindsay, who acted opposite Bela Lugosi as Renfield in the British revival of Dracula. His continuing help and encouragement is invaluable.

I am also grateful to the many people who have allowed me to reproduce rare Bela Lugosi photos and memorabilia from their collections. Dennis Phelps has been particularly kind and generous in this respect. His Movie Monster Museum site is highly recommended. 

http://www.moviemonstermuseum.com 

I have also used the Internet for images used on this blog. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to know the origin of much information on the Internet. If I have inadvertently included anything to which you hold the copywrite or which comes from your collection, please contact me, Andi Brooks, at andobi@hotmail.com to receive credit or to have the item removed.

No researcher works in isolation. I am indebted to all the Lugosi historians who have gone before me and those who continue to research and document his life and work. During the course of my own research I have consulted the following:

The Complete Films of Bela Lugosi by Richard Bojarski (Citadel Press)

A Quaint & Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (Cult Movies Press) and various magazine articles by Frank J. Dello Stritto

Nightmare of Ecstasy – The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. by Rudolph Gray (Feral House)

Bela: The Nomad Years, a blog by Bill Kaffenberger

Karloff and Lugosi – The Story of a Haunting Collaboration (McFarland& Co.) by  Gregory William Mank

Lugosi (McFarland & Co.) and Dreams and Nightmares (Collectables) by Gary Don Rhodes

Hollywood Gothic (Andre Deutsch) and Dracula – The Ultimate, Illustrated Edition of the World-Famous Vampire Play (St. Martin’s Press) by David Skal

Dracula or The Undead – A Play in Prologue and Five Acts edited by Sylvia Starshine (Pumpkin Books)

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Disclaimer

Any opinions expressed in the editorial content of Vampire Over London: The Bela Lugosi Blog are solely those of Andi Brooks and should not be taken as reflecting those of either Frank J. Dello Stritto or Cult Movies Press. Andi Brooks is responsible for all errors and omissions.

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The Twelfth annnual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.

Posted in Bela Lugosi, Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi In Britain with tags , , on April 25, 2014 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Rondo Hatton Awards

Vampire Over London: The Bela Lugosi Blog has been nominated for “BEST BLOG OF 2013″ in the twelfth Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. It’s a real thrill to be nominated for the second year in a row, especially as the nominations are selected from suggestions by horror fans, professionals and enthusiasts offered at the  Classic Horror Film Boards.

If you have enjoyed this blog, we would be grateful if you would vote for it by visiting http://rondoaward.com/rondoaward.com/blog/?p=32. All voting is by e-mail only. Simply copy the ballot and send an e-mail with your picks to David Colton at taraco@aol.com by Sunday night at midnight, May 5, 2014. You must include your name for the vote to be valid.

 rondo award

The ‘Rondo’ award itself features a bust sculpted by illustrator Kerry Gammill, and cast by modeler Tim Lindsey. The statuette is a miniature version of the bust of Rondo Hatton seen in the 1946 Universal film, House of Horrors.

Movie Action Magazine February 1936: Masters of Horror

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2014 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Movie Action Magazine February 1936

Published by Street and Smith Publications, Inc., a New York publisher of pulp fiction, dime novels and comic books whose roster included The Shadow, Doc Savage and Astounding Stories, Movie Action Magazine ran for just six issues between November 1935 – June 1936. The pulp magazine featured film reviews, articles about movies and actors and adaptations of film scripts. It was edited by John L. Nanovic, who had previously edited The Shadow and is best remembered as co-creator with publisher Henry W. Ralston of Doc Savage. The January 1936 issue of Movie Action Magazine featured an adaptation of The Invisible Ray, Universal’s third co-staring vehicle for Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The February 1936 issue contained a review of The Invisible Ray and Masters of Horror, an article detailing how horror actors achieved their most famous characterisations. Included in the article were Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Henry Hull, Lon Chaney, Frederic March, John Barrymore and Peter Lorre. Boris Karloff’s 1936 Warner Bros. film The Walking Dead was the featured adaptation in  the final June 1936 issue of Movie Acton Magazine. 

