Bela Lugosi Interviews

These interviews are transcribed as printed in publications of the day. Errors and misstatements are not corrected. Many of the factual errors come from Lugosi himself, as he tried to refashion the past to suit the present. Much of the wit and references to prominent people and events are lost on modern readers. A lot of the obligatory “set-up”—a shuddering report prepares to meet the real Dracula—common in Lugosi interviews for many years, falls particularly flat today. (Frank J. Dello Stritto)

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1923

Silent Command

A scene from The Silent Command, 1923

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The Home News, September 2, 1923

BELA LUGOSI, YOUNG HUNGARIAN ACTOR, JOINS WASHINGTON HEIGHTS’ GROWING ARTISTS’ COLONY

The already extensive Height colony of artists has been augmented by a new arrival from Hungary, Bela Lugosi, 30 Fairview Ave., who made his American debut last season in The Red Poppy, adapted from the French “Mon Homme,” of Picard, author of Kiki at the Greenwich Village Theater. Boyhood Ambition Lugosi’s advent to the theater is the result of his early ambition in that direction. Born in a small provincial town in Hungary, Lugosi pursued his studies with ease, and at an early age, became interested in the drama. “One day, when I was 16,” Lugosi said, “it was announced that a stock company would present Romeo & Juliet—my favorite play, which I knew by heart, at the local playhouse. The whole town was disappointed when a rumor went about the morning of the performance that the play could not be presented because of the sudden illness of the leading man.” “I saw my chance, went to the manager, and offered to play the part. He hesitated, but finally consented. He announced the change, and made preparations for a hasty departure after the performance, thinking that the crowd might be angry at him after seeing my acting. There, as you Americans say, I made my first ‘hit,’ and since then I have never left the stage.” Asked why he chose the Heights, so far away from his workshop, as his home, he said, “You must first know that I live two lives—a professional one and a private one. In my profession, I try to be other people, but in my private life, I am myself. Then I want to do what I want to, associate with whomever I want, and entertain whomever I want. Were I to live downtown, my studio would constantly be full of people who came there, not to see me, but to get something from me. This way, I know that anyone who takes the trip way up here has come for the sake of my company, and not for what help I can offer him.” “Of course, this does not mean that I am not ready to help people at all times. Besides, the spot where I live is one of the most beautiful in the city. It has a fascination all its own. One block to the south is the city, with its pulsating, never-ceasing life, and one block to the north is beautiful Nature. I like the people that live here.” Another likely reason for Lugosi’s getting away from the hustle of downtown seems to be his love of books. He was found unpacking his 4,000 volume library, which had just been sent from Hungary. Commenting on the current endeavor of some Heights people to build a theater for the community, he said that he would like to see it undertaken as a repertory house. “Wouldn’t it be possible,” he asked, “for the civic organizations of the community to subsidize the theater to an extent that it need not become a purely commercial venture? I should like to see a place where the true art of the theater could be presented on the Heights.”

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1925

The Midnight Girl 1

A scene from The Midnight Girl, 1925

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The Morning Telegraph, New York, February 20, 1925

Six feet of “all man.” Six feet of breeding and polish. Six feet of acting ability or such an extraordinary high caliber that he is known as Hungary’s best actor. Such is Bela Lugosi, who has been in New York four years; four years physically and two temperamentally. Now he has found it. For the last two years he has been seen on the stage and in pictures. Somebody of Broadway saw him in one of his native exhibitions with the result that he stepped into the featured role of the play, The Red Poppy. He scored a decisive success in that production. Then came pictures. The Silent Command for Fox. The Rejected Woman, Daughters Who Pay for Banner, and That Midnight Girl for Chadwick. His ability is finally telling. Billy La Hiff, genial host of The Tavern, thought so much of his guest that he lodged the two of us at one of those exclusive corner tables, personally supervising the comings and goings of the waiters. “There is one thing that stands out in reference to the making of picture productions here,” said Mr. Lugosi with that continental accent to his words that makes them sound highly distinctive, “that is, here personality counts more that ability. I say this with no intent to criticize or to decry. But naturally such a proceeding struck me peculiar when in Hungary and Germany skill ability count for everything on the screen and stage.” “Possessing a good reputation in Hungary, I naturally thought that the going would be easy in New York. But it was not. I may say it is not.” “I received an offer of a contract to appear on the screen. I was playing in a stage production at the time and, acting on advice, I named a figure that doubled my stage salary when I gave my answer. A Mad Producer “The producer went mad. He claimed that I was unknown. That I wasn’t worth that much. After he had publicized me, yes, perhaps. But not then. But I was told to double my stage salary when talking to picture people. I didn’t know that years of stage training and study counted for little.” We have placed a side bet with ourself that Lugosi will some day pass that salary mentioned to the picture producer. The actors tells some interest things about pictures in Hungary. There are about 50 producing companies there. And 12 of them make good pictures. They are not the type that register well over here, he says. They are behind the Germans in technique. The war left them in even a greater predicament as regards equipment for production. They are beginning all over again where they left off in 1914. Lugosi plays the heavy in That Midnight Girl. He doesn’t mind what part he plays as long as it gives his abilities a proper chance—he is a true actor. He thinks Emil Jannings a great performer. He has played with him in stage production on the Continent. “Jannings doesn’t have to come to America to work,” said Lugosi, “for he gets the same salary he could get here in Germany. He is paid in gold dollars. He has had plenty of offers to come here.” Lugosi’s favorite actor on the American screen is Adolphe Menjou. He likes him because he never appears to be taking direction. He is natural-born actor. Naturally, such a character appeals to Lugosi as he is, above all things, a natural-born actor himself.

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1928

Publicity photo for Dracula's Broadway run

A publicity still for Dracula’s Broadway run

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FAME IN AMERICA AT LAST

Bela Lugosi starred in Dracula on Broadway from October 5, 1927 to May 19, 1928. Contrary to common belief, the vampire play was not a huge hit on Broadway. A true hit of 1927 was expected to bring in $20,000 per week. Dracula never got close to that. It hung on for almost a full season due to producer Horace Liveright’s relentless cost cutting, and his need to claim a long Broadway run when he brought the production on tour. An indication of Dracula’s limited Broadway success is that Lugosi was never interviewed by an English language newspaper.

True fame came to Lugosi when Dracula moved to the West Coast for runs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. Newspapers gave Dracula and its star the royal treatment.

After Lugosi completed the West Coast run, he settled in Hollywood looking for a career in the movies. He had yet to play Dracula 400 times, but in his interviews he was already complaining of typecasting.

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Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1928

Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1928 Illustration

LUGOSI, CREATOR OF DRACULA ROLE, IS COURTLY HUNGARIAN

For a blood-sucking he-vampire of the mythology books who lies in his coffin by day and sustains his nefarious vitality by imbibing the blood of fair maidens by night. Bela Lugosi is a most charming mild-mannered gentleman.

Yet he betrayed no sign of horror at his role in the much-heralded Dracula, which he pas played for a year in New York and now brings to the Biltmore Theater on the 25th. On the contrary, as he unfolded the story to me over a smooth cigar, there was triumphant twinkle in his eye.

“I believe you adore the role!” I gasped, with a proper shudder.

“Oh, surely, madam, greatly so. It is a marvelous play. We keep nurses and physicians in the theatre every night…”

“For the so-to-say blood transfusions? Heavens, is it realists as all that,” I faulted.

“No, no. For the people in the audience who faint,” he reassessed me pleasantly. One could see that he counted that day lost on which no hysterical fainting humans were carried from the audience during the performance of what he certainly regards as his masterpiece.

You see, this 6 foot 1 inch Lugosi, with the soft Hungarian eyes, the dulcet voice, the courtly manners, created the role in New York—with hideous success.

“Only one thing I fear,” he confided with a sly smile, “that after I play this Dracula some more, I become too like him in myself.” A very proper anxiety, of course. “But, you understand, I am not really bad character in the role. It is a curse upon me. I am to be pitied, no condemned. I am vampire because I must…”

Exactly. I may be a medical story, you see, but it’s psychoanalytically very up-to-date. And masculine.

This Lugosi has been in this country for seven years now—after being the make star at the Royal National Theater in Budapest. For the first two years here he produced Hungarian plays. His first role in English, five years ago, was The Red Poppy in New York—for which he had to learn his role phonetically, knowing no English. He won instant acclaim and has been New Yorking ever since.

Before coming out here with the New York cast of Dracula, he met Gloria Swanson and Von Stroheim. They dressed him in stalwart bizarre uniforms and tested him for Gloria’s next picture—but he proved so tall that Gloria was submerged beside him. Nevertheless, he had played in 40 pictures in both Budapest and Berlin, prior to coming to the United States, and he may join that distinguished coterie of Hollywood Hungarians yet—which includes Vilma Blanky, Lya de Putti, Victor Varconi, Alexander and Marie Korda, Ernst Vajda, and Michael Curtiz. He arrived last Sunday (June 8) and has spent most of his time with them ever since. He is staying at the Ambassador and is reveling in the swimming pool, the tennis courts and the golf links.

“Are you a bachelor?” I asked.

“Oh, surely, madam, and ‘open for business,’ you think, yes?” He replied, with a gentle hilarity that reeked of potential victory.

If you can imagine a courtier—like Victor McLaglen, who kisses ladies’ hands with natural savoir-faire, and offers polished charm, you have a glimpse of Bela Lugosi. He simply drips personality and private amusement. I can imagine the hysteria setting in afresh when his bloodthirsty curse is raised with a stab through the hearts, there in his coffin…by which he dissolves into ashes as the curtain descends on Dracula.

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San Francisco Chronicle, August 18, 1928

San Franciso Chronicle, August 18, 1928

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San Francisco Call, August 25, 1928

‘DRACULA’ ESCAPES COFFIN, REVEALS IN S. F.

The “Undead” Count Dracula out of his grave at night is supernatural enough—sufficiently so to make a gruesome play. But to find him dispossessed of his sepulcher in broad daylight and in a room at the Mark Hopkins Hotel was an incident of added uncanniness.

For scientists and amateur detectives combine their wits in the horror melodrama Dracula, to accomplish this very thing, along with the blood thirsty vampire’s undoing. And they fail.

Bela Lugosi, noted Hungarian actor, who at night is Count Dracula, a creature of horror, by day is a smiling, courtly continental dispensing—hospitality—he has found a California brand similar to that crushed from the grape of his native vineyards—and asking questions about the best bridle paths and golf courses.

As Count Dracula adopted England as his home, so Bela Lugosi has adopted California. He told this proudly, in accented English. To accomplish this, he has obtained release from a contract signed with Horace Liveright, eastern producer of Dracula, and has arranged with O. D. Woodward, a western entrepreneur, to continue in Dracula and other plays on the coast.

“I like your California, and who knows—I may go into pictures here,” he said, “I made many of them in pioneer days of the cinema in Berlin and Budapest. I am an exile from Hungary, you may know, as I was a follower of Karolyi in the revolution.

“Your American people—I like their sportsmanship. Your theater—I like not so well. You hunt for actor types, instead of training your actors so they may play many roles. In the Academy of Theatrical Arts in Budapest that I attended we had such training. Then I played from 1911 to 1918 in the Royal National Theater in Budapest.”

“Before leaving the continent six years ago, I appeared in romantic parts, but in this country, you know, the foreigner is nearly always the heavy.”

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San Francisco Examiner, August 26, 1928

‘DRACULA’ PRACTICES MYSTERIES OFF STAGE

Two heads bent studiously over many desks in the drama room. It was clearly to be seen that they were occupied with heavy business, such as the preparation for the Sunday drama section. Or a new social and economic scheme of government whereby, since work and vacation seen arbitrarily divided fifty to two, the two weeks be devoted to work and the fifty to holiday. Or maybe they were concerned with the efforts of a wee crawly thing to scale the perilous slopes of an envelope.

Al this was going on assiduously when the door to the drama room seemed to open as by the unseen hand of a Conan Doyle spirit, and a gust of cold wind whirred through the room.

The two heads didn’t even turn in mild surprise. They were used to all sorts of visitors. And if it was a ghost, he was certain to want a couple of movie passes. Everybody always did. They would ignore him.

But presently that apparatus within the two heads which is euphemistically referred to as brain matter, registered another impression. Long talon like fingers spasmodically clawed around the door. Like a crab’s legs.

Two heads bobbed up from many desks.

“Wow!” yelled one. “That’s what I get for drinking that real imported Scotch from North Beach!

“O-o-o-o-h!” howled the other. “Forgive us our sins this time, and we’ll never trespass again! And in the meanwhile, good Lord, please hurry over a cordon of police.”

Taking No Changes

But pshaw! Hardly had these self-castigations and adjurations been uttered, when who should enter but the rest of the body? And who should that body be but Bela Lugosi, the distinguished Hungarian actor who is the grisly Dracula in the play now running at the Columbia?

I had specifically decline to interview Mr. Lugosi in is hotel or his dressing room, because I don’t believe in ghosts and I don’t propose to let any ghastly figure rise as out of a bad dream to shake me in my unbelief.

And here he was practicing his shuddering wiles right there in broad daylight—and making two stubborn atheists yell for police protection! A dirty trick! But not entirely without its compensations. For a man who slinks like a green wraith through all the creepy tricks of Dracula realizes what his art can do. And for those upon whom he practices his mysteries in private, he might be found to carry proper restoratives.

Strong Competition

So we got down to business, and Mr. Lugosi told me all about how there really are people in Transylvania who, as set forth in Bram Stoker’s novel from which this pot-pourri of terror is made, actually believe in vampires and who until a few years ago not infrequently were known to plunge iron stakes through the hearts of the dead to lay them forever, and forestall any posthumous wanderings about.

Further, he had a few things to say about American acting as compared with European. And since Bela Lugosi was formerly not only leading man at the famous National Theater in Budapest, but for a time the governmental supervisor of all theatrical activity in Hungary, he is rather well qualified to comment.

The trouble Lugosi finds in American acting as an institution is in the fact that there are so many actors, and competition is so big and free that the actors as individuals never attain the broad experience of those in Europe.

What seems such a splendid thing in all our other pursuits—to wit, specialization and the making of better mousetraps and all that—he finds the most vitiating influence in the American theatre.

“On the continent,” he explains, “an actor gets no encouragement to proceed with his career unless he is really talented. There he is not chosen as a particular type and doomed to continue as that type for all his professional career. He gains attention because he can CREATE types instead of merely BEING types. Therefore, he is versatile, and almost equally artistic in a variety of dramatic expressions.”

“American acting would be better if it submitted to some such requirements. I don’t speak, of course, of the John Barrymores and the Holbrook Blinns and others of the really foremost actors. They are not merely national. Like all great artists, they belong to the world.”

“I speak of the common plane, the great average. That is the level that needs elevation by stricter requirements. It may not be so easy here, where the government does not support the theater as a form of art. But do not abandon hope. It may come.”

Won Name Abroad

Lugosi is perhaps the only actor of Hungarian origin who has been a leader of his native stage and who has come to this country to win another success. The incomparable Mitza and Vilma Blanky, and Victor Varconi are all Hungarian, but their big success has been won, not on native soil, but in this country.

With Lugosi, however, as with some of the German stars—Jannings, Veidt, Negri—distinction first came in Central Europe, only to be ratified later by the verdict of the American public.

Lugosi was one of Count Karolyi’s lieutenants in the Hungarian revolution of 1918, and during Karolyi’s brief control Lugosi was the government’s minister of the theater or some such thing. He had earned this place not only by adherence to Karolyi’s cause but by his record of achievement, which had carried him to the throne of stardom in the National Theater of Budapest.

When the Hungarian royalists recaptured control, however, Karolyi and all those close to him came to realize the broadening effect of travel, and Lugosi didn’t wait to gather up make-up boxes of brief cases.

Fled to Austria

He found his way into Austria and later into the newly democratic Germany, where those who had wanted to set up a Hungarian government patterned on America’s or Switzerland’s were not unwelcome. Seven years ago he came to this country and since that time he has not only won considerable success on the stage, but has enlisted the support of all 100%’ers by becoming naturalized.

He has had important parts in The Red Poppy, The Werewolf, Open House, Arabesque and The Devil in the Cheese. He has done a little picture work, but for the most part has avoided it for the broader opportunities of improving his diction in the new language.

This is his first trip to the Pacific Coast. He intends to remain some time on this trip, however, as he has agreed to continue with O. D. Woodward, coast producer, in another play after Dracula has terminated its western run two or three months hence.

(Note: Holbrook Blinn, a well-known stage actor of the day, died, age 56, in a horseback riding accident on June 24, 1928, two months before the interview.)

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San Francisco Call, August 31, 1928

‘DRACULA’ VILLAIN

STILL STRUGGLES WITH HIS ENGLISH

Bela Lugosi was asked what his greatest difficulty was in mastering the English language sufficiently to enable audiences to understand him.

“Mastering? You flatter me!” Lugosi said. “I wish that I could feel that I have mastered your language, but I am still struggling with it. However, my highest jury is the audience—and if they are satisfied I suppose I should not complain.

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1929

Bela Lugosi - The Veild Woman

A publicity still for The Veiled Woman (1929)

REEL LIFE A BIT SLOW, REAL LIFE A BIT HOT

Bela Lugosi had little to show for his first year in Hollywood. His film roles were few and minor. Lugosi was not alone. Silent films were all but dead, and uncertainty reigned over the film colony as it converted to sound. Some foreign actors with accents less impenetrable than Lugosi’s left Hollywood forever.

When Lugosi spoke to reporters he still harped on the evils of typecasting, and added talkie pictures to his dislikes.

To make ends meet, Lugosi again signed for a road tour of Dracula. He played the run through Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Bakersfield, but left when he at last landed a solid movie role, as Inspector Delzante in Tod Browning’s The Thirteenth Chair. He rejoined Dracula for San Francisco and Oakland performances.

Of more interest to San Francisco journalists than his acting was Lugosi’s marriage to rich widow Beatrice Weeks. He parries well with reporters on that topic, and gives no hint of the domestic discord that ended the marriage in just a few days.

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The Lima Sunday News, Lima, Ohio, March 10. 1929

HOLLYWOOD, MARCH 9

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about March 10, 1929.

Getting a break in America is largely a matter of luck, according to Bela Lugosi, new Hungarian recruit in the film colony.

“In Europe conditions are quite different,” declared the actor. “A man craving a stage or screen career must prove his ability before he can expect any sort of consideration. When he proves that he really has the knack of acting, he may become a member of one of the small repertoire companies which tour the provinces. As his acting ability increases with years of training, he is shifted to larger companies and better parts. But in this country training isn’t considered—it’s just luck.”

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Bela appeared in Dracula at the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, California from June 13-15

Lobero Ad 1929

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San Francisco Newspaper, July 21, 1929

San Francisco Newspaper, July 21, 1929 (1)

San Francisco Newspaper, July 21, 1929 (2)

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San Francisco Call, July 24, 1929

DRACULA’ SEES NO ‘TALKIE’ FUTURE

By Fred Johnson

Not all talking picture actors are propagandists for the audibles. Bela Lugosi, eminent Hungarian star, playing in Dracula at the Columbia, sees no future for them, although he has done two within the last few months.

A year ago, when the screen began to talk, the result was called a novelty. Lugosi still calls it that and holds out no hope for the speakies, even with their novelty worn off.

“There won’t be a permanent compromise between the stage and the screen,” said the actor as he made up for the vampire role of Count Dracula.”

“The stage will not only survive, but will increase its appeal. The flesh and blood actor will become more popular—the talking pictures already have whetter the desire to see and hear him on the stage.”

“We will continue to have pictures—silent ones, likely—and the radio will carry the dialogue of the world’s best actors in broadcasting of plays. I f this doesn’t satisfy, those who are within reach of legitimate theaters will have the enjoyment of the best of drama.”

The Hungarian star isn’t yet a true Hollywoodian, although he lives there. He has failed to go Hollywood in other ways then being pessimistic over the talkies.

“The eternal hunt for types in the pictures as well as in the drama is carried to extremes in America,” he said. “Meanwhile the thorough training of young actors is being neglected. The stock companies are doing much in this direction, but elsewhere the producer repeats his everlasting question: ‘Is he the type?’”

The talk switched to another phase of thespic training.

“Acting is a combination of many arts,” Lugosi remarked.

“I have seriously studied sculpture, not only for its own sake, but because it teaches many things about posture and line which are invaluable when applied to stage technique. With a knowledge of sculpture an actor can put his personality across the footlights without saying a word. He can dominate a scene when he appears to be taking only an inactive part.”

Dancing and Music

“Dancing is another art which helps the actor to acquire ease and the grace of manner which is so essential upon the stage. Speech should be musical, and the more an actor knows about singing, the better will he be able to apply its principles to the speaking voice. Of course a knowledge of painting helps an actor in many ways, as proper color schemes for costumes and make-up are so essential in adding a touch of reality to his interpretation.

“I did not study interior decorating, but one learns a great deal about interior decoration from the stage sets. I like simplicity. Dull backgrounds show up furniture to the best advantage. I like Spanish architecture and many things in my Hollywood home are of Spanish design, though I have not confined the decorations to any particular country or period.”

It was already known that Lugosi’s home is one of the most artistic in Hollywood. Each piece of furniture is of different design, and these designs he drew himself. His home had added interest, for there he will later take his bride, the former Mrs. Beatrice Week, to whom he was quietly married in Redwood City today. She is the widow of the late Charles Peter Weeks of this city, a noted architect.

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San Francisco Call, July 24, 1929

‘DRACULA’ LISTED AS TOO SHUDDERY

 FOR RADIO FOLK

Only one attempt has been made to broadcast Dracula, the shudder drama. Bela Lugosi reports that the drama was radioed in New York, and there was much indignation among the listeners.

One woman, says Lugosi, telephoned in demanding that it be stopped because she had 6 children who had to listen to it.

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The 13th Chair 1

Margaret Wycherly, Leila Hyams and Lugosi in The Thirteenth Chair

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The Daily Chronicle, Centralia, Washington, July 26, 1929

BELA LUGOSI IS NOT CONCEITED

Actor Tells Reporter Who He is

and Assumed Blame for Mistake on Movie Lot

By Robin Coons

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about July 26, 1929.

Herewith nominated for the Hollywood Hall of Fame is Bela Lugosi. You know him better perhaps as “Dracula”—so fixedly has the Hungarian stage actor become associated with the gruesome vampire role.

About two years ago a young fellow flew across lots of water through lots of air and landed on a field near Paris to be greeted by cheering thousands. “I am Charles Lindbergh,” he said.

Well, most Hollywood actors, no matter how sincerely modest they are not Charles Lindbergh. Somehow they expect people to know them. But Bela Lugosi, when a meek reporter was presented to him, said, :My name’s Lugosi. How are you?”

As if that were really news!

“Interlock!” drawls Director Tod Browning. “Everybody quiet!”

Lugosi begins his lines in that pronounced foreign accent of his…Cold, cutting interrogation—Bela a detective in The Thirteenth Chair. He is quizzing Moon Carroll, fresh from the stage …the dialogue waxes warm…Then Browning waves his arms. For the third time the scene is spoiled. Someone has slipped on the lines. “Tis Moon,” accuses Tod, impersonally, patiently, inoffensively. Moon acknowledges guilt, prettily laughing.

“But it was my fault!” insists Lugosi, unperturbed, suave, gallant.

Quick—carve the niche wider! 

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San Francisco Chronicle, July 28, 1929

TALKIE LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES MET

Bela Lugosi, Hungarian Stage & Screen Actor, Memorizes Part in English for his First Sound Picture Appearance

By Rosalind Shaffer

Talking pictures may have proved an insurmountable obstacle to some famous foreign actors, but they have not proved so to Bela Lugosi. Lugosi is a Hungarian who came to America several years ago, as one of Hungary’s best actors. Politics following the war found him an exile from his home country, and Lugosi landed in New York with not one word of English..

When Tod Browning,, who has spent several profitable years directing Lon Chaney’s pictures, was casting his mystery thriller, The Thirteenth Chair, he chose the Hungarian player to enact a Scotland Yard detective, who solves the mystery. For a talking picture, such a step was almost revolutionary, but Browning is elated over what he considers a discovery for the screen.

Lugosi Gets Up Part in English by Rote

Lugosi is best known as the New York portrayer of the title role in Dracula. His first role, after two years of directing and producing plays in Hungarian in New York, was in The Red Poppy, and when he got the role he knew no English. He made a bargain with the producer of the play for the latter to grant him four months’ time and an English actor to coach him in his lines. By sheer memory, he went through the whole part. The opening night when he was receiving congratulations from his audience, he only bowed. He knew no English. By his next role in Arabesque, he was beginning to learn. He cannot understand why other foreign actors cannot become line perfect in a similar manner for the talkies.

Lugosi believes that an intensive study of a role is necessary before an actor can give to the talking picture the best of his talent and training.

“The screen will learn to draw on the vast fund of stage technique perfected through the centuries, and when it has learned this, talking pictures will become as great a medium as the stage,” says Lugosi.

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Bela and Beatrice

Lugosi and his new bride Beatrice Weeks

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San Francisco Examiner, July 28, 1929

‘DRACULA’ FOUND OUT; SECRET OF LUGOSI REVEALED

By Ada Hanifin

Bela Lugosi’s reflection in the mirror was taking on a Mephistophelian cunning. With deft touches of grease, chalk and paint, he was fast evoking the likeness of “Dracula.” In a few moments, he would doff his smile and ingenious manner. Werewolves move with a sinister suavity…

It was after 8, when the man reputed to be Hungary’s greatest actor entered his dressing room backstage at the Columbia. Mystery had cloaked his movements during the day. He had disappeared with Dracula-like proclivity. No one could find him. Now that he was late he offered no explanation.

As he donned his mask with urgent rapidity, he talked volubly. He would be entertaining at any cost. There was a charm in his accent, but in his eyes! Conflicting emotions welled in their depths. Restless, evasive looks fenced with a persistent twinkle, and then gave way to a dreamy aspect that belied that mirrored wickedness of the 500-year-old arch villain.

Fellow Reporter Interrupts

Our speculative musings were unceremoniously interrupted by an unexpected knock at the door. A youth from The Examiner wanted to speak with the man in front of the glass.

Lugosi paused in the process of his make-up, leaving an eyebrow at a devilish angle. But the eyes beneath challenged his outward calm and nonchalant manner, and set his heart a beat faster.

“Name the woman,” came the command of the man on information bent. “Your secret is out. You’re to be sentenced for life. You can’t get away with anything like that. You may as well confess everything. You stole away to Redwood City today and applied for a marriage license…”

Lugosi’s make melted into a wide smile of resignation. He shrugged his shoulders. He was found out. It was “imposseeble” to hide from the all-inclusive eye of the American newspaper! He apologized and drew the curtain to seek refuge in the satanic garb of Count Dracula.

“Is she a blonde or a brunette—the bride to be?” We queried.

“Oooooooooooo,” came the lilted response. “I do not know.”

“You do not know,” was our surprised retort.

“No. You see, it is like this. The eyes got in the way. You understand…”

“It is a true romance,” he continued.

“Love is a divine thing. Sacred. I fell in love with Beatrice Weeks at first sight.”

“Are you going to drop your accent some day,” we ventured.

“Some tell me in Hollywood, ‘You lose your accent, you have many parts.’ Others say to me, ‘You lose your accent and you will be without a part.’ I do not know what to do. Then I meet my fiancée. She love the accent. So, I will keep it.”

“Marriage and a career?” He reiterated. “No, the Hungarians believe that the man should take care of the woman. Her divine profession is motherhood.”

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San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 1929

Star of ‘Dracula’ Faces Divorce Suit

Bela Lugosi has the lead in the play “Dracula,” now at an Oakland theatre, but he will play no lead part in the divorce action now confronting him in Reno.

“No doubt it is for the best,” he said last night in commenting on the departure of his wife for the Nevada city. “I am Hungarian and my ideas as to what position a wife should have in the family are quite different from hers.”

They married in Redwood City July 27 and separated after four days.

Mrs. Lugosi was the widow of Charles Peter Weeks, San Francisco architect. She is the daughter of Lieutenant Commander John S. Woodruff.

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1930

DRACULA RISING

After the 1929 stage tour of Dracula, Bela Lugosi returned to Hollywood for a procession of small supporting roles in movies. He was hardly a hot property.

Lugosi’s escape from the ranks of journeyman actors hinged on the film version of Dracula. As 1930 progressed, Universal’s plans to start production firmed. Lugosi had competition for the role, but eventually prevailed. In July 1930, when he again played Dracula on stage in Oakland, he seemed sure that the part in the film was his.

His interviews during the filming again voice his frustration with typecasting. He flatly states that he will not play Dracula again.

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The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, July 6, 1930

IN THE WORLD OF SCREEN & STAGE

By Wood Soanes

Breakfast occupied a half hour, starting at 9:55 in the Ambassador coffee room whither I had been led by Bela Lugosi, who hungered for food as much as Count Dracula, whom he portrays again at the Fulton today, hungers for blood in the Bram Stoker thriller.

Lugosi had just arrive from Los Angeles where he has been spending his time in the talkies since his last engagement here as the touring star of Dracula. He had come in response to a summons from George Ebey, who felt that Oakland might like to while away the dog days with an honest chill or two.

“You’re a native of Hungary, is it not?” I asked in my best continental manner as Lugosi crunched up a pair of cereal biscuits in his hand as a start on the breakfast.

“It is so,” responded the genial Lugosi, who is only sinister when he dons the bat-cape of the vampire count

“Now, about your first name?” I pursued relentlessly, dropping a spoonful of marmalade on the table cloth, utterly destroying its pristine loveliness. “What is the English equivalent of your first name?”

“Bela?” He parried. “Must you know?”

“It might help.”  I admitted. “So far we’ve simply been taking on food. After all, I’m supposed to take back some burning message to my well known and rapidly shrinking public.”

“Bela,” he began sadly, “if translated into your English would be Adelbert.”

“Adelbert,” I repeated in a small voice, “Adelbert Lugosi. You never could play Dracula as Adelbert.”

“I suppose not,” agreed Lugosi, starting to destroy a large quantity of fresh figs. “However, they might call me Bert. I’ve been called worse.”

“You’d better leave it at Bela,” I suggested. “Bela is a mysterious sort of name and seems to fit the part.”

*

From that the conversation veered to the history of the play and Lugosi’s part in its American presentation.

He had the distinction of being selected from a group of 27 standard featured players in New York for the original Horace Liveright production. Since that time he has appeared as Count Dracula nearly 1,000 times with three leading women in his support.

“It is a peculiar role in many respects,” Lugosi explained. “When you see the play Dracula seems to be constantly on the stage. A casual glance would indicate that he speaks as many lines as Hamlet. Yet, as a matter of fact, the number of ‘sides’ is small. The professor really has a great many more.”

“But, if Count Dracula is not particularly chatty, he presents other difficulties. I find that it requires time and meditation to catch the mood of the character; each performance must be approached with some care. The result is that one doesn’t weary of the part.”

“I am looking forward to the screen production which is being planned by Universal. As you know, Dracula represents but a small portion of the story as outlined in the Bram Stoker novel. There is one scene in particular that cannot be presented on the stage but would be most effective on the screen.”

“I refer to that episode describing Dracula’s voyage by sea to England. He starts on a vessel containing a full complement of sailors. Each night the vampire, in order to retain his earthly form, must drink the blood of one human. Each morning there is a dead sailor. Finally the vessel comes within view of the coast of England. One sailor remains and Dracula takes his hideous toll.”

“As the vessel comes onto the rock bound coast Dracula is at the wheel of the charnel vessel but the countryside has been aroused. The Britons are awaiting him, prepared to drive the stake through his heart that will stop him from further walking on the earth. Dracula runs the ship on the rocks, wrecks it and turns himself into a wolf. As they shoot at him, he changes to a bat, flies away and escapes. It should make a most stirring picture.”

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The Olean Herald, Olean, New York, October 24, 1930

SHOOTING BEGINS EARLY

By Robbin Coons

NEA Service Writer

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about October 24, 1930.

When Bela Lugosi received the script for his talkie role he was told that shooting would begin the next day.

He had a mere 65 pages of dialog to learn.

But when he made his debut on the English-speaking stage in New York in 1922, he had a greater task.

A political refugee from Austria after the war, he came to New York and joined a Hungarian stock company playing American cities of large Hungarian population.

He had been an actor abroad since he was 20, and in the strange country naturally turned again to the stage. The company gave performances in Hungarian only, and Lugosi could not speak English.

Sound Effects

One night his work attracted a stage producer who came to his dressing-room with an offer. Speaking German, they reach an agreement. That was in April. By September, the actor was to learn the leading role in The Red Poppy—in English.

He did it with the aid of a coach, not learning the language, but merely the sound of the words in his lines!

Lugosi, of course, now is identified so closely with the title role of the horror play Dracula that his name is scarcely mentioned in any connection, but he played four other roles in New York before Dracula began it two-year run.

In Europe he had made his debut as Romeo, and portrayed Armand in Camille, various characters from Shakespeare and Ibsen, and diverse other roles.

A Role Lived

He hopes when the talkie Dracula is completed, to escape the shackles of the role and essay other characterizations.

He will never again play Dracula on the stage, he says. If the wide distribution of the film did not make such a venture unprofitable, he would refuse because of the nervous strain the gruesome character puts upon him.

He has given some 900 performances of the vampire role, each requiring intense mental concentration and a complete assumption of the morbid spirit of the terror in order to give his portrayal maximum effect.

Attempts to make his performance purely mechanical, he says, always failed because audiences refused to react to them.

Lugosi off-screen, incidentally, continues as a prime example of old-world courtesy and friendly charm.

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The Olean Times, Olean, New York, December 8, 1930

MOVIE CHAT

By Dan Thomas

NEA Service Writer

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about December 8, 1930.

A political upheaval in Hungary plus a pretty American girl equals Bela Lugosi, film star.

After being forced out of his native country back in 1921, Lugosi got a job on a tramp steamer bound for New Orleans. There he left the ship and, according to the law, was entitled to remain in this country for three months to look for another job. But he had no intention of following the sea. So he went to New York to see the immigration authorities instead.

After explaining his status in his native land to them, the actor who for several years had been a star on the Hungarian stage, prevailed upon them to let him remain here and become a citizen of the United States. But he couldn’t speak any English. So he organized a Hungarian dramatic company, of which he was the star, and toured cities which had a large enough Hungarian population to support his plays.

Fell in Love

Then the girl entered the picture. It was a case of love at first sight with both of them, despite the fact that neither could spark the other’s language.

“You now there is a language that is universal and it doesn’t require words to express it,” Lugosi remarked. “For a number of weeks that mutual understanding was our language. But she started to teach me English and in six months I could speak it well enough to get a role in an American play. I had to play the role of a foreigner, as I still had quite an accent, but I got by very well.”

Although Lugosi enjoyed considerable success in New York in all of his shows, it was playing the title role in Dracula that brought him the fame which now is his. That show was one of the most successful ever put on Broadway and brought Lugosi much personal acclaim. So when Universal started making the film version, they engaged Lugosi to play the role which he had created behind the footlights. And he did so well that he was handed a five-year contract.

“Of course, it’s one of those contracts where the studio can keep me for five years if it wants to or it can let me go at any time,” said the actor. “That’s the way all contracts are written out here. The studios always have the best of things.

Hollywood Puzzles Him

“I can’t say what I am going to do now that Dracula is finished. I have heard rumors that I am to make this and that picture, but I don’t know for sure. It seems that a person who is going to do something always is the last one to find out about it out here. I might even go back on the stage again sometime, but I’m not certain about that. I would like to stay in pictures at least log enough to live down the reputation I earned in Dracula.

“Things are so funny in this country. The minute an actor makes a particularly big hit in a certain role he is stamped as that type and I don’t want to be stamped. I am a character actor and want to prove to producers and audiences that I can do more than one type of role.”

Lugosi is one of the most interesting men and most finished actors we have run across in the film racket in some time. He knows his profession forward and backward. But his knowledge doesn’t end there. He can talk intelligently on almost any subject although his pet pastime is studying human nature. Perhaps that explains his ability as an actor. Having studied all types and classes of persons he can inject realism into any part for which he is cast.

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The Republic, Phoenix, Arizona, December 16, 1930

POLTICAL UPHEAVAL IN HUGARY TOSSES

ACTOR INTO HOLLYWOOD

Bela Lugosi is a Versatile Actor

by Dan Thomas

Hollywood, Dec 15—A political upheaval in Hungary plus a pretty American girl equals Bela Lugosi, film star.

After being forced out of his native country back in 1921, Lugosi got a job on a tramp streamer bound for New Orleans. There he left the ship, and according to the law, was entitled to remain in this country for three months to look for another job. But he had no intention of following the sea. So, he went to New York to see the immigration authorities instead.

After explaining his status in his native land to them, the actor, who for several years had been a star of the Hungarian stage, prevailed upon them to let him remain here and become a citizen of the United States. But he couldn’t speak any English. So he organized a Hungarian dramatic company, of which he was the star, and toured cities which have a large enough Hungarian population to support his plays.

Fell in Love

Then the girl entered the picture. It was a case of love at first sight with both of them, despite the fact that neither could speak the other’s language.

“You know there is a language that is universal and it doesn’t require word to express it,” Lugosi remarked. “For a number of weeks that mutual understanding was our language. But she started to teach me English and in six months I could speak it well enough to get a role in an American play. I had to play the role of a foreigner, as I still had quite an accent, but I got by very well.”

Although Lugosi enjoyed considerable success in New York in all of his shows, it was playing the title role in Dracula that brought him the fame which now is his. That show was one of the most successful ever put on Broadway and brought Lugosi much personal acclaim. So when Universal started making the film version, they engaged Lugosi to play the role which he created behind the footlights. And he did so well that he was handed a five-year contract.

“Of course, it’s one of those contracts where the studio can keep me for five years if it wants to or I can let me go at any time,” said the actor. “That’s the way all contracts are written out here. The studios always have the best of things.”

Hollywood Puzzles Him

“I can’t say what I am going to do now that Dracula is finished. I have heard rumors that I am to make this and that picture, but I don’t know for sure. It seems that a person who is going to do something always is the last one to find out about it out here. I might even go back on the stage again sometime, but I’m not certain about that. I would like to stay in pictures at least long enough to live down the reputation I earned in Dracula.