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Related pages

Movie Action Magazine January 1936: The Invisible Ray Novelization

Movie Comics 1939 Adaptations of Son of Frankenstein and The Phantom Creeps

The Library 

A collection of editions of Dracula and Bela Lugosi-related books.

Movie Action Magazine January 1936: The Invisible Ray Novelization

Posted in Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Movie Action Magazine, The Invisible Ray with tags , , , on February 14, 2014 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Movie Action Magazine January 1936 Cover

Movie Action Magazine was a short-lived pulp magazine published by Street and Smith Publications, Inc., the New York publisher whose roster of pulp fiction, dime novels and comic books included The Shadow, Doc Savage and Astounding Stories. Running for just six issues between November 1935 – June 1936, Movie Action Magazine featured  adaptations of film scripts. Editor John L. Nanovic, who had previously edited The Shadow, is best remembered as co-creator with publisher Henry W. Ralston of Doc Savage. The February 1936 issue of Movie Action Magazine featured Masters of Horror, an article which revealed how the leading horror actors achieved their most famous characterisations. Included in the article were Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Henry Hull, Lon Chaney, Frederic March, John Barrymore and Peter Lorre. The final issue in June 1936 contained an adaptation of Boris Karloff’s 1936 Warner Bros. film The Walking Dead.

Released on January 20, 1936, The Invisible Ray was the fourth Universal film in which both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared and the studio’s third specially scripted co-staring vehicle for their horror superstars. Their previous joint-outings at the studio were 1934’s The Black Cat and Gift of Gab (in which they shared no scenes) and The Raven in 1935. They would appear in three more films together – Son of Frankenstein (Universal 1939), You’ll Find Out (RKO 1940) and The Body Snatcher (RKO 1945). 

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Related pages

Movie Action Magazine February 1936: Masters of Horror

Movie Comics 1939 Adaptations of Son of Frankenstein and The Phantom Creeps

The Library 

A collection of editions of Dracula and Bela Lugosi-related books.

There Are Such Things! Bram Stoker Interviews Michael Theodorou About His New Stage Play.

Posted in 1951 British Tour Of Dracula, Bram Stoker, Florence Stoker, Michael Theodorou, Sir Henry Irving with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2014 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Michael Chesden

Michael Theodorou

Director, actor, writer, translator and drama teacher, Michael Theodorou has something of a fascination with Bram Stoker and Dracula, having now written three plays inspired by the author and his work. His original adaptation of Dracula was described as “genuinely disturbing” by Oxford University Press. He followed this up with Lugosi, a dark exploration of the demons which plagued the aging actor during his 1951 British revival tour of Dracula. Michael has now rounded off the series with There Are Such Things, a play about Bram Stoker himself, which is intended as the first half of a double bill to include Lugosi. Set in 1906, the play finds Stoker suffering from temporary blindness as the result of a stroke.  As his wife Florence tries to nurse him back to health, Stoker experiences a series of strange visitations. Is the invalid author suffering from hallucination, delusions or is it all real? Proving that there are indeed such things, no less a personage than Mr. Stoker himself decided to quiz Michael about his new play.

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Bram: What is the name of heaven possessed you to write a play about me, Michael?

Michael: It was actually my wife who first suggested the idea to me, Bram, as I’d already written a stage adaptation of your ‘Dracula’ and also a play about Bela Lugosi. She thought it would round off the series of plays inspired by your work.

Bram: Well, that’s very flattering of you to say so, Michael, but was she aware that I might be rather a dull subject?

Michael: Nothing of the kind, Bram, as soon as I started to write the play, ideas flowed very quickly and I developed a concept for your portrayal almost immediately.

Bram: A concept you say? What does that mean exactly?