“Things are so funny in this country. The minute an actor makes a particularly big hit in a certain role he is stamped as that type and I don’t want to be stamped. I am a character actor and want to prove to the producers and audiences that I can do more than one type of role.”

Lugosi s one of the interesting men and most finished actors we have run across in the film racket in some time. He knows his profession forward and backward. But his knowledge doesn’t end there. He can talk intelligently on almost any subject, although his pet pastime is studying human nature. Perhaps that explains his ability as an actor. Having studied all types and classes of persons he can inject realism into any part for which he is cast.

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1931

AN UNDYING MYTH IS BORN

The movie version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, was filmed in October-November 1930, and released in February 1931. With it, as with many movies, Universal released a press book, containing advertisement graphics for use by theatres booking Dracula, and a series of “news” articles on the movie.

Five of these articles center on Lugosi: his life, his career, his playing of Dracula. These contain many quotes attributed to Lugosi, but perhaps are only fabricated by publicists. Among other topics, Lugosi tells—allegedly—in the articles of an encounter with a vampire, of the strain of portraying Dracula, of the terror he invokes. The articles, and variations of them might have appeared in the newspapers of any town where Dracula played. A legend was born.

Included in this section is the transcript of a radio broadcast Lugosi made on March 27, 1931, promoting Dracula, and his “unlearning fast” speech, in which he describes—allegedly—his difficulties in abandoning his stage techniques to play Dracula on the stage. Like the more outlandish claims of the press book articles, the “unlearning fast” speech cemented the notion that Lugosi was primarily a stage actor: a charge that would follow him for the rest of his life, and beyond.

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Dracula Press Book

Dracula press book

Universal Publicity Release, circa 1931

BELA LUGOSI, FAMOUS ACTOR, TELLS OF TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE WITH ACTUAL HUMAN VAMPIRE

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1931 release of Dracula. As a product of Universal publicity department, the authenticity of its quotes is questionable. Presumably, Lugosi was never actually attacked by a vampire. Whether he or a studio publicist concocted the tale is unknown.

The strangest creature in America is living today in Hollywood, surrounded by a brooding atmosphere of horror and madness. A tall, straight figure of a man, he goes among his fellows with a strange aloofness that marks him as a man apart. Unfathomable thoughts gleam behind his deep-set eyes, and on his throat he bears two tiny wounds that prove a terrible attack by a human vampire.

Bela Lugosi is the name of this strangest of men, a Hungarian born amid the black mysterious mountains where vampires take a heavy toll among the natives, and the whole country side lives in terror of the night. For it is only after sunset that these strange undead creatures rise from their graves.

Lugosi is loathe to discuss his terrifying experience in his native land. “It is a all a terrible nightmare which I am destined never to forget,” he says, “until a certain woman in Hungary shall go to a peaceful and lasting death. She is an actress with no more than usual amount of feminine charm, but many men are her abject slaves, because within her smolders the burning flame of the vampires.”

“It was her sharply pointed teeth which made these wounds in my throat, and it was her unspoken but irresistible commands which caused me to visit her again and again. At length my mother noticed that I was rapidly losing weight, and she soon divined the cause. I had fallen under the influence of a vampire. Shortly afterward, at my mother’s insistence, I fled the country and I shall probably never go back.”

“But even now I dare not sleep at night. This is the time when we feel the thought impulses of vampires, and I dare not lose consciousness during the hours of darkness. With a light burning low in my bedroom, I read and paced the floor—and think. If I rest at all, it must be during the day.”

“I had been an actor in Hungary, and when I fled to New York one of the first parts offered me was the role of Count Dracula in the play Dracula, which was then about to be produced for the first time. And strangely, this story dealt with the very subject which has caused me to leave my native country—vampires of the night, and the strange legion of the Undead. Possibly because I was so strongly drawn to the subject, and had not been able to excape from the menace which constantly hung over me. I took the part, and appeared in the play for more than two years. I lived in another world, and I actually seemed to have become Dracula himself.”

“And when I learned that Tod Browning was at Universal to make Dracula into a talking picture, this strange fascination drew me to the studio. I have played the role on the screen, and I often sit in dark theatres, watching and wondering if the sinister character in the picture is Bela Lugosi or Dracula.”

*

Perhaps no other actor in the history of the American theatre has become so associated in the minds of the public with a character he has played on the stage as Bela Lugosi, who created the title role of Count Dracula when the strange vampire play Dracula was first produced in New York, and who has since been seen in the character in every important city in the United States. By most theatergoers his own personality has been entirely overlooked, and he has seemed actually to be Dracula, the most terrible vampire of Central Europe. The screen version of this hair-raising story is just completed by Universal.

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Universal Publicity Release, circa 1931

LUGOSI AT EMOTIONAL PITCH IN DRACULA ROLE

Famous Actor Tells of Terrific Strain of Nervous System When He Played Vampire on Stage, Night After Night For Years

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1931 release of Dracula. As a product of Universal publicity department, the authenticity of its quotes is questionable.

Bela Lugosi never did learn to play Dracula mechanically. The famous Hungarian actor has starred in this strange play for more than two years, and during all that time he was worked up to a high pitch of emotional intensity which actually had a devastating effect on his health.

“After I had been in the play for a month,” said Lugosi recently, “I began to ‘take stock of myself” and I realized that for my own well-being I should make some attempt to conserve my mental and physical strength—to throw myself with less fervor into the depiction of the role. By that time I knew every inflection, every movement, every expression required of the character, and I decided that if I could go through the play somewhat mechanically—somewhat more placidly within myself—there would be no lessening of the effect of my performance on the audience, but a decided lessening of the effect on my own nervous system.”

“But I could not do it. The role seemed to demand that I keep myself worked up to a fever pitch, and so I sat in my dressing room and took on, as nearly as possible, the actual attributes of the horrible vampire, Dracula. And during all those two years I did not speak a word to any person behind the scenes during the progress of the play. And, since everyone knew the strain I was laboring under, no one spoke to me. When I came off the stage after a scene I went silently to my dressing room, and did not emerge until it was again time for me to go on the stage. I was under a veritable spell which I dared not break. If I stepped out of my character for even a moment, the seething menace of the terrible Count Dracula was gone from the characterization, and my hold on the audience lost its force.”

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Dracula Sketch 1931

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Universal Publicity Release, circa 1931

LUGOSI, DRACULA STAR, FLED FOR LIFE TO AMERICA

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1931 release of Dracula. As a product of Universal publicity department, the authenticity of its quotes is questionable.

He made a hit in a colorful role on the stage—but most of the time he didn’t know what he was saying!

Appearing as the star of a traveling company presenting plays in the Hungarian language, Lugosi had failed to learn English, but his performance in one of the plays in his repertoire led Henry Baron, a New York theatrical manager, to approach him with an offer to play a role in The Red Poppy, which he was to produce in the following fall.

Fortunately, Baron could talk German, and in this language Lugosi confessed his inability either to understand or speak a word of English.

“But give me a chance!” He suggested. “Give me a tutor, take his salary out of my future earnings, and by the time you are ready to start rehearsals I will know my part.”

Though he was at first filled with doubts, Baron finally agreed to the proposition; and Lugosi immediately entered upon an intensive course of study. At such short notice he made no attempt to learn the English language, but under the coaching of his tutor he learned his entire role phonetically, as one might learn the music of a song. He simply memorized and imitated the sounds made by his teacher.

Three months later the company came together for the first rehearsal. The other members of the cast, typewritten parts in hand, either read their speeches or stumbled through them in a halting fashion. But Lugosi was letter-perfect, and gave such a convincing portrayal of his role that the other members of the company gathered around him and began to offer their congratulations.

The embarrassed Hungarian smiled shyly and shook his head. He did not know what they were saying. But when the play opened he played his part with such consummate artistry that Alan Dale, the frankly vitriolic critic, acclaimed him “the greatest actor ever to come to America.”

During the run of The Red Poppy in New York, Lugosi entered Columbia University and took a course in English.

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Universal Publicity Release, circa 1931

BELA LUGOSI HAUNTED BY ROLE

 HE MADE FAMOUS IN DRACULA

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1931 release of Dracula. As a product of Universal publicity department, the authenticity of its quotes is questionable.

One of the most famous of all actors on stage or screen would like to forget the character that made him famous! Audience on Broadway were thrilled form more than two years by his artistry; millions of picture fans throughout the country are being fascinated by the startling impersonation he gives on the screen. But the character haunts him, and he never wants to play it again.

The actor is Bela Lugosi, and the character is Count Dracula in the most startling of all plays or pictures—Dracula. Bram Stoker, the famous English novelist, wrote it first as a novel—this terrifying narration of an “undead” being who rises from the grave at night and through his horrible influence brings death and suffering to his victims.

For more than a thousand nights, Lugosi played it in the theatre. Then when Universal Studios decided to produce the great story as a picture, Lugosi was the natural choice for the role he made so famous on the stage.

At first, it was difficult to prevail upon him to appear on the screen. He had lived the horrible vampire character so long on the stage that he wanted to forget, and how could he forget if he played it again on the screen!

But he finally consented, and for weeks at Universal City studios while the picture was in production, he lived again the startling and fantastic role of Count Dracula. Those who have seen both play and picture assert that his impersonation for the films is even greater than his stage work.

But now that the picture is finished Lugosi says he will never play the role again.

And Lugosi’s determination is in itself a great tribute to his ability as an actor. If he had been able to act the part mechanically—had not thrown himself heart and soul into the role—it would not have the terrors that it now has. But a great artist does not play mechanically, and Lugosi is a great artist. Thus, each night in the theatre and for many days at the picture studios, his nervous system has been subjected to a terrible strain.

Dracula brought him fame and fortune, but Lugosi wants, more than anything else, to escape from Count Dracula.

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Universal Publicity Release, circa 1931

THEY ALWAYS GASP WHEN THEY MEET BELA LUGOSI, STAR OF DRACULA

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1931 release of Dracula. As a product of Universal publicity department, the authenticity of its quotes is questionable.

They always gasp when they meet Bela Lugosi! For years Lugosi played on the stage a sinister vampire, Count Dracula, in the stage play of Dracula, and the character was maintained at such a high pitch of dramatic intensity that he came to be looked upon by theatergoers as really a strange being of the most horrible description. This reputation clung to him outside the theatre, since the artistry of his performance created an effect on the audience that was not dissipated at the close of the performance.

And so when the actor was presented socially to some person, either male or female, there always came that little catch in the throat and some such exclamation as, “Oh! You’re Dracula.”

The polished, kindly gentlemen, smiling his shy, warm smile, has ceased to be surprised at such a reception, but he is inclined to regret it a tiny bit.

“Always they gasp!” He says with his slight Hungarian accent. For a few moments they fear me a little, I think, but soon I think, too, that they begin to like me. I want them to, because, really, I am only bad when I have my makeup on.”

*         

A log fire blazed merrily in a gigantic fireplace which formed a part of a set representing an enormous room in a crumbling stone castle, and though the microphones were hung at a considerable distance away, the sound technician promptly brought work to a standstill. “Too much roar in that fire,” he said.

And so Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye, who were to appear in the scene, sat around on the stage for a while, waiting for the fire to die down.

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Universal Publicity Release, circa 1931

The “Unlearning Fast” Speech

Transcriber’s Note: Bela Lugosi’s statement below was released as part of Universal’s publicity for Dracula, and the words may be a publicist’s rather than Lugosi’s. It has been published in a number of sources, and played no small role in the Lugosi-was-stage-actor-first arguments of both some of his fans and detractors.

On the stage the actor’s success depends wholly on himself. He goes onto the stage and gives his performance in what to him seems the most effective manner. But in the studio the responsibility is shifted to the director, who controls the actor’s every move, every inflection, every expression.

In playing in the picture, I found that there was a great deal that I had to unlearn. In the theater I was playing not only to the spectators in the front rows but also to those in the last row of the gallery; and there was some exaggeration in everything I did, not only in the tonal pitch of my voice, but in the changes of facial expression which accompanied various lines or situations. I “took it big” as the saying is.

But for the screen, in which the actor’s distance from every member of the audience is equal only to his distance from the lens of the camera, I have found that a great deal of the repression was an absolute necessity. Tod Browning had continually had to “hold me down.” In my other screen roles I did not seem to have this difficulty; but I have played Dracula a thousand times on the stage, and in this one role I find that I have become thoroughly settled in the technique of the stage and not of the screen. But thanks to director Browning, I am unlearning fast.

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The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, March 1  , 1931

DRACULA

Transcriber’s Note: Louisville was a stop on a brief tour that Lugosi undertook to promote the release of  Dracula.

Bela Lugosi, Hungarian born, is loath to discuss his experience in his native land. “It is all a terrible nightmare which I am destined never to forget,” he says, “until a certain woman in Hungary shall go to a peaceful and lasting death. She is an actress with no more than the usual amount of feminine charm, but many men are her abject slaves, because within her smoulders the burning flame of the vampire.”

“It was her sharply pointed teeth which made these wounds in my throat, and it was her unspoken but irresistible commands which caused me to visit her again and again. At length my mother noticed that I was rapidly losing weight, and she soon divined the cause. I had fallen under the influence of a vampire. Shortly afterward, ay my mother’s insistence, I fled the country—and I shall probably never go back.”

“I had been an actor in Hungary, and when I fled to New York one of the first parts offered me was the role of Count Dracula in the play, Dracula, which was then about to be produced for the first time. And, most strangely this story dealt with the very subject which has caused me to leave my native country—vampires of the night, and the strange Legion of the Undead. Possibly because I was so strongly drawn to the subject, and had not been able to escape from the menace which constantly hung over me, I took the part, and appeared in the play for more than two years. Literally fascinated by the role, I lived in another world, and I actually seemed to have become Dracula himself.”

“And when I learned that Tod Browning was to make Dracula into a talking picture, this strange fascination drew me to the studio. I have played the role on the screen, and I often sit in dark theaters, watching, and wondering if the sinister character in the picture is Bela Lugosi—or Dracula.”

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BROADCAST ON KFI, LOS ANGELES, MARCH 27, 1931

Transcriber’s Note: Bela Lugosi read the text below on a radio broadcast to publicize the release of Dracula. Lugosi pasted the script in his scrapbook, where Forrest J Ackerman found it and published it in the April 1963 issue of Famous Monster of Filmland. Though Ackerman had “the feeling that Bela composed and typed this speech himself,” we believe it is more likely a product of Universal’s publicity department.

I read the book, Dracula, written by Bram Stoker, 18 years ago, and I always dreamed to create and to play the part of Dracula. Finally the opportunity came. Horace Liveright, stage producer of New York, acquired the stage rights of the novel and he chose me for the part. I have played the role of Dracula about a thousand times on the stage, and people often ask me if I still retain my interest in the character. I do—intensely. Because many people regard the story of Dracula simply as a glorified superstition, the actor who plays the role is constantly engaged in the battle of wits with the audience, in a sense, since he is constantly striving to make the character so real that the audience will believe in it.

Now that I have appeared in the screen version of the story which Universal has just completed, I am of course not under this daily strain in the depiction of the character. My work in the direction was finished with the completion of the picture, but while it was being made I was working more intensely to this end then I ever did on the stage.

Although Dracula is a fanciful tale of a fictional character, it is actually a story which has many essential elements of truth. I was born and reared in almost the exact location of the story, and I came to know that what is looked upon merely as superstition of ignorant people, is really based on facts which are literally hair-raising in their strangeness—but which are true. Many people will leave the theatre with a shift at the fantastic character of the story; but many others who think just a deeply will gain an insight into one of the most remarkable facts of human existence. Dracula is a story which has always had a powerful effect on the emotions of an audience, and I think that the picture will be no less effective than the stage play. In fact, the motion picture should even prove more remarkable in this direction, since many things which could only be talked about on the stage are shown on the screen in all their uncanny detail.

I am sure you will enjoy Dracula. I am sure you will be mightily affected by its strange story, and I hope that it will make you think—about the weirdest, most remarkable condition that ever affected mankind.

I thank you.

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1931

IN DRACULA’S SHADOW

Almost all the published interviews and articles of 1931 on Bela Lugosi are derived from the press book for Dracula (see separate section with the press book articles). Not until November does a substantive new interview appear. Meanwhile, new information nibbles around the edges of his life. He becomes a citizen in June, corresponds with a dramatics club in Wisconsin, and admits to a fear of heights. Perhaps the most interesting new Lugosi anecdote is relayed by actor Edmund Breese, who tells of an embarrassing onstage moment..

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The Crescent Post, Appleton, Wisconsin, April 8, 1931

PLAYS IN 4 FILMS,

HASN’T SEEN SELF ON SCREEN YET

By Jessie Henderson

Copyright 1931, by Consolidated Press

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about November 1, 1931

Hollywood—(CPA)—Key man in four pictures, signed up for another, and he’s never seen himself on the screen. This is the remarkable record of Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor whose work in the film version of Dracula is sending shivers down many a spine. He ought to be able to make’em shiver. He played that vampire role for three years on the stage before universal translated the shivers into celluloid.

Meanwhile Lugosi has never sent shivers down his own spine because he’s never seen himself as the horrendous critter about whom the story is written. On the day Dracula opened in Los Angeles he sailed for Honolulu to make another picture. Between the time he stopped work in the vampire role and the time he sailed for Hawaii he had played in two other pictures and been signed up for a third. None of these films has yet been released and Lugosi hasn’t had time to glimpse himself in the studio projection rushes.

Though everyone else is inclined to cower when Dracula does his stuff, Lugosi himself admitted on the eve of sailing that the only time he cowered was at a moment when he wasn’t supposed to turn a hair. It was in the scene where, with Helen Chandler in his arms he gallops down a 40-foot staircase. The staircase was half dark and until he started down it Lugosi didn’t notice that it had no balustrades. “Heights make me dizzy,” Lugosi admitted and didn’t smile, “and that staircase was narrow.”

Well, Helen Chandler didn’t make much about it, either.

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The Transcript, North Adams, Massachusetts, April 23, 1931

ABOUT CURRENT AMUSEMENTS

Transcriber’s Note: The below is adapted from a syndicated news release, and variations may have appeared in many newspapers on or about April 23, 1931.

Fugitive from a hanging squad, with a price on his head! This was the rather unwelcome role which a few years ago was forced on Bela Lugosi, the famous Hungarian actor who is now appearing at the Richmond theatre in the title role of Universal’s sensational mystery drama, Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

In the revolution in is native Hungary in 1918, Lugosi was one of the principal lieutenants of Count Karolyi, who seized the reins of government, and was given the newly created post of Minister of the Theatre. This was not only because he had been the theatrical idol of the country, appearing as leading man for many years at the National Theatre in Budapest.

“Soon afterward, however,” says Lugosi, in recounting his adventures during those hectic days, “the royalists regained control of the government, and whenever they could find a member of the Karolyi party, they proceeded to hang him. And so I decided to go away from that place. I had no desire to attend such a necking party. I escaped into Austria then went to Germany, and finally proceeded to the United States, where I resumed my theatrical career in a new environment and in a new language.”

“And I was finally starred in the stage play, Dracula, in which for two years I had an opportunity to prove a constant irritant to other people’s necks. For in this play, you know, Dracula is a vampire who always attacks the throat.”

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The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, May 15, 1931

LOCAL DRAMATIC CLUB TO PRODUCE DRACULA HERE

Bela Lugosi, the vampire in the Broadway production of Dracula, has given a local mystery play club its inspiration.

The group under the direction of Mrs. D. P. Newton, 2356 Monroe St., is one of the three small dramatic groups at the city YMCA.

The bat of the group, Jim Barris, a Central High School freshman, wrote to Mr. Lugosi telling him of the clubs and its aims.

Lugosi sent a pen drawing of himself with the inscription, “Best wishes to the Dramatics Club.”

It’s now a dangerous act to cross the portals of the group without hair-raising and mysterious events keeping the reputation of the club up to the standard set by the vampire.

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Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 31, 1931

BELA LUGOSI HAPPY WHEN HE IS WORKING

Bela Lugosi knows what hard work is. He is finishing The Black Camel, and Universal is waiting for him to start shooting on Frankenstein.

“I like to be busy,” he says. “Nothing creates such a joy of living as being active. I recall the dull times when I first came to Hollywood, and producers did not know me, and I rejoice each morning that I hear the early alarm.

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Bela becoming a naturalized citizen of the USA

The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Massachusetts, June 27, 1931

ENDS ALLEGIANCE TO 2 NATIONS TO BE U. S. CITIZEN

Transcriber’s Note: The below is adapted from a syndicated news release, and variations may have appeared in many newspapers on or about June 27, 1931.

Los Angeles—(AP)—Just to make certain, Bela Lugosi, film actor, who took a leading role in the screen thriller Dracula renounced allegiance yesterday to both Rumania and Hungary, so he could become a citizen of the United States.

Lugosi said in federal court that he was not certain whether his home town, Lugos, formerly of Hungary, is still in that country or in Rumania. No one seemed to have a map showing the now Rumanian city, so the actor renounced both countries and took the oath of alleiance ot the United Stated.

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The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Massachusetts, July 2, 1931

MOVIE STARS TELL OF EMBARASSING MOMENTS

By Jessie Henderson

(Copyright 1931 by Consolidated Press)

Transcriber’s Note: The below is adapted from a syndicated news release, and variations may have appeared in many newspapers on or about July 2, 1931.

Hollywood—(CPA)—They were seated around a table at the Brown Derby, talking about their most embarrassing moments. Even a movie actor can sometimes be embarrassed, and not only financially.

Russell Gleason said he nearly died of chagrin when he bounced out on a movie set, all made up and ready to act, only to discover the set deserted and his company on location a couple of miles away. Anticiapting a 4 o’clock in the morning call, Gleason has slept in his dressing room and awaken at 10 a.m. His second most embarrassing moment was when he went through his first rehearsal of a movie love scene. Students from a Japanese navy academy were visiting on the set and when Russell gathered the heroine to his breast the students hissed. It developed, however, that they were only making the oriental sign of admiration.

Louise Fazenda said she thought she’d faint when, in a very early comedy, she found out what was required of a prop boy toward whom at the moment she had a heart flutter. The boy had to drop horse shoes down the voluminous bloomers that she wore.

Edmund Breese said he darn near did faint when he swore allegiance to the czar one night in a town hall in Indiana. Breese, traveling with a small theatrical company, was supposed to draw his sword and shout: “For God, the czar and my country!” He shouted all right, but he flourished the sword with no much enthusiasm that the weapon stuck in the low wooden ceiling of the stage. It took the efforts of two men to pull it out so that the play could go on.

Bela Lugosi, whose portrayal of Dracula would lead you to believe that nothing could get his dramatic goat, once admitted to Breese that he was awfully hot and bothered when a stage murder failed to come off according to schedule. Lugosi was supposed to fire a blank cartridge at the villain. He pulled the trigger, and the villain fell, but no bang resulted from the gun. Realizing his error, the villain arose and began to walk off stage. Lugosi threw away the gun and leaped after him with the idea of ending the miscreant with his bare hands, when a property man in the wings fired a shot and the villain, whose back was toward Lugosi, promptly fell dead. It knocked the plot for a loop, but the plot in this respect had nothing at all on Lugosi.

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The Morning News, Florence, South Carolina, November 1, 1931

HOLLYWOOD FILM SHOP

By Duane Hennessy

United Press Staff Correspondent

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about November 1, 1931.

HOLLYWOOD. Oct. 31—UP—In Hollywood there lives a man rapidly advancing in motion pictures, but caring not for the social life of the screen colony.

He is Bela Lugosi, who made audiences shiver when he portrayed the role of the vampire man in Dracula on both film and stage.

He lives in a small house on a side street. The outside of the structure gives no inkling of the big, high-ceilinged study within. In the rooms is the real Bela Lugosi.

Lugosi does not give you any shivers. His appearance, to the contrary, is that of an amiable man who is enjoying life in his own way.

“I like to have my friends come here and talk,” he said. “”We talk of world affairs and the problems of people of all nations. Sometimes friends come and bring musical instruments. I have my piano, my radio, my phonograph with a splendid collection of records which hold real music.”

“I have never mixed with other picture players. I do not get my pleasure as they do. To me, the happiest hours are when I can get in this room alone and just think. Everyone should think. It is good.”

In this Lugosi is not shamming. He knows world affairs. His conversation shows it.

“No,” he smiled. “I don’t want you to write about what I think about Soviet Russia. You, I will tell, but not to print and get many people writing to argue.”

Lugosi came to America from Hungary. In his native city of Budapest he was a member of the theatrical society. The city controls the theater and to be a member of the society is an honor.

“Now that I have been in Dracula, the motion picture producers can think of me only in evil roles,” he smiled. “That is different, to have someone think that I am evil when I really am not.”

“Also, there is another problem. It is hard to find stories which have as the leading role the parts producers want me to play. I have solved that difficulty. I have five stories stories being written by authors. I will offer them to studios.”

Lugosi will be seen next in Murders in the Rue Morgue. Hollywood has done things to Poe’s story.

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1932

LOST SOUL LOOKING FOR AN ISALND

1932 began with Lugosi as a contract star for Universal, and ended with him declaring bankruptcy. His interviews span a wide range as well. In January he shares with John Sinclair as he ever would about his wife in Hungary. Another interviewer sees him with his dogs, and another meets him at The Brown Derby.  Most of the verbiage is studio publicity fodder, telling much more about the writers’ fantasies than about Lugosi.

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Silver Screen, January 1932

MASTER OF HORRORS!

Has Bela Lugosi Inherited the Mantle of Lon Chaney?

By John Sinclair

Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor, has a home of modest and simple exterior on a quiet street in Hollywood.

And to pass him on the street you would think: “A calm man, with military bearing. Fine physique. A little sadness in the face. Clothes not at all outstanding.” For such is Bela (pronounced Bee-la.)

But the real character of the actor’s home lies on the other side of the heavy paneled door. A long living room with walls that rise 20 feet to the ceiling. A concert grand piano close beside the huge studio window that looks up to the hills of Hollywood. Fine paintings. Rare books well read. Monterey furniture with deep leather cushions. A sense of vast space.

Of himself, Lugosi says he does not want people to see his clothes first and himself afterward. He thinks the personality should outshine all the details of dress. That is the reason you will find him in ready-made suits for every day. It is only on the occasion of studio calls, social festivities, and very special days that his valet can persuade him to get into his exquisitely tailored clothes.

Three years on the stage in the title role of Dracula, followed by the same role in the film version, and other picture characterizations of eerie nature, apparently have permanently identified the name of Bela Lugosi with the weird and unusual.

Fan letters come to him from all over the world and they are all written in the same vein. They from people who sense in him the supernatural, and who wish to ask him questions about life and themselves which he cannot possibly answer. They come from movie fans who have heard strange tales about his childhood in the Hungarian town of Lugos, and believe it is his early association with vampires and medieval ghosts that enables him to play his vivid characterizations.

A letter on the latter type always makes Bela smile.

Born in the country town that had been named for one of his ancestors when he founded it as a hamlet. Bela’s childhood was the usual husky, absorbing life of the country boy. He had his donkey to ride over the town and into the country. The fact that his family, well fixed financially, were already planning a distinguished career for him as a statesman or a banker did not trouble him during this happy period of his life.

A childhood memory that stands out sharply in Lugosi’s mind concerns the circumstances of earning his first money—a sum equal to about 10¢.

“A girl in the village park offered me the money if I would hold her dog while she sat on a bench and kissed her sweetheart.

Bela says  he remembers that he certainly earned the money, because the kisses became quite lengthy affairs, and the dog pulled hard on his leash, and he himself was only 7 and was soon tired out.

Other letters that come to Lugosi remark about his extremely long and fascinating hands; and his eyes which are like no eyes of living man.

“Make-up, only make-up,” said Lugosi. “But some of these people who write me could never believe that. Possibly they would not care to know that I like to keep my nails short. That I haven’t a double joint in my body. That my eyes without make-up are no more mysterious than theirs. That I do not use sugar nor butter and that I have a schedule of exercises that I practice absolutely every day of the year.”

“Circumstances made me the theatrical personality I am, which many people believe is also a part of my personal life. My next picture, Murders in the Rue Morgue, will continue to establish me as a weird, gruesome creature. As for my own feelings on the subject, I have always felt that I would rather play—say Percy Marmont roles than Lon Chaney types of things.”

During his early teen years Bela was deeply attracted to the theatre. He had read Romeo & Juliet so many times he knew the whole thing by heart. When the leading man of the traveling show which was to present the Shakespearean play in the Hungarian town took sick, Bela went to the manager and asked to be put on as a substitute.

Lugosi made good in this first venture and the experience forever spoiled for him the old proverb about the prophet in his home town.

The one big love of Lugosi’s life came to him in his native country. She was 16, the daughter of a very wealthy couple who held high social hopes for the girl. Bela was past 30. His income as an actor, even though he was a very popular young leading man, was considered small by his prospective in-laws. In addition, Bela and the girl’s father belonged to opposing political parties.

But it was a love match and the girl and the man over-rode all objections and, were married. What happened brought lines of unhappiness to Lugosi’s face which two subsequent marriages could not obliterate.

“In all his life a man finds only one mate. Other women may bring happiness close to him, but there is just one mate. The girl was mine. Possibly, she was too young and fragile and lacked the necessary stalwartness of character to right her way through.”

“As a result of my political affiliations I was forced to leave Hungarian. My wife remained in Budapest. There was an opening for me in the Berlin theater. When I had enough laid aside to keep us for a year I would send for her. I wrote my wife. Every second day I posted letters to her. I never got an answer.”

Afterward, Lugosi learned that his letters never reached the girl-wife. Her parents had reasons for having it so, When Bela did finally get in touch with the girl, he found she had married a man of her parents’ choice the day after her divorce from him.

“An explanation,” said Lugosi, “Yes, there was an explanation. Her father had filled her with the dread that I would be executed as a political enemy unless the father used his influence. This he would not do, he told her, unless she divorced me and married someone else.”

“That was years ago. We have thought of re-marriage. But she has children. One can forget many things but not when children are there as reminders of old, deep wounds. They would always come between.”

Two other marriages of Lugosi’s have ended in divorce. He does not say he will not marry again; the person who makes statements of finality in such matters shows lack of wisdom, he says.

He holds no bitterness. An example of his attitude toward events in his life is shown in the fact that he calls upon an ex-wife who lives in San Francisco whenever he is in the Bay City. When he appeared in a play there the two were seen constantly in each other’s company.

“And why not?” Lugosi wants to know. “Two people who failed at marriage may still find each other enjoyable and entertaining persons.”

A few weeks ago the Hungarian passed his citizenship examinations and is now an American citizen. Bela of Lugos has become Lugosi of America—with knowledge of American history and laws that would quite surprise the average native.

Legendary superstitions of that corner of the world that produced him have no hold on Lugosi. But—

If, after seeing a monk, a nun or a black cat you spit quickly, you can’t help but live in the shadow of good luck. Take Lugosi’s word for it.

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mrm

Bela as Dr. Mirakle in Murders in the Rue Morgue

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Press Book for Murders in the Rue Morgue, circa 1932

WOMEN LOVE HORROR

Bela Lugosi Tells Why Dracula Moved Them and Why Murders in the Rue Morgue Will Appeal to Women

“Strange creatures—women. They love horror.”

This is the contention of Bela Lugosi, who is generally conceded to stand in a class by himself as a delineator of terrible characters on the screen.

Before his debut on the screen, Lugosi starred for three years in the stage production of Dracula, and it was then he discovered that feminine theatergoers were the most avid pursuers of gruesome thrills.

“There is something in the a makeup of a woman,” said Lugosi recently, “which glories in association with horror. She gloats over repulsive things which cause the average man to turn away. She is constantly seeking the morbid and the unwholesome, feeding the subconscious appetite which demands horror in gruesome detail.”

“When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women. The came again and again, thrilling to the shocking story. True, many men were in the audience, but most of them had been brought by women, who craved the subtle sexual intimacy brought about when both sat watching the terrifying incidents of the play. In the same way, women were most thrilled and intrigued by the screen version of Dracula. The blood-sucking monster of the story excited strange thoughts and strange feelings.”

“Women are the ones who constantly visit cemeteries. Ostensibly to grieve for departed ones, but subconsciously to gloat over death. A woman will repeatedly detail the circumstances of a husband’s death, deriving a certain savage satisfaction from her recital of the circumstances which might better be forgotten. Woman are in the majority as spectators at murder trials, and the more gruesome the killing, the more breathless will be their attention to the horrible details revealed by witnesses.”

“Women put forth every possible effort in their frantic desire to get to the front line trenches during the World War. Granted that their great wish was to give aid and comfort to the wounded. But subconsciously they sought the savage thrill that came from being in the midst of suffering and horrible mutilation. It was not that they entered the service from any unworthy motives; they were simply being guided by a feeling which has from time immemorial been an attribute to the feminine sex.”

“it is women who flock to spiritual séances. They feel that, in a sense, they are coming in contact with death, and thus is fed the morbid longing of the sex.”

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Unknown Source, circa 1932

EXPOSING OUR SCREEN VILLAINS

The Cinema’s Fiendish Ones Are Hollywood’s Model Citizens

By Hal Howe

Fiendish villain on the screen become charming friends when shorn of their professional scowls. For instance, there’s that fellow, Bela Lugosi.

We follow winding roads around the hills of Hollywood to reach Castle Dracula. And when we have gone as high as anyone would want to go we make a right turn around a bend and a drop of several hundred feet greets our dizzy eyes. After a sharp left turn away from this disconcerting view, Castle Dracula rears up in front.

As I parked my car one could have cut the atmosphere with a knife, so deadly quiet was everything. But I was sent to beard the VAMPIRE in his den and meant to go through with it.

Just as I gave the knocker a fling, a long eerie wail reached my ears. It was prolonged—weird, coming to a final crescendo with a demonical howl. I knew that Dracula assuming the form of a wolf was on the other side of the door waiting for me—a new and choice morsel for his blood lust.

Before I could retreat the door opened and he was upon me. His fangs reached for my throat.

“Dracula, silly do, down—down—down—do you hear me. Sorry but the pup loves visitors.”

As pretty a huskie dog as I have ever seen nearly swept me off my feet with his waggin tail, as he turned to face his master, Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula.

Lugosi’s home reflects the fine mind of this great Hungarian actor. Every piece of furniture has been made under his own eye and from his own design.

His living room is illuminated by windows reaching from floor to ceiling and reveals a gorgeous view on either side of hills and valleys undulating with nothing to obstruct the perfect view. The walls are lined with paintings—the works of well known foreign artists. A concert grand piano dominates a corner.

Bela Lugosi, inhuman villain of the screen, has none of that ghoulish menace in real life. He looks the cultivated scholar and thinker he is.

He lives in his beautiful hill home happily reflecting on the sheer joy of living. His dogs and his pipe—his fine collection of masters, books and paintings—his music occupy his off-screen moments.

His disposition is kindly—yet he is one of our best heavies. If his Dracula is fear compelling to you, his Murders in the Rue Morgue will bring you a session of shivers. Lugosi of the screen is a fiend.

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The Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 29, 1932

BELA LUGOSI WEARS A BAT RING

By Robert Grandon

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about June 29, 1932.

Down at the Brown Derby the other noon, whom should I meet but Bela (Scares Little Children) Lugosi…and Bela was wearing a bat ring…green gold, it was, with two flaming rubies for eyes…but something to look at.

“I thought you’d seen it, Bob,” he volunteered as he handed it over to me. “I’ve had it ever since Dracula…the road show. I mean…my fellow players gave it to me when we ended the New York run…I rarely take it off…so feel complimented.”

Which I did…

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Weird Tales, October 1932

Weird Tales Vol 20 No 4 Oct 1932[1]

DEMONS OF THE FILM COLONY

By Ted Leberthon

Was a gigantic hoax perpetrated on the author by “Dracula” Lugosi and “Frankenstein” Karloff,” aided and abetted by the photographer.

For ten years I have been writing about the activities of the motion picture colony for what are known as the “fan” magazines; and, in strict justice to the movie people in and about Hollywood, I never before had an experience such as the one that befell me recently—for there is nothing weird, preternatural or otherwise affrighting about most motion picture people, for the child Jackie Cooper to the more elderly Marie Dressler. There have been, it is true, curious legends about Greta Garbo, but she stays away from interviewers. Whatever her secret, she keeps it.

Obviously, I could not relate the experience I had in the pages of a “fan” magazine. The readers of these magazines are too accustomed to sunshine to relish shadows. So, I decided to submit to the readers of Weird Tales the ghastly details of a gigantic hoax perpetrated on me by Bela Lugosi, star of the films Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Boris Karloff, who played the monster in the film Frankenstein.

Candidly, for reasons which the reader may surmise before he finished reading, I have hesitated considerably about writing of just what happened, but now I feel I should make what happened public.

I was just leaving Universal City one rainy, dreary morning when John LeRoy Johnstone, Universal publicity director, called to me.

“Ted, don’t go away. I just happened to think that our two demons, ‘Dracula’ Lugosi and ‘Frankenstein’ Karloff, are coming here in a few minutes. A demons’ rendezvous ought to interest you. I might add that they’re hastening here from opposite directions, to meet for the first time. They actually have never met. You see, Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which Lugosi starred, were made here at different times than Frankenstein, in which Karloff played the ghastly, man-made monster. and that’s why they’ve never met professionally. Nor have they ever met socially, although both have been in Hollywood, on and off, for several years. But you know the film colony. All split up into little groups and circles.”

I didn’t mind sticking around. For one thing, a murky drizzle had begun to fall outside. The mammoth Universal stages, seen through a window seemed in the grayness, to be enormous squat tombs, unadorned sarcophagi in which giants five hundred feet tall, stretched in death could be laid. It might not be a bad idea, I concluded, to wait around a little, if only to give the rain a chance to stop.

“Doggoned if it isn’t just the kind of a morning for a couple of monsters to meet,” laughed Johnstone. “And do you know something: I’ve a queer hunch something funny’ll happen when they meet. Not that there’s any professional rivalry between them in the demon field, as far as I know; but there’s been a lot of banter going around the studio about the weird possibilities, you know, the  things that could happen when Dracula meets the Frankenstein monster! Candidly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to frame each other.”

“What do you mean?” I chuckled nervously.

“Well,” he countered, “it’s natural that this meeting should strike them both as funny. And you now what actors are for pulling gags on each other.”

The rain, increasing, muttered against the ground outside.

Boris Karloff was first to arrive—and, fantastically enough in evening clothes, worn under a rain flecked overcoat which he tossed off with a mischievous, almost boyish fling.

We were introduced. And I learned, from his accent, then from his admission, that he name is not Karloff, but that he is an Englishman with a most unfortunate name. But we won’t go into that.

He is slender, debonair, graceful with powerful shoulders and large strong hands, smooth iron-gray hair, darkly tanned skin and lucent deep-set brown eyes. A witty, casual, well-bred fellow, with one of those strong-boned, hallow-cheeked countenances that seems carved out of hickory, and is characteristic of so many well-travelled, weather-beaten, distinguished-appearing Britishers.

He joked waggishly, this Englishman from God knows where whose name is not Karloff, about his coming meeting with Bela Lugosi.

As he was talking, and Johnstone and I were absorbed in his high spirits, the door leading to the studio outside evidently opened. No one saw it open. In fact, we did not see anything until Karloff, who faced the door as he chatted with us, suddenly looked up and asseverated startlingly, “Oh, my God!”

Johnstone and I looked around and I don’t know what he thought or felt. I do know I became visibly disconnected, to put it lightly.

There stood Lugosi, filling the doorway, quiet as death, and smiling in his curiously knowing way. It is the smile of a tall, weary, haunted aristocrat, a person of perhaps fallen greatness, a secretive Lucifer who sees too clearly and knows too much, and perhaps wishes it were not so, and would like to be a gracious chap. He, too, was in evening clothes—on a rainy morning! He advanced with a soft springy tread.

Karloff stood up as if galvanized by some sudden irrevocable plan of action. The he turned on the advancing Lugosi a cold, unbelieving stare that would have riveted another man in his tracks. But the tall, taper-fingered Hungarian drawing himself erect, continued to smile with unmistakably ghastly knowingness.

It was Lugosi’s hand which was thrust forward first. As they shook hands they seemed to lock horns with their eyes. Only for a moment, however, for both broke into ear-to-ear grins.

“I hope I didn’t scare you to death,” Lugosi smiled, narrowing his eyes, and seeming to look right through the quondam monster.

“I hope I didn’t scare you to death,” parried Karloff mirthfully.

I could not be certain; but I thought Lugosi bristled, as if his demonical prowess had been challenged by a tyro in demonism.

Finally he said slowly.

“I think I could scare you to death.”

Karloff struck a match, lit a cigarette, puffed a couple of times, and retorted with an air of whimsical scorn;

“I not only think I can scare your ears right off, Mr. Dracula, I’ll bet you that I can.”

Within the next few minutes a wager of a hundred dollars had been made. They would go into a deserted set within one of the vast, empty, tomb-like stages squatting in the rain outside. No lights would be turned on. They would tell each other stories—such stories of darkness, terror and madness that one or the other would either faint or cry out for the other to stop. The other would then be pronounced victor.

Publicist Johnstone, grinning a bit unconvincingly, as if he were somehow ill, protested:

“There should be a referee. You go along, Le Berthon, and decide which one out-scares the other. And I’ll tell you what. Take Ray Jones, the photographer, along. He can get incontrovertible evidence.”

“I don’t want to oppose your wishes,” put in Lugosi, his eyes widening like wrathful alarm signals, “but I would rather be alone with Mr. Karloff. You won’t need any evidence. All you may need is a doctor, a nerve and heart specialist. You see only one of us will walk off that stage. The other will be…er…carried off.”

He said this with some heat, yet a growing twinkle in his eyes which gradually narrowed again. But Johnstone was obdurate.

And so, two tall actors in evening clothes, a photographer and a writer walked with bowed heads and hunched shoulders in the rain to reach the stage building with its unfortunate resemblance, for me, to a colossal sepulcher.

We entered a small door in the side, nearly tripping over cables that coiled like lifeless serpents about the floor in the dank, dusky atmosphere. Photographer Jones lit a match. We found our way to a set where, among other articles of furniture, there was a davenport. It was then agreed that Jones could take photographs if he and I would stand 25 feet away in a dark corner, and if he would use only noiseless flash powder.

The tall actors in evening clothes sat on the davenport. In the obscure gloom we scaraclet could discern their figures. But soon we were to hear a mournful voice, Lugosi’s.

“Boris,” he began in a gloating sonority,” what would you say if this set, this stage, tis studio, suddenly vanished, and you found that in reality you and I were sitting at the bottom of a pit. Ha! That would be inconvenient for you, wouldn’t it? But of course I might provide some charming company—I might drag down into this pit an exquisite young woman. And I should indulge in a curious experiment that would cause your hair to turn white—and your stomach to turn inside out.

“Boris,” he went on in a ghoulish, sickeningly exultant tone, “women are thrilled by Dracula, the suave one. Women love the horrible, the creepy, more than men. Why does a woman always tell the story of her husband’s death so often and with such relish? Why does she go to cemeteries? Tenderness? Grief? Bah! It’s because she likes to be hurt, tortured, terrified! Yes, Boris! Ah, Boris, to win a woman, take her with you to see Dracula, the movie. As she sees me, the bat-like vampire, swoop through an open casement into some girl’s boudoir, there to sink teeth into neck and drink blood, she will thrill through every nerve and fiber. That is your cue to draw close to her, Boris. When she is limp as a rag, take her where you will, do with her what you will. Ah, especially, Boris, bite her on the neck!

“The love-bite, it is the beginning. In the end, you, too, Boris will become a vampire. You will live five hundred years. You will sleep in moldy raves by day and make fiendish love to beauties at night. You will see generations live and die. You will see a girl baby born to some woman and wait a mere 16 to 18 years for her to grow up, so that you can sink fangs into a soft, white neck and drink a scarlet stream. You will be irresistible, for you will have in your powerful body the very heat of hell, the virility of Satan. And someday, of course, you will be discovered—a knife, after long centuries, will be plunged into you, you will drop like a plummet into the bottomless sulfurous pit. Yes, Boris, that’s the end—for you! For lone at me, Boris….”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! You fool, Bela,” came Karloff’s scornful pealing laugh in the darkness. “Why try that kindergarten stuff on me? You ask me to look at you, Bela. Well, look at me! Look….look….look….and take an occasional glance upward, Bela. These two hand of mine, clenched together above my head, could descend at any moment, in a second, ay, even before I finish this sentence, if I wanted them to, and they’d bash your distinguished head in as if it were an egg. Your brains would run out like the yolk of an egg and spatter your pretty tuxedo.”

“Bela, a monster created by Frankenstein is not worried by your stories of seeking blood from beauties necks. But did you see the movie, Frankenstein, Bela? Did you see me take an innocent like girl, a child playing among flowers, and drown her? Some sentimentalists said I did it unknowingly. Bosh! I have done it a thousand times and will do it a thousand times again. Bela, it’s dark in here, but you know me. You know it was no accident or chance, but significant, that I—the Englishman from God knows where whose name is not Karloff—was called upon to play that monstrous role! You know me, Bela, you know me. Why that bosh about 500 hundred years old? You know that both of us are nearly 6,000 years old! And that we’ve met many times before, the last time not more than 200 years old…And you shouldn’t have made that foolish wager. Admit it, Bela!” Karloff’s voice shook with deep agitation.

“I wonder,” came Lugosi’s reply, dreary as a fog-horn in the semi-darkness. In the meantime, photographer Jones in his scarce-visible corner kept snapping pictures. The noiseless powder recurrently rose in puffs, so that—spookily enough—the scene resembled the laboratory of a medieval alchemist.

“Come, Bela—let’s go. Er—Jones, LeBerthon,” Karloff shouted hoarsely, “are you ready to go? Bela and I have found we’re members of the same—well, suppose, we say, lodge. We’re therefore quite unable to scare each other to death, for reasons you might not understand, even to oblige you. You’ll just have to call it a draw.”

“All right, we’re ready to go,” responded Jones, nervously enough for that matter. “And—say—I’ve used up my last match. Will one of you fellows strike one?”

I shall never know whether it was Lugosi or Karloff who struck the match. All I do know is that when the match was struck it apparently revealed not Lugosi and Karloff on that davenport, but two slimy, scaly monsters, dragon-like serpents with blood-red venomous eyes. The apparitional things flashed before me so suddenly that I became sick to my stomach and made a rush, on buckling legs, for the exit—and the cool air.

Just as I reached it and noted fleetingly that the rain had stopped, and that my heart was pouding to the bursting-point, and that I was strongly weak and giddy, Jones and the two tall actors in evening clothes came through the door. Jones was rather sober and unconcerned, but Lugosi and Karloff were laughing heartily over something or other.

“Will you have lunch with us?” Lugosi asked me, still grinning but with something of a physician’s tender concern.

“No, thank you,” I replied, scarcely looking either at him or Karloff,” I have to hurry away.”

And I did hurry away.

I am, of course, now convinced that what happened was their idea of a practical joke, that the slimy, scaly things I had seen, the things which had so frightened and sickened me in that fleeting moment were either the imaginings of my over-wrought nerves—or some mechanically contrived illusions in which Jones had some share.

There are, of course, some who will wonder if I do not merely prefer this simple, comforting explanation to one that might cause Hollywood hostesses to fear to invite Lugosi and Karloff to social functions—and fear not to invite them!

Many people, deep down, still are superstitious. And there are many things in life we do not fully understand, such as why it is the destiny of certain human beings to portray certain roles—whether in real or “reel” life.

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1933

LOST SOUL LOOKING FOR AN ISALND

1933 begins with Lugosi in bankruptcy, newly-wed (in January to Lillian Arch) and work becoming scarce. Horror films are slipping into eclipse due to the first wave of censorship outcries, and Lugosi learns the impact of his stereotyping on his career. His interviews for 1933 are all from the early part of the year, in Hollywood.  By year’s end, he retreats to Broadway and then to vaudeville.

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The New Movie Magazine, January 1933

New Movie Magazine, January 1933

MEET THE VAMPIRE

Wherein the monster, Dracula is unmasked by a litter of puppies

By Barbara Barry

I talked to him. This man who dares not sleep at night. This strange being who dreads the darkness that is people with supernatural beings…evil talons, poised to strike…grinning mouths…dripping with the blood of their victims.

Quaking inwardly, I stood before the entrance of Bela Lugosi’s imposing castle in the mountains, waiting timorously, to be admitted. No sound came from within. The eerie stillness was stifling. Unseen hands seemed to clutch at my throat. Distantly, a hound bayed. I wanted to run away.

But the wide oaken door was opening…slowly…soundlessly. Desperately, I tried to turn and flee from the evil spot. But my feet were rooted to the ground….

And now, kiddies, if you’re sufficiently cooled off, permit the ducky bumps to go into retirement, comb down your top hair, and meet the most misunderstood, misrepresented man in all Hollywood!

Ever since Dracula, Bela Lugosi has been pictured as a veritable fiend in human form, a being—half man, half vampire—who cavorts with evil spirits and nips sleeping females directly south of the Adam’s apple, by night; and scampers (or flits) to his underground tomb, by day.

But don’t you believe a word of it! Auntie’s going to drive a stake through the heart of that story without further delay. And here’s how:

In the first place, any neck-nipping vampire would have a tough time finding a Hollywood female who sleeps nights.

And it would be even a tougher job for him to locate a tomb in which to lay his weary head. Because all the underground “tombs” these days are naively termed “speakeasies” and happen to be closed during those hours when self-respecting vampires are supposed to be sleeping it off. So there!

Bela Lugosi greeted me with an abstraction that was disturbing, to say the least. From the first moment, he regarded me silently, quizzically, until I began to feel as though I’d stepped from the bathtub, smack into the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. Sort of uncomfortably “de trop,” if you follow me? (And I’ll bet you would!)

Previous to the interview, a mutual friend had warned me that the Hungarian Menace was extremely temperamental and liable to leap up at the most unexpected moment, and shout: “For God’s sake, let’s get done with this!”

Consequently, every time he opened his mouth I automatically reached for my hat—until the whole thing took on the aspect of a first-class shambles!

We sat in one corner of the spacious living room and eyed each other suspiciously. An innocent bystander would have concluded that we were playing a game, wherein the first one who said a word had to wash the dishes!

A temptingly beautiful grand piano graced the center of the room before the high French windows; and directly opposite was the enormous love couch, about which the mutual friend had told me so much (which isn’t any of your business—so there!)

I was just beginning to be sorry I’d come when my unresponsive host called to another part of the house by a respectfully insistent voice, and, excusing himself briefly, he strode out, leaving me to my own devises.

He’s gone quite awhile. But, as he hadn’t taken any luggage, I knew he’d probably be back sometime. So I waited.

After about 10 minutes of plain and fancy thumb-twiddling I began to look around for some other method of amusing myself.

It was a toss-up between the love couch and the piano. I could take a nap, or keep anybody else from taking one. The unerring penchant for making a nuisance of myself won out, and I sat down at the piano. Nobody laughed. I haven’t clipped coupons all my life for nothing. (If you think you can clip coupons for nothing, you don’t know your brokers.)

Now, I don’t play good. Not good, but plenty loud. And my choice of selections included two Hungarian melodies, “Kis Angyalom” and “Lesz Olga justst is az enyem…”

As the last note died away, I turned to face my host, who had silently returned. The change in him was almost unbelievable. His face had softened and the pale eyes were bright and suspiciously wet. The music of his homeland had turned the trick. From that moment we were friends.

Bela Lugosi is extremely sentimental about the land of his birth. In his own element, at the Hungarian Club, I have seen tears on his cheeks, heard him sob like a child, at the haunting, bittersweet melodies of his native land, played with all the primitive fierceness of the Magyars, by the gypsy orchestra.

Temperamental—and with the keen sensitiveness of the true artist—he seems pathetically out of place in the mad whirligig of light and color that is Hollywood.

His natural reticence mistaken for unsociability, Lugosi is a lone wolf. And his very loneliness lends him an air of sinister mystery, upon which the ladies and gentlemen of the press have pounced with diabolic glee.

If you could know the real Lugosi—if you could see him as he romps with his beloved dogs; listen to him as he speaks, reverently, of the land that fostered him—you would be amazed at the gentle philosophy of the genius who created fiendish Dracula.

More than anything else, he deplores the fates that have destined him to eternal fiendishness.

“In Budapest,” he said, “and in New York, I played nothing but romantic roles, until Dracula types me, apparently forever.

Bela Lugosi is one of the real actors in the profession. Innocently enough I made the horrible mistake of questioning his original intentions.

“What were you,” I asked, “before becoming an actor?”

He drew himself up. “I am an actor!” he said stiffly.

“I heard you the third time,” I assured him soothingly. “But, I repeat…”

“In Hungary,” he relaxed a trifle in the face of my colossal ignorance, “we are trained for the profession from childhood. We have academics that specialize in the art, and we study for it, as your American men study to be doctors, lawyers, etc.”

Which isn’t a bad idea at all. Although a few of our American contemporaries who served their apprenticeship behind the wheel of a truck, or on the business end of a shovel, are doing nicely thank you.

Lugosi’s love affairs have been many and varied—characterizing the emotional intensity so typical of the true Continental. But he prefers not to speak of them.

“That part of my life is my own,” he explained, not unkindly. “My romances have been the subject of much publicity. Often than not, the press reports have been more fictional than otherwise. I prefer not to discuss it.”

So—you nosey little mugs—if you would know the “lowdown” on his hectic romance with the Brooklyn Bonfire, or the truth about his two unfortunate marriages—you’ll have to content yourselves with reading up the back numbers of the good old tabloids.

While refusing to discuss his romantic adventures, Lugosi makes no secret of his love for his dogs. And it is a beautiful thing to behold. For they return his affection with a worshipful adoration, a faithful devotion, that the lonely man had not found in human relationship.

When he is talking they lie quietly at his feet, following his every gesture with approving eyes. But let him rise and move across the room, and they are on him like a flash, leaping at him, barking joyously, begging, dog fashion, for a romp.

Dracula, a beautiful Doberman—whose evil eyes and strikingly sinister appearance are strongly suggestive of the fantastic being for which it is names—is his favorite.

She had recently starred in a canine Blessed Event, and Lugosi led me down to the kennel to inspect the pedigreed progeny.

Perfectly marked, the eight puppies were identical, miniature carbon copies of their sleek, graceful mother.

Lugosi’s approach was the signal for a mass attack. Yelping joyously, they surrounded him, tails wagging furiously…all eight of ’em!

Laughing happily, the Master Fiend went down on his knees, arms outstretched to encircle them all. And they mussed his hair, tugged at his tie, left multiple dusty smudges on his immaculate white flannels, while they yelped madly in concert.

I watched the scene in amazement. And, as I watched, Lugosi raised a strangely transfigured face to mine.

“My family!” he cried joyously.

An unexplainable emotion gripped me. Where was the fiend, in human form?…the diabolical Dracula?…Surely, not here…not this happy man who murmured gentle endearments to a flock of mauling puppies.

I left him there. It was a beautiful picture to carry away with me.

Mysterious? Sinister? Don’t you believe it!

The evil shadows had fallen away, and I had seen the real Lugosi. Genial, sincere, and—sadly enough—misunderstood…and lonely.

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International House Lobby

Lobby card for International House

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The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, April 23, 1933

LUGOSI BILLED FOR COMEDY IN NEW FILM PLAY

Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about April 23, 1933.

Hollywood, April 22.—It’s still worthy of Hollywood comment when a screen bogeyman throws off his ghostly wraps and steps out as a comedian,

Bela Lugosi was an actor of parts before he became “Dracula,” but he has been the “vampire” ever since, and most of his screen roles have been only variations of his first major hit in pictures.

But for International House he has been cast in a strictly comedy part, as one of Peggy Hopkins Joyce’s several ex-husbands. It’s character comedy, and not slapstick, but for once he doesn’t stalk around, frighten women and children, and make himself generally a terror.

 “Eddie Sutherland, the director, seems to be the first to have considered me an actor, instead of just Dracula,” Lugosi remarks with a smile.

“I was always an actor. I played all kinds of parts before I played Dracula, and I still am an actor.”

“Never the less, I was surprised when Sutherland asked me about the role, because usually I don’t get called for a picture unless it had a devil or a monster in it.”

Lugosi is content to leave horror roles to other players who  may want them, and hopes this departure is the beginning of a new career for him in which he can qualify (in studio eyes as well as his own) for variety in roles.

In Hungary, where he was born, he points out, acting is a profession for which one is trained, and acting is his profession. Acting confined within the limits of one type or role, he pleads, is no acting at all, and it is not for him.

“I have passed up many opportunities to play characters in exaggerated make-up,” he saps, “because I d not want to lose my identity as an actor. Besides, heavy make-up is most uncomfortable.”

Despite his horror assignments, Lugosi admits no interest whatever in spooks, magic or the occult.

“Funny thing,” he recalls, “I used to be intrigued by such things, but after 1,000 performances of Dracula, I lost interest. It was too much.

“That part on the stage was a real strain. Even though I knew it was all hokum—especially because I knew it—I had to throw all my force into playing it, and make myself believe it.”

“That was the only way I could hold the audience. When I let myself be mechanical in the role, I lost the audience, and the performance was a failure.”

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Night Of Terror

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Columbia Publicity Release, circa 1933

LUGOSI WANTS TO DO ABOUT-FACE IN FILMS

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1933 release of Night of Terror. It would have used in newspapers in towns playing the movie. As with all press books, the quotes attributed to Lugosi may be fabricated.

Those cinema fans who have experienced numerous shocks from the sinister characterizations of Bela Lugosi, of Dracula fame, can hardly be prepared for the astonishing announcement that the famous master of “monster” roles would like to portray sympathetic down-east characters instead of the nerve-tingling horror-loving persons that have been his dramatic specialty.

Audiences naturally attach the name of Lugosi to slinking figures, death notes, mysterious murders, yawning trap-doors, hands that reach out from hidden panels to seize the heroine, and menacing eyes. And in much the same manner, Hollywood has scribbled a little card of classification that had limited the screen roles of Bela Lugosi since his international success in the title role of Dracula.

“I blame it all on that play,” remarks Lugosi. “Before that time in my native Hungary, I was always the dashing hero, and when I made my stage debut in New York, I played a sympathetic role. Then came Dracula and I’ve been ‘Dracula’ ever since.”

It was this characterization that offered Lugosi his first opportunity in Hollywood, and started the chain of “horror” roles he has consistently enacted since that time. The 13th Chair, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Camel, Chandu the Magician and The Death Kiss are a few in which Bela sent chills out over the talking screen and successfully established himself as a star, although one whose screen reputation was cloaked with sinister mystery.

Away from the studio is easy to comprehend Lugosi’s ambition. His eyes are as piercing as they are on the screen, but his quiet manner reflects his aristocratic Hungarian family. He is urbane, intellectual and prone to drop little witticisms that suddenly bounce back with a humorous sting when you are not expecting them.

In addition to his longing for a trend toward almost “Pollyanna” roles, Lugosi is frank to admit that his other ambition is to retire from the screen and settle down in peace and solitude on a little farm far from Dracula and other cinema monsters. His non-professional wife shares this desire, and so you may well contemplate the unusual picture of an arch-fiend someday digging potatoes, reading The Country Gentlemen, and whittling in front of the town post office.

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1934

BACK TO HOLLYWOOD

1934 begins with horror films in eclipse, and with Lugosi on the east coast, looking for stage work. The year ends with both in high demand in Hollywood. The catalyst is The Black Cat, the first Lugosi-Karloff co-starrer. He has not much to do with the press. A publicity piece from The Black Cat, and an outlandish soliloquy in a fan magazine are the only “interviews” for 1934.

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The Black Cat Press Book

A page from The Black Cat press book

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Universal Publicity Release, circa 1934

LUGOSI WANTS TO DO ABOUT-FACE IN FILMS

Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1934 release of The Black Cat. It would have used in newspapers in towns playing the movie. As with all press books, the quotes attributed to Lugosi may be fabricated.

One of the quietest and therefore least known actors in Hollywood is Bela Lugosi, who is famed on the screen for his outstanding characterizations of the strange, bizarre and even fantastic roles.

For years a stage artist with an all consuming creative impulse, Lugosi’s entrance into motion pictures came unheralded and unannounced, judging by the star making methods of the industry, but after his first motion picture there was no denying  him the applause and acclaim that was his by earned and justified merit.

That picture was Dracula, that unforgettable, super-thriller, I which Lugosi expended every ounce of his creative art to make the character of the “Vampire” live and breathe.

In his own words, Lugosi says of it: “The character of the ‘Vampire’, or Count Dracula, as he was known in his human guise, was perhaps the most difficult role I ever portrayed either on stage or on screen. It was not sufficient merely to act the part, but actually to reach out into the unknown and live it.”

“But a strange thing happened to me following this film. I discovered that every producer in Hollywood had definitely set me down as a ‘type’—an actor of this particular kind of role. Considering that before Dracula, I had never, in along, varied career on the stage of two continents, played anything but leads and straight characters, I was both amused and bitterly disappointed.”

“Of course, it is true, that every actor’s greatest ambition is to create his own definitive and original role—a character with which he will always be identified, but on the screen I found this to be almost fatal. It took me years to live down Dracula and convince the film producers that I could play almost any other type of role.”

Lugosi has been in motion pictures since 1928 with occasional interludes on the stage in between that time and now, the latest being his role in Murder at the Vanities in New York last season. But like so many of his stage contemporaries he inevitably returns to Hollywood.

“It is the greatest medium of expression an actor knows,” says Lugosi. “While the stage is near and will always be dear to me, I cannot truthfully say I would rather be back on the stage. While it is true that a screen actor has no audience before him, other than his fellow workers, he is nevertheless compensated in the knowledge that millions will see his performance at one time where only hundred could see it on the stage.”

Lugosi life is tied up in his profession. He is one of the most sincere actors in all of Hollywood. He would rather act than eat—and that is the truth. Many times he has forgotten a meal when absorbed in his work—and when he is not working he would rather read and write than do anything else.

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Reprinted in Famous Monsters of Filmland, Issue 37.

Original Source not identified, believed to be late 1934.

INSIDE LUGOSI’S HAUNTED HOUSE

“This house,” I said to Bela Lugosi, “is it…is it…?”

“It is haunted,” said Lugosi, “Yes, please…”

I hadn’t heard that the house was haunted, or I wouldn’t have gone there.

I had approached it and, at first sight, it looked harmless enough. A low, dull, red brick house crouched close to the earth on the edge of a precipice, shrouded in ivy dark with trees.

The gates were locked. A “Beware of Dogs!” sign greeted me. From within came the baying of hounds.

I was admitted finally, by a tall young person with a pale face and a pale mouth. Bela Lugosi’s fourth wife.

I awaited him in the living room—or could one call it a living room? There was a portrait of Lugosi on the walls—that too pallid face, those pale eyes, those bloodless lips, those predatory white hands…

There were other pictures on the walls—of Lugosi as “Dracula”…pictures of women of wild faces and distraught black hair and bared breasts and wild hands…the Lugosi coat of arms hung over the cold hearth…taking up one side of the room was a mammoth couch covered with a heavy rug. There were two indentations in that rug concealing, or so it seemed, three separate boxes. Long narrow boxes—were they coffins?

I began to feel chilled and goosefleshy. I remembered that Lugosi has three wives. One stayed with him for a mere 24 hours. Where were they now?

I recalled, too, that he had come from the black mountains where dwelt Bram Stoker’s dread hero, “Dracula.”

There came to my mind talks I have had with Lugosi in the past—the tales he told me of those vampires in the black mountain who kiss human beings into the semblance of death. Lugosi believe these stories.

All sorts of pale and monstrous thoughts crowded in on me as I waited for him. I thought of moldering graveyards and shrieks in the night…the drip, drip, drip of blood…death…I looked up the portrait of the man with the pale green face and the stretching hands and there was something in the atmosphere of that room that made the little, lonely human spirit whine in its thin envelope.

I told myself I was ridiculous. There are no such things as vampire bats and spirits of the dead…that those three things over there covered with the heavy rug were couches, of course…the man Lugosi was a charming Hungarian gentleman who had played “Dracula” and yet I can swear to you that there was something about that house, something in that room, something in the face of that young fourth wife that is not as you or I…

You who read can laugh this off, mockingly. My only answer can be to wish, you too, could stand in that room.

At last Lugosi appeared. He has a beautiful courtesy. But I thought his eyes are slightly sunken as with dreadful thoughts…he looks as though he never sleeps…his hair is dead against the thinness of his skull…

I said to myself, try to be casual and off hand, “My goodness, Mr. Lugosi, this house—is it haunted?”

“It is haunted,” said Bela Lugosi.

“Yes, please…”

I sat down in the nearest chair. I said, with another attempt at being conversational, “That huge couch over there—would there be coffins under that rug?”

I wished I had not asked that question, for Lugosi did not answer me. He smiled that strangely smileless smile of his—and did not answer.

I said, “Tell me, about…this house, please.”

He said, “Your fancy may crawl away from the telling of such a tale. Your reader may not believe. But in order to tell you about the house I must go back a little way. You know that I am married four times. Yes, you know that you have heard about my—my other wives. You know that I came from the black mountains of Hungary where, in the arms of my old nurse, I heard the tales of vampires and saw their victims. Ah, yes, as I grew older and could take notice of things about me. I saw many a young man and young woman grow pale, and sicken and seem to die with no cause given. I had skeptical mind. I read widely. I made a brave attempt to laugh off such nonsense. Folklore gone mad, I told myself. I would shake off the charnel house odors of such fool superstitions.”

“And then, I met the woman. Her age was indeterminable. She was an actress. She was not outstandingly beautiful. Her hair was a pale brown. Her skin was deathly pale at times, at other times it was blood, blood red—that was when she had fed. Her mouth was thin and ravenous. Her teeth were tiny and pointed. She had been married many times. There had been many lovers. One never asked what had become of them. Men feared her; and went to her at her command. Husbands left their wives because of her.”

“I had a wife, too, and two sons. Yes, I have two sons of whom I have never spoken. They are grown boys now. I have never seen them since I—I left. I have never, from that day to this, sent so much as a picture postcard home. Nor have I had one. How should I? I burned all my bridges behind me when I left more than 15 years ago. It was safer to have no communication of any earthly kind. I wish I could say that I did not care, that I thought of those two young men of mine did not matter to me. But I do care, it does matter. However, to get back—at that time I was living the normal life of a young man of the town. I had played Romeo, with some success; I was said to be of outstanding appearance. I had a genial disposition and a happy outlook on life.”

“Then I met—her. The very first time I was introduced to her I broke out into a deathly cold sweat. My heart and pulse raced and then seemed to stop dead. I lost control of my limb and faltered in my speech. I was never happy in her presence. I always felt sick and dizzy and depleted. Yet, I could not remain away from her. She never bade me to come to her, not in words. There was never any of the conventional trappings of assignations. I simply went to her, at odd hours of the day and night, impelled by an agency I neither saw nor heard.

“I lost weight. I hardly slept. I had seen other young men fade and wither before my eyes and had heard the village folk whisper the dread cause. But when it came to me, I did not know it for what it was.”

“It was my mother who forced me to flee the country and never return to it again until that woman and every trace and memory of her vanished from the sight of men…”

“This that I am telling you is the truth. It can be verified if you are curious or incredulous.”

“I came to America. After a time my health returned to me. I tried on two occasions to find human love, to marry and have a home as other men have. You have learned the results. One marriage lasted 24 hours…the other…I can only say that she, the faithful one, was there and gave me to understand that if ever I felt love again, attempted marriage, she would stand between me and fulfillment.”

“For many months, for years I dared not think of love or of marriage. I was determined to stay alone.”

“And then I met my present wife. She was my secretary. She, too, is of Hungarian descent. She was born here. She, too, was raised on the folklore of the country side, the tales of vampires and ghouls and unspeakable things.”

“She loved me, she has told me, at first sight. Something in her ached for me. I did love her—not at first. I had put love from me. Then, day after day, as she worked for me, and with me, did little things for me I had not thought to ask her, a craving for companionship, for a woman in my heart and in my home once more took hold of my very vitals.”

“But I wanted to put her to the test. For weeks before I dared to tell her that I loved her, wanted to marry her. I—I tortured her. They were not nice things, things I did to her. I cannot speak of them. Perhaps it was to test her…perhaps it was an attempt to placate that—that other me. Whatever it was and however shamed my heart, I caused her such suffering as made the tears stream down her face for hours at a time….but she never faltered, never turned away from me.”

“And so, nearly two years ago we married and we found this house.”

“We thought, ‘We will make it safe against invasion of any kind.’ And so we have locks on all the doors, locks that cannot be unlocked by any hands but mine. And no one is admitted to this house unless that person is well known to us. No appointments are made over the phone. We have five hounds and one of them is white and his name is Bodri. He knows. The windows as you case see, are screened and barred and locked. On the landing of each stairway is a large cushion upon which one of the hounds sleeps at night…no footstep, human or otherwise can mount or descend these stairs with their knowing it.”

“And there are times when they howl in the night…howl fearfully though no eye, not even mine, can see what they are howling at.”

“And so, in spite of all these precautions which you, yourself, can see, the house is haunted.”

“I know it first when the dogs began to howl. I knew it when I first saw the white fur rise on Bodri’s body, saw his eyes flatten and his red eyes dilate.”

“And then, that first night in this house and every night thereafter the bat has come. The first night I saw that bay, monstrously big and with but one eye, flattened against the window.”

“It began to be a monomania with both of us—to kill that bat. We had the feeling that if we ridded ourselves of that thing we would be free. We told Bodri to get it. We even hired exterminators to come up and watch for the creature and kill it. We had all kinds of men here lying in wait for it. They finally told us we were imagining it—there was no bat visible. We knew that they thought we were mad.”

“Months went by and then, one night, Bodri got it. We heard him howling in the darkness. He came into the house and he had it in his mouth, limp, dead, hideous beyond words. With a sick heart and shuddering flesh, I went into the garden and there, in the dead of night, I dug a grave for it. I dug a hole deep enough to bury the Giant of Tarsus. I went back to the house and to bed.”

“The next night came. We had a little festive dinner, my wife and I. We drank wine and were very gay. We even talked of the time when we might go back to Hungary, back to Lugos. In the midst of our happy talk, it happened.”

“My wife heard it, first. I could tell that she had heard it by the look on her face. I went to the window. The bat was back again. Not the same one, you say? But yes, it was.”

“I went out into the garden with Bodri beside me. I dug up that deep pit again. The bat was gone. The ground was undisturbed but the bat—was—gone.”

Lugosi rose and walked over to the hearth over which hangs his mother’s coat of arms. He said simply, “I swear that what I am telling you is the truth.”

I rose to go. Mr Lugosi walked with me to the door, unlatched it, took me through the garden, and unlatched the gate. He said, “This is a strange tale to have told you. In the town of Lugos, it would not be thought so strange, nor disbelieved. So often and so frightful is this sort of thing over there, even today, that the townspeople of Lugos often keep their dead for days and sometimes weeks to be sure they have died a Christian depth, and not the hideous half-death of the vampires. But I hope,” Lugosi said, with that slight bow from the waist of his, “I hope I have not frightened you…”

I drove away. I was grateful for the sunshine. I tried to think. What rot! What utter nonsense! I couldn’t—not quite. I thought of this man who lives here, in Hollywood, who walks the street and works in the studios and is charming and courteous and kind. But walks always, with make-up or without, with that pallid face and those white, preternatural hands and smileless smile.

This, at any rate, is the story he told me. I have not exaggerated. I have not dramatized.

You may draw your own conclusions.

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1935

A SHORT-LIVED CREST

“The hour of complete ascendancy,” wrote H. G. Wells of dominant species, “ has been the eve of entire overthrow.” Maybe, maybe not, but Wells might be describing the horror film of 1935 in general, and Lugosi’s career in particular. Lugosi and the horror genre began 1935 more in demand in Hollywood than ever before, and ended in the brink of oblivion. As the British ban of movie horror took hold, Hollywood followed, and horror film production soon ceased. Lugosi would be almost entirely out of work for 3 years. But 1935 saw him at his peak.

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Mark of the Vampire Pressbook

From the pressbook of Mark of the Vampire

CALLS WOMEN MORE MORBID THAN MEN

“Women are more morbid than men.”

Such is the cynical, but, he insists, nonetheless scientific observation of Bela Lugosi, famous delineator of vampire and terror roles on the screen.

He says he knows it’s true because women have always provided the greater part of his audiences. Feminine longing for shocks means his daily bread.

They Pack Courtrooms

“When I did Dracula on the stage,” he relates, “ women outnumbered men in the audiences five to one. That got me thinking. I remembered how women, during the war, used every possible device to get to the front—writers, sociologists, and so forth. I have watched women pack courtrooms at murder trials. And I discovered that the so-called horror picture has the same appeal.”

“I suppose it’s because a woman, being psychologically high-strung, likes shock to the nervous system as a counter irritant to her nervous tension.”

Lugosi’s views are borne-out by Browning, who relates that the terror mysteries of the late Lon Chaney, most of which he directed, has their greatest successes among feminine audiences.

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The San Mateo Times, March 1, 1935.

THE HOLLYWOOD PARADE

by Willa Okker

Times Staff Correspondent

“Women are more morbid than men.”

Bela Lugosi, famous delineator of vampire and terror roles on the screen, was sitting in on a ring of newspaper reporters, and dropped this nifty little cynicism. He insisted in the next breath that he based the statement on science.

Well, newspaper reporters, alleged to be the world’s greatest cynics—between you and me a lot of rubbish—are the world’s biggest softies underneath. They are also sentimentalists at heart. The old cynical shell is a defense mechanism so they don’t bust out crying, ’cause believe you me, brother, a reporter sees life in the raw. Well, being as I told you on our brotherhood, I also have to add that neither are they scientific. So, the brethren with a concocted “yeah,” and tipped their funny hats further forward on their noses and let their cigarettes droop a little further out of the sides of their mouths.

“I know this is true,” pursued Lugosi, “because women have always provided the greater part of my audiences. Feminine longing for shocks is my daily bread.”

“When I did Dracula on the stage”—he pulled his chair closer—“women outnumbered men in the audiences five to one. That got me thinking. I remembered how women, during the war, used every possible device to get to the front—reporters (he leered at me), sociologists, and so on—to see what was happening. I have watched women pack courtrooms at murder trials. And in pictures, I have discovered that the so-called horror picture has a definite appeal to women audiences”—and the male brethren protaxed in chorus, bowing their hats.

“I suppose it’s because a woman, being psychologically high-strung, likes shock to the nervous system as a counter irritant to her nervous tension.”

Lugosi, playing the sinister vampire in Vampires of the Night, the picture now being made which deals with weird, bat-like forms that change to human beings, sinister shadows, vampires that attack the living, a pitting of wits against the super-natural, turned to me with “You, as a woman, can tell me that I am correct.”

But I had to go comb a lion’s beard. I still think they ought to leave us girls a few secrets.

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“To You!” Magazine, May 1935m Vol. 2 Issue 3

PHILOSOPHIE OF HOLLYWOOD – TINKER TOWN

The Philosophy of Bela Lugosi

The Horror Man of Hollywood

by Helen Mitchell

Ushered into a great room which overlooks the hills, my thoughts revolved back to just such a room in a baronial castle high in the Tyrolian Alps. Surely a fitting setting for Bela Lugosi, the world-famous horror man of the screen, with its massive furniture and great stone fireplace. Over the mantle blazed a crest in triumphant colors, with the inscription Vojnic. The banner of Bela Lugosi’s people, meaning “The Soldier.” A hundred years ago they drove the invading Turks from their land, then Hungary, now Rumania, and were knighted for their bravery. I was still studying the escutcheon when the majestic gentlemen himself entered. At once the room seemed magnetized with his presence. There is an enchantment about Bela Lugosi that is magic to the personalities and inanimate things about him. I drifted with the illusion and found myself at the portals of age-old wisdom. For Bela Lugosi is a very old, san and deep philosopher.