Michael: It means that the actor who plays you has a double role.

Bram: In what way?

Michael: Before I explain, Bram, I’d like to tell you how the play starts –

Henry Irving

Sir Henry Irving, Stoker’s friend and employer for 27 years. The shock of his death is said to have brought on Stoker’s first stroke.

You are sitting in the upstairs room of your house in Chelsea, the date is 1906. Sir Henry Irving is dead and you’ve already had a stroke which leaves you partially blind. There is violin music playing, the lights come up to reveal you writing at your desk. You half close your eyes and the lights dim to indicate that your sight is going. The music continues and swells. You look towards the audience and feel a presence entering from behind you – it is a very beautiful, seductive vampiress who approaches you with graceful movements and strokes your hair and your brow. You say, ‘ I was afraid to raise my eyelids……..

Bram: ……………….but saw perfectly under the lashes’. You’re quoting from my ‘Dracula’!

Michael: I am. The lady wants to seduce you and this lady is your wife!

Bram: My wife!

Michael: Oh, yes, she’s the other character in the play.

Bram: What happens next?

Michael: The scene ends, there’s a blackout and we hear a knocking at the door. The ‘vampiress’ has become your wife Florence Stoker. She enters – quick costume change of course – and you have a conversation. She is concerned about your eyes and staying up late writing.

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Florence Stoker, a society beauty whose suitors included Oscar Wilde

Bram: Now that’s exactly what my wife used to do! That’s awfully clever of you, Michael, how did you know all this?

Michael: Pure imagination, Bram, and it seemed a good way to start the play.

Bram: How do you represent my wife in the play? Is it a good part?

Michael: It’s a wonderful part for an actress not only does she play herself and a vampires but also your mother!

Bram: My mother! My mother’s in the play too!?

Michael: Oh, yes, you wouldn’t wish me to forget your mother, would you?

Bram: Of course not, she was probably the biggest single influence on my life and my writing. If truth be told probably a greater influence than my wife.

Michael: Well, there you are then I’ve got them all in the same play for you!

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Bram Stoker’s Mother, Charlotte Matilda Blake Thornley Stoker

Courtesy of www.bramstokerestate.com

Bram: What were you saying earlier, Michael , about a double role for my character?

Michael: Ah,yes. Your character, Bram, is himself………. plus another character.

Bram: What do you mean?

Michael: I mean that you play Van Helsing as well!

Bram: Van Helsing? Van Helsing you say? How is that possible?

Michael: Ah, stagecraft, Bram, and a bit of a challenge for the actor!

Bram: Will that not seem rather odd to an audience?

Michael: Perhaps at first but after a while they’ll get used to you being a double character and they’ll accept it. I was trying to convey, Bram, that you are a two-sided person – as all the more interesting people in the world are! You have an inner as well as an outer life and Van Helsing is your inner self…

Bram: Fascinating….

Michael: Just as the vampiress is part of your self as well.

Bram: Well, all this sounds very intriguing indeed, Michael, I’ll have to have a look at this play of yours. What’s it called by the way?

Michael: It’s called ‘There Are Such Things’.

Bram: Ah, another quote from ‘Dracula’!

Michael: Yes, when Van Helsing says ‘ there are such things as vampires!’ This was also a phrase picked up by the great Hungarian actor, Bela Lugosi who played Dracula both on stage and on film and I’ve written a play about him too!

Bram: Goodness, you have been busy, Michael!

Edith Sherman

Bela Lugosi as he appeared in the 1951 British revival tour of Dracula (Photo by Edith Sherman)

Michael: Lugosi used that phrase in his curtain speeches when he would say to the audience – (In the voice of BELA LUGOSI) ‘ So when you lie in bed tonight in your darkened room and these thoughts give you nightmares and you dread to look behind the curtains – just pull yourself together and remember that, after all, THERE ARE SUCH THINGS!’

Bram: This Lugosi sounds like a very sinister character indeed.