My eyes still wandered about the strangely monarchial room, fancy free, and then my host caught them in full wonderment on the vast collection of books and literature.

“Reading and research is my passion. I am an eager searcher for knowledge and truth.”

“But you are so busy with those difficult roles piled upon you after the other. When do you find time to read.”

He lighted one of a row of long-stemmed black charred pipes and settled back in his great chair. “No matter whether I work or relax I read from 6 to 8 hours a day, and have since I was a boy of 18. I was denied education and it caused me great mental anguish.”

It seemed to me a shade of some old sadness across his fine intelligent face. He did not continue so I broke into his reverie, “What a wealth of knowledge you must have garnered all these years.”

He smiled. “Knowledge is a never ending fount. I have mastered many interesting courses of progress—spiritually—economically—physically. There isn’t a city or hamlet in any country in the world, that I cannot immediately place its environ, its people, its habits, industries and policies.”

I marveled as he continued in his modest way. “When there is an outbreak in China, I can readily trace the source through my researches.” His eyes gleamed. “There is no fascination like that. To keep one’s fingers on the many threads of life like a great harp and follow their many vibrations. That is my greatest joy.”

“Vibrations,” I m used, “that opens an interesting avenue of thought.”

“Ah yes!” My flesh body, that chair, this pie are all part of a great intelligence given expression in different degrees of vibration.”

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The Kingsport Times,Kingsport, Tennesee, May 26, 1935

MR. WONG

There are more performances of Shakespeare in Hungary that in any other country, according to Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor whose portrayal of sinister characters on the stage and screen have been cinema standout for several years.

This, says the actor, is due to the fact that the theatre in Hungary is under direction of the Ministry of Education, and is an honored institution whose cultural influences are thoroughly appreciated.

Pardonable Egotism

“Though it is egotism, it is, I hope, pardonable,” declares Mr. Lugosi, “when an artist has achieved recognition in his own country, to take it for granted that his name is not entirely strange in other centers of culture, and perhaps to resent it when he finds out that he is quite unknown and must begin again.”

“The roles with which my name were most clearly identified,” the actor continued, “were those of heroic and romantic character. I think my most popular performances in Hungary’s capital were as Romeo, Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac.”

He plays the title role in “The Mysterious Mr. Wong,” at the Gem Theatre Wednesday and Thursday.

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Universal Publicity Release, 1935

“I DON’T GROW HORNS FOR EARS” SAYS BELA LUGOSI

Famous Thriller Star of Universal’s The Raven

 Talks About His Screen Roles

I am made in the same mould as everyone else. I don’t grow any horns for ears, nor do I spout bat’s wings on my back. Fan letters came to me from all over the world from people who have heard strange tales about my childhood in the Hungarian town of Lugos. The writers ask if my parents were hypnotists; if I commune with ghosts, and whether or not I practice the supernatural in my private life. They say my eyes have an expression unlike the eyes of any human being!

As a matter of fact my childhood in the Black Mountains was the usual husky, healthy everyday life of any country boy. My father, Baron Lugosi, was engaged in the practical and profitable business of banking, and there was nothing weird or extraordinary in my family background. I t is under circumstances which make me a theatrical personality which many believe is also a part of my private or personal life.

Planning a Career

In my early teens, I was deeply attracted to the theatre. I met with no parental objections to my choice of a career, because in Hungary a man plans to become an actor with the same serious outlook on like as the person who chooses to be a statesman, a lawyer, or a banker. One studies at the Academy of Theatrical Arts in Budapest for four years, just as in any college course for other professions. Each year students who fail the examinations are eliminated, and by the time diplomas are distributed a good average would be 50 graduates out of an original 500 entrants. Then comes what might be called a post-graduate course of touring the provinces in a widely-varied repertoire.

As with the Comedie Francaise in Paris, once an actor does make the grade in Hungary’s Royal National Theatre he has a job for life, unless he leaves the country. Because I wanted to see the world and enlarge my horizon, and because it is my temperament to seek adventure rather than be pinned down to routine and certainty, I was almost glad after 10 years of repeated successes to be able to escape as a political refuge after the Bela Kun uprising. I welcomed the ups and downs of seeking my fortune in New York in 1921.

Dracula

Partly because of my accent at that time and also because my name was unknown, with no big box-office draw, I discovered all my years’ experience in classical plays in Shakespeare, Ibsen, Rostand and Hauptmann, as well as foremost modern playwrights of my own country, counted for very little with the American producers. It was not until I played Dracula for a two years’ run that I finally won out.

When Universal brought Dracula to the screen there was a great deal of controversy as to whether or not such a daring departure from the general rune of screen entertainment would prove to have a wide audience appeal. The answer was soon supplied by the tremendous enthusiasm with which the public pushed and paid its way wherever this forerunner of all future thriller films was shown. Through no special volition of my own I found myself in demand as the portrayer of fiendish, mystic and mysterious roles. I became identified with such productions as Chandu the Magician, The House of Doom, Night of Terror, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and my current film, The Raven.

Acting Technique

In my opinion there is only one technique for an actor, whether he is impersonating a great lover like Romeo, a great general like Napoleon or a great villain like Bluebeard. He must, through experience, infinite pains, sensitivity and intuitive understanding, be capable of actually living any given role. If he resorts only to outward semblance, mannerisms and bags of clever tricks, he is a puppet of a personality; if he obliterates self and fits his part like a glove, he is an actor.

It is my particular pride that even in the most fantastic of my film roles I do not use make-up. Instead of depending upon masks, casts, court plaster and false features, I create the illusion of a terrifying, distorted or uncanny make-up by an appeal to the imagination. An evil expression in the eyes, a sinister arch to the brows or a leer on my lips—all of which take long practice in muscular control—are sufficient to hypnotise an audience into seeing what I want them to see and what I myself see in my mind’s eye. In like manner, by the way in which I use my fingers, and gesticulate with my hands, I give the illusion of their being misshapen, extra large, or extra small—or whatever the part requires. And I consider it part of an actor’s art to be able to shorten or lengthen his body or change its very shape by the power of suggestion, without false paddings or other artificial aids.

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The Sunday New York Times, July 7, 1935

DRACULA WITHOUT HIS CAPE

The visitor stood before Bela Lugosi’s door and hesitated. He was not exactly frightened, but he was glad he had remembered to put on a stiffly starched collar to protect his throat, just in case Mr. Lugosi did turn out to be a real vampire.

He knocked and before he knew it he was shaking hands with a tall man. It was Dracula himself without the white mask like face and without the penetrating eyes. Instead he was rather like a senior master of an English public school.

After a brief introduction, an “eye-opener” was offered, fro Mr. Lugosi, despite his Hungarian upbringing and his precise rather formal way of speaking, frequently intersperses his conversation with Yankee idioms.

If the visitor hadn’t had the misfortune of being a teetotaler, he would have welcomed the offer, for it was 10 o’clock in the morning, an unconsciously early hour for any self-respecting werewolf to be seeing visitors. Mr. Lugosi’s early rising is but one instance of the difference between Mr. Lugosi on the screen and Mr. Lugosi in private life.

There is another: Mr. Lugosi does not sleep in a coffin containing earth from Transylvania. Through the half-open bedroom door, a bed could be seen; what is more, a large soft bed with sheets and blankets, and it showed unmistakable evidence of having been slept on.

Throughout the visit, Mr. Lugosi sat in a small arm chair, smoking a sturdy straight-stemmed brown pipe and reminiscing. He is a gentle, quiet man who gives an impression of mellow wisdom. Many things amuse him, especially the wry paradoxes of life.

One of the paradoxes he enjoys most is that he should get much more mail from women now that he plays vampire roles than he ever received when he played romantic lovers on the stage. Ninety per cent of his letters were from women, he said. “They eat it up,” said Dracula referring to his various murderous screen activities. “Most of the men who write are either astrologers or spiritualists. They try to catch me up on my theories.”

*

Mr. Lugosi has played a crazy scientist, a jewel thief, a power-mad Chinese, a maniac who wanted to destroy the world with a death ray, a zombie who dug up corpses, and, of course, a blood-sucking vampire. Yet, despite the fact that he has been all these horrible creatures, practically all his mail is laudatory. He boasts that he never received a letter from an indignant mother protesting that he had terrified her child.

Most of his letters, he said, asked one of two questions. Did he believe in the supernatural—vampires, werewolves and the like? And was he a vampire or a werewolf himself?

“I answer them both in the same way,” he said, “I say that I have never met a vampire personally, but I don’t know what might happen tomorrow; this saves me from lying and it does not give away my trade secrets.

*

Mr. Lugosi makes about eight horror pictures a year. He didn’t confess that he is fed up with them; but he did say that he would like to do only five horror parts a year, with the other three straight character roles. He emphasized the fact that he took his fiendish work seriously.

“You can’t make people believe in you if you play a horror part with your tongue in your cheek. The screen magnifies everything, even the way you are thinking. If you are not serious, people will sense it. No matter how hokum or highly melodramatic the horror part may be, you believe in it while you are playing it.”

Mr. Lugosi’s career can be summed up this way—classic roles, ardent love-making (theatrical) and deadly crimes. After his graduation from the Academy Theatrical Arts in Budapest, he made his debut at the age of twenty as Romeo in a Magyar version of Romeo and Juliet. Then followed three years of classical repertory at the National Theatre in Budapest.

During the war he was in the trenches for three years, serving first as a lieutenant and then as a captain. After a revolution following the war, he came to the United States as a political refugee. He worked his way across the ocean as a third engineer on the boat.

He reached New York in January 1921, where he organized a Hungarian dramatic company of which he was the producer, director and star. After two years of this, he accept the role of a Spanish Apache on the English-speaking stage. He accepted the part even though he couldn’t speak English. He learned lines by their sound rather than their meaning.

His love-making, he said, was so hot that he broke two of Estelle Winwood’s ribs when he was embracing her during the third performance of the play. The play, “The Red Poppy” was followed by four more in which he again played romantic, if more restrained, lovers.

Then Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was in New York. He was chosen for the title role. The play was enormously successful. It ran a year on Broadway and two on the road. Mr. Lugosi then did it for the movies. Ever since that time he has kept the scenarists busy thinking up novel and dastardly crimes for him to commit.

He stopped in New York last week, as he said himself, “to take a bow at the opening of his new picture, “The Raven” at the Roxy, and then left for England to appear in “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste,” an Alexander Korda production.

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Portrait

A publicity still for Mystery of the Marie Celeste, made in England in 1935

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Film Star Weekly, London, UK, August 17, 1935

BAY-LA LU-GO-SHE IS HERE

Bela Lugosi is in London. That uncanny monster of horror pictures, whom we were first introduced to as Count Dracula, with his frightening, death-like pallor, piercing eyes, and his altogether Mephisto-like appearance. Without his “war paint,” as he calls it, you don’t recognize the horrific creature you’ve seen on the screen; you see instead, an engaging aristocrat, with the European courtesy of his native Hungary, from which he fled as a political refugee to America.

It was noticing how women pack court-rooms at murder trials that gave him the idea that horror films would have the same appeal.

“I suppose it’s because a woman, being psychologically high-strung, likes shocks to the nervous system  tension,” he said when I saw him, after making a personal appearance after the Press show of The Raven.

When Bela Lugosi arrived here—by the way, his name is pronounced Bayla Lu-go-she—he started straight away on his first British picture, which is Dennison Clift’s The Mystery of the Mary Celeste.

When he was approached to play the playoff Anton Lorenzen in this film he said: “Are there any bats in it? I hate them, but invariably have at least one in my films.”

So, if you meet Bela Lugosi here, don’t mention bats!”

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The New York World Telegram, August 28, 1935

BEING HORRIBLE IS A GOOD BUSNESS TO BELA LUGOSI, BUT HE ENJOYED BEING LOVABLE IN NEW BRITISH ROLE

Scaring Folks Allows Him to Buy Drinks for the Boys

by Asa Bordages

Bela Lugosi, the Dracula of the movies, let his pretty wife put a red carnation in his buttonhole as he had his say about moviemaking in England and Hollywood. For one thing, he found the English were courteous.

Mr. Lugosi, a No. 1 creeps and shiver man in Hollywood, profitably hated by film fans everywhere, confided happily that in a picture he has just finished making in England, he at least has a chance to be seen as a nice man. The only people he had to scare are the villains, which is a great relief.

“I am just the opposite to all the roles I ever played before,: he said, and his gesture of enthusiasm brushed the rad carnation almost  from his buttonhole. Mrs. Lugosi quietly straightened the flower as Dracula gaily added that he plays a kindly derelict. And he is the most loveable fellow, too. In fact he exclaimed in triumph—

“Why, I’m killing about 7 people, and everybody will love me!”

The film is a version of The Mystery of the Mart Celeste, a mystery never solved in the long yea the brig Mary Celeste was found at sea with all sails set, a meal on the table, everything shipshape—no trace of the master, his wife, his child or crew.

It is, said Mr. Lugosi, a “wonderful story.” But now he must quit being lovable for a while. For Mr. Lugosi, who arrived with his wife on the Majestic yesterday, has only one week of grace before returning to Hollywood to start frightening little children again.

There is, however, consolation for being horrible. As Mr. Lugosi explained while his wife tried again to fix the red carnation more firmly in his buttonhole:

“It’s a good business; so I can buy steamship tickets, give tips and invite the boys for a drink. If I wouldn’t make such pictures—maybe trash—I couldn’t do it.”

It is not, however, money which brings Mr. Lugosi back to Hollywood. For he said:

“They pay all the money in the world in London. I don’t get half as much in Hollywood.”

The single reason, he said, is that he wants to live here. If he hadn’t he never would have given up his native Hungary to become an American citizen.

“The idea,” he said, “is that I myself feel the most loyal to America than you can imagine. But I feel that was if somebody does something I do not think is right; I am like a mother going to spank.”

And some of the things he saw making movies in England made him feel that way about the home folks. Or some of them, at least.

“I think that England, if they would have the sense to buy the technicians of Hollywood, they would be very, very keen competition to Hollywood on account Hollywood doesn’t let authors, writers exploit and deliver their talents and imaginations. It has to go through the mill, not passed by one individual talent, right or wrong.”

“There is something in England we do not have in the matter of courtesy. Whether they like you or not, they fell if they would not be kind, courteous, they would offend themselves.”

“I observed a lot in England in the way of courtesy I would like to spread here. They don’t curtail authors so much. They work more at leisure. They are rested people working. That is why they sometimes get the results they do.”

And then, as his wife once again straightened the red carnation, and gave it a little pat, Mr. Lugosi said:

“As far as I can think now with my paralyzed brain, that is all I have to say.”

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Picture Show, September 21st, 1935

Picture Show, London, UK, September 21 1935

BELA LUGOSI

The Film Fiend Who Is Loved By Children

by O. Bristol

Hush! Hush! Hush! Here comes Bela Lugosi.

Hollywood’s most famous Bogy Man has come to England to appear in his first British picture, The Mystery of the Marie Celeste, which is based on the now almost forgotten but once celebrated mystery of the sea.

Dracula was the actor’s first great success in horror films and since then he has always appeared as a fiend in American pictures. Chandu the Magician, White Zombie, The Death Kiss, International House, Mark of the Vampire, and The Raven, his latest picture, are among the sensational thrillers in which he has played, and parents, instead of saying “If you’re not a good boy I’ll set the Bogy Man after you,” might now threaten their children with “Do as you’re told or I’ll fetch Bela Lugosi.”

But the children, more often than not, would cry excitedly, “Where is he? Where is he? Do let us see Lugosi!”

Here, unquestionably, is the most popular Bogy Man of all times.

While I was interviewing him at his hotel a few hours after his arrival in London, a page-boy at the hotel approached Mr. Lugosi for his autograph.

“Sure! Yes. Come over here,” cried the actor heartily, patting the delighted boy playfully on the head as he returned the album. “I hope I see a lot more of you, son, during my stay here.”

The he turned towards me again.

“How I love these kids! They are my real audience,” he said proudly, “and how loyal they are to their favorites! That’s the type of little fellow who really likes me. They’re not frightened by my pictures—not really. They love every bit of them. And when they recognize me in America the children cluster around me in the street and shout, ‘Make funny faces, Lugosi! Make funny faces!’”

He is genuinely fond of children, and there is certainly nothing about his appearance in private life to suggest that he is the world’s most celebrated monster. True, he is over six feet tall, and he has the most expressive eyes I have ever seen. But his manner is almost gentle and his smile is friendly and completely free from the evil which his screen smile always suggests.

Hollywood Insists That He Shall Be A Fiend

“I was for 20 years as actor before I tool the unpleasant part,” he told me, “but since I make money playing pictures like Dracula Hollywood says why not let him continue to be a fiend, and I heartily agree with Hollywood.”

“But, as a matter of fact,” he added with a delightful smile, “I’m really a very nice chap! And I don’t want always to play this sort of part.”

Hollywood, however, says that he is a fiend and Hollywood should know best. When he returns to America I understand he is booked to appear in three more hair-raisers. These are The Invisible Ray, Bluebeard, and Dracula’s Daughter.

The son of a banker, he made his stage debut when he was 19 with a stock company which visited his home town in Hungary. After many years in the theatre he first appeared on the screen in silent German films and then went to America, where he made his Hollywood screen debut in The Silent Command.

This is his first visit to this country and with him is his beautiful wife, to whom he has been married for two and a half years.

“I think she is the grandest wife in the world; I wish all men had a wife like mine,” he exclaimed with obvious sincerity. “She was my book-keeper and secretary for two years before we eloped to get married. She had youth and beauty and was so loyal and good that I couldn’t help marrying her!”

These two obviously understand each other thoroughly, and although they had only been in England a few hours they were both obviously in love with this country—and with each other. Lugosi was in splendid form, answering our questions with the greatest good humour.

His Trade Secret

Having read some extraordinary publicity stories about this genius of uncanny films, I asked him if it were true that he had once been bitten by a vampire.

I had saved this question for the last.

Just a moment his film personality seemed to leap into existence. His eyebrows arched and a magnetic gleam came into his dark eyes.

“That,” he said solemnly as he gripped my hand, “that is m trade secret!”

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Murder by Television Half Sheet

Half sheet poster for Murder by Television

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CAMEO PICTURES CORPORATION

 BIOGRAPHICAL QUESTIONAIRE

This questionnaire was filled out by Lugosi to assist publicity for Murder by Television, released October 1st, 1935.

It was reprinted in Famous Monsters of Filmland #112. Lugosi’s answers are in italics.

 Cameo Pictures Corporation Biographical Information

This is to insure accuracy in our publicity, and to provide complete and accurate material necessary for newspaper and magazine stories.

  1. Screen name: Bela Lugosi.                               Real name in full: was Bela Blasko – legally changed to Bela Lugosi.
  2. Height: 6’1”.                     Nickname: None.
  3. Nationality: Hungarian.    Color of hair: Brown
  4. Weight: 170 lbs.                Color of eyes: Blue
  5. Education: High School    College:  x
  6. Parents names: Stephan Blasko – Paula von Vojnics.   Both living: No.

Where: Buried at Lugos, Hungary.   Father’s business: was bank president.

Famous ancestors or relatives: None.

Brothers or sisters names: Vilma – Lajos – Laszlo.

Earliest childhood ambitions: Highway Bandit.

  1. Present ambition: Dude Ranch.
  2. First Occupation: Actor.   Where: Travelling Repertoire.
  3. How did your career begin: College Dramatics.
  4. Stage debut in Romeo.   Year: 1906.   Place: Lugos, Hungary.

Broadway debut: Red Poppy.   Year: 1922. Co-starred with: Estelle Winwood.

Last play: Murder at the Vanities. Year: 1933.    Place: New York City.

Other important plays: In America – Dracula

In Hungary – all the great parts in literature

Stock in what cities: None

  1.  Film debut: The Silent Command.   Year: 1923.   Star: Heavy with all star cast.

First large part: Same.

First talkie: Prisoners.                       Year: 1929.  Star: Corinne Griffith.

Last Picture: Mark of the Vampire.     Year: 1935.  Star: All Star.

Other pictures: Mysterious Mr. Wong, Return of Chandu, Black Cat.

  1. Favorite screen role: Count Dracula in Dracula.
  2. Favorite stage role: Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano de Bergerac.
  3. Prefer screen to stage: Yes.   Why: Variety.
  4. What type of role have you played most: great characters.
  5. What type do you prefer: Human interest.
  6. Favorite stage players: None.
  7. Favorite screen player: Mickey Mouse.
  8. Favorite playwrights:
  9. Favorite books: Social science and economy.
  10. Favorite authors: None.
  11. Favorite sports to watch: Soccer.
  12. Favorite sports to watch: Golf.
  13. Highspots of your life (in chronological order)

1   to 10 years

10 to 20 years    It is no one’s business

20 to 30 years

Ad infinitum

  1. Clothes:   prefer conservative or modist   conservative

                                 ready made or tailored   tailored

Favor sports or formal wear?  sports.

Favorite colors   bright.

Favorite materials    flannels.

  1. Have you any beauty secrets such as methods of make-up, care of hair, eyes, hands, skin, facials, massages, oils, creams:  none.
  2. How do you keep in conditions? (health institute, daily or weekly massages, sun-baths, setting-up exercises, sports?)
  3. Food:  Favorite dish: stuffed cabbage. Like to cook: —

Between meal snacks: no.   Bedtime snack: no.

Favorite recipe, dish: —

  1. Married: Yes.   Or want to be:         To whom:

Date: Jan 31, 1933.   Children:

Favorite type of man or woman:  reserved and honest.

  1. What do you do for diversion and recreation aside from sports (dance, sing, write, paint, compose music, sculp, read, games)
  2. Where do you prefer to live permanently (seashore, mountains, city, abroad)
  3. Where do you live now (apartment, house, seashore, city, mountains)
  4. Where have you traveled   all over the world.
  5. Who are your closest friends   stage hands.
  6. What makes you angry:  talk.
  7. What pets have you:  3 dogs.
  8. What do you do on the set: smoke.
  9. Where do you go on weekends:  outing.
  10. Do you have any cars, airplanes, yachts, horses:  Car.
  11. Interested in politics? Yes.
  12. Pet peeves:  aggravation.   Live with parents: no.
  13. Pet economy:  matches & corks.   Pet extravagance: oold wines and good cigars.
  14. Favorite dress:     Favorite perfume: Eau de Cologne.
  15. Do you smoke: yes.   Speak any foreign language parents: Hungarian and others.
  16. Your greatest thrill:  When I got aboard ship to come to America.
  1. Do you like                       Rain:                      No          To write letters:               No

Autographs:         No         Animals:                Yes          To pose for stills:             No

Night clus:           No         Children:               Yes          To carry umbrellas:          No

Street cars:           No         Sun baths:             Yes          Showers or bathtubs:       both

Prohibition:          No         Fan mail:               Yes          Modern architecture:       No

To entertain:        Yes        Holidays:               ?            Personal appearances:      No

To sleep late:        Yes        Premiers:               No         To drive your own car:    No

Silk underwear:   No         To dine at home:  Yes           Open cars:                        No

Radio programs:  No         Airplanes:              No          To read before sleeping:  No

To go shopping:   Yes        Bathsalts:              No          Letters of introduction:   No

Ice cream cones:  No         Hollywood:           Yes          Bright or subdued colors

To travel alone:    Yes

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 The Sandusky Register, Sandusky, Ohio, November 12, 1935

SCREEN LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD

Hollywood , Nov. 11—An evening with the Bela Lugosi is an adventure in old-world hospitality, informality and entertainment.

Although you know that actors are playing parts on the screen, you can’t help but feel that some of them live lives not unlike those of the characters they portray.

This, somehow, seems particularly true of Bela Lugosi, who having played that monster “Dracula” a thousand times is allowed to express himself in none other than horror roles in films. He is more definitely typed than any other actor in town. Even Karloff occasionally gets a sympathetic role. But Lugosi, never. Many feel, suppose, that a man who makes his livelihood scaring children must be a misanthropic old meanie who growls at the newsboys.

Dilutes His Wine

Lugosi is Hungarian and a political exile from his native land. He sided with the wrong party in a political revolution. Some of his more vociferous cohorts were put to death or imprisoned, but he escaped and came to America. At first, Lugosi was the leading man in his own Hungarian stock company. He had never been a villain when the play Dracula came his way, but looked like a good thing so he took it. When the two-an-a-half-year tour ended in Hollywood, Lugosi was invited to stay.

“It is a funny way to earn a living—acting,” he says, “But it pays well, so I mustn’t complain too much…” We are walking through the Lugosi house, a huge brick affair with stone floors and high beamed ceilings (“But I rent it awfully cheap,” he explains) and by this time we have reached the cellar. There are many huge cabinets, stocked with wines imported from Hungary. Lugosi says he is not being patriotic; it just happens that he likes Hungarian wine so well that he pays extra to have it shipped to him. For his personal use, Lugosi dilutes his wine with a very strong smelling sulphur water. Odorous, but healthful, Bela said.

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The Hammond Times, Hammond, Indiana, December 13, 1935

WEDDED BLISS UP TO WOMAN, LUGOSI CLAIMS

Married Four Time, He Says It’s Up To Wife To Get Along With Husband

by Wallace N. Rawls

(staff correspondent, un service)

Hollywood , Nov. 11—Bela Lugosi, the film star, nearing the third year of marriage to his present wife is certain he has found the secret of successful marriage and that he won’t be joining the Gables and other Hollywood divorce couples.

Success he declares depends entirely upon the woman. It is up to her to get along with the man. It is not in his nature to be able to adjust to her. She must adjust to him and if she is unable or unwilling to do so, marriage plays to an empty house. It is a “flop.”

The actor bases his conclusions on experiences. He has been married four times. His first was to Ilona Szmik, a Budapest society girl. It ended after two years.

His second in New York, was to Ilona von Montagh, a Hungarian actress. They lived together for only two weeks.

His third at Redwood City, California was to the wealthy society matron, Mrs. Beatrice Weeks, widow of the famed San Francisco architect Charles Peter Weeks. That marriage lasted only four days.

His present wife, the former Lillian Arch a Los Angeles girl, married her boss. She was Lugosi’s secretary and bookkeeper.

Happy marriage, Lugosi says, is love, understanding, and harmonious companionship. Its requisites are mutual tolerance and patience. Emphatically he says it has nothing to do with infatuation or sex.

The actor can’t believe that a woman is happy in business or in being independent. He declares that she needs a master, needs to be led, and, on this premise, her place is in the home, taking care of the man and his children.

“It is neither to a woman’s advantage nor interest to be in business,” the actor asserts. “She has a very beautiful and worthwhile place in the home. If she does her work well, she has more than enough to keep her busy.”

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Bela Lugosi With His Wife On Board Ship

Bela and Lilian aboard the S.S. Majestic on August 27th, 1935. They were returning from England where Bela had filmed Dark Eyes of London.

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1936

SUNSET FOR THE VAMPIRE

Early in 1936, the so-called ban of horror films went into effect in Britain (which was actually a change to the rating system which barred anyone under age 16 from attending). Hollywood ceased horror production. Lugosi only then realized how fully he was typed as a genre star. He completed a few films already in production, and then found virtually no work. A few Saturday serials and some stage work would be his only employment for almost three years. 

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Invisible Ray herald

A herald for The Invisible Ray

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From the pressbook of Invisible Ray

STRANGEST MAN IN HOLLYWOOD

As he is seen by the public, Bela Lugosi is the screen’s most sinister figure. And in his private life he still remains as the strangest man in Hollywood—a man whose deep set eyes seem to mask terrible thoughts, and one whose mental processes hold him aloof from his fellow men.

For five years Lugosi has lived in the film capital, but no one knows him. With his wife he lives in a secluded house high in the Hollywood hills, barred to all except a few Hungarian countrymen. A sign at the gate bids one to “Beware of the Dogs,” and within the grounds roam six unfriendly canines, ready to pounce on any intruder. Truly, he is a man who walks alone.

“It is true,” said Lugosi recently, “that I am not as other men. To me, life is very stern and very real, and I believe that by intense application a man can be complete master of his own destiny. I am a stern taskmaster over myself, disciplining my mine no less than my body. Often I take long hikes through the hills before dawn, and each day I walk between five and ten miles. My only meal of the day that is worthy of the name is evening dinner, at which I eat one pound of meat, either boiled or broiled, green vegetables and fruit. My morning and noon meals consist of fruit and vegetable juices, and I eat no starchy food whatever.”

“Throughout the day and night my time is budgeted, and I allow a certain definite period of time for every activity, such as reading or contemplating. For the latter, I shut myself up in my room and give myself over entirely to thinking, analyzing the day’s problems and working out their solution.”

“I take no part in the so-called night life of Hollywood. Life is too grim and cruel to permit such frittering away of time that might better be spent in meeting its rebuffs.”

*

The only star in Hollywood who does not own an automobile is Bela Lugosi, who claims that Americans exercise too little and who takes long walks to keep in prime physical condition.

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Dracula's Daughter 1

Bela was replaced by a dummy in Dracula’s Daughter

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Frederick News Post, Fredrick, Maryland, February 21, 1936

HOLLYWOOD

by Paul Harrison

NEA Service Staff Correspondent

Hollywood, Feb.20—Dracula is dead, and chief celebrant at the obsequies is Bela Lugosi.

Dracula is dead, and Lugosi, who created the monster, hopes that all memories of Dracula will die, too. Dracula made Lugosi famous and then, in true Frankenstein fashion, ruined him. The actor hopes now that he can go on being just an actor and not a horror-master.

With the movies’ genius for reincarnation, nobody was sure that Dracula had drawn his last evil breath until Universal began filming Dracula’s Daughter. Lugosi isn’t even in it. The picture will show a Draculanean dummy on its bier, deader than a doornail.

So Lugosi looks ahead, as he did in the days when he was a leading man in the Hungarian National Theater, playing Ibsen, Shakespeare and such. At 48, his days as a romantic star are over, but at least he can do a variety of roles—most of them sympathetic ones.

He wants to justify the fan mail that Dracula used to receive. A Sample: “We women can see in your eyes that you are really a good man. You should play sympathetic parts, too.”

Own Life A Trial

There has been horror enough in his own life. When the war interrupted his acting he was wounded, gassed, shell-shocked, and invalided home a captain. Later he became identified with the wrong side of one of the several revolutions which followed the collapse of the Central Powers, and fled for his life.

He appeared in German movies and sailed for America on a ship that tried its best to sink all the way across the Atlantic. He knew scarcely a word of English when he landed in New York started out to rebuild his career.

His heavy accent might have been an insurmountable handicap if a producer hadn’t seen him in a Hungarian play and recommended him for the role of Dracula. It played three years, grossed $1,900,000, and later was made on the screen.

But the play typed Lugosi as a heeby-jeeby man. His part in the English Mystery of the Mary Celeste was his first return to straight drama. Recently came his part as the “good” actor, opposing Boris Karloff in The Invisible Ray, and two more sympathetic parts will follow. So Lugosi seems to have shaken off Dracula’s ghost.

Well-Guarded

He lives in a big house surrounded by a wall and five menacing dogs. To see them and the master’s private arsenal, you’d think he still feared reprisal by his Hungarian political enemies of 1918.

He doesn’t though. Lugosi is an American citizen, and really a very friendly fellow. He’ll show you his stock of imported wine, and the nauseous sulphur water that he drinks, and his treasured books and oil paintings. His fourth wife is a pretty girl of Hungarian descent who formerly was his secretary. She washes his shirts.

Keep in Condition

The actor’s remarkable physical condition wasn’t attained without a good deal of self-discipline. He rises early, at 5 or 6 am, drinks fruit juice and sulphur water, calls his dogs and hikes 10 or 15 miles in the hills. Returning, he has a bit more fruit juice, or maybe some raw vegetables juice. No solid food until night” then he has raw vegetables and a pound of meat, rare.

Lugosi is a cover-to-cover reader of a dozen leading national magazines. He’s one of the few Hollywoodsmen who take citizenship seriously; conscientiously registers and votes every election. Methodical, too: his days are charted to the minute.

 Not Like Hollywood

His parties consist mostly of music, a little rare wine, and conversation. Lugosi hasn’t a single close friend in the movie business. He’s voluble about his love for America, but doesn’t care much about Hollywood.

Recently, on the occasion of their fourth wedding anniversary, he took his wife to the Trocadero. It was their first turn at night clubbing.

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from the Reno Evening Post, Reno, Nevada, March 21, 1936

LUGOSI PROVES THAT HE’S MILD

Los Angeles, March 21—(AP)—Bela Lugosi, who specializes in film horror roles, proved that he really is mild by nature.

He appeared to testify against Mano Glucksman, arrested recently in Tucson, Ariz., charged with forgery. Lugosi waited two hours and then the court told him the hearing would be deferred one week. Lugosi smiled and said amaiably that he didn’t mind and would be glad to appear.

 *

from the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 24, 1936

L. A. COURT DISMISSES MOVIE FORGERY CHARGE

Los Angeles, March 23—(AP)—Forgery charges against Mano Glucksman were dismissed today by Judge Clement Nye when a star witness for the prosecution failed to appear in court.

Glucksman was accused of forging the name of Bela Lugosi, movie actor, to a check for 100 pounds on the Midland Bank of London.

Lugosi was in court, but did not testify.

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Shadow of Chinatown

Shadow of Chinatown lobby card

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From the pressbook of Shadow of Chinatown

LUGOSI IS HUMAN SPHINX OF MYSTERY

The name of Bela Lugosi is synonymous with flesh-crawling horror roles and heebie-jeeibe screen portrayals, so far as motion picture fans are concerned. None of his many admirers will change their opinions in this respect after witnessing the vivid, breathtaking performance Lugosi gives as the star of the big thrill serial, Shadow of Chinatown.

In private life Lugosi is probably Hollywood’s strangest figure, a man whose deep set eyes seem to make terrible thoughts, and whose mental processes keep him apart from his fellow men. He has lived over five years in the film capital, yet few people really know him in the exact sense of the phrase. He resides with is wife in a secluded house high in Hollywood’s hills, barred to all except some of his Hungarian countrymen. A sign on the gate bears the warning—“Beware of the Dogs.” Within the ground roam six gigantic, unfriendly canines, ready to leap upon any strange intruder.

Literally he “lives his own life,” and never takes any part in the night-club diversions of Hollywood. Another of his peculiar distinctions is that he is the only star in Hollywood who does not own an automobile. He claims Americans do not take enough natural exercise, and indulges in long walks in order to keep in good physical condition

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1937

ALMOST TOTAL ECLIPSE

Through 1937, no horror film came from Hollywood. Not from the major studios, not from the independent. Lugosi’s only screen work is his fourth movie serial, S. O. S. Coast Guard. His only theatre work came in a supporting role in Tovarich, which played four weeks in San Francisco and four weeks in Los Angeles in the spring. Publicity for the play generated Lugosi’s only new interviews of 1937. Warner Brothers rushed a film version of Tovarich into production for Christmas release, and cast Basil Rathbone in Lugosi’s role.  That Christmas did see a lengthy and rather odd interview with Lugosi, published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. The article ignores the horror ban, praises Lugosi as a reigning horror king, and describes in detail a huge home that Lugosi had to leave due to his crumbling finances.

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Tovarich 1

Tovarich programme

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The San Francisco Call-Bulletin, April 3, 1937

SO LONG, DRACULA – NICE TO HAVE MET YOU!

Dracula would reform quickly enough if only they’d let him.

I had it straight from his stage and screen counterpart, Bela Lugosi, after he had stolen into this department yesterday without his usual “Boo!” (If he had his way he’d never scare any more little children, either.

In the interest of less horror on the screen—England helped some with its movie ban of a year ago—Dracula is now occupying himself on the Curran stage as Russian Commissar Gorotochenko in Tovarich, his first straight role in years. If, meanwhile, they do decide to resume things horrific in Hollywood, they’ll have to wait—or “get another boy.”

“It’s about time the film producers were shown I can play roles like this in Tovarich, or those I did for 20 years before coming to Hollywood,” proclaimed the tall Hungarian, with a stroke of his stage Van Dyke.

Why Won’t They Let Me Be Human?

“I wouldn’t expect them to remember I played a Spanish lover in The Red Poppy in New York 15 years ago, or everything from Hamlet to Liliom in Budapest…comedy, tragedy, tragic-comedy—everything old Polonius named.

“But perhaps after Tovarich, they’ll call me for something half-way civilized—no Draculas, White Zombies, Chandus or Mysterious Mr.Wongs, I hope.”

Any future call for a human sort of role will find Mr. Lugosi ensconced in his Hollywood hill fortress of steel and concrete, as if fortified against one of his own scientific menaces. He is, in private life, unterrifying—a kindly husband, a kindly master of seven blooded canines, an art connoisseur.

“And please,” he pleaded, “don’t let people thing that because I’m playing a Russian Communist in Tovarich, I might still be a horror type. Gorotochenko is at least a hero to his own kind. But personally, I’m an individualist.”

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The San Francisco News, April 5, 1937

THOSE GOROTCHENKO WHISKERS ON BELA LUGOSI ARE GENUINE

Actor Who Has Made Record as Dracula Now Seeks to Show Movies He is Dramatic Possibility Through Work in Jacques Deval-Robert Sherwood Comedy

by Claude A. LaBelle

In Tovarich, the smash comedy at the Curran, Bela Lugosi wears some very snappy whiskers. I took it that “zits” or “beavers” were the usual chinpiece tucked on with spirit gum before every performance, and ripped off, with cussing on the side, after the show. By calling on Bela Lugosi at the hotel, I found out that they were simon pure. You see, I had momentarily forgotten that Hollywood leaves its mark on one, and down there, when the role calls for whiskers, the actor “grows a bush.” The camera detects crepe beards and artificial beards to easily. “Yes, it is so much more authentic,” he told me. “I do not have to be a matinee idol, and so I can wear whiskers if I wish.”

Fluent English

Mr. Lugosi’s English is fluent and his vocabulary extensive. He was years learning the groundwork of his English, then for five years he avoided his countrymen as an oil magnate avoids a process server.

“Some of my confreres thought I had gone high hat, or something, but it was necessary that I hear no word of Hungarian spoken if I was to be able to talk English fluently.”

When he perfected his English, he was cast for various roles in American plays, finally achieving national frame as Dracula. This also took him into the movies.

“But now horror pictures are definitely out, and I must do something else, and since Hollywood has me typed as a horror actor, I am pleased beyond measure to have the rich part of Gorotchenko in this play. It is a dramatic part, and I did such parts before Dracula was heard of as a play.”

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Bela & Clara Bow portrait

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The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 26, 1937

DRACULA’S CASTLE IN HOLLYWOOD

An Interview in the Mystery Home of a Hungarian Baron’s Son whose Work on the Stage Has Drawn Public Curiosity Toward Him

by Inez Wallace

The shadows of the afternoon crept across the only black carpet in all Hollywood. Silently, they reached the place where two velvet drapes were parting and a man stood between them. He was six feet two and his hair was dark and smooth. Dressed in a silk lounging coat, black trousers and a series sash of stain, he looked foreign. Poised and very sure of himself. “Mademoiselle,” he said, and bowed low; but when he kissed my hand his lips were as cold as ice. “Come,” and he held the curtains aside for me to walk, slowly now, into a huge living room. It was just like a show.

A sense of great space, odor of muck, a baby-grand piano carved from black ebony, two divans before a large fireplace and upon one wall the painting of a woman, nearly nude, with a dash of red covering her heart and a smile on the cruel mouth. “But be seated, my dear,” said Bela Lugosi—and poured me a glass of cognac. As I started to refuse it, “Do not argue, Mademoiselle,” and (remembering the line in Murder in the Rue Morgue, where he had asked as he tortured the French girl, “Are you in pain, Mademoiselle?”) my mind raced back to the circumstances which had brought me here—to this strange house.

I am a movie writer, not a detective who solves mysteries, but that there was something both weird and mysterious about the atmosphere of this place, I could not deny. Well, I had asked for it. When I told Universal Studios that I wanted to talk with the man who is known as “Dracula” throughout the world, they had discouraged the idea. “His house is hard to reach,” they began. “It is high on a mountaintop with a drop of hundreds of feet on both sides. He keeps a pack of police dogs who come into the house through a secret trap door in the cellar, and—well, writers just don’t go there.”

And that is how it happened that my Scottish camera-man and I were on our way to Lugosi’s home—to explode the theory that it couldn’t be done. As we wound out way around the devious road which led to the mountain top, the camera-man said timidly:

“I’ve no heart to stay in this place after nightfall, nor will you after you see the inside of it. I’ll take any pictures you want, but one thing is understood—we leave before dark or you take a taxi home.”

“What is this?” I asked, “an act? Is the studio giving this man Lugosi a big mystery buildup to scare me into the mood for the story? If so, save your breathe. I’ve been scared by experts, including the voodoo doctors in Haiti—and it doesn’t take anymore.”

Then we were at the big iron gate, solidly backed by a wooden door—and as we rang the bell, its echo came back across the mountain—but that was all. The door swung open, and we walked into the hall. “Remember,” whispered my companion, “to leave before the sun goes down.”

But with the Scotsman sent outside to take some exterior shots, his warning was completely forgotten. The fire was so inviting and Mr. Lugosi, with his foreign accent, so fascinating, that time seemed to stand still. To be sure, pleasant little chills were running up and down my back but—“Tell me,” I asked my host. “Is there really such a thing as a vampire?”

“Of course, M’m’selle knows of the vampire bats in Trinidad?” he countered.

“I don’t mean that—I mean a real vampire—like Count Dracula.”

“Dracula was said to be a fictitious character,” he replied, “sometimes I wonder. Remember the lines in Hamlet:

There are things in heaven and earth, Horatio

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“But how can I entertain you?”

“Tell me about yourself.”

“I live very quietly—as perhaps you have heard. I never go out at night, but I’m up at five every morning. Of course, you know that Dracula had one of the longest runs of any play in America. Horace Liveright bought the stage rights abroad and, in the Harvard Club of New York, was lamenting the fact that he could not find an actor for the role. So, John D. Williams, who directed Rain, suggested me because I had continental training and am really the son of a Hungarian nobleman. My father was Baron Lugosi, a banker. When the play had run two years in New York, Universal bought the rights from Mrs. Stoker, widow of the author who wrote Dracula. They immediately tested five other actors—each executive having his favorite actor for the role. But Mr. Laemmle said, “as we cannot decide on who shall play it, let us use the original Dracula, and make the film without even testing him.”

I began to “unlax” a little—this was the sort of conversation which accompanies all interviews. Probably everything was going to be all right—and yet.

“These police dogs of yours,” I went on, “I could hear them howling a mile down the road. May I see them and also have some photos of you.”

“Both in the cellar. I mean my study is below ground. Would M’m’selle care to come down?” And as we neared the cellar stairs, he turned on the light switch, but nothing happened. “So, annoying—the lights are off again. But no matter, just give me your hand. I can find my files in the dark so we will get the photos now. And I will let the dogs in through the trap door later.”

“He’s doing this on purpose to scare me,” I said to myself. “How I hate the folks who set the stage.” But now my hand was in his and he was leading me, unerringly, through a long passage. The air was warm but damp and at last we came to the room which called his study. He went over to the files, found without effort the file containing the photo envelope and as he took my hand again to lead me back, my heart almost stopped beating. I had remembered, with sickening reality, that Arthur Treacher, who also lives on a mountain side in Hollywood, had told me that in electric storms, their lights do go blotto. We had had a bad storm that very morning! This was not a frame-up—it was real—and Bela Lugosi could go about in the dark as well as in the daylight.

Somehow, we got back upstairs and after I had seen the police dogs (with snow white the leader of the pack) come up through the trap door, we adjourned again to the living room. I’d had enough mystery. From now on, only questions and answers, so I began with the old one, “where were you born, Mr. Lugosi?”

“In Transylvania,” he answered—and looked into the dying embers of the fire.

“Transylvania?” I echoed, “But wasn’t that the home of Count Dracula?”

“Certainly. Does Mademoiselle find anything strange in that?”

“Not in itself—no. But when a person can see in the dark as you did just now; when he never goes about at night but is up at the crack of dawn—well you know the tradition better than I. Are you trying to scare me to death or what? Lugosi smiled, not his film smile but the warm cheerful smile of a very human man who has a sense of humor.

“Just a coincidence, which my very capable press agent has capitalized,” he admitted. “He also made much of the fact that I spend an hour alone in the dark before starting to play Dracula. I do—I have to, in order to get into the mood of the role. You see, the more farfetched a character is, the more an actor must believe it, if he is to put it across successfully. Therefore, I take Count Dracula very seriously—when I’m playing him. And even at that, many fans write that they ‘see through me’—especially the ladies—who tell me that they know I do horror pictures only because producers demand it of me. Yesterday a woman in New England wrote that she would like to see me (just once) when my continental manners might shine on the screen, without contributing to the death and downfall of the heroine. Now, as only a small portion of fans can possibly have seen me in anything but horror pictures, this is a fine tribute to the astuteness of the American woman.”

“Well,” I said, resignedly, “the producers have typed you, all right. And it’s too bad since before Dracula, you played only leads and characters on the stages of Europe and Broadway. How the heck did you happen to do such a weird thing on Dracula in the first place?”

I thought I caught a hint of sadness in his smile as he replied: “When they first asked me to do it, I looked upon it as a challenge—an adventure into new fields. So I played it, made good and created a Frankenstein for myself by so doing. Because, you see, while the public can imagine me in other roles, the producers think of me only as Dracula. There are times when, were it not for the encouragement of my wife…”

“So you’re married?” I asked quickly.

“Yes—this is my fourth wife.”

“Four wives,” I said to myself, “Gosh, maybe he’s a Bluebeard, as well as Dracula.” And aloud, “May I ask a favor: I’d like to go back into that cellar—this time with a flashlight. Not that I’m so curious to see your study, but I just want to convince myself that I wasn’t in a tomb a few minutes ago.” He clapped his hands and a foreign looking butler entered. When the servant had brought a flashlight we again descended to the floor built below the earth. The most orderly study I have ever been in in my life was revealed by the rays of our light. Everything was filed and indexed—letters, photos, publicity stories. At the far end of the cement hall the dogs growled at the door. “Why do you keep a pack of dogs?” I inquired, and his answer was “I love them—they are my pals.”

As he spoke, he crossed to a file and took out a pamphlet from Raymond Ditmars, famous reptile authority of the New York Zoo. It was a treatise on the vampire bats of South America and was signed, “To my friend, Bela Lugosi.” We returned to the living room fire, and it was while he replenished the logs that I realize the major attraction about this strange man—his hands. Next time you see him on the screen, never mind his face—take a good look at those hands. They talk—in many languages.

There was a movement of the curtains, and my cameraman was standing in the doorway. “I’ve got all the shots you ordered and its time to go, Miss,” he said with a meaning look toward the sun going down the mountain.

“But you cannot go—you have not yet seen Madame Lugosi,” and as I glanced uncertainly at the cameraman. “I will fetch her,” and Lugosi disappeared into the darkening hall.

“I warned you of this,” the cameraman began when we were alone. “I tell you I won’t stay here.”

“Go on home then, you big panty waist,” I replied, “or wait in the car if you’re really scared.” Tripod under arm, he made a quick exit, as Mr. Lugosi returned with his wife. She is tall, handsome, and very refined. She radiated a hospitality which comes easily to those born on the continent, and she certainly lifted the great Lugosi out of the horror groove, and placed him in my mind as an ideal husband and host. “All we lack now is Dracula’s daughter,” I said laughing.

Sorry to disappoint you there,” he replied, “but someday I shall write a story called “Dracula’s Wife”—only, thank God, it won’t be a horror yarn, but the sweetest love story ever told.

As Mrs. Lugosi departed to confer with her cook about supper, I dragged a huge ottoman up to fire, and flopped down upon it, which brought me directly in front of this man who has played The Raven, The Thirteenth Chair, Chandu, and other horror roles.

“Look,” I began, “I came here to get a horror story. In fact I was so set for chills and coffins that I’ve almost scared myself—and my cameraman is expiring in that car outside.”

“Then you got your story?” He asked, his eyes twinkling.

“Yes, I got it,” I replied, “but not the sort of one you mean. The true story of you debunks this Dracula stuff, and what I want to know is—is it all right to print it?”

“Certainly my dear—you will earn my gratitude—and the gratitude of thousands of my fans. Maybe it will be the means of suggesting to ‘the powers that be’ that they cast me in roles which will not cause mothers to use me as a bogey man to scare little children.”

In the hall, we met Madame Lugosi. “We will accompany you to your car,” she said. “We always say ‘au revoir’ to visitors together at the gateway.

Mr. Lugosi again kissed my hand in the continental manner—and somehow I felt very sorry for him as I left him standing there. But as I glanced through the window I could see his supper, spread out on a long, dark wood table, lighted with very tall candles, the bread on a board with a big knife and the bottles of wine beside silver goblets. And then I did not feel sorry for him any more—for I knew he had what so many successful people in Hollywood never find—a home.

At one of the many turns in the road, I had the cameraman stop the car so we could look back. Little lights were twinkling gaily in the house atop the mountain. But there was no gaity in my heart—only a lasting wonder of why I stay on in the crazy business—of why I work so hard on stories like this one, full of creeps and excitement—and then have the darn thing explode like a firecracker—before I can complete it. But when I remembered the title I had planned for it, I laughed in spite of myself. “Dracula’s Castle is in Hollywood,” I said. “Ha. Ha.”

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1938

ANOTHER YEAR OF DROUGHT

Until filming of Son of Frankenstein began in November 1938, Lugosi remained virtually unemployed through the year. His only child, Bela, Jr., was born January 5, 1938, and Bela, Sr. had almost no income. His known work is a radio appearance on the Baker’s Broadcast programme on March 13, on which he sang a duet with Boris Karloff, and personal appearances at the Regina-Wilshire Theatre in Los Angeles. Attempt to stave off bankruptcy, the small cinema was showing the first double billing of Dracula and Frankenstein. The phenomenal success of the double bill, which went on to spark a nationwide and then international sensation, sparked the return of movie horror. His only “interviews” would be a quote in Jimmy Fidler’s column and in magazine piece on the appeal of horror (though no horror films had been made for over a year). During the horror drought, Fidler championed Lugosi a few times, bemoaning how Hollywood had discarded him.

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1 2

Cinema Progress, May-June 1938

COLD CHILLS & COLD CASH

Why do we enjoy being scared to Death?

Bela Lugosi, star of Dracula, offers some personal theories  

by Harry Coulter

Why do people enjoy being frightened almost out of their wits? Why does there seem to be some exhilarating ecstasy inherent in the raising of goose pimples, some primeval urge within whose lust is satiated only in proportion to the number of chills evoked and amount hairs made to stand on end.

Everywhere—in books, newspapers, motion pictures, and on the radio-are evidences of this macabre human idiosyncrasy which delights in the gruesome, the horrible, the fantastic, which continues to baffle psychologists and to fill the purses of smart businessmen who have been quick to realize that cold shivers mean cold cash.

If you should ask the central librarian in almost any large American city, you will be told that a great share of the customers leave the building with “that satisfied look” on their faces have a bundle of murder under their arms. For next to love stories (and running them a close race), the mystery novel is the most sought-after type of fiction.

Scientific advancement of shedding light into dark corners, has served, in one respect at least, only to make them darker. With the advent of radio, one has but to twirl a dial to tune in one’s favorite ghost or airways sleuth. The motion picture has brought to visible life the Sherlock Holmes, Arsene Lupins, Bulldog Drummonds, Mr. Motos, et. al. of the books, while the introduction of sound has added the audibility of screams, shots, and the wail of the wind to complete the illusion of reality one would have though satisfying even to the most hardened addict.

But such was not the case. The public clamored for more. So, taking up where the fabulous Lon Chaney left off, came Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, who raised goose pimples from Maine to California with Dracula and Frankenstein respectively, starting a whole new cycle of horror pictures: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Old Dark House, The Mummy, Island of Lost Souls, The Invisible Man.

And, as though to see how much the public could stand, Universal co-starred its two high priests in three chillers (The Black Cat, The Raven and The Invisible Ray).

As the significance of the facts becomes apparent, again there arises that perplexing question—Why?” Why do we Americans enjoy being scared to death? What complex, little-known factors, psychological or otherwise, lie behind it all? Or is there any ration explanation for human morbidity?

Even Bela Lugosi, one of the screen’s best-known “scarers,” but a charming and cultured gentlemen in private life is not sure, although he has some theories. Fear, he says, has its origins far back in the dawn of civilization.

“I think atavism has a great deal to do with it,” explained the Hungarian actor. “For Instance, a prehistoric man may never have been burned by fire, yet some primitive sense warns him to be afraid of it. This fear of fire was undoubtedly transmitted from some previous ancestor who had been burned.”

In the same way, he believes, these inherited instincts arouse fears in us today which have never been derived from actually passing through terrifying experiences. When we go into a theater and see something horrible transpire upon the screen these long dormant fears come to life again. We get the same electric thrill which must have surged through the blood of a caveman ancestor upon suddenly being confronted by a sabre-toothed tiger. But with this difference: we all enjoy the delicious nuances of the hair tingling, heart pounding sensation without have to undergo the danger concurrent with it. Although, for the moment, the experience is real because the onlooker has identified himself with the actor and suffers with him the emotion of fear, the former can, if the suspense grows too great, look around him in the theater and find solace in the safety of numbers. Taking comfort in the thought that it is only a play, he can let out a “whew!” and grip the sides of his chair a little harder.

Theater-goers seek such entertainment for the same reasons that prompts them to read newspaper accounts of crimes and trials Also, a peculiar attraction of horror pictures is their bizarre departure from ordinary experiences and the usual run of films, Lugosi believes. People are “tired of mush” and seek escape from the worries and depressions of a dull, every-day world.

“It makes a great deal of difference,” a prominent psychologist says, “as to the way in which horror pictures are presented. Horror as it is shown on the screen and as it is told in news accounts is a far cry from the nastiness of reality, since, in both cases, gruesome details cannot be presented in entirety. The motion picture type of horror is made interesting, gripping, and dramatic. There is not the strict realism which in actual life makes crime loathsome and repelling.”

“It takes a thorough and special technique to play a horror role well,” says Lugosi.

“The more unbelievable the part the more seriously the actor himself, has to believe in it,” he explains. “The very moment he begins to play if from the outside, with his tongue in his cheek, he is lost.”

“The one quality required, above everything else, in a good horror picture is suspense,” he says. “And in every good picture there is a moment or moments at which this suspense has been built up to the breaking point, where pure horror has been distilled to its purest essence and the thrill is most intense.”

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The Appleton Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, October 29, 1938

MOVIELAND, ITS PEOPLE & PRODUCTS

by Jimmie Fidler

The case of Bela Lugosi—to my way of thinking one of the finest actors who ever stepped before a camera—proves that a too successful publicity campaign can boomerang and seriously injure the man it was intended to help. In his native Hungary and in New York on the stage, Bela played a great diversity of roles. In Hollywood, he unfortunately made his first hit in a horror epic—Dracula. And the Filmville publicity brigade immediately out-did themselves in their efforts to convince the world that this quiet, book-loving Hungarian was a real-life vampire. I don’t know how the public reacted, but the producers themselves fell for it so completely that they ruled Lugosi for everything but horror roles. Today, chatting with him, I recalled a story about a mysterious dog that howled every night in the hills near his home. “That,” said Bela sadly, “was not a dog. It was a wolf and it’s been at my door ever since.”

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1939

SECOND CHANCE, SECOND THOUGHTS

Son of Frankenstein, with Bela Lugosi in the surprising role of Ygor, opened in January 1939 to great success. Movie horror returned, and Lugosi’s long drought in acting work ended. He appeared in three more movies in 1939 and one 12-part serial. His roles for once had some variety: a mad doctor in The Phantom Creeps (serial), a criminal mastermind in Dark Eyes of London, a sinister butler in The Gorilla, and a Russian commissar in Ninotchka. Stereotyping still held him in its grip; but Ygor at least broadened his repertoire to include a few ominous servants.

Memories of the three years of near-total unemployment, with the loss of his home, never left Lugosi. In interviews, he harps on the horrors of insecurity and the fear of not providing for his family.  

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Son of Frankenstein Colour behind the scenes footage

Boris Karloff clowns around in home movie footage shot on the set of Son of Frankenstein

*

The Advertiser, Adelaide, January 21 1939

The Horror Boys Article Photo

HOLLYWOOD PARADE

The Horror Boys Start Work

By VIOLA MACDONALD

BORIS KARLOFF, the Frankenstein monster, will return to the screen shortly under the auspices of Universal Studios. Aiding him in spine-chilling effects will be Bela Lugosi, associated formerly with newly-dug graves and vampires, and Basil Rathbone, sinister villain of many a cinema epic.

Does the public want more of “The” Horror Boys,’ as they are affectionately called? A recent survey showed that audiences, particularly young audiences, arc clamoring for them. Before starting “The Son of Frankenstein,” Universal decided to reissue some of the old thrillers to check up on audience reactions. Neighborhood theatres showed a triple bill that week, “Fran kenstein,” “The Vampire,” and “The Bride of Frankenstein.” to capacity houses. This thoroughly satisfied them that if the public will go crazy over the “Horror Boys” in three different films, they will certainly pay their pennies to the box-office for the colossal spectacle of the boys together in one film. It was Bela Lugosi, Hungarian actor, who gave me a few facts of the filming of the latest hair-raiser. Mr. Lugosi looked properly repulsive going through all his scenes with his head on one side.

“You see,” he said, with a deprecating smile, “I was found dead in an old dark house, hanging by the neck. Being revived by Basil Bathbone and subject to his will, I go through life with my head on one side, due to my in curably broken neck. I am Rathbone’s slave.”

“But where does Boris Karloff come In?” I asked.

“Ah, I discover him,” continued Mr. Lugosi, trying to get the stiffness out of his neck. “In the last Frankenstein picture, the laboratory blew up, killing Frankenstein, but not the monster who was left suspended midway between this life and the next by a mysterious cosmic ray. I find him and Rathbone brings him back to life. Karloff  isn’t working today. The studio tries to give him as much time off as possible, as his part is so wearying on him. Did you know that his make-up takes three hours to apply, and one hour to Temove? Speaking of make-up, let me tell you a story in connection with this picture.

“Our producer got the idea in a dream one night of filming us in technicolor. He was so excited at this thought that had not occurred to anybody else, that he ordered tests to be made immediately of our ghoulish make-up.

“Some days later the tests were ready and the producer and his associates hied themselves to the projection room to look us over. They never saw the tests through, though, for the minute Boris Karloff came on the screen even the hardened producer was ready to drop with fright and disgust. He lost no time in stopping the machine that flashed that evil face dripping with gangrenous hues on to the screen.

“Stop!” he yelled. “It is much too horrible. Stop It!” “The Son of Frankenstein” will not be filmed in color, for although every known device is being used to promote eeriness and horror, the natural medium of color has been pronounced much too realistic and violent in its impact.

Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff are both Englishmen who made their first successes on the London stage. Since we saw him last Boris (who is gentle and mild-mannered off the screen and whose favorite occupation is cricket) has made a picture in England, and also one for Warner Brothers entitled “Devil’s Island.” He seems to play unwholesome parts and to wear pounds of heavy make-up, but he is very philosophical about his reputation as the finest baby-frightener in the world.

Basil Rathbone plays a sympathetic army officer in “Dawn Patrol” just to vary his villainous menu somewhat, but has now re-entered the realm of terror and is quite proud of his reputation as a “Horror Boy.”

Half a million dollars has been set aside as a budget for the “Horror Boys” and the studio hopes to reap many times this amount in box-office returns when “The Son of Frankenstein” is released. 

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The Gorilla Lobby Card

*

Pressbook for The Gorilla, circa 1939

NO HORROR STUFF FOR LUGOSI, JR.

His name in Bela Lugosi—but he’ll never be a movie “horror man” if his famous Dad has anything to say about it.

Discussing his only child, Bela Jr., on the set of The Gorilla at 20th Century-Fox, Lugosi told director Allan Dwan and the Ritz Brothers that he is starting early to dissuade the boy from any inclinations to follow in his footsteps

“Acting is too hazardous a career. The income is uncertain, and it is one field in which very few succeed. I would prefer to see Bela, Jr. in chemistry or electrical engineering,” explained Lugosi.

*          *          *

Versions of the pressbook piece would appear in newspapers in cities where The Gorilla played, such as in

The San Francisco News, March 4, 1939

FATHER KEEPS SON OUT OF FOOTSTEPS

If Bela Lugosi has any say in the matter, his son and only child, Bela, Jr., won’t follow in his father’s footsteps.

On the set of The Gorilla at 20th Century-Fox, the horror man of the movies told director Allan Dwan and the Ritz Brothers that he is going to start early to divert any inclinations in the youngster to emulate his famed daddy.

“I intend to interest him in more stable fields than acting,” said Lugosi. “It is too hazardous a career, an income uncertain, and it is one field in which very few succeed. For Bela, Jr., I would prefer chemistry or electrical engineering.

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The Corona Daily Independent, Corona, California, March 4, 1939

HOLLYWOOD ROUNDUP

Hollywood - Bela Lugosi waited two years for the telephone to ring, but when it did the noted Hungarian actor felt that he had hit the movie jackpot.

On the set of the 20th Century-Fox picture, The Gorilla, the horror man of the movies looked back on the two-year Lugosi “drought” and sighed his thanks that it was over.

“For 24 months I did not get a single call from the studios,” he said. “Not withstanding the whims of Hollywood and caught unprepared, I was hit doubly hard.

“It was then that I first learned what Hollywood means when it says a person is ‘on the wrong side of the fence.’ Mind you, no personal reasons were attached. It was simply that I suddenly found myself a type not in demand.

“It was a disheartening experience after so many years as a star in Europe and a recognized figure on the American stage and screen.”

“In the middle of those anxious months, our first baby, Bela, Jr., arrived. I would have been willing to fight for a job. But there was no one to fight, no one had anything against me personally.”

But Hollywood relented as it always does in the case of actors with real talent. But it was two years between telephone calls for Lugosi. The party on the other end of the telephone was a casting director at Universal studios who asked if Lugosi was available for a role in Son of Frankenstein. Available! Lugosi was willing to be at work in 10 minutes.

The success of the horror picture re-established Lugosi in the minds of casting directors and Universal signed him to a three-year contract.

He also was signed to a separate contract to appear with the Ritz Brothers in The Gorilla. And to top it all off, Lugosi is making 37 transcriptions for a radio mystery serial in which he is starred. He also is considering a deal to go to England and make a picture for British International pictures.

Is it any wonder that Lugosi sits around the set humming snatches of songs and grinning happily at everyone?

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New York Post, March 25, 1939

The Terrifying type

Bela Lugosi was wandering around, probably looking for someone to frighten. He admitted, on shipboard, that little children shriek at the mere sound of his name. He says he likes to scare big girls, too.

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The Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, August 29, 1939

HOLLYWOOD

by Robin Coons

Hollywood—It’s a little snow-white bungalow with baby-blue window shutters and you’d expect Shirley Temple to live there.

You know who does live there? Bela Lugosi. Bela, the bogeyman, and Mrs. Bela, his young American wife, and Bela, Jr., who is 18 months old now.

A delicious suggestion of an aroma insinuates itself from the atmosphere from the kitchen. There’s a Hungarian cook in there, and what a cook! Bela is just up—he reads until 4 a.m. daily and is having his unghoulish breakfast of cantaloupe, pears, peaches, gooseberries, milk—but our lunch is a dream of fragrance and delight. Stuffed cabbage, ah-h-! A meal in itself, and such a meal! Then coffee, and a dessert—palacsinta. That’s Hungarian pan-cake, folded over guava and papaya jelly.

Then talk. Movie villains, especially the horror men are charming people. That goes for Karloff, for Peter Lorre, for Lugosi. They do not always tend their flowers personally, but almost invariable they love their children and dogs.

*          *          *

The living room is not elaborate. The house is small, not like the mansion the Lugosis had once upon a time. The furniture is heavy, leathered-upholstered. The enormous grand piano fills one-third of the room.

Bela has just done what every actor wants to do. He has worked with Garbo. A small role in Ninotchka. Small, but important to him. This, he says, may be the role that will restore him to his lost past. He shares the scenes alone with Garbo. He plays a straight character, not a bogey-man. Producers, directors will see the Garbo picture because they will see Garbo. Lugosi hopes also they will see Lugosi, playing straight.

His is not a new story in Hollywood. For 20 years he was on the Hungarian stage, went to New York a success. Because he played there the horror role of Dracula and was brought to Hollywood to make the picture, he became “Dracula” to movie-makers. This was well—he had a mansion then—until the censors clamped down on horror pictures.

“For two years,” he says, “I did not work. I stay by the telephone. I hypnotized it by sitting looking at it, waiting for a call. None came. I lost my home, my car, my furniture, almost everything. I borrowed money to live. I almost went crazy.

*          *          *

Then a little theater in town tried an experiment. A full fill of horror films. Frankenstein and Dracula together. Lines waited outside to get in, night after night. The horror vogue swept the country. Universal promptly called Karloff and Lugosi for The Son of Frankenstein. Lugosi small role was expanded as the film developed, expanded to equal Karloff’s. After that, Lugosi had “come back,” was in demand again.

“The baby came,” says Bela, “just before that picture. There a Hungarian proverb which applies: ’When the Lord gives a lamb, He provides a pasture for it.”

Today, thanks to that picture, to The Shadow Creeps, to Ninotchka and others, Lugosi has reclaimed his car, his furniture, paid all his debts.

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Ninotchka

Garbo and Lugosi in Ninotchka

*

The New York World Telegram, October 17, 1939

BELA LUGOSI CAN IMAGINE NO HORROR QUITE SO BAD AS HAVING A HORROR THAT RUNS OUT ON YOU

He Came Back on a Revived Dracula and Now Things Are Rosy in a Scary Way

By H. Allen Smith

There was no doubt about it. Someone was in Room 3601. There were noises such as might be made by a body being dragged across the floor. There were thuds now and again, and occasionally a weird sound like a moan. Yet nobody came to answer the door buzzer.

So back downstairs to the lobby of Essex House and another phone to Room 3601. It brought an immediate response. “Yes,” said the deep, hallow voice. “I have been here all the while. Alone. Come up.”

This time the door of Room 3601 was ajar. No one was in view, so we walked into the living room. Suddenly from the bedroom came scream that was as suddenly cutoff and followed by a burst of hellish laughter.

Bela Lugosi stood in the doorway, a boyish grin spreading over his dark face, a bottle of sulphur water in his hand.

“Come in,” he urged. “Sit down. It is nice that you come. But I am a horror man to everyone, so I give a little atmosphere.”

It was quite early in the morning and Mr. Lugosi had on a bright red robe over his pajamas. He drinks imported mineral water so heavy with sulphur that it expands the walls when a bottle is opened.

“It smells,” he agreed, “like rotten eggs, but tastes good. I have come East to be on the radio with Mr. MacKeefie.”

RADIO ROLE

Translated from the Hungarian, this last sentence means that Mr. Lugosi is here for a guest shot with Walter O’Keefe at CBS tonight, when we will play a werewolf with a terrible case of rabies.

In Hollywood, Mr. Lugosi recently finished a role in “Ninotchka” with Greta Garbo. It was the first traffic he ever had with the glamorous Swede and he’s all for her. He’s the kind of fellow who, if he didn’t like her, would say so in spades.

“We are both racketeering in mystery,” he said. “She is mysterious by publicity and I am mysterious by trade. I thought she would be a spoiled badness, but she was not. I did not fall in love with her at first, but later yes. She is so damn human it is wonderful.”

LOW IN HORROR

Mr. Lugosi has gone through some trying times during the last few years. He confesses that the economic horrors almost got him down. The days of defeat were bitter, because they followed on a period of fine prosperity.

“I had a fine big house,” he said, “with plenty of servants and big automobiles. Then comes the non-horror fad. Bela cannot get a job. I lost everything. I lost my house and my cars and we move to a little house I lease. Next comes the baby. I tell you, I had not enough money for it. The actor relief fund helped me pay for the baby.”

Then one day the owner of a small Hollywood theater, facing bankruptcy, started reviving old horror pictures. He brought in “Dracula” and it ran for five weeks.

“One day,” said Lugosi, “I drive past and see my name, and big lines, people all around. I wonder what he is giving away to the people—maybe bacon or vegetables. But it is the comeback of horror, and I come back.

Universal went to work on “Son of Frankenstein.” Then Mr. Lugosi shipped to England to make “Dark Eyes of London.” Next came the part of the sinister butler in “The Gorilla,” then “The Phantom Creeps” and “Ninotchka.” His next picture assignment is “Friday the 13th.”

“It all happens, you see when the baby comes,” he explained. “It is like the proverb the peasant have in Hungary—God makes a place in the pasture for the new lamb. New we have a small house. I do not have to telephone from room to room to find out where my wife is. Not if I had millions would I go back to the old way.”

Doesn’t he ever get tired of being typed as a horror-man?

“I could say yes,” he agreed, “but I don’t. We are all after the little dollars to pay the rent, and so long as we get the little dollars, it is all right. But remember that for 20 years, I was a straight actor, never even a villain. Then Universal says: ‘Lugosi. Horror. Box Office. Fine’ And I am horror.”

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Horror Man At Home, The New York Post, 1939

The New York Post, October 19, 1939

HORROR MAN AT HOME

By Michael Mok

 Note: Lugosi’s quotes in the original interview reproduce his accent and pronounciation. Thus, the first quote below, “It was nothing but coincidence” is printed as “It was nottink but go-inzidentz.” That’s rather distracting. The transcription below captures what Lugosi said, and not the way he said it.

 

“It was nothing but coincidence,” said Bela Lugosi, explaining how he, a native of Transylvania, the stomping ground, so to speak, of vampires, evil spirits, the undead and other eerie sleep-disturbers, happened to bat-wing in the title role of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

“In 1926 Horace Liveright saw the play in London. He was crazy about it. He must do it on Broadway. So he says to the director, ‘Get me an actor that looks like Dracula! The director chases around and around but cannot find him. He has lunch with Horace at the Harvard Club and tells him he gets no actors that look like Dracula. Finally Horace says, ‘Oh, for God’s sake, then get me just an actor!”

In a slow, rumbling beer barrel bass, Mr. Lugosi, a tall fiftyish fellow with graying black hair and squinty, green eyes, sat talking in his Essex House apartment. Upon entering, his visitor had noted that the actor’s suite was the only one on the hotel floor with a peephole in the door. Its purpose, said Mr. Lugosi was “not to look out but for them to look in—maybe I’m up to no good.”

*          *          *

Proceeding with his Dracula tale, the Hungarian mummer recalled that he was picked for the part because he played some character roles in evening clothes and was expressed to cut an impressive figure in soup-&-fish with bat wings attached.

He played the Evil Monster for a year in New York, but when the company took to the road he left it to try his luck on the Pacific coast. There—at the Biltmore Theatre in Los Angeles—he continued to impersonate the creepy Count—fluttering through the dank night air, drinking blood of fair young maidens and finally dying with a stake through his heart.

“Then,” said Mr. Lugosi, “the movies wanted to do it. The Bram Stoker heirs asked for $200,000 for the film rights but Universal didn’t like to pay that much. So they asked me would I correspond with Mrs. Stoker, the widow, and get it maybe a little cheaper.”

*          *          *

I write and write until I get cramps, and about two months Mrs. Stoker says okay, we can have it for $60,000. So what does Universal do from gratitude? From gratitude they start to test two dozen fellas for Dracula—but not me!”

“And who was tested? De cousins and bother-in-laws of the Laemmles—all their pets and the pets of their pets! This goes on for a long time and then old man Laemmle says, “There’s nobody in the family that can play it, so why don’t you hire an actor?”

And that is how Mr. Lugosi came to play Dracula on the screen. His luck, however, was short-lived. Soon after the release of the film, Great Britain banned all horror pictures and Hollywood which derived nearly 40% of its gross take from British sales, stopped making shockers. Mr. Lugosi who, of course, was definitely typed by this time, was out of work for two full years.

It was when the movie manufacturers, encouraged by successful revivals of the Dracula film in this country, resumed the horror racket for the domestic trade that our hero was cast for Son of Frankenstein.

“This fellow,” said the actor, “was hanged but he does not die—only breaks his neck. For Dracula I used no heavy makeup but for Frankenstein—God he was cute! He was first a little part but every day the director makes him bigger and finally he is the biggest part in the picture.”

After that he made Dark Eyes of London, The Gorilla and The Shadow Creeps. His latest job was a straight job in Greta Garbo’s Ninotchka—his first straight role in 13 years.

“I like horror parts,” said Mr. Lugosi. “Sincerely I like them, but not exclusively. I like a little this, a little that – a little straight, a little character, a little everything. I would like to play a middle-aged romantic part -like Milton Sills used to play -a fella of fifty maybe that is still open to romance in his limitations.”

When he was a child in Transylvania, said Mr. Lugosi, he was like all youngsters in that region, frightened out of his wits by peasant maids and nurses who talked by the hour of vampires, evil spirits and the undead -those hapless mortals who only seem to die but don’t pass away until a stake is driven through their hearts.

“Never did I go down in our cellar which was full of wild bats,” Mr. Lugosi recalled, “Mean little bats, so small as sparrows, but when they fly in your hair, you must die. There were also great big bats flying around at dusk, and the peasant women put their shawls on their heads for protection.

As a schoolboy, the actor said, he developed into a hero among the lads of Lugos, his home town. There were two schools – Hungarian and Romanian – and the pupils of the two institutions waged bloody battles.

“I was the commanders of the Hungarians,” said Lugosi. “I was a hat hunter. Like the Indians used to collect the scalps of their enemies, so I collected the hats of the Romanian boys. In two years I got 1,500! I put them up for sale and made a lot of money.

Mr. Lugosi, who came to New York to do a couple of broadcasts, said he would remain a little longer in town if he could interest the managers of the Hobby Lobby program in his early hat-hunting adventures.

“Otherwise,” he said, “I go back to Hollywood. Here is too dear to stay. I live at this hotel for bluff’s sake – to impress you boys from the press. But, God, how it costs! Every time I drink a glass of water, there goes another quarter!”

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The Hammond Times, Hammond, Indiana, December 7, 1939

IN HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 7.—Hollywood’s first “horror theater,” patterned after the Grand Guignol of Paris, and to be known as Petite Guignol, will be construed by Bela Lugosi in the basement of the new home he is to build in the San Fernando valley.

Lugosi, who created the role of Count Dracula on the New York stage and later in pictures, has long desired to organize and direct a playhouse where short sketches dealing with the occult, magic and metaphysics could be presented.

Under the plans outlined by Lugosi the playhouse will be decorated in weird designs dealing with the occult and the entrance will be through an underground tunnel suggestive of the catacombs.

Original plans will be produced in the theater and young actors and actresses striving for a foothold in the theater and in pictures will be given an opportunity to display their talents. There will be no salaries for the players, director or others connected with the venture, and admission money will be used for actual expenses.

Lugosi plans to invite other players interested in the venture to act as a board of directors on the project, and Dr. Manley P. Hall, noted lecturer and writer, already is working on playlets for the group.

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1940

MIXED BLESSINGS

In 1940 Bela Lugosi appeared in four films and toured in vaudeville on the East Coast for five weeks. The films include his last co-starring role at Universal with Boris Karloff (Black Friday), his only film with Peter Lorre (a comedy at RKO, You’ll Find Out, also with Boris Karloff), and a murder mystery (The Saint’s Double Trouble). In all the movies, his billing outranks his screen time. His parts are small—in The Saint movie so small that his character does not even need a name.

His only true starring role in 1940 is in The Devil Bat, the first of his mad doctor poverty row films that would dominate his movie career through the World War II years. In his interviews, he seems happy to be working and in demand, though the oddest article of 1940 shows that he was still trying to break his stereotype. His attempts to find a decent role away from horror and villainy involved his name very tangentially in a young and perhaps disturbed woman’s suicide. Had Bela “Dracula” Lugosi not added spice to an already juicy story, he would not have been mentioned at all in the coverage.