Michael: He was and one of your greatest interpreters. He would have two Red Cross nurses enter the auditorium before each performance in case somebody fainted and needed medical attention.

Bram: What a great idea – I wish I’d used it for my stage production of ‘Dracula’…except of course that my stage version did not get a performance.

Michael: I know. Sir Henry didn’t like it.

Bram: Well, we’ll draw a veil over that, Michael. It’s something I don’t like to talk about. Now tell me when your play will be performed?

(INTERVIEW TO BE CONTINUED)

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You can visit Michael’s website at:

michaeltheodorou.weebly.com

Read an extract from his adaptation of Dracula here:

www.dramaworks.co.uk/ps_dracula.html

His books on school drama are available from Amazon:

www.amazon.com/Ideas-that-Drama-Michael-Theodorou/dp/0748702253

www.amazon.com/Classroom-Gems-Games-Activities-Primary/dp/1408223295

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Related Pages

Lugosi – A Play For The Stage By Michael Theodorou

Bela Lugosi’s Clara Bow Nude Painting Sells For $30,000 At Auction.

Posted in Beatrice Weeks, Beatrice Woodruff, Bela Lugosi, Bela Lugosi Jnr., Clara Bow, Dracula, Hope Lugosi, Lillian Lugosi with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Clara Bow Nude

Prominently displayed in each of his homes from when it was painted in 1929 until his death in 1956, Bela Lugosi’s nude oil painting of actress Clara Bow sold at Bonhams in New York for $30,000 on November 25th, 2013.

Until being announced as lot 138W in Bonhams’ “What Dreams Are Made Of: A Century of Movie Magic at Auction as Curated by TCM” auction, the whereabouts of the 37 3/4 x 33 1/2 inch canvas had remained a mystery since being sold by Lugosi’s widow, the former Hope Lininger, to an undisclosed art dealer before she moved to Hawaii in 1976. It is now known to have passed through at least two private collections during its “lost” years.

Lugosi commissioned his friend and fellow-Hungarian Geza Kende to paint the portrait as a memento of his brief affair with Bow, who kept a signed photo of Lugosi until her death. Despite their relationship making headlines in November 1929 when Lugosi’s third wife, Beatrice Weeks, told a reporter about it after filing suit for divorce, very few details of it are actually known.

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This photo from Lugosi’s estate sold for $1,000 at the Icons of Hollywood auction at Profiles in History on December 16th, 2011. The catalogue described Kende’s portrait as the “infamous nude painting of  Clara Bow.”

Lugosi and Bow first met backstage after a performance of Dracula during its eight-week run at the Biltmore Theatre in Los Angeles sometime between June 24 and August 18th, 1928.  The meeting was recalled by Bow’s friend, the actor Jack Oakie, in his autobiography, Jack Oakie’s Double Takes. 

‘Suddenly she came running out (to her swimming pool, where she had left friends to take a phone call). “Come on everybody! We’ve got tickets!” she said. “We’re going down to the Biltmore to see Dracula.” She was so excited she didn’t stop to dress. She just threw a great long mink coat over her swimsuit, and we all got into her chauffeur-driven black Packard limousine. Bela Lugosi was starring in Dracula on the stage of the Biltmore Theatre downtown.

Bow had read about it. “I want to meet that man,” she said. “Do you know he doesn’t know how to speak English.” She couldn’t get over the fact that he was on stage for two hours performing in a language he couldn’t speak. Bow kept her mink coat on, and we watched Bela Lugosi in his monstrous makeup with his teeth sticking out, chewing on gals’ necks all evening. Then we went backstage.