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Modern Screen, January 1940

Modern Screen Magazine, January 1940

HORROR MEN TALK ABOUT HORROR

by Martha Kerr

Bela Lugosi, famed Dracula of stage and screen, purveyor of more shudders, creeps and chills than any man on stage or screen, gave me his idea of horror. A more practical, everyday, utilitarian brand of horror than that expressed by Mr. Rathbone or Mr. Karloff.

Bela Lugosi said, “I have just emerged out of a period in my life, a period of such horror as neither rattling bones, ghosts that walk, vampires that arise out of their graves, Dracula himself, nor Frankenstein’s monster could possibly give me. I have felt my spine melt to jelly as I read The Beetle, Singers of Fear, The Turn of the Screw, famed among horror stories, but I could read them on my death-bed now and laugh as I read by comparison with the horror I have known.”

“Horror, to me, comes not from the other world but from this one. I did not work for two years,” said Mr. Lugosi, with such stark simplicity that the very skeleton of fear rattled its lean, bared bones. “During that time I had a son. My first child. Horror, to me, is what I lived through during those two years. Horror, to me, is sitting, as I sat night and day, day and night, by the telephone, thinking, ‘Now comes the call…now…now…now!’ Horror, to me, is knowing that if the call did not come, there would not be food in the ice-box, nor light nor heat nor a place for my unborn baby to lay his head, nor a roof over the head of his mother. There is no agony like it.”

“Horror, to me, is losing our home as we did. Our home into which I had put all of my savings. Horror, to me, is learning that you cannot influence your destiny. Horror, to me, is the reptilian sting of the knowledge of my own stupidity, my own lack of foresight, my belief that because I had always worked, I would always work.”

“I sat by the phone until I grew into the chair. I haunted, as Dracula himself could not have haunted, agents, studios, casting offices, places where Lugosi might profitably be seen, be remembered. Horror, to me, is the moving picture of myself, an actor, struggling for another chance, a contract, a week’s work, a day’s work, a bit, an extra job. And knowing that the more I struggled, the more frantic and therefore the more obvious my squirmings and gaspings, the more I was defeating my own ends. For horror is knowing that you won’t find anybody to give you a hand when you are down. A down-&-out actor is already a ghost haunting the corridors where once he walked a star.”

“At long last, you come home one day, as I came home, and your wife tells you that the call has come and the gates are opened again!”

“No, I am not afraid of the supernatural. I am afraid only of the horror I have just described. Now, horror, to me, concerns my baby. Horror that an automobile will pass over him when he is old enough to run about at play. Horror that a hand may snatch him from where he sleeps. Fear, of course, fear is what I am trying to say. Fear is horror. Not fear for one’s self—fear for those you love better than yourself. Fear lest through your failure they may go hungry, go cold, go homeless or be hurt. Fear for those I love—that is what horror means to me.”

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You'll Find OutBoris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a scene from You’ll Find Out

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Los Angeles Times, January 14, 1940

Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood

HORROR MEN OF SCREEN JUST PAIR OF HOME-LOVING FOLKS, AFTER ALL

by Hedda Hopper

It was a dark and stormy night. Mist hung over the mountains like a halo in search of a hero. It was the sort of dreary California evening Miami papers boast about in headlines. And it made me think of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi; and when you think of wither or both of them, you can’t sleep anyway. So I decided to call and try to arrange an intimate, heartless-to-heartless talk.

Half an hour later, caressed by the fog, I found Boris Karloff’s Coldwater Canyon castle looming in front of me. The yelp of a dog pierced the still-born feeling of the night and sent an involuntary chill up my spine. But the whine of the hound brought my host to the gate, and the warmth of the crackling fire, the tumbler of sherry from a vat on the bat and broad smiles from Karloff and Lugosi made me feel at home.

HOME-LOVING DADDY

The Karloff estate is a showplace and Boris is proud of it because he planned and did most of the garden with his own hands. There is no wallpaper nor stucco work anywhere within the home, the walls are white brick, plain, solid substantial looking. The house is on a hilltop and completely surrounded by woods—an ideal setting for the type of picture you’re likely to see its owner featured in. Incongruous are the nursery touches trailing through the living room, said parlof and bar—rattles, dolls and hobby houses. Karloff’s happiness is centered upon Baby Sara Jane, born on the 51st birthday of her dad, November 23, 1938.

Karloff can’t get over the courage of women. “When we were expecting Sara Jane’s arrival any minute I was in the midst of making Son of Frankenstein. Instead of comforting Mrs. Karloff during the time when I thought she needed it most, she bolstered my courage. How unreal her nerve makes all the characters I’ve ever played in pictures seem.”

Then I thought of a story that went the rounds after the baby’s birth—a story that he was called from the studio and ran to the hospital in the frightening makeup of “Frankenstein.”

HOLLYWOOD LEGEND

“That was just a Hollywood legend,” he smiled, “When I asked the director how much longer he would shoot and told him why I was so interested, he merely said, ‘Shooting for the day is over, go down to the hospital and meet you new master.’”

Bela Lugosi grinned and said, “I know how it was. I went through hell when our boy was born. It gave me such a scare and I was so nervous I took to smoking cigars.”

“But, Bela,” Karloff said, “I thought cigars made you more nervous.”

“Not me; I smoke cigars without nicotine. It’s the nicotine that makes you nervous!”

I listened and thought how silly sitting here on a spooky night listening to two men who have given millions the jitters worrying for fear smoking will make them nervous. And I wonder if these men had been afraid to sleep alone in the dark when they were boys. Karloff said emphatically “No.” And Lugosi  said he wasn’t afraid to sleep in the dark because other members of his family slept in the same room, but many years later, when he came to Hollywood and rented a huge home, he lived alone but didn’t like it.

HAUNTED, MAYBE?

“I hired a couple, but they slept in a different wing of the house. It was so deathly still that every rustle of the leaves crackled like dynamite and I’d wake with a start. For months, I read till dawn, then, fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.”

I asked how he overcame lonesomeness.

“Oh! When I married my first wife,” he replied.

“What do you mean—your ‘first’?”

“Well,” he shuffled uneasily and said: “I’ve been married four times. First one was for companionship, which I got for two years. My second marriage lasted 14 days…”

“What? Didn’t you renew her option!”

“Say,” Bela went on, “that 14 days was a lifetime compared to my third. That lasted three days. Then I learned my lesson. Marriage is a matter of a good break, like a good part. But I found her six years ago. She’s wife, mother, goddess, watchdog, secretary and angel, all combined. And I don’t think anybody could be happier.”

Mr. Lugosi’s matrimonial sweepstake gave me the feeling that even Tommy Manville might be a happily married man someday.

Suddenly I jumped a foot. That haunted house feeling got me. Something was rustling around my ankles. And when I looked down, discovered a duck. Karloff roared.

“Don’t let Abigail get you,” he said, “Abigail was a birthday present and she’s so tame she eats out of my hand. I leave water in the pool all winter so she’ll have a place to sleep and she gets along beautifully with 11-year old Persian cat, Whisky, and the parrot.”

“Who’s Whisky?” I inquired.

Karloff whistled, and in came the blackest Scotty I’ve ever seen.

“Is that the wolf who yelped when I breezed in?” I asked.

“Sure. Whisky’s the only dog I have left.”

IMPORTED HORROR

Both bogey-man came from Europe. Lugosi, a Hungarian, became an American citizen 10 years ago. He doesn’t take his citizenship for granted; feels he’s lucky to be an American, and thinks every naturalized American and every person born here should kneel every morning and utter a prayer for being an American.

Karloff , on the other hand, hasn’t become a citizen yet. “This was the land of opportunity for me,” he said sincerely, “but it never occurred to me to take out papers.”

I wanted to get a little more of the bogey-mean stuff and I asked both gentlemen if they read detective stories. They don’t. Both prefer biographies, Gunther and Shakespeare to thrillers. They don’t mind being called bogey-men because it pays so well. Only difficulty is that it takes more out of them physically because it’s no cinch to work in heavy makeup for those grotesque characterizations.

“Any credit that I got on the make-up in Frankenstein, Karloff remarked, “should go to Jack Pierce, Universal’s ace make-up man. When Director Whale saw me in The Criminal Code, he thought I just might be the one he wanted for Frankenstein; but when I auditioned for the part, it was Pierce’s genius and not mine that won.

Lugosi said: “Even the part of the bloodthirsty “Dracula” didn’t haunted me. This may sound like a publicity story. But during the making of Dracula, I had an infected finger and when the doctor cut it and it bled a little, I fainted and couldn’t go back to being “Dracula” for two days.

MEN, NOT MONSTERS

Both men agree that wherever they go, they’re recognized and, as soon as they’re introduced, the person who meets them looks them over, then remarks: “Scare me,” or “I didn’t sleep for weeks after I saw your picture,” or “You really are normal, aren’t you?”

They get lots of crank letters, but are far from being the fan’s pets. Talking about fan mail reminded Lugosi of the time John Barrymore got an eight page letter from a fan who raved about how wonderful John was and ending up with: “Won’t you please try to get me a picture of Rin Tin Tin autographed with his paws. That’s like Douglas Fairbanks meeting the King of Spain and the King asking only about Fatty Arbuckle.

The company was so charming I didn’t realize it was getting really late—too late for a woman to be alone on the road. Besides, I thought I had enough of the private lives of the bogey-men to make a column, but before leaving made them promise that if ever a romance took place between Miss Sara Jane Karloff and Mr. Bela Lugosi, Jr., I’d be given the scoop. I can see the headline now: Preacher Ties Knot for Dracula’s Daughter and Son of Frankenstein” or better still: “Bogeymen Give Away Dracula’s Daughter and the Son of Frankenstein.”

Oh, boy! On, girl! Oh, bogey!

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On the set of You'll FinD Out

Bela Lugosi, unidentified crew member and Peter Lorre on the set of You’ll Find Out

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The Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1940

Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood

MASTER OF HORROR PICTURES EXPLAINS FEAR PSCHOLOGY THAT PUTS THEM OVER

by Hedda Hopper

A siren scream on Hollywood Blvd. Before I knew what I was doing I was out of my chair and halfway out the door.

“Hold on, Hopper,” I said to myself, fighting that impish instinct which was pushing me out to investigate.

“It’s probably an auto accident and you never could stand the sight of blood. You’d better get back to your desk and finish that column.”

It worked for a second more, until the second siren.

The time I was down the elevator in such a hurry that I even forgot to put on the oriole laying an egg on a velvet nest (the salesgirl said it was a hat).

I elbowed my way through the crowd down the street—and if you’ve ever seen Hopper’s elbows in action you’ll know what I mean. I had plenty of practice on the subway when I commuted for five years to Long Island.

It wasn’t a particularly busy time of the day but there must have been 150 people crowding around the police car and the ambulance.

It was a bad smashup. One driver was laid out on the sidewalk: a young interne was administering first aid while the cops were extricating the other. “Please stand back. Let’s give him some air.”

Why Do They Do It?

The crowd pushed back grudgingly, but began pressing forward again. Their faces were a study. I saw curiosity on some, relief on others. Some said, “Gee I’m glad it’s not me.” There was fear on all. Definitely fear.

The interne repeated his plea and finally called one of the patrolmen to clear a space around the victim. The people didn’t leave. They stayed right there until they bundled the poor fellow off to the emergency hospital.

It all happened in a couple of flashes. Next thing I knew, I was back at my desk, thinking (Yes, I really do, occasionally). “Hopper, what makes people do that?” my brain kept asking.

“What made you follow that siren? What makes most of us run to a fire, crowd ’round a street brawl, fight our way through the crowd to see the house from which the little boy was kidnapped, drive pell mell to the scene of a train wreck?”

Similarity Noted

Is it because we’re cruel and mean at heat and like to see other people suffer? Is it because death and horror fascinate? Is it an imp of some kind that’s bottled up most of the time but pops out the cork like fizz water and sends us doing thing we just can’t resist?”

Just then another thought popped into my head, which prompted this column. Maybe there is a connection between inner instinct that drives us to an accident and the urge that keeps us waiting in line in front of a theater to pay money to get scared out of a year’s growth  by a Lugosi’s “Dracula,” a Karloff’s “Frankenstein,” or a Lorre’s “M.”

Let’s take Bela first. I found him sitting on the set for You’ll Find Out, watching Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre doing a scene that gave me the creeps. Karloff and Lorre were plotting a way to dispatch Helen Parrish into Kingdom Come.

With their usual delicacy they decided to tie a spear point to a heavy chandelier so it could be released with a twist of the wrist without warning to the victim below. Just then Lugosi spotted me. “What’s the matter, Hopper? Got a chill?”

“I’m disgustingly healthy, thanks. But you boys are turning me into a doddering old woman with those antics.”

“Oh, come on. I’ll bet you enjoyed it,” laughed Bela. “And there are millions like you all over America,” he went on. “That’s why horror pictures never lose money. People love being scared. They can’t help it.”

“Horror pictures aren’t made by accident. They serve a definite demand on the part of the public. Take this Kay Kyser picture.”

“Like other scary pictures, You’ll Find Out will establish the villain as something monstrous—only in this there are three. Then we’ll make you feel that Helen is your own sister and the hero your own son.”

“By the time the story gets rolling, you’ll be biting your nails and trying to keep your hair from standing on end—that is, if your emotional responses are normal.”

“I agree, but why?”

Fear Still Rules

“Because,” said Lugosi, “you gave the skeleton banging in the closet of your prehistoric past a chance to get out for an airing.”

“What skeleton?” I asked, feeling that maybe Lugosi knew too much about me.

“A skeleton called fear,” he said gravely. “No matter how smart or sophisticated, we’ve never been able to master that old dormant fear aroused in or ancestors thousands, maybe billions of years ago. A horror picture gives you something to fear that is real to you, as long as you are under its spell.”

“Today, we’ve vanquished the beasts. We laugh at wind and rain. We live in cozy air-conditioned houses. We know how to store crops against the lean years. Yes, we’ve licked hunger. We’ve learned how to fight most diseases and in the process we’ve almost forgotten the meaning of real fear.”

Faith One Factor

“But that original feeling won’t quite let us forget. If still lurks deep down in the subconscious. It makes us restless, gives us a craving for a more dangerous and adventurous life than we’re leading. It makes some of us explorers, other race drivers, some even deep-sea divers. We just have to let off steam. We lap up all the latest news from Europe for the same reason.”

“Every generation takes us one step farther away from the jungle and the memory of its lurking, lurid dangers. When we watch a movie and keep hoping the hero will triumph over the evil monster we’re showing our faith in the one fundamental truth of humanity’s future—that good will triumph over evil.”

To which I said, “Amen.”

And so I believe it will be, even in this present war, as it has in all the others. But when peace finally settles again over the earth, let us for once in the history of the world, do unto others as we would have others do unto us.

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You'll Find OutLugosi, Lorre and Karloff in a publicity still for You’ll Find Out

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The Evening Times, Massillon, Ohio, November 13, 1940

HOLLYWOOD’S THREE BOGIE MEN STREAMLINED BUT BRING SHIVERS

by Lorena Carleton

Central Press Correspondent

Hollywood, Nov. 13 — The boogie men have gone streamlined.

But don’t relax! They still can make your hair stand on end in electrified spikelets.

Yes, the Three Leers are all duded up. Bela flaunts a swathe of metal cloth that would make some glamor girl a dandy cocktail frock and a turban worthy of Lilly Dache. Peter Lorre wears a decorous dinner jacket while Boris Karloff is the biggest surprise of all in white tie and tails. In fact he looks suave enough to make the heart of most any woman over 25 do a definite pitty-scoot.

But be careful! And don’t accept that orchid corsage! It’s tied with a baby cobra.

Time was when the public was satisfied with one bogie man, but not now. Today they demand a batch. Surely there is a reason for such wholesale horror-hankering.

IT GOES BACK YEARS

Lugosi—good old Dracula—traces the urge back to our ancestors. Back to that era when caves, instead of night clubs and penthouse apartments were lined with leopard skins. Back to that era when women never had to use tweezers on their eyebrows because they were habitually lifted arches of fear, over quick-moving watchful eyes.

In those dim, lone gone days, people developed an exceptionally keen fear instinct that warned of danger. However, as time went on the cavemen—when they were not on hunting expeditions or dragging their mates around by the hair of the head grows devoted love—invented weapons to conquer various beasts, until here we are, in the present with a perfectly good, well-developed capacity for fear and not enough work for it to do.

So, as an outlet for our instructive danger craving, we take out fright by proxy, as it were. Some read murder mysteries, preferably an Agathe Christie with 10 victims, or go see horror pictures. If you like horror pictures, you’re not crazy, Lugosi claims. You’re simply atavistic.

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Transcribers Note: The article below is a very odd piece on the suicide of a young woman with slight and questionable ties to Lugosi. Why the author singles out Lugosi for bitter jabs is unknown. I have never seen this article in print. Around 1970, there was a copy in the clippings files at the Lincoln Center Library in New York (and like almost everything in those files, it is now missing). Yolande Evans was born Iris Fontana, in New York in 1913, to a family of newly arrived Italian immigrants. Iris often used alternate names. As Yolanda Bartolotti, she married and soon divorced in 1930, and made the news as a stowaway on the Ile de France ocean liner. Iris then travelled aboard, principally to China. She returned to New York claiming to be an agent and writer in theatre and movies, but I have been unable to find any mention of her in show business news. Yolanda married Harry Evans in 1939, and took her own life in April 14, 1940, apparently the night that Harry moved out of their apartment. Whether her correspondence with famous actors, including Lugosi, is genuine or forged has not been determined.

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1940 King Features

CHALLENGE TO THE BOGEY MAN

Horror Champ Lugosi Offered Yolande Evans $10,000 for a Plot;

Now He Might Use Her Hair-Raising Life-Story as a Prize Picture Plot,

and Without Cost

by Charles Neville

Just two months ago, Bela Lugosi, screen boogey man, who achieved immortality as Dracula, offered Yolande Evans, play broker, world traveler, leading figure in many adventures, $10,000 in cash for a story that would fit the shocking character by which the public believed him possessed. “I like horror parts sincerely,” he had said, “but not exclusively. I like a part with a little of everything in it. Romance, too.” Just such a story was developing in Yolande Evans’ mind, but she did not sell it to the eerie actor. He was disappointed when he did not hear from her—until he read that she had killed herself. Where, now could he get that story? Well, he has the story and without paying $10,000 or $1 or even a dime. What is here set down represents a rough sketch, a first draft of Yolande Evans’ story. Any journeyman scenarist can fill in detail and dialogue. The scene of the story swings between Hong Kong and Hollywood, with a long interval on Broadway, a brief interval in a French jail, and episodes in many American cities. She seemed pursued by a horrible hallucination of fear that at times appeared to assume almost human form and within her heart burned an insatiable longing for love. So, she came to know many men, to encounter exotic adventure in many forms and finally to seek in suicide sanctuary from the pursuing fear! They found her dead, alone in her smart New York apartment with gas pouring from three burners in the kitchenette stove and on the telephone table a pad with the beginning of a penciled memorandum. “Call up ____.” Neighbors said that her broker husband, Harry Evans, had left the apartment the night before carrying several suitcases. Pictures affectionately inscribed and letters from celebrated screen and stage stars were found, too. Edmund Lowe, Dorothy Mackaill, Lenore Ulric, Gladys Cooper, Ruth Chatterton, Edward Everett Horton,  and others were represented. Apparently, almost all wanted plays and stories but Lugosi was most insistent. He offered $10,000 cash! Death came to her as the German troops were slashing across Scandinavia into which Hitler’s squadrons had been admitted by traitors. Of course, this must have been pure co-incidence—but Yolande had made mysterious trips to Europe and the Far East, with passports issued under strange names and the coincidence may be worth noting, Mr. Lugosi. As detectives dug deeper they found a fantastic figure developing, a dark, beautiful girl, ever on the wing as if pursued, often changing her identity. French, she was assumed to be, and she left the assumption pass, but the fact seemed to be that she was the daughter of Tuscan parents who came to live on New York’s East where the child, Yolande, was born. Yolande, Iris, Uelanda and other names she used in New York but even before that—at seventeen—she was the heroine of an elopement, imprisonment and estrangement! Ten years ago, she met a young transportation man who infatuated her at first sight. They were married two days later. Fear seemed to seize her then and within three weeks, she pleaded with the bridegroom to leave town with her at once. He refused. Penniless, she left him disappearing utterly, while the bridegroom searched the city. Two days after the girl vanished, she reappeared—on the high seas, climbing from the hold of the Ile de France on which she cleverly stowed away. Doesn’t Yolande Evans’ story begin pretty well, Mr. Lugosi? The dark child of the tenements, with the angelic face and fear-haunted eyes…the first thrill of love…the elopement and marriage…and flight again…with the big steamship …and the fear and terror gradually taking form…can’t you see yourself the personification of that bat-like figure, Mr. Lugosi? By all the rules of fiction, the little starving stowaway should have captivated captain and crew and dominated the luxury liner, but Yolande didn’t. She was assigned quarters with the steward and put to work for her board. By all the regulations of romance she should have met a French nobleman, a Hollywood producer, a Broadway millionaire—perhaps she did, but none of these did anything about it, so far as the record shows, at that time. But the idea, though trite, is still good, Mr. Lugosi. When the liner docked at Havre, the stowaway was tossed into jail for five days. Home she came and thereafter was lost to fame for several years. There came after five years, the expedition to Hong Kong and by that time, the transportation man and Yolande had parted and perhaps forgotten one another. As Iris Fontana, in 1935, at twenty two years of age, Yolande went to the Orient to study war conditions for publication and radio broadcasting. She returned last October and opened a Broadway office with a branch in Hollywood and gradually she became a figure of importance in the sphere of stage and screen—China—California—and Broadway in the middle—with fear taking more definite form gradually and Yolande feeling the increased need of protection. She hid behind other names than Yolande Palmer, Iris Patten, Iris Johnston. Yet officially she was Yolande Evans on Broadway and in Hollywood, after she met Harry Evans. She made money, too, and her Hollywood activities prospered. Then, just when things appeared at the peak, the vague fear became very definite and after Evans removed his luggage, Yolande could not stand life alone. Even the Lugosi offer of $10,000 and 10% meant nothing. Why? The question remains open, wide. Why that strange, swift trip to the Orient and the prompt Hollywood connection that followed her return? Why the endless changing of her name? Why the fear—and the suicide? There’s your story, Mr. Lugosi, and what do you think of it?

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The Devil Bat one sheet poster

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From the pressbook of The Devil Bat

SCARED MOVIE FAN PROVIDES BELA LUGOSI WITH NEW ROLE

{Transcriber’s Note: The article below is from the Press Book for the 1941 release of The Devil Bat. It would have used in newspapers in towns playing the movie. As with all press books, the quotes attributed to Lugosi may be fabricated}

An amusing experience and an opportunity to play a completely new and different role was recently afforded Bela Lugosi.

In Hollywood, scene of so many artistic and jealous feuds, the conduct of the leading Horror Men is a refreshing change from the usual pattern of these artists. Rather than being envious of and embittered at each other, they are not only friendly, but thoroughly interested in each other’s work. They never fail to see their rivals’ pictures and their discussions later have helped each of them to improve their work, which accounts for the amazing betterment of the quality of their type of production.

Thus it was quite natural for Bela Lugosi to drop into a neighborhood theatre one evening where one of Hollywood’s other Bogey-Men was attempting to scare the audience out of its collective wits.

“He was doing a mighty fine job, too,” commented Lugosi, “for suddenly in a particular savage and horrifying scene, the young lady on my left, a perfect stranger, gave a terrific gasp and the next thing I knew she had thrown her head around and against my shoulder.”

So, Bela Lugosi, the big bad Bogey-Man found himself consoling a fair damsel in distress, something he has not done since the early days of his career.

Finally, the young lady recovered enough to relax her grasp and as the picture ended, Lugosi gallantly asked her if she would care for an ice cream soda.

“The more I thought about it, the more amusing it became,” he continued in recounting this strange adventure, “for the young lady; so profuse in her thanks for my ministrations, had no idea that her mysterious knight was another Bogey-Man. I debated whether or not to tell her and finally decided it was worth another spell of hysterics.”

“Imagine her amazement, then, when I revealed my identity.”

“At first, she refused to believe it,  but after I had emptied the contents of my wallet and shown her a driver’s license and visiting cards, she admitted I was not telling her a fib. She laughed heartily at her strange adventure, then suddenly her face clouded.”

“But darn it,” she fumed, “it’s really happened but when I tell the crowd in the office tomorrow, nobody will believe a word of it.”

Lugosi has not seen the young lady since, but if she goes to view his performance in The Devil Bat, she had better go well prepared.

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The Devil Bat Half Sheet Poster

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The High Point Enterprise, High Point, North Carolina, May 25, 1941

THE DEVIL BAT MORE HORRIBLE THAN DRACULA

SAYS LUGOSI

No less an authority than Bela Lugosi himself, who played the leads in both productions, asserts that for sheer dramatic tension and unadulterated horror, The Devil Bat, his latest starring vehicle which opens today at the Rialto Theatre, far outshines that masterpieces of another year, Dracula.

Devil Bat has afforded Lugosi with the meatiest role of his long career and to it he brings a completely new and different approach and interpretation. George Bricker’s story which begins with an interesting study of injustice to a highly sensitive mind allows Lugosi to use his entire bag of tricks, and a mighty full bag it turned out to be.

Lugosi admitted not only to his friends and associated but also to the press that this role in Devil Bat has provided him with the most interesting problems of his career. In Devil Bat he admits he has used an entirely different approach to his subject, one which has elicited huzzahs from critics and fans alike. He has thrown overboard the old rules and uses forms and patterns both startling and new.

For those that like eerie and unusual entertainment a là Lugosi, this picture should not be missed at the Rialto today or tomorrow.

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1941

IT’S A LIVING

Bela Lugosi’s last quote of 1941 (allegedly, for like any movie star comment, it may well have been written by a publicist) is in reply to how he enjoys being killed in almost every film he appears in. “It’s a living” was his reply.

Lugosi was making a decent living in 1941. Movie horror would be in vogue through the World War II years, and Lugosi worked steadily. None of his four films of 1941 could have been very satisfying. He played small roles in two Universal movies (The Black Cat and The Wolf Man). Both give him a fine moment or two, but otherwise Lugosi has little to do. His other two films come from Monogram Pictures, home of low-budget, low-quality film making. Spooks Run Wild is an East Side Kids farce with Lugosi mostly lurking in the shadows. The Invisible Ghost gives him a decent role, as a man tormented by the spectre of his dead wife. Whatever depth Lugosi might have brought to the part is buried beneath Monogram’s typical poverty row trappings.

In 1941, Lugosi also hosted a stage horror show in Waterloo and Chicago, “One Night of Horror.” The show was a vaudeville review, with a few offbeat touches (such as a man-in-a-gorilla-suit  running amok on stage). Lugosi’s ability to “work a crowd” is often overlooked, and the show got good reviews. It is a harbinger of the kind of stage show that the actor would play in the late 1940s when work again became scarce.

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The Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, April 30, 1941

LUGOSI PRACTICES HORROR FACE

He might be a horror man to the movie public, but to his son he’s just “Daddy,” and to the neighborhood kids he’s the man who makes the funny faces.

He’s Bela Lugosi, Hollywood’s horror man who gained fame ’way back in 1927 on Broadway with his characterization of Dracula. In Waterloo, he is playing in the stage play, “One Night of Horror,” at the Orpheum theatre.

Bela likes babies, drinks milk, collects stamps and is good to his wife, only “putting on” his mysterious expressions for the public—and his pay check, which isn’t small.

“It’s no harder to play a horror part than a romantic lead,” Lugosi declares, “It’s just another mood created by the same effort.”

His son, Bela, Jr., 3. In Hollywood, doesn’t take him seriously. “Daddy’s just acting,” the little fellow says.

On stage, or in the movies, the horror man shuns makeup, creates his character by facial expression only, wearing no masks.

Lugosi was born in Lugos, Hungary, and came to the United States when he was 32 years old. Since 1912 he has been making pictures in Hollywood, but started his horror films in 1931.

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Daily Times, Chicago, Illinois, May 2, 1941

Doris Arden Says:

BELA ’S PET SHOWS HOW TO BREAK UP PARTY

How to make friends and influence movie-critics, or how to break up a party:

The formula (which we learned just the other afternoon and are reporting here in case some of you have trouble persuading your guests to go home) is a novel one, and here’s how it’s worked: First, you get hold of Bela Lugosi, the big chills-and-shudder gentleman: then you catch a gorilla: one at a time, you introduce them to your guests—and by that time, everybody that isn’t paralyzed had fled! See how simple it all is?

Mr. Lugosi, who is appearing on both the stage and screen of the Oriental theater this week, was the guest of honor the other afternoon at an eventful little party. It was all very nice, really—with Mr. Lugosi being charming and friendly, instead of frightening (in fact, there wasn’t recognizable leer or grimace or scowl to be seen) and with all the other guests relaxing comfortably while he described himself as a hard-working actor and a home-loving gentlemen who avoided night clubs.

You can see how serene everything was at this point. In fact, we had no idea that at the next moment a gorilla was to come lunging through the door in one tremendous bound—a big handsome specimen of a gorilla that could obviously break iron bars in two, uproot trees or overturn locomotives! Well, that’s how parties are broken up!

The rest of the afternoon, we don’t mind saying, is something of a blur to us—but at least we’ve got Mr. Lugosi’s word for it that he was scared too. So, if you’ve always wondered what it took to make a big horror-man turn pale with fright, now you know.

Mr. Lugosi is starred on the Oriental screen this week in The Invisible Ghost, along with Polly Ann Young and John McGuire—and it’s a picture, he assured us, in which there are plenty of murders. On the stage, he is the star of a revue which titled One Night of Horror, in which it is his job to sneak around and terrify the rest of the cast.

The picture which he has just finished in Hollywood is The Black Cat, another thriller. About five years ago, Mr. Lugosi appeared in a picture with the same title—this one, however, is based on the Edgar Allan Poe tale, and the cast includes Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford and Ann Gwynne.

Once we returned to sanity after our frights, we were introduced to Carmen Negri, the gentleman who was perspiring in a gorilla costume and who is Mr. Lugosi’s partner on the Oriental stage this week. Mr. Negri has made a career out of masquerading as a gorilla, first appeared on the screen in the screen in the famed film Ingagi. He proudly displayed his costume which, he said, is equipped with a zipper down the back, made out of bear skins, and rubber which has been molded into a peculiarly realistic and terrifying face.