Clara Bow In Dancing Mothers 1926

Is it? Isn’t it? Despite disagreement on the identity of the model in Geza Kende’s painting, she bears a striking resemblance to Clara Bow as seen in this publicity still for Dancing Mothers, 1926

He couldn’t speak English, but no language barrier could hide his thrill at meeting Clara Bow. He was overwhelmed with the redhead. “How do you know your lines?” Bow asked him immediately. We finally understood the Hungarian’s explanation. He told us that he memorized each word from a cue and, if by mistake another actor should ever give him a wrong line, he would be lost for the rest of the night. Bow invited him to her home, and they became very good friends.’

Neither the depth nor the length of their relationship is known. Lugosi is said to have shown off scratches on his body which he bragged were inflicted by Bow during their lovemaking. Beatrice Weeks, whose disastrous marriage to Lugosi effectively ended after only four and a half days, told a reporter from The Daily Mirror that Lugosi had confided that he and Bow had become engaged during their relationship, but had decided to spend a year apart to test the strength of their relationship and would marry after the divorce was finalized. There is no evidence to support Lugosi’s alleged claims.

The only account we have of Lugosi and Bow together after their first meeting comes from Bow biographer David Stenn in his biography Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild, in which he writes of Lugosi being invited to stay at Bow’s Malibu cottage one weekend. Upon his arrival, it was discovered that every bedroom was already occupied by other guests. One of the female guests gave up her room to him and moved in with Bow. In whose room Bow actually spent the night is unrecorded.

Clara Bow Nude postcard

A willow nude? Clara Bow in the flesh.

Despite the fact that Bow had previously posed nude for photographs and had appeared semi-nude on screen, it is not thought that she posed for Kend, who also painted an impressive full-length painting of Lugosi in the early 1930s. There is also nothing to suggest that she was even aware of the existence of the portrait, which was painted after whatever relationship they may have had was over. It has been suggested that the image was in fact conjured up from Lugosi’s memory, which may explain why several commentators have stated that it is not a painting of Bow and actually looks nothing like her.

Whatever the truth of the identity of the model, described as “a willow nude” by reporter Bob Thomas when he interviewed Lugosi at his home in October 1953, the memories Lugosi associated with the painting remained potent enough for him to compel his next two wives to live under its gaze for the duration of their marriages.

Clara Bow Nude in Lugosi HomeLugosi, Bela Jr. and fourth wife Lillian pose under the watchful gaze of Clara Bow

What could have driven him to have kept this memento of a distant brief affair on open display when married to other women? Maybe writer Adele Rogers St. John had the answer when she wrote of Bow’s effect on men, “When men fall in love with Clara Bow, they go a bit mad.” Perhaps Lugosi’s madness for Bow, like Dracula’s grip on his life and career, never ended.

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Related articles

Whatever Happened To Beatrice Weeks? The Unhappy Story of the Third Mrs. Bela Lugosi by Frank J. Dello Stritto

Movie Comics 1939 Adaptations of Son of Frankenstein and The Phantom Creeps

Posted in Bela Lugosi, Movie Comics No.1 & No. 6, Son Of Frankenstein, The Phantom Creeps with tags , , , , on October 8, 2013 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Movie Comics #1 April, 1939

Movie Comics No. 1, April 1939

Founded in 1938 by Max Gaines, inventor of the modern comic book format, All-American Publications introduced some of the most enduring superheroes during the Golden Age of comic books in the 1940s. Its roster included Flash, Atom, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Wonder Woman.

The company made its debut on the American comic book market in April 1939 with two titles, its flagship All-American Comics and Movie Comics. Although it ran for 102 issues until October 1948, All-American Comics was an unoriginal repackaging of newspaper comic strips with occasional original stories. Movie Comics, however, was a new idea.

Bearing the tagline “A Full Movie Show For 10¢,” Movie Comics utilised the fumetti technique of using photographs as the basis for its illustrations. Film stills and publicity shots were cut up and retouched to make composite images which were laid out on minimalist or crudely drawn backgrounds with added speech bubbles and captions. The images were inked in “natural colors,” a cover boast that was as unrealistic as the colours themselves and dropped after the third issue. The design, compositing and additional art was the work of Jack Adler, who eventual became Vice President of Production at DC Comics where he innovated several printing techniques which became standard practices in comic book production.

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A look at Jack Pierce’s make up skills from Movie Comics No. 1

The cover of the first issue announced “complete” adaptations of the films Son of Frankenstein, Gunga Din, The Great Man Votes, Fisherman’s Wharf and the serial Scouts to the Rescue, plus “Shorts, News Reels and Comedies.” In addition to the eight-page adaptation of Son of Frankenstein, the issue also contained Movie-Make Up: From Man to Monster, a feature on how Jack Pierce transformed Boris Karloff into the creature and Bela Lugosi into Ygor.

This new comic book concept proved to be short-lived. Due to poor sales, the September – October issue was the sixth and final issue of Movie Comics. Perhaps in an effort to cut costs on the ailing comic book, the quality of the “artwork” had by this issue sunk to an unbelievably amateurish level. For Lugosi fans, however, it is another issue of great interest.

The Phantom Creeps Cover

Movie Comics No. 6, September – October 1939

The cover story was an eight-page adaptation of his 12-part Universal serial The Phantom Creeps. The centre spread contained a Phantom Creeps contest with a $10 first prize, $5 second prize and ten additional $1 prize. To win, readers had to write a letter telling the first thing they would do if they had the Devisualizer, an invisibility device invented by Dr. Zorka, Lugosi’s character in the serial. The letters were judged on individuality and “neatness.” All entrants received a free “beautiful” Phantom button, now a collectible in itself.

The Phantom Creeps Competition

The Phantom Creeps Contest from Movie Comics No. 6

Although Bela Lugosi received no financial reward for his appearance in the Movie Comics adaptations, they were evidence of the remarkable turnaround in his fortunes. After the so-called British ban on horror films led to Hollywood studios ceasing production of horror films, the severely typecast actor found himself all but unemployable in the film colony. Apart from one week’s work in the 1937 Republic serial S.O.S Coastguard, by 1938 he had not been offered film work for two years and was suffering dire financial problems. At the start of the year, he had been forced to apply to the Motion Picture Relief Fund for help with medical costs when his son, Bela George Lugosi, Jr., was born on January 5th, 1938. In August, he was forced to move into a rented house when the mortgage company foreclosed on his Outpost Drive mansion. In the same month, his saviour arrived in the unexpected form of Emil Umann, manager of the Regina cinema in Los Angeles. While trying to stave off bankruptcy, Umann began what was intended as a four-day run of a tripple-bill feature of Dracula, Frankenstein and Son of King Kong. The bill unexpectedly captured the public’s imagination, becoming an overnight sensation that was soon playing 21 hours a day to packed houses while police controlled the crowds queuing around the block. In response, Universal rushed Son of Frankenstein into production on October 17th, heralding the beginning of the second cycle of Hollywood horror films and, for now, the end of Lugosi’s financial woes. In addition to Son of Frankenstein and The Phantom Creeps, 1939 cinemagoers saw Lugosi in The Gorilla, Ninotchka, and the British Dark Eyes Of London.

Max Gaines sold his share in All-American Publications in 1944 and formed Entertaining Comics, more commonly known as EC Comics. His son William led the company to great success with titles such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy and Mad after Gaines was killed in a boating accident in 1947. After Gaines’ departure from All-American Publications, the company was merged with National Comics, the foundation of the modern-day DC comics.