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July 1941, Silver Screen

MEMOES OF A MADMAN

by Gladys Hall

“…But am I mad?…Living here in the California sunshine with my small son, the little Bela, playing in the garden, with household sounds about, that seems a purely rhetorical question, more than a little absurd…” “Yet my wife, a quiet girl, not of the theatre, crystal clear of mind and serene of spirit, admits that I have a strange power over her. The servants in our household, after they have been with us awhile, tiptoe about. My wife’s sister stayed with us for one year and for no accountable reason, lost 25 pounds. She said it was because she could not rest.” “My wife will tell you that she cannot rest, either, when I am in the house. There are strange vibrations in the house, she insists, when I am there. The only time she ever really relaxes, she says, is when she knows I am sleeping or when I am not there. She will tell that I know what she wants and what she is thinking without her saying a word. Hearing this, people have accused me of psychic powers.” “I do not claim any psychic powers beyond my belief in thought transference, telepathy, the power of suggestion which all who will may share. Which all who will strongly enough may share, I should add. Because it is my sure belief that if you have a very definite will, you can impose it. But to do so is an act of vampirism on one’s self. For all of the faculties of the will, the mind the emotions, the beat of the heart, the pulse of the blood, all the powers drained and concentrated into the will—then it can be done.” “One night we had a guest. I drink many vegetable juices. This night I had the juice of the beet. Our guest turned white and felt ill. Questioned, she laughed rather foolishly, said it her fantastically occurred to her that I might be drinking a cocktail of blood!” “Exceeding fond of Roquefort cheese, I eat a great deal of it. One night I remarked my liking for it and was told, with a tremor in the voice of my dinner partner, that Roquefort is aged in bats’ caves…was that, she wanted to know, half in fun but somewhat mordantly in earnest, why I craved it…” “I have what I consider reasonably normal fears of men. I am afraid of burglaries. When we are away from the house, the help must stay up until we return. We have four wolfhounds who, at times, guard our bedroom door. There is a gun in every room in the house. There are lights burning in our house all night long. There is no dark in our house, ever.” “Other men take similar precautions. Bloodhounds stalk the estate of Harold Lloyd. In Marlene Dietrich’s house, iron bars protect the windows…and no one is surprised. Yet I have been told that I fear the powers of darkness because I know too well what the powers of darkness may hold.” “I m afraid of dying. I am very much afraid of dying. But not of death itself. No…because now, in this concentrated time, with all the changes going on in the world, I would suffer to miss any of it. Yet, it has been suggested to me, again half in fun, again sinisterly in earnest, that my fear of dying is because I know what it is…beyond.” “I pick out everything my wife wears. I like to see her in simple things. I do not like exotic things on women. When we were first married, I stopped my wife from using make-up. I did it, she will tell you, very gradually and very delicately. First the lipstick…‘Do not use it,’ I said, ‘you have natural color in your lips, I like the natural color’…then the rouge, then the powder…I told her, ‘When you wear make-up you look just like the rest of them.’ I allow her to wear no jewelry and no perfume. I took the curls away from her face. I push her hair back of her ears all the time saying, “Now, this is the way you are the loveliest…’ Men like natural women, I submit: it is a natural instinct. But I have been told, ‘Dracula would not like exotic women either…he would like young, fresh maidens…’” “Up until our baby came, my wife was very anemic…‘Strange,’ more than one person said, ‘strange that you should be anemic…’” “the dogs are terribly important in our household. I talk with them like with people and those gifted with morbid imagination read into this what they choose to read…” “I never sleep by night. I read the nights through. I do not go to bed until somewhere between three and five in the mornings. I wake at midday. I have my breakfast at three in the afternoon. I read again until our dinner at 7:30. We may then go for a drive, my wife and I. I return and read the night through again. This has been my habit for many years. But it is suggested to me that I dare not sleep, that I am a creature of the night, that by day not only am I not awake but, perhaps, but not alive…” “It is all a little monstrous. Sometimes it is a little funny. But it is also very interesting because it shows the power of suggestion of horror on the human mind. It is the explanation of why murder mystery books, front page murders, horror films are so enormously popular. People, women especially, are not repelled by horror, they are strongly and strangely attached to it and by it.” “Bela Lugosi – Dracula: the two have become synonyms, virtually inseparable. Follow Dracula as I have done, with such pictures as Chandu the Magician, Murders in the Rue Morgue, White Zombie, The Devil Bat, Son of Frankenstein, The Raven, The Invisible Ghost, and just recently The Black Cat…small wonder that I cannot drink the blood of the beet without arousing unholy suspicion of what it is I am drinking!” “…for a time, after Dracula, I took myself rather seriously for a number of years…typed as a ‘horror’ specialist, a master of the medium, fit for nothing else, I began to feel that the medium was my medium, that I was fit for nothing else…where once I had been the master of my professional destiny, with a repertoire embracing all kinds and types of men, from Romeo to the classic of Ibsen and Rostland, I became Dracula’s puppet—the shadowy figure of Dracula, more than any casting office, dictated the kind of parts I played. Very well, then, the shadowy figure of Dracula should dictate my days…and nights as well.” “At first I amuse myself by thinking that it was no mere accident that I played Dracula on the stage and screen with such grisly success. Perhaps, I then thought, less amused, there is a kinship between him—and me. I found myself using my hands as Dracula uses his. I found myself going in for inkwells in the shape of skulls on my desk, rooms heavily draped into which the intolerable sunshine could not penetrate, couches in the shape of coffins…never, surely has a role so influenced and dominated an actor’s personal life and private fortunes…(If this be madness chalk the mark against me on the scoreboard). “True to his kind he has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, has drained me of everything, down to the food I eat. For when a couple of years ago, horror pictures were banned in England and Hollywood ceased to make them, I was banned with them. During that time, we lost our house, our furniture, our car. We were penniless and, more than once, close to hunger.” “It seems to me, then , that Dracula, that strange, half-human, bloodsucking, vampire bat character of Bram Stoker’s famous novel, was pursuing me as relentlessly as he pursues his woman victims on the stage, on the screen…in life.” “…he gave me stardom and he gave me starvation…enough extremes in my life to make a man mad…but am I?…To the end of answering this, to me, preposterous question, I have cast my mind back over the years of my mind back over the years of my life, making notes, saying to myself, at intervals, “Now here, surely, I was not mad. Here I was sound and sane and enterprising…or, again, ‘Here I am not so sure…for would a man of sound mind have done what I did, have reacted as I reacted?…a sober citizen or kin to Dracula…let those who read be my judges.” “As a small boy in my native town of Lugos, in southern Hungary, one of my most passionate pursuits was the acquiring of scalps! That is, we pretended they were scalps. In our town, we were half Rumanians and half Hungarians. There were two schools, one for the Hungarians, the other for the Rumanians. To show the superiority of the Hungarians it was our habit to take the hats away from the Rumanian boys, pretending they were scalps we took, like the American Indians. I had at one time, 700 hats of Rumanians boys! I gloated over them! They showed my superiority and leadership. I thought of them as scalps. But that can be ascribed, can it not, to the animal nature, the cruelty inherent in any small boy.” “I was very unruly as a boy, very out of control. Like Jekyll & Hyde, except that I changed my character according to sex. I mean, with boys I was tough and brutal. But the minute I came into company with girls and women, I kissed their hands, then I kissed their hands again. With boys, I say, I was a brute. With girls, I was a lamb. Not madness, that, I submit. Rather, I like to think, the warrior and the lover which are in every man…for men, the kill, for women, the kiss…” “I had a very severe father. A man who never punished me physically but something in his way of looking at me and I would get stiff…a magnetism…I has such respect for him. He was the President of the Bank, the leading citizen of Lugos. I chilled with fear. It was he gave me, I know, my knowledge that it is not physical force which inspires the fear that makes men sick of soul so much as that which comes from the eyes, some subtle emanation from the personality as a gas that takes the strength from men’s limbs.” “We had a household run mathematically strict. One day when I was late for dinner, my father said to me, ‘You know very well that when the big clock in our dining room strikes 12, you put the spoon in the soup. Not one-half minute before, and not one-half minute afterward.” He said, “Now, you cannot be late again.” “But the next day I was late. He did say anything to me. I took my place at the table. The courses were served…to all but me. I did not get one mouthful to eat. When we were done, I was requited to kiss the hand of my mother and my father, to thank them for the dinner and…to walk out. That was the kind of punishment he gave. It bit deeper than the lash.” “Now, when my wife will tell that I am master of the House, when she tells, ‘I do what he says, oh, definitely,’ when it is known that I must have my house run perfectly, like machinery, everything, to the last pin in its appointed place, the people raise eyebrows and shudder a little…it is not madness, it is habit grooved into me in my childhood.” “…is it mad to tell deliberate lies to serve a purpose? Lies that do no harm to anyone…? If so, then chalk me down on the ledger under mad…” “…for here, now, for the first time, I shall tell the truth. It was like this: for purposed of publicity, for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell a lie about the early years of my life. I have always told that I was appointed to Hungary’s Royal National Theatre in the orthodox way. I have always told that I went to high schools, universities, the Academy of Theatrical Arts, the gymnasium in Budapest. It is the madness of the young, perhaps, to tell boasting lies without the maturity of mind to recognize that to tell the truth is sometimes better than boasting.” “…it is so in my case, I think. For the truth I now tell is that I became the leading actor of Hungary’s Royal National Theatre, which was something higher than the Comedie Francaise, similar to the Moscow Art Theatre, in the most unorthodox way; in a way that required of me far more of will and work had if I had attended high schools and universities.” “Actually, then, I hardly went to school in my life at all. I had 6 years of the elementary schools, learned only to read and to write.” “My father died when I was 12 years old and I then ran away from home. I walked 300 miles to a mining town, where coals were mined, and iron; where bridges and machines were built. I worked, first as an apprentice in the mines. There, in the dark bowels of the earth, I did sometimes think that I might go mad…there we were sub-human men…there I learned my horror, now of the darkness…of the earth’s deep darkness than the darkness of another world…” “In time I was promoted to be a riveter, making bridges…then to the machine shop where they build four and five thousand horsepower machines…there was something about the perfectionism of that giant machinery, functioning with the delicacy of a woman’s breathing that is also responsible for my passion for perfectionism today. No, not madness, this, I say…but method, a passion for method and for functional perfection…” “When I was 18, I was promoted to assembling machines, putting them to work. I thought it was like being a god who has control over the fruits of the bowels of the earth…to touch my hand to a button controlling machines of such vast horsepower gave me a feeling of maniacal strength…” “…my hands…it was my hands that won me the part of Dracula on the New York stage…it is my hands people remark,  often, shuddering…it is my hands to which are ascribed unnatural powers, they did not acquire them in supernatural ways but from gouging metals out of the earth, from pounding rivets into vast bridges, from controlling machines mightier by far than the men who made them…the powers of darkness are not so powerful as these…” “Meantime, my sister married. Her husband was a professor of a Gymnasium. They felt very bad that I was in the class of those who work physically. She asked me to come to the town where she was living and make my home with her. For a time I worked as a skilled machinist in a railway repair-shop. But this, too, was not clean work. I would come home with my hands and nails grimed with oil…Devil’s hands, my sister would laugh, not looking at them…” “I had, at that time, a quite remarkable vice. Baritone. Through the influence of my brother-in-law, the director of the little theatre in the town asked me to come into the chorus. I went into the chorus but, never having done anything but manual labor, I was awkward. They tried to give me little parts in their plays, but I was so uneducated, so stupid, people just laughed at me.” “But I got the taste of the stage. I got, also, the rancid taste of humiliation.” “It was then I got, too, the knowledge of the main key to my character, the knowledge of which I have spoken; that I had the ability to focus my will, my mind, my body, my emotions into one deep and driving channel…If what I did then and still do is mania, then let me be a maniac since I achieved my purpose.” “But then I went up to Budapest. I saw there an agent and I told him my story—and my purpose. He hired me for a small village theatrical troupe. In two weeks, they kicked me out. This happened 20 or 25 times. But each time I learned a little…each time I was humiliated I learned a little and my will was forged to whiter and whiter heat…each time I had to sit in corners, listening to other men talk; told, when I tried to have an opinion, ‘Oh, shut up.’ I wanted to talk because they had read and I had not…each of such times, I learned…” “It was then I began. Then that for 10 years, day and night, night & day, with only one, two, three hours sleep. I read and read and read…until I could talk with any college professor in the world. Until, languages, the sciences, practical or otherwise, I would give forth a lecture. Still, today, I read and read and read…some call this mad. I think not. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, yes. But vast knowledge, then, is safety.” “So, then, by the end of two or three years I worked up to playing leading parts. I then went to a bigger troupe in a bigger town. Each week, each month, each year, little higher, little higher!” “Finally, in the eleventh year, I was leading man of a very large troupe in the province. I was seen by some of the personnel of the Royal National Theatre. I was invited to be a guest star there. I would be appointed, I was told, if approved by the highest critics in Budapest.” “I made the guest performance. As Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, I was approved. More, I was lauded among the highest actors in Hungary. It was wonderful training, hand in hand with wonderful success, because one day I played Hamlet, the next day I played a servant with three lines to speak. Besides a thorough grounding in the classics, I played, too, in many of the leading modern plays of the time, such as Molnar’s Liliom and others.” “Then came the war…” “But before that, I must tell, before that and during my years in the various troupes, there were long chains of love affairs. This is not stupid bragging. This was the life of a young and lusty actor in the provinces. It may be said, ‘But it is madness to keep count of the women in one’s life…only vampires count their victims’…at that I can only shrug, ‘Maybe’…” “…and there was one…and is this madness? Yes, this may be…” “It happened in a small resort town in Hungary where I was vacationing. One day, I was paying my respects to the Old Master of the Royal National theatre who was also visiting there. He was sitting at his round table on the terrace when I greeted him. ‘Good evening, master,’ and kissed his hand. He then indicated two or three ladies in his group. I was standing directly behind one of them. As he spoke her name and mine, she turned around and looked at me…” “Like an owl’s eyes, round, round…I imagined they could not close, ever. Like two ornaments hung on her face, they were.” “We just looked at each other, staring, staring…there were no words. We had finally, to be interrupted. As I sat there, not speaking. I learned at what pension she was stopping. Soon, she said she must go, she had letters to write. In company with another man, I escorted her home, still saying nothing. I then returned to my pension. But before I entered it, something stopped me. Something overcame me. I had to go back where she was. I got such an urge to see her, to make love to that woman that I became desperate. I looked for ways to accomplish it, just like a criminal.” “I went to her pension. I saw her in the writing room. I asked the clerk the number of her room and whether she was in. He said no, she had not yet returned. I sat in the lobby and waited. When the clerk was not looking, I ran up the stairs. I climbed to the balcony outside her window. When she came into the room, I called her to me. She came to me without a word, as wordless as I …that was the most exciting, the most mad experience of my life. That was madness. I would not, now, want to be married to that woman. But nothing like it ever came to me before and nothing like it has ever come to me again…” “…it was the story of this woman that was told, by a writer in Hollywood some years ago, as my experience with a vampire…she was not a vampire, she was a woman of flesh and blood. But she did to me what the vampire is reputed to do; she drained away much of my youth. When she said, ‘Drop the curtain, now, and let it end, as I do,’ I was not as I had been before…” “…but if this be madness, then many men have had such madness in their lives for many men have had such experiences…but I also admit that such experiences are the stuff of which madness may be made…” “The war…then, during my years with the Royal National Theatre, I have said, came the war…” “During the three years I was in the war, I was wounded three times. Twice the wounds were slight. Once, a bullet passed through my body and left me…living. Dracula, it has been pointed out to me, could not be killed by any means of Man!” “There was one moment I could never forget. We were protecting a forest from the Russians. All of us were cowering beneath huge trees, each man beneath a tree. A young officer, incautious, went a little way out of the cover and a bullet struck his breast. I forgot the Russians were firing from their line with machine guns. Not a selfless man, I had one selfless moment…I ran to him and gave him first aid. I came back to my tree and found that it had been blown to the heavens in heavy crushing pieces. I became hysterical. I wept there on the forest floor, like a child…not from fear, not even from relief…from gratitude at how God had paid me back for having that good heart.” “…if I am mad, I ask…are not all men who have been through a war a little mad? Have they not the right to be a little mad?” “…after the war, came the Revolution. There, too, the seeds of madness scatter like the bodies of one’s friends and foes…when you see them drop dead to the right and the left, you find yourself saying, ‘Why? Why? Why? Why?’” “I got mixed up in politics and had to flee for my life. I went to Germany and made some films. I went then to Italy and embarked as assistant engineer on a small cargo boat. Our cargo was steel plates. There was a very heavy storm at sea. Our ship turned over on its side and for three and a half weeks we were that way. Five weeks it took us to go from Trieste to New Orleans. Spend three and a half weeks turned sidewise upon a raging sea and the mind totters and heaves like the seas beneath.” “I went from New Orleans to New York. I played many straight roles in the theatre until Dracula. I then did Dracula for the films here in Hollywood. The character made me a screen star, gave me home and wealth. A few years of that and then the ban on “horror” films. I had difficulty getting straight roles. I lived then, in the ‘horror’ medium…waiting for telephones that did not ring, to ring…the loss of our home…awaiting the birth of the little son who was coming into that vacuum…” “It was when a small, independent producer, experimenting, revived Dracula and Frankenstein and crowds stood in line, that the tide turned again for me. I was cast in Son of Frankenstein. Once back in the running, I tried to liberate myself from the Dracula curse. I did not want to divorce myself entirely from horror roles. I did want and do want to make straight character leads my main work. I have had some success. I was cast in a straight character role in The Saint’s Double Trouble, in a role with comedy implications in You’ll Find Out…small parts, most of them, but headed where I want to go…now, again the horror medium in The Black Cat and Devil Bat…” “So, now we are buying a new house, my wife and I. It will be called Castle Dracula. It is rustic, odd, with iron grille work within and strange birds mounted on the roof…it is the type of house, my wife says, that I would be supposed to live in…” “I am not the freak, the showcase I used to be. My small son, it is, who has been my judge, who has liberated me from my identity, real or fancied, with such as Dracula…for when he sees me in horrendous make-up, neck twisted and broken, deformed, macabre, he shouts gleefully, “Daddy! Daddy’s acting!’” “…I ask myself the question, ‘Am I mad?’ and I do not have to answer…the little Bela…he knows…”

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Spooks Run Wild Lobby Card

Leo Gorcey and Bela Lugosi in Spooks Run Wild

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The State Journal, Madison, Wisconsin, September 2, 1941

SPOOKING PROFITABLE AGAIN

by Frederick C. Othman

Hollywood – (U.P.) – Everything’s all right again with Bela Lugosi, our favorite spook: he’s just bought a special spook house, so he’ll feel comfortable after spooking hours. B-r-r-r-r.

The home of Lugosi’s features dark corners, beamed ceilings, split doors, green glass windows, iron balustrades, high walls, trick buzzer systems, and similar details to delight the heart of a professional Dracula. It cost him a pretty penny, too. And that’s all the more surprising because Lugosi was on relief four years ago, drawing $15 a week from a government which decided that, though jobless, ghosts had to eat.

How he happened to be broke and without a spooking chore any place makes one of those Hollywood stories. How he got back into the bogey-man groove again is more surprising still.

Dracula Tells His Story

Spook Dracula sat in the green light of his living room and sucked on his pipe until it gurgles and told us the story, thus:

“I came to the United States from Hungary in 1923,” he said, “and almost before I could learn to speak English, I was playing romantic comedies on Broadway. I was the big, tall, leading man, with the great big smile. I made love to the ladies and solved the predicaments on the stage and I was doing fine, I felt, when I was offered the part of Dracula. It ran for a year at the Fulton theater and when finally it closed Bela Lugosi was a monster in human form. Only work I could get was monstering.”

So he was a zombie in the movies, Frankenstein’s boy friend, the black cat, the bloody phantom, the hungry ape, the Oriental murder-man, and the vampire with the steel claws. He starred in dozens of horror pictures.

“I was doing fine again,” Lugosi continued. “I bought myself a $30,000 home in the Hollywood hills. I had not one automobile, but two, and money in the bank, and then four years ago an utterly horrible thing happened.”

British Censors Ruined Him

“The British censors decided there would be exhibited in England no more horror pictures. The Hollywood producers decided that if they couldn’t get British profits, they’d simply stop making horror films. So they stopped.”

“The mortgage company got my house. I sold one car and then the other. I borrowed where I could, but who considered a jobless spook a good risk? By the end of 1937, I was at my wits’ end. My wife was about to have a baby and we didn’t have anything to eat. I was forced to go on relief.”

When things got blackest for Lugosi, so were they for the Regina theater, a neighborhood house on Wilshire Boulevard. It was an independent theater and it couldn’t get good pictures. Audiences wouldn’t pay to see the kind of films it did get. The Regina was about to close its front door when the manager decided on a desperate expedient.

He installed a triple horror bill, consisting of films featuring Lugosi, Karloff, and others. To the amazement of all Hollywood, customers intent on being scared to death mobbed the place. Other theater owners in other towns repeated the stunt with the same results.

 Spook Market Revives

The spook market boomed. Universal and other studios rushed new horror films into production, and there was spook Lugosi again, trying to decide which film offer to take. He started horrifying folks all over the place and he’s been giving ‘em goose pimples ever since.

When he finished Spooks Run Wild for Monogram the other day, he was ready to pay cash for his spook castle, erected some 50 years ago by an eccentric and since deceased German count. Lugosi’ spending several thousand dollars to modernize it (leaving in the spooky atmosphere, of course) and all looks well again for one of the pleasantest human monsters we know.

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The Wolf Man

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The Morning Telegraph, New York, December 31, 1941

DEATH MAKES HIS PAYDAY

“IT’S A LVING” ACTOR SAYS

Hollywood, Dec. 30 – Every actor lives to die.

That is to say, of course, that he invariably looks forward to a neat juicy death scene.

It’s pleasant to play romantic close-ups with the Hedy Lemarrs, the Lana Turners, and the Annie (Oomph) Sheridans—but it’s a real thrill to die, and the more tragic the circumstances, the better.

But the thrill of kicking the bucket, passing over the Great Divide, doing a demise, cashing in his chips and doing a fade has begun to pall somewhat for Bela Lugosi.

He has died in more than 100 stage and screen plays, currently adding one more to his private obituary list in Universal’s The Wolf Man.

Perhaps the most notable time Lugosi died was in Dracula when he was put out of his earthly concerns by the simple if somewhat indelicate means of having a wooden stake driven through his heart.

Personally, his favorite death scene was that in Son of Frankensten. He was simply shot, but the situation was such, he explains, that he got “the chance to act all over the place for several hundred feet of film.”

Lugosi has been murdered in every conceivable way known to man, and a few special methods have been invented for his particular benefit. In The Wolf Man, for an example, he has to turn into a werewolf before Chaney, Jr. gives him “the works.”

Though Lugosi is condemned to a lifetime of dying, he really doesn’t mind very much.

“It’s a living,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.

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1942

TRASH & TREASURE, TRIUMPHS & WASTES

Bela Lugosi appeared in five films in 1942, two for Universal and three for Monogram. He receives top billing in Night Monster (the only other Universal film to give him that was  Dracula in 1931), but is totally wasted, in a small role as a butler. The movie has a larger role, perfect for him (an eastern mystic of ominous intents), played by an actor who seems bored with the plot. Universal gave Lugosi fifth billing in Ghost of Frankenstein, but his second outing as Ygor is a hefty role, and he steals the show.

At Monogram, Lugosi starred in movies of dreadful quality and hard-to-swallow plots, but he made the most of his material. In Bowery at Midnight he is college professor by night, criminal mastermind by night. He abducts young brides in The Corpse Vanishes to sustain his dying wife; and seeks revenge on those who crossed him in Black Dragons. Through the schlock, Lugosi acquits himself quite well, but must have wondered what lie ahead for him in Hollywood.

Through much of 1942, rumors abounded that he was returning to the stage, specifically in a tour of Dracula to kick off in Chicago. It never happened. As 1942 ended, Lugosi was back at Universal, playing The Monster in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (released in 1943).

1942 offers few new interviews. Included below is a brief account of Lugosi’s fainting beneath the heavy Monster make-up, and a unique summary of the astrologers-to-the-stars in Hollywood. Lugosi’s was Manly P. Hall.

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Spooks Run Wild Lobby Card 6

 Angelo Rossitto and Bela Lugosi in Spooks Run Wild

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The Medicine Hat Daily News, Medicine Hat, Alberta, January 27, 1942

MYSTERY COMEDY SURPRISES STAR

Bela Lugosi felt as if he were back in the old familiar surroundings of  Dracula Castle recently, when he was at work in Monogram’s mystery comedy. Spooks Run Wild, is now showing at the Empress theatre, but the serious aspects of the original Dracula have faded into thin air.

“I wouldn’t have believed it possible!” said Lugosi. “Here we had all the trappings which made the original Dracula such a strange, eeire drama—the cobwebs, the bat, the dark cellars, the coffins, the menacing shadows, and yet the whole thing has become one long road of laughter. Though I must remain just as serious as before I found that I could hardly keep my face straight.”

“This picture simply proves that the ‘treatment’ given a story is the only thing which decides whether it will emerge as a serious drama or a comedy.”

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The Ghost of Frankenstein

Cedric Hardwicke and Bela Lugosi in the Ghost of Franknstein

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The Morning Telegraph, New York, March 9, 1942

HORROR ACTOR FAVORS FUN

Lugosi Prefers Comedy, Newsreels and Cartoons to Gruesome Film Fare

Hollywood, March 8. – Bela Lugosi, the specialist in spine-chilling drama of the “Dr. Frankenstein” and “Dracula” brand, has a personal aversion to red-blooded entertainment, and infinitely prefers the lulling nuances of the bedtime fable.

Currently re-enacting one of his horror roles as the warped maniac who directs the terroristic reign of the monster in Ghost of Frankenstein at Universal studios, Lugosi confessed that artisitically there is considerable of the “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” in his own personality.

“To portray a maniac offers a compelling challenge,” he said. “I find, however, that once I have completed such a role, my interest in it immediately abates. As a matter of fact, chill drama holds no lure for me as a spectator. On the contrary and apparently as a release from my workday life, I personally gain my theatrical diversion most delightfully from the frothiest of screen nonsense.”

“A travel subject or a cartoon short, well-made and free from realistic thrill stuff is frequently my choice on the film bill,” Lugosi added.

Associated with Lugosi in the cast of Ghost of Frankenstein are Lon Chaney as the monster, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Lionel Atwill, Ralph Bellamy and Evelyn Ankers.

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Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman

Bela Lugosi in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man

(Courtesy of www.doctormacro.com)

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The Daily Times, Wichita, Kansas, November 6, 1942

BELA LUGOSI DOES FAINTING THIS TIME

Hollywood, Nov. 6 (INS) – In movie theaters of the country, numerous feminine fans were reported to have fainted when they saw the Frankenstein monster upon the screen.

Yesterday, in Hollywood, the tables were turned.

Bela Lugosi, the third actor to portray filmdom’s best known horror character, lost consciousness while strapped to a surgical table during the shooting of a scene from Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.

According to doctors, the star was a victim of his makeup, which takes four hours to put on, and which is painful in the wearer.

After being revived, Lugosi was sent home to bed.

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Manly P. HallManly P. Hall

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The Daily Times, Wichita, Kansas, November 6, 1942

HOLLYWOOD MAY BAN ASTROLOGERS

Screen Stars have Relied on Seers

Hollywood, Nov. 13 (UP) – The psychics and astrologers who have been prophet and counselor at fabulous fees to many of Hollywood’s most famous films stars, may be outlawed under a model ordinance drafted today at the request of the county manager’s office.

From the most prosperous of all, Astrologer Norvell, to the most humble reader of tea leaves, they will be forced to look into the future themselves to learn what it holds for them, if the ordinance is adopted by municipalities within the county.

Hollywood—with its temperamental and superstitious population and its big salaries—always has provided seers with well-paying customers.

Norvell is the most prosperous in the film colony today. Among his devotees is Marlene Dietrich, who consults him regularly about her career and private life.

Mary Pickford helped line the pocketbook of the late Cheiro, who died in 1936, leaving a large fortune. She became one of the town’s most famous actresses and richest women and gave Cheiro part of the credit for her success.

Manly P. Hall guides the destinies—under the zodiac—of Bela Lugosi, the movie monster. Once, because he was a friend of Hall, Lugosi was invited to speak at an astrologist convention in San Francisco. He declined, he said, because the stars “were not quite right” for him to travel.

An actress known as Kadja plays small parts in the movies, but at parties such as Mr. Basil Rathbone gives for Hollywood society, she is the center of attention as a fortune teller.

Norvell succeeded Cheiro as Hollywood’s busiest prophet. Besides giving advice to the movie stars in the privacy of his studio, he is making an appearance at a Los Angeles theater. He predicts yesterday that Hedy Lamarr would have two more husbands and that both Clark Gable and Tyrone Power will return safely from the war.

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1943

“HAVING RUN THE GAMUT…”

Four new Bela Lugosi movies appeared in 1943, but the year is marked by his return to the stage. He had not worked in theatre since 1937 (a two month west coast tour in Tovarich), and had not appeared on stage in Dracula since 1932 (a one week run in Portland, Oregon, though in late 1933 he did appear in an abbreviated version on the vaudeville circuit). Lugosi starred in an east coast tour of Dracula in the spring of 1943, and in a west coast tour of Aresnic & Old Lace. The comedy would become a mainstay of Lugosi’s stage work in post-World War II summer stock.

The theatre tours generated a lot of interviews, as Lugosi & company travelled to city after city, and encounter local reporters.  Those reporters depended a lot on the tour publicity releases. The release for the Dracula tour began included a Lugosi profile that begins with “having run the Hollywood horror gamut from Georgian monsters to baying werewolves…” So, do many of the interviews, though most reporters extracted from Lugosi at least one unique quote for their essays.

In San Francisco, Lugosi’s debut in Arsenic & Old Lace, he received a longer, meatier profile in The San Francisco Chronicle, which devoted its Sunday Supplement “The World of Drama” to Lugosi. When Arsenic & Old Lace moved on to Los Angeles, Lugosi appeared in the play at night, and filmed Return of the Vampire at Columbia during the day. That film gave Lugosi his last top-billing at a major studio, and his second role as a caped, coffin-sleeping, blood-sucking vampire. Lugosi’s “Armand Tesla” is Dracula in all but name.

Otherwise, business as usual on the movie front. Lugosi played a rather sympathetic mad doctor in Monogram’s The Ape Man, and made what is little more than a cameo appearance opposite The East Side Kids’ Ghosts on the Loose. He was again misused by Universal in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (filmed in late 1942). Lugosi played The Monster, who—thanks to a brain transplant at the end Ghost of Frankenstein—is rather talkative. After filming, Universal reconsidered and deleted all of Lugosi’s dialogue and a good part of his character’s motivation.    

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1943 Programme Cover

Transcribers Note: From April through June 1943, Bela Lugosi returned to the stage in a theatre tour of Dracula. The souvenir program included a number of past interviews with Lugosi, including the ones below. The others have been posted in the years of their original appearance. The original publication date of these pieces is not known.

From the souvenir program for the 1943 Dracula stage tour

“DRACULA PROVES VERY NICE PERSON

 WHEN HE’S OFF-STAGE

Bela Lugosi Admits He Is Sick of Always Being Introduced as World’s Most Famous Vampire Bat ; to Star in Broadway Play

by Don Craig

Bela Lugosi is a much nicer man off-stage than he is on. He doesn’t growl. He doesn’t wave black capes in your face. He doesn’t ever try to suck blood out of your neck. Not that you expect such things when you to catch a play. But then you don’t often pay a visit to the most famous theatre “vampire.” No, the man behind “Dracula” is very likeable and very interesting. As a matter of fact, you’d hardly know he was the same person—except for that accent which he still hasn’t overcome. At least, that was the impression I had by the time I draped myself over the Fox last night. Mr. Lugosi sat down at his dressing table. “Well, what do you want to know,” he asked. “I want to know whether you are still thrilled over playing ‘Dracula,’” I began. “No!” Bela announced flatly. (He’s the only artist I ever saw who can talk while removing make-up with getting cold cream in his mouth.) “As a matter of fact, I’m sick of it.”

Rather Disconcerting

 Having worked myself up into a splendid enthusiasm for the role in question, I looked a little taken back. Bela laughed. “Suppose you were introduced as a vampire-bat every place you? “I admitted that would be rather disconcerting.” “Well, that’s the way it is with me. It’s gotten so almost nobody but my wife calls me by my right name.” (Incidentally, Mrs. Lugosi travels with her famous husband on most of his tours. She’s a slight, attractive woman who scurries about the room gathering up Dracula’s robes and hanging them on the walls.)

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From the souvenir program for the 1943 Dracula stage tour

A REMARKABLE CAREER

Hungarian Player Flies from His Native Land after Political Revolution

Once “a Price” was “on the Head” of Bela Lugosi

He made a hit in a colourful role on the stage—but most of the time he didn’t know what he was saying! One of the most remarkable feats in the annals of theatricals was accomplished some years ago by Bela Lugosi, the famous Hungarian actor, shortly after he went to the United States, when his political activities had compelled him to flee from his native country with a price on his head. Appearing as the star of a travelling company presenting plays in the Hungarian language, Lugosi had failed to learn English, but his performance in one of the plays in his repertoire led a New York theatrical manager to approach him with an offer to play a role in The Red Poppy. Fortunately, the manager could talk German, and in that language Lugosi confessed his inability either to understand or speak a word of English. “But give me a chance!” he suggested. “Give me a tutor, take his salary out of my future earnings, and by the time you are ready to start rehearsals I will know my part.” Though he was at first doubtful, the stage director finally agreed to the proposition, and Lugosi at once began an intensive course of study. At such short notice he made no attempt to learn the English language, but under the coaching of his tutor he learned his entire role phonetically, as one might learn the music of a song. He simply memorized and imitated the sounds made by his teacher. Three months later the company came together for the first rehearsal. The other members of the cat, typewritten parts in hand, either read their speeches or stumbled through them in a halting fashion. But Lugosi was letter-perfect, and gave such a convincing portrayal of his role that the other members of the company gathered around him and began to offer their congratulations. The embarrassed Hungarian smiled shyly and shook his head. He did not know what they were saying. But when the play opened he played his part with such consummate artistry that Alan Dale, the frankly-vitriolic critic acclaimed him “the greatest actor ever to come to America.” During the run of The Red Poppy in New York, Lugosi entered the Columbia University and took a course in English, and in 1927, when Dracula was first produced as a stage play, he was engaged to play the title role of Count Dracula.

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The Hartford Daily Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, April 25, 1943

LUGOSI OCCUPIES STRANGEST HOUSE

IN FILM CAPITAL

It is singularly appropriate that Bela Lugosi, the most mysterious man in Hollywood’s colony, lives in the cinema capital’s strangest house.

Lugosi heads the distinguished cast which comes to the stage of the Bushnell Memorial on Saturday, May 1 for two performances of the thrilling Bram Stoker drama, Dracula.

The residence owned by Lugosi is entirely hidden by a high fence on a secluded street in North Hollywood. A visitor can gain entrance to the grounds only by stepping into a tiny room which adjoins the auto-gate and telephoning to the house his identity and the details of his errand. Then, if his story is satisfactory, the electric catch on the inner lock clicks and he is free to enter the grounds. Wide driveways sweep up to the house, which is masked by towering trees.

The house itself is a building of many strange architectural angles with portions of the roof almost touching the ground. Part of the exterior is of stucco, while other sections are of natural wood with bark on. Barbeque, garage and other buildings are of similar construction. The roof of the main house rises sharply to a high peak, surmounted by enormous storks standing beside their nests.

Within the house might be the dwelling of “Dracula” himself. Heavy beams are everywhere, and all doors open in upper and lower sections, which are bound with wrought iron and studded with giant spikes. The windows are of stained glass and illumination is provided by old-fashioned lanterns, the furniture is made to match, even to the grand piano, all of heavy design.

“I really feel,” said Mr. Lugosi, “that I have a home to match and express my personality, the same as I feel when I play parts that call for very hard and arduous work.”

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The Boston Herald, Boston, Massachusetts, May 2, 1943

BELA LUGOSI, STAR OF DRACULA, IN PERSON

by Bela Lugosi

Having run all the alarming Hollywood fight gamuts from Georgian monsters to baying werewolves, it is certainly rather relieving to find myself back in the role of the relatively innocuous blood-sucking vampire. I have sort of an affection for this role, and since to this day people refer to me as “Dracula” Lugosi, I fell a paternalism towards the character very much akin to that which Frankenstein must certainly have felt for the monster he created.

Ordinarily I am a very pleasant soft-spoken gentleman, I think, affably observing the world from my six foot two inches. I love gypsy music, dogs and Hungarian food, which is natural, I think you will agree. However, I am an avowed Roosevelt disciple and I think without doubt the President is the greatest outstanding personality of the day. I am a firm believer in his ideas and ideals and you can put that down in spades. I really believe this is a propitious time for a revival of Dracula. I think audiences need an emotional release and a certain stimulus which this kind of escapist entertainment provides. Now you take after a session of pure undiluted horror, like this, the public is better equipped to cope with the realities of the day.

It is also interesting to me to see that the treatment of this thriller is now being approached in a very different manner by a new cast of people, some who have never even seen the play. Unlike me, they have no preconceived notions of how the dramas should be projected, and they are all eager to contribute something of their own ideas, which is not bad and at times very interesting, I think.

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Locust Theatre, Philadelphia, May 19-29*

The Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 19, 1943

MENACE WITH COLD FEET—THAT’S BELA LUGOSI

by Elsie Finn

Almost simultaneous with news of Dracula’s arrival in town came word of a series of broken shop windows—all belonging to stamp collectors.

Stamps, of course, would have no interest for Dracula, long-established as a vampire whose only greed is for human blood. But what with Red Cross demands and war shortages the demon might well have discovered a substitute—perhaps the glue on stamps.

With neck carefully concealed (vampires always attack the neck) and our best Sherlock Holmes bonnet, we decided to investigate. Dracula is registered at a local hotel as Bela Lugosi.

Posy-Picking Demon?

Instead of the green-skinned, webbed fingered monster we expected, a large, smooth affiable fellow with squint eyes rose to greet us graciously, he reached a pudgy finger for a nicotine-less cigar and we were at once convinced that here was another posy-picking demon, no more ferocious than Boris Frankenstein Karloff.

Our ease was short-lived.

“My feet get very cold,” said Lugosi, stretching his No. 17’s and wriggling them energetically. “No blood,” he smiled, looking right through our neck scarf.

“I have to message them each night,” said Mr. Dracula, a tall handsome young woman also known as Mrs. Lugosi. We noticed a diamond-studded gold bat pinned at the neck of her dress.

Dogs and Buzzers

“We live very quietly and normally,” Lugosi continued, “behind a lovely high fence. No one can enter our grounds unless we buzz a buzzer—and tie up the dogs.”

“We’ve two of them,” added Mrs. L.

“Gentle as kittens,” said her husband, “except to strangers.”

“The storks are gentle, too,” added the wife. “They nest atop our house and only fly into the faces of those Bela dislikes.”

The Lugosis have been married 10 years and are truly happy according to his wife (she’s his fourth and only fellow Hungarian among them all). One of the reasons for their happiness, according to the husband, is the fact that he had never permitted his wife to dance with another man. Nor he dance with other women.

While the actor was relating the story of his life, his wife moved methodically about, putting things at either parallel or right angles as her husband watched approvingly. Suddenly, he jumped up, bowed, kissed our hand, mopped his brow and was gone.

About Those Stamps

“Those stamps!” Sighed Mrs. Lugosi. “Bela needs two more to complete his Hungarian collection. I hope he gets them – – or – -”

“Or what?” We demanded.

“Poor Manley Hall!” She continued (Hall is a Hollywood scenarist). “Manley’s collection is complete. And if Bela doesn’t get those two stamps before we return to Hollywood….”

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Erlanger Thatre, Buffalo - May 31 - June 5, 1943

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The Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, New York, May 29, 1943

BELA LUGOSI HEADS CAST OF DRACULA

Terrifying audiences was not always Bela Lugosi’s chief means of earning a livelihood. Until creating the vampire role in Dracula on the American stage in 1927, the screen’s most versatile bogeyman had been regarded as a promising romantic lead who ultimately might do notable things with the classics. He leaned toward Shakespeare and Ibsen.

But after a year on the New York stage as the horrible Count Dracula, the public nor this producers would have Mr. Lugosi any other way. He was consigned to a life of stage and screen horror. Since then, he has played everything from Georgian monsters to baying werewolves.

And, except for a brief period around 1936, Mr. Lugosi always found the dispensing of horror a very profitable business. It has enabled him to pamper his love of wolfhounds, rare postage stamps, music, good books and Hungarian food.

In 1936, however, the British Government banned the horror film, and Hollywood soon stopped making them.

“I had been so long associated with horror parts by then,” Mr. Lugosi asserted, “That I rapidly started on the downward skid. I was facing a personal horror called bankruptcy. Ultimately, however, Hollywood relented and resumed making horror pictures. Now, I am solvent again.”

Mr. Lugosi, who enacts his original vampire role in the revived Dracula coming to the Erlanger Monday for a week’s run, considers the play’s monster “relatively innocuous after the gamut of horror men he has run in Hollywood.

“This is a propitious time for a revival of Dracula,” Mr. Lugosi asserted. “I think audiences need the emotional release and stimulus which this kind of escapist entertainment provides.”

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Hanna Theatre, Cleveland, 1943

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The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, June 2, 1943

DRACULA IS STAMP FIEND OFF THE STAGE

Having run an alarming Hollywood horror gamut from Georgian monsters to baying werewolves, Bela Lugosi is rather relieved to find himself back in the role of the relatively innocuous blood-sucking vampire.

The man whose name has been practically synonymous with all varieties of hair-raising melodramas has an understandable affection for Dracula, which brings him back to the Hanna’s stage tomorrow evening.

His frightening personation of Count Dracula turned Broadway’s footlights on him 18 years ago, inspiring a cycle of graveyard chillers that made him one of the screen’s foremost bogeyman. That is why Lugosi revived his favorite play for this stage tour, which is more or less of a vacation for him.

“I never know what kind of a monster Hollywood will ask me to create next,” said the character actor whose latest film shockers were Bowery at Midnight, Wolf Man, Corpse Vanishes, and Ghost of Frankenstein.

Waited Two Years for Call

Although frightening, fiendish roles brought him a fortune, keeping him busy in the movie mills for 25 years, he likes to recall the days when he portrayed more romantic parts on stages of his native Hungary.

“But I have had my share of bumps,” declared Bela. “For two years I waited for the telephone to ring, but didn’t get one call from the studios when there was a drought of thrillers. You remember when the British Embassy banned horror pictures, and Hollywood ceased producing them in order to retain the English trade.

I suddenly found myself in 1936 a type not in demand. It was a disheartening experience. In the middle of those anxious months our first baby, Bela, Jr., arrived.”

“Just when I was willing to take any sort of roles, a call came from Universal Studios, asking if I was available for a role in Son of  Frankenstein. Available? Why I was willing to be at work in 10 minutes. That picture started films about monsters rolling again, and now the war is adding impetus to another cycle of back-chilling melodramas.”

Crazy About Stamps

Off stage, Lugosi is a bland, soft-spoken gentleman, affably observing the world of realism from his height of six feet two inches. His tastes, oddly enough, run to gypsy music, dogs, Hungarian food and stamps.  He is an ardent collector of tiny, colored, rare bits of paper, with a Hungarian collection that is almost complete.

Mrs. Lugosi, his fourth wife and the only fellow-Hungarian among them all, travels with him, acting as a buffer and adviser.

As long as horror continues to sell at a premium, it seems safe to assume that Bela’s financial worries are over.

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The Washington Post, Washington, D. C., June 20, 1943

‘DRACULA’ LUGOSI GLAD TO BE BACK WHERE HE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR THE AUDIENCE SHRIEK

Bela Lugosi, whose name has been practically synonymous with horror since he created the role of Dracula on Broadway years ago, returns to the stage in his original role on Monday  evening, when the revival of Dracula opens at the National Theater for a limited engagement.

Having run an alarming Hollywood horror gamut from Georgian monsters to baying werewolves, Mr. Lugosi is rather relieved to find himself back in the role of the relatively innocuous blood-sucking vampire.

Off-stage, Mr. Lugosi is pleasant and soft-spoken, affably observing the world from his height of 6 feet 2 inches. His tastes run to gypsy music, dogs and Hungarian food. He is, moreover, an avowed Roosevelt disciple.

“The president is the greatest personality of the day, in my opinion,” states Mr. Lugosi, “and I am a firm believer in his ideas and ideals.”

He believes that audience now need the emotional release and stimulus which escapist entertainment line Dracula provides.

Before Mr. Lugosi created the role of Dracula, which proved to be the sensational forerunner of years of projected horror on stage and on screen, he played only romantic leads. Since Dracula, however, the public would have none of Lugosi in anything but horror roles.

He is delighted at the idea of being back to the legitimate theater. “It will be a real thrill to hear an audience gasp in terror. The more horrified they are, the better I like it.”