Copies of Movie Comics are now very collectible, with issue one selling for up to $11,000. (Andi Brooks)

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Movie Comics No. 1, April 1939

Son of Frankenstein

Movie Comics 1

Movie Comics 2

Movie Comics 3

Movie Comics 4

Movie Comics 5

Movie Comics 6

Movie Comics 7

Movie Comics 8

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Movie Comics No. 6, September – October 1939

The Phantom Creeps

The Phantom Creeps 1

The Phantom Creeps 2

The Phantom Creeps 3

The Phantom Creeps 4The Phantom Creeps 5

The Phantom Creeps 6

The Phantom Creeps 7

The Phantom Creeps 8

Bat Head 2

Related pages and articles

Related pages

Movie Action Magazine January 1936: The Invisible Ray Novelization

The Library 

A collection of editions of Dracula and Bela Lugosi-related books

The 1938 Dracula & Frankenstein Double-Bill

Dark Eyes Of London

The International Workers Order and Bela Lugosi by Sander Feinberg

Posted in Bela Lugosi, Carl Schwartz, Lillian Lugosi, Sander Feinberg with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2013 by Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi

Bela Lugosi and my grandfather Carl Schwartz (aka Kalman Marki) were close friends in the 1930s and 1940s. My grandfather and grandmother were in the center of the Hungarian cultural and progressive political community in NYC. It was a close-knit community of immigrants and exiles which in many ways was egalitarian and open to people of all walks of life and economic status.

My grandfather Carl Schwartz (aka Kalman Marki), Lillian Lugosi and Bela

My grandfather, Lillian Lugosi and Bela as seen in my family film in 1947

I have no information on how they met, but I have many pictures from that time showing them together at events and gatherings. As you will read in my article, I was quite astounded to find an old family movie which includes Bela and his wife Lillian. I hope you enjoy this little bit of both family and political history. The links in the article on my website include a little more about other members of the Hungarian community who also were close friends of my grandfather and at least acquaintances of Bela.

Since all the principals have passed away, I don’t know much about the last few years of Bela and Carl’s friendship. My father hinted there was a falling out. I do know that when Bela was down and out my grandfather sent him some money. Bela left him two plots of land in Lake Elsinore in his will. I just discovered that this land was practically worthless at the time of Bela’s death and that he also left similar bequests to others in his will.

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Family Home Movies

16MM Cine-Kodak Box

16mm Ciné-Kodak Kodachrome film box

I recently transferred some old home movies from 16mm to digital. In compiling them I looked at the box the film came in and was surprised it did not have my Dad’s return address since he took all the other movies (Perhaps you young folks don’t know that in the “olden days” exposed movie film was sent back to Kodak for developing!). The name on the package was Anton Schlussel. I was able to find someone with that name who was the right age, but I have not found much more info about him yet. Below is a photo of him.

Anton Schlussel

Who was Anton Schlussel?

The film was shot in color in 1947 with a popular movie camera called the Ciné-Kodak.

Bela Lugosi

When I looked inside the box flap I found the message you see in the photo below which mentioned Bela Lugosi (spelled “Lugosy”). I couldn’t wait to get the film transferred. When I watched the film it appeared to be a dinner in honor of my grandparents. And sure enough there were Bela and his wife Lillian, sitting next to my grandparents. Bela and my grandfather were best friends for many years. They were both Hungarian actors and at one time Bela lived in NYC where there was a large Hungarian cultural community. My grandparents were at the center of the community. This is a long and fascinating story which I will tell some other time when I will post personal photos I have of Bela and my grandfather.

Inside flap note in Hungarian

I sent a photo of the box flap to my cousin Ervin in Budapest and he translated it for me: “I.W.O April 26, 1947. Kalman Marki is participating at the soiréee given by Bela Lugosi.” Well that helped explain a bit. But what in the world was I.W.O.?

What was the I.W.O.?

The I.W.O. was The International Workers Order, which, according to Wikipedia(1), “was a Communist Party-affiliated insurance, mutual benefit and fraternal organization founded in 1930 and disbanded in 1954 as the result of legal action undertaken by the state of New York in 1951. At its height in the years immediately following World War II, the IWO had almost 200,000 members and provided low-cost health and life insurance, medical and dental clinics, and supported foreign-language newspapers, cultural and educational activities. The organization also operated a summer camp and cemeteries for its members.” 

kheel-center-cornell-university[1]

A flier from the International Workers Order Records, Kheel Center, Cornell University

In her article “Contraceptive Equity, The Birth Control Center of the International Workers Order,” (2) Elizabeth Temkin explained, “For 35 cents a month per family or 25 cents a month per individual ($4.36 and $3.11, respectively, in 2007 dollars), members in New York City had unlimited access to the district physicians contracted by the IWO to provide care in their office or on house calls.”

Another small tidbit: The International Workers Order’s post-1940 logo was drawn by Rockwell Kent, a famous artist whose etchings were hanging in my parents’ home. He became a member of the Harlem Lodge of the International Workers Order in 1939. (3)

Rockwell Kent

Rockwell Kent

I will refrain from editorializing about the idiocies of the McCarthy era hatred which deprived 200,000 working class people and their families of insurance and medical treatment. If you do not know about that sad era in US history I urge you to educate yourself.

temkin_f1~s1000x1000[1]

A political cartoon entitled “Reaping the benefits” as featured in Fraternal Outlook, 1947, from the New York Public Library.

Hungarian Connection to the I.W.O.

Now on with my final interesting connection. In its history of the International Workers Order, the Early American Marxism website (4) relates that “In the Summer of 1932, the Hungarian Workers’ Educational and Benevolent Society merged through the decision of a convention of its membe[r]s and subsequent referendum. 4,000 members of that organization were thus established as the Hungarian Section of the IWO.” 

Connecting the Dots

I have no documentary proof (yet!), but to me this connects up the dots. My grandfather supported many causes and organizations, especially those helping Hungarian immigrants and also those still in Hungary after WWII (yet another story to be told). I believe that he and Bela and their friends were members of the Hungarian Section of the I.W.O. And I now believe that the photo below is a meeting from the late 1930s or early 1940s of that group. And I may be imagining this, but could it be Anton Schlussel in the back row (check out those big ears!).

Louis Weinstock Photographs Collection, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University

Back row: Rose Weinstock, Hugo Gellert, Louis Weinstock, Julia Schwartz, Unknown, Jenny Bachner. Middle of front row: Carl Schwartz; Max Bachner.

I found the photo among a collection of papers and photographs donated to the Tamiment Library Wagner Archives of New York University by the family of Louis Weinstock, one of my grandfather’s best friends. You can read more about Louis Weinstock on my website. The photo (used with permission of Louis Weinstock Photographs Collection, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University) was taken by Gabriel D. Hackett. In his “Lugosi: His Life in Films, on Stage, and in the Hearts of Horror Lovers” (McFarland & Company, 1997), Lugosi biographer Gary Don Rhodes wrote that one of Bela’s favorite photographers was “Gabriel D. Hackett , whom he said always caught his best side. Hackett and Lugosi met as early as 1928 and remained friends for many years. The two often spoke of a mutual interest: photography.”

One crazy footnote is that Bela and my grandfather were mentioned in Senate testimony for helping Hungarian citizens after WWII. More on that in my next article.

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Please help!

If you have any information on any of these personalities or organizations, I would be so grateful to hear from you. And if you want to follow developments in my detective story, please subscribe to my newsletter at http://sanderfeinberg.com.

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About the Author

I began my career in business and non-profit management. Since the early 1980s I have been involved in both systems development and developing leadership and technical training materials. Recently I have added videography to the mix.

I have been taking photographs obsessively since I was 16 and used a Rolleiflex. Now I am 100% digital. My wife and I spend a lot of time at costume events, dance and music performances, traveling to far-reaching places and in nature in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where we live.

My interests in photography and history intersect as my wife and I seek out vintage photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Please visit my website http://sanderfeinberg.com to see stories about our adventures from the last 7 years as well as my research into the areas of history which fascinate me.

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Sources

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers_Order

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994190/

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockwell_Kent

(4) www.maristhistory.org

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