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The Hearne Democrat, Hearne, Texas, July 2, 1943

GOVERNMENT GIRL IN WASHINGTON

by Penny Chatmas

In an attempt to forget Congressional disturbances, I dashed down to the National Theater to get a little cheer from their last playoff this season. It turned out that they were doing that gay little play, Dracula with Bela Lugosi furnishing the major thrills. Actually, after being on the hill and seeing some of the stuff that goes on up there, Dracula wasn’t half as frightening as it might have been. Afterwards, desiring a closer look at the horror man, I went back stage where he complacently sat, with a cigar in his mouth, and a smile on his face. I looked at him and said, “You wouldn’t feel insulted, would you, if I told you that you were perfectly horrible to night.” He laughed, continued writing autographs, and relied, “No, not at all”—So the bad man has a good sense of humor.

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The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Supplement “This World,” August 8, 1943

THE WORLD OF DRAMA — BELA LUGOSI

by Dwight Whitney

I am here to report something which may prove starling at first. Don’t be too disillusioned, but Bela Lugosi had parsley omelette for lunch last Wednesday. Contrary to any fly-by-night reports that may be circulating around, Mr. Lugosi does not exist solely off herbs and potions, nor does he have a mobile laboratory in which he practices alchemy before breakfast, as, I believe, was once a story given some credence by an overzealous press agent.

As a matter of fact, the occult, the pseudo-occult,  and all the horrific Hollywood ramifications thereof, bore Mr. Lugosi considerably. That is, they bore him only insomuch as he has been forced, by a theatrical happenstance to overindulge himself in what Hollywood euphemistically calls horror. He is the actor who very name will strike terror into the heart of all but the most unsusceptible, and there is hardly a month goes by when he does not transplant the brain of at least one anthropoid into the body of a man, or hold a nocturnal tryst with a zombie.

Not that Mr. Lugosi doesn’t look the part. He as the long thin fingers of an artist, the gaunt face with small searching eyes and black eyebrows which curl sinisterly around his eye-sockets until they almost touch the cheekbones, and the loose rambling frame which lends him an air of the unworldly such as one might find in Edgar Allan Poe. In truth it is not difficult to imagine him among his beakers and test tubes carrying on nefarious experiments in a subterranean crypt.

But Lugosi is not a professional ghoul, he is an actor. In Hungary where he was born on October 20, 1882, he trained at Budapest’s Academy of Theatrical Arts, and by 1913 was the leading actor in that city’s famous Royal National Theater where he played everything from Hamlet to Cyrano to Lilliom. His professional marriage to the horrors was consummated in 1927 when Horace Liveright, then a producer, was looking around for somebody to play Count Dracula in the American production of the fabulously successful English adaptation of Bram Stoker’s minor classic.

From that day to this he has been playing Dracula in all the imitations and bastardizations of which the scriptwriters are capable. Dracula, says Lugosi, the only horror play ever written. He originally played it because it “added a new color to the rainbow of my character parts.” Then the rainbow became permanent.

Lugosi’s interest ended there. From then on it was a marriage of convenience. He has never read any more of the world’s occult literature then might be expected of the normally alert reader. Her had read and admired A. Conan Doyle, but has never particularly appreciated the mystic in Doyle’s make-up which make the Sherlock Holmes series among the finest detective stories ever written.

Instead, he pours all his energy into what he calls “dry-reading.” The library of his Hollywood retreat is packed with weighty tomes on economy, history, politics, and social evolution. He is an active anti-fascist, a self styled “extreme liberal democrat.” He reads two newspapers a day. “You must learn to read a newspaper the way you learn a profession. An amateur cannot read a modern newspaper and get anything out of it.”

His favorite newspaper on the Coast (with which he is acquainted) is Los Angeles’ liberal Daily News. He had definite ideas about newspaper publishers and editorial policy. He subscribes to The Reader’s Digest, Time (which he took for 10 years and just recently gave up), The Nation, The New Republic, The New Masses, In Fact, and Forum, as well as a dozen Hungarian magazines.

He has recently been active in forming a Hungarian anti-fascist committee among Hungarians in America, and was later elected president. Into this project he packs all the power of his political convictions. He knows his own people well enough to realize that “they cannot deal with the Nazi feudalism.” This man who goes around frightening little children at night is one of the most conscientious workers for what he calls 100% ideal democracy” during the daytime.

In Hollywood, he has a wife and a 5½ year old son whom he installed in a house of his own design in North Hollywood. He makes on the average of 5 or 6 pictures a year, all of them bad. The average Hollywood horror costs upwards of $75,000 which is cheap by Hollywood standards. If a producer would spend money and employ topnotch writers, Lugosi thinks the movies could do something to equal the stature of Dracula. There is a place for a good horror picture; it suppliers a need which is best explained in the Greek theory of tragedy, a catharsis.

The trouble with movies, Lugosi agrees, is that there are very few people who understand that what you can see, no matter how horrible, is not half as frightening as what you can’t see. It is the imminence and not the actuality. Only the great macabre writers like Poe understand that.

As it is, Hollywood has a peculiar tendency, Lugosi says, to turn a shocker into three degree entertainment, with a bludgeon instead of a rapier.

Strangely enough, Lugosi’s house would seem to bear out in certain respects the popular notion of what the private life of the demonologist should consist. His estate is surrounded by a wall of four feet thick, with a large iron gate covered with elaborate grillwork and on which sets a sign reading, “Beware of the Dog.” To enter one must knock first (I think 3 times is the correct number) on a heavy oak door, whereupon, if his papers are correct, he is admitted through a tiny door to one side. Once inside he will find a spacious lawn with Lugosi’s Swiss chateau sitting in the middle of it. Inside the house, he will find high paneled ceilings, heavy leather furniture, windows set in lead, a large fireplace and a spittoon.

There is no reliable information as to whether or not the Lugosis have a pet vulture sitting over the mantelpiece. I once met a man who claimed he saw it, but this no doubt was an hallucination.

Besides the humanities, Lugosi’s interests lie in sculpting and hunting. He also has a mania for stamp collecting, a relatively pedestrian pastime in which he finds a curious fascination.

Since 1927, he has only appeared on the stage twice, Murder at the Vanities for Earl Carroll in 1933, and a recent revival of Dracula (which he says was in every way up to the original company) in which he toured the East. He is here to do a play of which he is particularly fond—for two reasons. First, it is a magnificent comedy to him, and most important, it partially emancipates him temporarily, for the limitations of the type of role he has always had to play.

He has never seen Boris Karloff play Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic & Old Lace. This he deems fortunate because an actor will automatically pick up certain mannerisms for watching another actor play the part, no matter how hard he may try to keep his interpretation absolutely original. Lugosi will play a role as he sees it; as far as he is concerned he’s working in virgin territory.

There is no positive clue to indicate how deep is his sorrow at having graduated from the Royal National Theatre where the actor makes the director, to Hollywood, where he director makes the actor. He remembers the day in Budapest when the public would not allow even the greatest hit to play more than three performances, and the actors were elected to repertory group for life and supported by the state. He remembers, too, when he played the Latin apache, hot-lover type.

Meantime, he is making plans to get back to a ruined castle on the studio lot, where Universal will be charmed to have him play three zany scientists and a gorilla man within the course of the next six months.

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Arsenic and Old Lace 1943 National Company production

*

The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, September 6, 1943

TRAGEDY-COMEDY TRADITION SAFE

 WITH BELA LUGOSI

Does a tragedian yearn to play comedy, same as a comedian wants to be a tragedian?

Yes, take it from Bela Lugosi, now appearing in Arsenic & Old Lace at the Music Box Theater.

“If producers had known how eager I was to play comedy, they could have got me without salary,” he grinned. “It’s my first break since the “Dracula” curse hit me. And it’s fun, too, cutting loose at rehearsals of horror films and burlesquing they’re too far-fetched. It’s humorous to hear a monster talking baby talk or monster slang. But that’s only at rehearsals. For to make these roles convincing, I have to hypnotize myself into believing them.”

Time Limited

Lugosi was supping on salad, not crunching bones as might have been expected. For he has no time for dinner between working on the film Return of the Vampire during the day, and Arsenic at night, so eats after the night show. Then he dashes to his Valley home—a slightly forbidding looking place—maybe to scare off autograph hunters, somebody suggested.

Will Arsenic & Old Lace kill horror pictures and plays, as ridicule is supposed to kill anything it touches? No, says Lugosi, but will make producers put more comedy into their spine-congealers. For there are always the kids who like them.

Could Be

Why do children enjoy horror plays and pictures? Because, says Lugosi, of a subconscious atavistic feeling in born in hem through catastrophes which befell their forbearers centuries ago. Children like to see fearsome happenings from a safe position.

What about that Lugosi accent in Arsenic? Well, he’s supposed to have traveled the world and might have got himself one. Speaking of that accent, Hollywood tells a good one about how Gregory Ratoff, No. 1 accent spiller, when Lugosi was playing Tovarich at the Biltmore, got sown in the orchestra pit at rehearsals, and prompted Bela how to recite his line without accent!

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1944

CHANGE IS COMING

 1944 began as a continuation of the career Bela Lugosi had enjoyed through the early 1940s. In the early part of the year, he toured for three months in Arsenic & Old Lace. Before and after the stage tour, he starred low-budget films for Monogram (Voodoo Man and Return of the Ape Man). He was so busy that he had to pass on playing Dracula in Universal’s House of Frankenstein. John Carradine played Dracula in that movie, and co-starred with Lugosi in the two Monograms. Both studios now turned to Carradine for roles that might have gone to Lugosi. Lugosi would never work for Monogram again, and would only work once more for Universal, in 1948’s Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. In the second half of 1944, Lugosi played only a secondary role in One Body Too Many. He did end the year filming Zombies on Broadway. Lugosi probably did not imagine that undead-obsessed Dr. Renault would be his last mad doctor of the decade. Movie-going tastes were changing, horror films were becoming passé, and the major studios were all but through with Lugosi. The next few years would be financially difficult as work slowed to a trickle. The growing tensions between the Lugosis is surprisingly evident in one of his stage tour interviews (April 9, Philadelphia Record). In the summer of 1944, Lillian filed for divorce, but reconciled a few months later. In his one statement to the press, a jubilant Lugosi accepted all blame. Bat Head 3

The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, January 29, 1944

SISSIES SHOULD BOLT THEIR DOORS;

MOVIES’ DRACULA IS IN TOWN

by Ray Parr

Your old horror fan dusted off his best scream and shiver, filed a new edge on the teeth, and went up to see Dracula Friday.

He thought it would be nice to pick up a little lesson in biting.

I never wanted to sing like Frank Sinatra, or make love like Clark Gable, but man, oh man, if I could only bite like that boy, Dracula, my wall flower days would be over.

I never could do parlor tricks or answer riddles at social gatherings, but no longer would I blush with shame when folks tittered at my shortcomings. I would simply saunter over and bite the hostess on the neck in a Dracula manner.

If you don’t think I would immediately become the life of the party—certainly a card, as the saying goes—then you never saw Dracula. Or, on the other hand, you never saw me bite a hostess.

Not only that, but what with the sirloin shortage what it is, anything new along this line that don’t take ration points might come in right handy before the winter is over.

As I tiptoed into the Biltmore, I expected to find beautiful blondes scattered all over the corridor. Well, you can just imagine how I felt when I burst in his room and found that strange, half-human, half-bloodsucking vampire lying there on the bed with his evil eye fixed on a lovely delicate little—postage stamp.

Yes sir, the terrible Dracula turned out to be a stamp collector. Also, he was wearing red suspenders, his eyes were a mild, kindly blue, and his long smooth-brushed hair was streaked with a middle-aged gray. He could have been somebody’s father.

Dracula, who also is known as Bela Lugosi, collects stamps everywhere he goes. When he isn’t doing that, he is reading and hiking. Strange relaxations for him, it would seem, until one realizes that a man who makes his living working as Dracula year after year wouldn’t get a whale of a kick out of playing post office on his nights off.

When he’s home, his big fun comes from playing with his 6-year-old son.

“You wouldn’t believe it, but he is already imitating me,” Lugosi beamed, acting just like a father.

No Nicotine in Cigars

Lugosi also smokes cigars that have had the nicotine taken out of them. He likes, he says, green salads, raw fruit, no sweets, orange juice and milk.

It’s pretty nice being a horror specialist, in lots of ways.

“I’ve been getting along with everybody just fine since I became a horror man,” he said. “Everybody expects something so terrible they are surprised to find me a human.”

“Now when I was playing romantic leads, folks expected me to be a nice charming person at any hour of the day, and I had an awful time.”

Lugosi, veteran Hungarian actor, played romantic leads and character roles for 20 years in Europe and in America until 1927 he created Dracula. It brought him international fame.

Now folks no longer want to see him as a great lover. They want to scream.

But There’s Cash In It

It would all be pretty sad and his and his professional heart would be heavy, except there is pretty good dough in making folks scream.

From a discussion of art and culture, things moved on to the subject of dinner.

“I sure would like a good rare steak,” he said, forgetting all about the green salad and raw fruit, the Dracula apparently coming out in him.

“And would you like to come by my room first?” he continued, forgetting about all the milk and orange juice.

(P.S. Lugosi is the star of Arsenic & Old Lace at the Shrine Saturday afternoon and night. There are plenty of tickets left for the afternoon performance, according to Jim Boyle. We promised Jim we would try to work in something about his show if he would dig up Dracula for us.)

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The Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Arkansas, February 1, 1944

DRACULA’S ODD CLOTHING TASTE

HORRIFIES CITY SHOP OPERATOR

Bela Lugosi, the Dracula man, had a little trouble with his shopping Monday. After playing in Arsenic & Old Lace at Tulsa, Lugosi and cast had a one-day layover here while en route to Little Rock. Lugosi joined the company for his first performance Saturday afternoon. As Jonathan, the fugitive from a hospital for the criminal insane, he was supposed to look a bit shabby, but didn’t have time to get a suit to go with the part. Monday he made a tour of city pawn shops with Jim Boyle, local manager, and Victor Sutherland, stage manager of the company. He bought an aged, blue, shiny suit, and a second-hand black hat and an old pair of shoes. The shop operator thought he had a real mental case on his hands when Lugosi refused to look at his “better merchandise.” The veteran stage and movie star insisted on a suit two sizes too large, in order to provide a proper bag. Then he carefully tied the new suit up in a knot to give it wrinkles. Just as the group started out, Lugosi turned his finest horror stare on the shop operator and gazed for a half-minutes. The poor man just about jumped out the windows. “Actors are funny people,” he said later, after learning the identity of his customer. To top the day off, Lugosi and Mrs. Lugosi spent the night on a chair, en route to Little Rock. P.S. It was their 12th wedding anniversary. Bat Head 3

The Montgomery Advertiser, Montgomery, Alabama, February 9, 1944

ROMANTIC ROLES HIS FIRST YEARS ON STAGE;

NOW HE’S MARKED

Fame is the goal of virtually every actor, yet fame has proved a liability to Bela Lugosi, star of Arsenic & Old Lace, the sensational laugh and thrill hit coming to the Lanier Auditorium Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Prior to scoring a nationwide hit in Dracula, Mr. Lugosi was a romantic actor on the stage. He was constantly at work because there are more opportunities for lovers than for mystery men. But now he is a “marked man.” Unless a playwright unfolds a plot including the supernatural, the mysterious or the horrible, Mr. Lugosi must sit at home twiddling his thumbs. I was natural, therefore, when the role of Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic & Old Lace was available, that Mr. Lugosi was the man, because this particular character is the most menacing figure seen on the spoken stage in many a year. “People approach me somewhat fearfully,” he said recently. “Girls running elevators have been known to stay home when I visited certain towns. But when they learn that I am just a human being and not a demon, they seem to be unpleasantly surprised.” Lugosi has played romantic roles for years, first in his native Hungary and later in the United States. He came to this country as a leading man in The Tragedy of Man, a famous Hungarian classic. At that time he could not speak English, but diligent work covering several years of study made him proficient and when his big opportunity came in Dracula he was not only ready but something of a sensation. Since then he has appeared in many motion pictures such as White Zombie, The 13th Chair, Chandu the Magician and others. Last season Lugosi toured the country in a stage version of Dracula and this season he has been appearing with great success in the star role of Arsenic & Old Lace supported by the New York company. Tickets are now on sale at the Jesse French Piano Company, where the box office is open from 10 to 4 pm. Bat Head 3

Boston Colonial Theatre  Arsenic & Old Lace Programme

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The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, March 26, 1944

BELA LUGOSI’S ACTING HAS MADE THOUSANDS BLANCH WITH TERROR

Mr. Bela Lugosi likes Arsenic & Old Lace, in which he has appeared for a brief seven weeks, because people laugh so hard. He enjoys hearing audiences express their mirth as loudly as possible. The one-night stands which preceded Boston have caused him to lose 11 pounds and he is leaner and more hawk-like than ever. People always recognize him—even at luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton, matronly diners were getting a thrill by surreptitious looks at the famous film and stage “heavy.”

Collects Stamps for Hobby

He was wearing a quietly-cut blue suit, conservative cuff links and a pleasant expression. But the smile didn’t fool the women. They knew that the Hungarian actor must be plotting something dire. Actually he was drinking double orange juices and discussing his stamp collection. He likes being in Boston because there are 18 stamp dealers listed in town and he intends to visit every one of them. He says that whenever he gets some unexpected money he uses it in the soundest investments he knows of. One-half war bonds. The other half stamps. “Stamp collecting is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10% of your investment,” he says. “You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10% loss. Sometimes you even make money.” Bat Head 3

The Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 9, 1944

BEAUTY HUNG A HEX SIGN ON BELA LUGOSI

She was a beautiful Hungarian actress, the toast of yesterday’s Continent. Her hair was pale brown and her skin a ghostly hue. The strange light in her eyes seared and scarred the soul of the man she adored. To this day, Bela Lugosi, her victim, has never decided whether the mark she put upon him was lucky or unlucky. It has worked both ways. To escape her spell Lugosi fled from his native Hungary and forfeited the right to wear Romeo’s velvet breeches. That was bad.

A Lifelong Lease

But pain wrote lines into his handsome young face and Broadway gave him the title role of Dracula. That was good, because it won for Lugosi a lifelong lease on horror man assignments. The 20-year old curse put upon Lugosi by his too ardent admirer had been exceedingly profitable. But only a moan of Lugosi’s determination could have survived the wear and tear. Horror hounded him—on and off stage and screen. Even today, safely married to his fourth wife and the proud parent of a robust son, Bela must fortify himself against the lady’s spell by arising at dawn, walking his ferocious dogs 10 to 12 miles, partaking of no solid foods until sunset, and guarding against all evil influences—natural and supernatural—with a huge wall that surrounds his home and private arsenal.

Doesn’t Scare Easily

Lugosi doesn’t scare easily, he’ll tell you. But even an intimate acquaintance of vampires, zombies and spooks can’t help a man with a curse upon him. Look at the facts. Since the day Lugosi spurned the lady with the ghostly skin, he has been gassed, wounded and shell-shocked. Political enemies have threatened his life. The ship in which he fled to America almost sank several times, and he had had three ill-starred marriages. Often he has tried to break the spell. Once, he even shackled a wife to a 5th Avenue bus bench –but he couldn’t stop her from going to Reno. Two other wives also talked to a judge, despite his pleadings—sometimes even made in false whiskers. The current Mrs. Lugosi, a pretty young woman who was once his secretary, seems to have broken the charm—at least so far as marriage is concerned. Maybe it is because she usually accompanies her husband on tour, seeing that his shirts are properly washed even if she must wash them herself.

She Merely Smiles

“I hate opinions in women!” Lugosi says. His wife merely smiles. Her talk is of young Bela, Lugosi’s stocks of imported wines, his closets full of suits, shoes and shirts he’s never worn, his precious oil paintings, rare books and fine music, and the nauseous sulphur water he always drinks. When she recalled the time Lugosi ripped her from her brother’s arms while dancing, Lugosi explained: “I’m just a simple, old-fashioned man who loves his home and family. And,” he adds with a strange gleam in his eye, “I mean to protect them.” Bat Head 3

The Philadelphia Bulletin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 12, 1944

MURDER WITH A GREAT BIG SMILE

Bela Lugosi, Horror Specialist, Revels in New Role

by Laura Lee

“It’s fine to hear people laughing for a change. It’s such a relief to be playing Jonathan Brewster after all those horror roles,” says Bela (Dracula) Lugosi. Jonathan of Arsenic & Old Lace is a delightful character—a gentle soul who performs murder only 12 times during the three act play at the Locust St. Theatre. In the movies, Mr. Lugosi never had a chance to engage in such merriment. He goes around on the screen flapping that long cape, making two little holes in the necks of beautiful girls, sucking their blood and getting spikes pounded through his heart. He has been dead, a member of the “undead,” a vampire, monster, wolfman or, at best, a spook in 50 or 60 films. He has killed off three or four times as many people—mostly lovely young girls.

Horror Specialist

And to think he began his career as Romeo. For 20 years before Dracula he played romantic and other leading-man roles—Liliom, Hamlet and such on stage roles in Europe. Then one appearance as Dracula stamped him overnight as a specialist in horror and he hasn’t been able to break away. In spite of 18 years of celluloid blood-sucking, offstage he’s just like you and me—except for such little peculiarities as drinking stale, cold coffee before a performance and having his drinking water imported from his native Hungary—sulphur water which even he admits tastes like rotten eggs and which is about finished. Outside of this, eating lunch at the Barclay is like eating with anyone else—only pleasanter. His fourth wife and former bookkeeper, Mrs. Lugosi is young, pretty and very much wrapped up in her husband and his career. She keeps all his scrap books, check books and it was she who began his 150,000 stamp collection by saving the stamps on letters from foreign fans. Both the Lugosis are avid readers—he six to eight hours daily, reading which includes almost exclusively sociology, economics, history, geography and astrology—that’s right astrology. His good friend is Manly P. Hall, of Hollywood, an astrologist who predicted correctly the year day and hour of birth of his son, six year-old Bela, pronounce “Bayla.” Mrs. Lugosi likes detective stories. “We were terribly disappointed about The Lodger, she said. “We wanted to play it.” She has no screen or stage ambitions for herself.

Wounded in War

Wounded in World War I after three years in the trenches, he later fled Hungary as a political refugee, escaped to Vienna, Berlin, Italy and eventually the United States, as assistant engineer on a freight boat. He became a citizen in 1930. Most of his free time since then has been spent for humanity—Hungarian humanity especially. He is national president of the Hungarian-American Council for Democracy, the central organization of Americans of Hungarian descent behind the war effort of our country and at the same time helping the people of Hungary in their fight against the Nazi-Fascist oppressors. Bat Head 3

One Body Too Many Half Sheet 2

*

Paramount Publicity Release, June 6, 1944

Bela Lugosi has made a career and a fortune as a horror specialist. The tall, dignified Hungarian-born actor for years has been one the foremost stars of the chiller-thriller and Whodunit movies. In the Hollywood vernacular, he’s a “super-creep,” a “top zombie.” To millions of addicts of the fright and fantasy films, Dracula, the blood-sucking vampire, and Bela Lugosi are one and the same. The actor Lugosi is sincerely grateful to this loathsome creature. It was his performance in the title role of the play Dracula which overnight lifted him from relative obscurity to Broadway preeminence and the film version made him a screen star. Since his initial triumph as a horror performer he has played with singular success a fearsome array of the most amazing and shocking characters that the imaginations of Hollywood script writers have been able to devise. He has been vampire and bat man, monster and murderer with but rare breathing spells. And Lugosi is at it again in his current role in Paramount’s One Body Too Many, the eerie murder mystery which producers William Pine and William Thomas are making with Jack Haley and Jean Parker sharing stellar honors with Bela. He portrays a strange-acting and sinister-looking household servant who from his first appearance is under suspicion of the audience, as well as by almost everyone in the east. But like the popular comic whose burning desire is to play Hamlet, Lugosi has a deep yearning to change character. He knows that he has been indelibly stamped by the moviemakers as a fright star. The Dracula role which brought him fame at the same time typed him in Hollywood. It became a Frankenstein which inexorably dictated to the casting office the type of toles that Lugosi was to be given. He calls it “The Dracula Curse.” Lugosi wants to play straight character leads in pictures. His hope and ambition is to “look and act like a normal human being.” “I’d like to be liked for a change,” he declares. Lugosi has not always been a maestro of the macabre. In fact, he played straight roles for 20 years. As one of the leading members of the Hungarian National Theater he was a dramatic star, whose repertoire included Shakespeare and the Continental classics, as well as modern plays. On Broadway he was making a name for himself in straight dramatic roles before Dracula came along. Even in Hollywood he has had a few welcome departures from horror characterizations. He did straight parts in such pictures as Ninotchka, The Saint’s Double Trouble and The Gorilla. But a revival of public appetite for spine-chilling screen fare launched a new cycle of horror dramas and put Bela Lugosi back into the business of scaring people. Lugosi prudently does not contemplate divorcing himself completely and irrevocably from horror roles at the start. That would be bad business and bas showmanship, he believes. But he would like to make straight dramatic portrayals gradually his principal occupation. However, his plans for a change in acting pace will have to wait for a while longer. As soon as he finishes his work before the camera in One Body Too Many, he goes on the road in the stage hit, Arsenic & Old Lace, taking over the role of Jonathan Brewster, the mad murderer. He replaces a fellow horror specialist, Boris Karloff, who is returning to the Hollywood sound stages. Bat Head 3

Zombies on Broadway Insert

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The Valparaiso Vidette Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana, October 29, 1944

HOLLYWOOD FILM SHOP

Hollywood (AP)—It has taken Bela Lugosi a long time to live down the success he achieved in his first big stage and film roles, and he almost went bankrupt in the process. Never has an actor become so indelibly identified with a single role as Lugosi with his part of Dracula and never has a role so completely dominated an actor’s fortunes. The Dracula role lifted him from relative obscurity and made him a figure of importance on the New York Stage. Within two years it elevated him to stardom on the screen. Dracula blotted out all of Lugosi’s previous achievements in the theater, including Shakespeare and Ibsen and romantic leads and character roles of all types. His fortunes rose with the popularity of the horror character he had created. Rose, at least, until such films were barred in England and Hollywood ceased making them. Lugosi’ fortunes crashed. A few years passed by before a small independent exhibitor experimented with a revival of Dracula. It was a sensational success. Universal pictures began again making horror films, and Lugosi was back as a star again. But this time Lugosi was aware of the Dracula influence. He set up barriers against it. He won a straight character role in The Gorilla and in Ninotchka with Greta Garbo. Then came a straight heavy role with The Saint’s Double Trouble with George Sanders. In 1934 Lugosi won the role of Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic & Old Lace. He was praised and went on tour with the play. Now he’s back in Hollywood, and his first screen part is that of a half-crazed scientist in RKO Radio’s Zombies on Broadway. It’s a straight character role, divorced from the influence of Dracula.   Bat Head 3

The Hutchison News-Herald, Hutchinson, Kansas, October 29, 1944

LUGOSI SHAVES & HIS WIFE RETURNS

Hollywood (AP)—One of the screen’s high-powered horror men, Bela Lugosi, has won back the affections and esteem of the wife who left him several months ago. Lugosi said Saturday they had become reconciled and that her divorce suit is to be dismissed. “I have courted her with flowers and candy ever since she walked out,” Lugosi said, I’ve been shaving regularly. That was one of our troubles. I was a careless husband; as a European I expected things too much my own way in the home. American girls don’t like that. They want things more 50-50.” The Lugosis were married 11 years ago and have a six-year-old son, Bela, Jr.

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1945-1946

PEACE IS HELL!

 Over these two years, Lugosi appeared in three movies: a minor role in The Body Snatcher (his last film with Boris Karloff), a secondary role in Genius at Work (as henchman to Lionel Atwill’s master criminal), and a top-billed, unrewarding part in the forgettable Sacred to Death, not released until 1947. 1946 was a great year for the American film industry, but Lugosi played no part in it. What demand remained for his screen talents was satisfied by reissues of his old films. Revivals of many old movies played no small part making 1946 a year of record profits. No income for Lugosi.

On stage, he starred as a turbaned Hindu in a new production, No Traveler Returns, which played on the west coast in hopes of a broader tour and perhaps a Broadway slot. Not to be: reviews and business were poor, and it folded in Seattle, never to be seen again. That bad week in Seattle did generate some interviews, which stressed the domestic side of the screen Dracula. Good choice: Lugosi—before he hit the road in 1947 in search of work outside of Hollywood—would spend a lot of time at home.

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No Traveler Returns:  Bela & Ian Keith

Bela Lugosi and Ian Keith in a scene from No Traveler Returns

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The Seattle Times, March 13, 1945

BELA LUGOSI ‘SWEET,’ DESPITE HORROR ROLES,

WIFE INSISTS

When Mrs. Lillian Lugosi asked the jewelry clerk for the bat pin, a very odd look appeared on the jewelry clerk’s face.

The jewelry clerk of course didn’t know that Mrs. Lugosi is the best pipe stuffer west of the Mississippi, and also the wife of Bela Lugosi, famous as “Dracula,” whose portrayal of horror roles on the stage and screen has won him international fame.

Bela Lugosi, a calm, blue-eyes gentleman, described by his wife as “sweet,” opens tonight at the Metropolitan Theatre in the play, No Traveler Returns, a horror production of generous proportions.

She Looked Long for Pin

It took me months to find this bat pin,” explained Mrs. Lugosi, who sat beside her husband this forenoon in the Olympic Hotel without trembling.

The golden bat on her left shoulder seemed about to flit away on some ghastly mission. She stroked it gently.

“I knew immediately when I saw it that it was just what I wanted,” she said. “I knew it was mine. There was, however, a very peculiar look in the clerk’s eyes when she sold it to me.”

Mrs. Lugosi conceded it is her custom to stuff her husband’s pipes and see that they are drawing well before he puts them to his lips.

“He is a constant smoker,” she said. “When he is outside the house he smokes cigars. The moment he comes in, he lays down his cigar, and I have to have a pipe ready for him.”

Harmless Tobacco Used

“He consumes so much tobacco we use the denicotinized variety.”

“She’s a better pipe stuffer than I am,” said Bela Lugosi said.

“You’ve always said the pipe tasted sweeter when I did it,” said Mrs. Lugosi. “Drawing on a pipe,”she added, “is the only way you can tell if it’s packed properly. I like doing it, but I’ve never been tempted to smoke a whole pipe. I enjoy just that much.”

Lugosi denied that portraying the horror roles which have brought him notoriety has in any way altered him fundamentally. Mrs. Lugosi agreed.

“Oh, no!” She cried. “He’s sweet! Playing these roles doesn’t change him in the least. We’ve been married 12 years, and he’d already played Dracula on Broadway in 1927 when I met him.

 She Can Stand It

“I went to see him in a horror role before I married him, of course, just to see if I could stand it.”

Mrs. Lugosi said her husband picks out all her clothes.

“I sneak out now and then and get something, but it’s always a flop,” she said. “When I come back with it, he gives me a Dracula look.”

“All I do is go back into the room in the shop, and he picks out things.” Her fingers darted rapidly here and there, indicating her husband pointing at things. “What he picks out is always swell.”

Shoes, though, she added, are her private affair.

Bela Agrees on Shoes

“Bela has tried to pick them out,” she declared, “but he doesn’t have the ‘feel’ for shoes. Shoes are my private preserve. We agree on everything, of course, and Bela agrees on the shoes after I get them. That’s the sweet side of him coming out.”

Lugosi, who was born in Lugos, Hungary, has had 30 years of stage experience.

“I first went on the stage in Budapest,” he said. “We are trained differently in Europe. There we learn to play all roles. Here in America an actor is trained to develop his own personality. Then the personality is featured.

“In Europe you learn to subdue the personality. Dracula was just another part of me. Playing it didn’t alter me fundamentally. It’s fun to play parts like that.”

Lugosi said he always had been an honest, straightforward citizen until called upon to play Dracula.

“There is one thing about it, however,” he added. “When you play straight parts, you have hundreds of actors competing with you. In this line of work the field of competition is limited. And as a specialty, of course, it has been very fine economically.”

In his current vehicle Lugosi plays a Hindu servant who is much brighter than he appears to be through the first two acts.

“He is,” said Lugosi, “really educated, although he camouflages it. He is a very reprehensible character, very foreboding, very ominous.”

*

No Traveler Returns:  Lugosi and Keith

Bela Lugosi and Ian Keith in a scene from No Traveler Returns

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The Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Washington, March 1945

BELA LUGOSI OFF SCREEN “VERY SWEET”

by Ann Stewart

 Bela Lugosi sat idly flexing his double-jointed fingers yesterday while his intimates told us that he is really a gentle-type man, very harmless and very sweet.

We gave him every opportunity. We asked him if he wanted to put money in blind-men’s cups and to help old ladies across the street.

“Never,” said Lugosi. “But if the ladies are young I sometimes stand very close to them in elevators,” and he smiled in a pleasant Dracula sort of way.

“Bela is tired,” his wife explained. “He’s just had four hours’ sleep. Sometimes when he’s tired he does net a bit of a temper. I’ve found it best, for instance, not to speak to him at all for 45 minutes after he’s been working. But after he’s had a bottle of beer and a meal he relaxes and is quite lovely.”

So we tried again. We asked him if he doesn’t tire of scaring people.

“Not unless I am unsuccessful,” replied Lugosi, and a sad look came into his pale blue eyes. “Sometimes,” he said slowly, “children ask me to make faces for and then…they laugh.”

Seeing that this was a painful subject, Ian Keith, who plays with Lugosi at the Metropolitan in No Traveler Returns, rushed garrulously into the breach and spoke of many things—of waiting 20 minutes for a cup of coffee: of spending the morning taking long-distance phone calls for a Mr. Zion because the Olympic Hotel had for some reason decided that he was Mr. Zion; of the way these horrible motion pictures have ruined the perception and the ears of the theater audience; of his own interest in writing and reading murder mysteries which should be solved, by the alert in the first scene of the second act.

“It is not necessarily Lugosi who done it,” he said, turning to Lugosi, “Is it sweetness?”

Lugosi then scrunched himself into a large tan overcoat and a small checkered cap, explaining all the while that he does not give a hoot for murder mysteries and that he spends his free time reading books on “social economy” and the like.

The cap, he said, he wares only while traveling or when going to night clubs.

“So I will not have to check a hat and pay a quarter,” he explained.

Something he picked up in an economy book, no doubt.

*

Scared To Death Bela Lugosi, director Christy Cabanne and screenwriter Walter Abbott

Bela Lugosi, director Christy Cabanne and screenwriter Walter Abbott on the set of Scared To Death

*

The Daily Globe, Ironwood, Michigan, May 23, 1946

IN HOLLYWOOD

by Gene Handsaker

Hollywood—Calling all fiends! Want really to scare the daylights out of somebody? The secret, says Bela Lugosi, is sincerity—to feel a deep conviction that you are actually about to throttle or stab or poison or shoot your victim.

“Of course, don’t do it!” rumbled this Hungarian-born stage and screen Dracula, towering menacingly over me, “but you must believe you are going to; the minute you play it with tongue-in-cheek, the effect is dead.”

Lugosi’s formula for chilling spines includes also a dash of hypnosis he told me on the Scared to Death set.

I have studied hypnosis and always made it a practice to half or one-quarter hypnotize my fellow actors on the stage so they would respond properly.

Dracula’s heavy-lidded, intense little blue eyes bored hypnotically into mine. I backed away and shook myself like a dog leaving a pond.

Lugosi, a tall, well-built man with distinguished –looking graying hair, a hawk beak and creased sinister features, could pass in a headdress for an Indian chief. He said he got the Dracula stage role in New York in 1927 not only because both he and the fiction Count Dracula were Hungarians but also because of some hair-raising business he worked out with his hands. I asked him to demonstrate.

One of his hands slowly approached, then rested its thumb and fingers lightly about my neck. The other turned into a misshaped claw that pawed menacingly toward my left eye. That was enough, thanks, I said.

After Dracula on stage and screen, (a story, you may remember, about a fiend who turned into a wolf or bat and sank his fangs into terrified maidens’ jugular veins), Lugosi was typed as a monster. He finds the niche not always satisfying artistically but pretty steadily rewarding monetarily.

Lugosi committed sundry atrocities in movies like White Zombie, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, and The Devil Bat. What’s the most bizarre manner in which he ever committed murder?

“In The Black Cat, I guess,” Dracula said,”where I skinned Boris Karloff alive. Cute isn’t it.”

Off the screen, Lugosi is a harmless courtly individual who dwells quietly with his wife and reads books on social problems and economics.

When an automobile knocked a piece out of his German shepherd’s skull, veterinarians fitted a plastic patch—and grieving Count Dracula sat patiently in his pet’s hospital cage while the dog convalesced. 

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1948:

DRACULA RETURNS, BUT LUGOSI DOESN’T

With one exception, Lugosi’s 1948 would be a repeat of his 1947: starring in summer stock productions of Dracula and Arsenic & Old Lace, scattered radio and personal appearances. Those appearances ranged from night clubs to vaudeville to Halloween shows.

The exception is Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Lugosi’s last work at a major studio, filmed in late winter, and released in June. He played Count Dracula onscreen for the first time since his 1931 classic, and showed that he had lost none of his magic. The film was a surprise success, one of the biggest money-makers of 1948. The triumph might have jump-started Lugosi’s ailing career, but the movie business saw Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein only as a comedy and not a return of gothic horror. The filming generated a fair amount of press interest, and Lugosi told reporters of his plans for a Dracula resurgence. Never happened. Even as Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein played to full houses, Lugosi scrounged for work at playdates ranging from Salt Lake City to Miami to New England.

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Dracula & the Easter Bunny

A publicity shot for the unproduced Harvey?

*

Berkeley Daily Gazette, Berkeley, California, February 5, 1948

HEDDA HOPPER’S HOLLYWOOD

by Hedda Hopper

Bela’s Last Horror

Bela Lugosi swears Brain of Frankenstein will be his last horror picture; but he will have  one more fling at Dracula on the London stage. Then, of all things, he will do four weeks of Harvey. That can only be matched by Boris Karloff, another horror man, who did kindly old Gramps in On Borrowed Time last year.

*

Oakland, Tribune, Oakland, California, March 3, 1948

HOLLYWOOD BLOW HOT FOR CHILLERS

by Bob Thomas

Hollywood, Feb. 3—(AP)—Two of the screen’s ablest boogeymen, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, are planning projects to satisfy the most eager horror fans.

Both are currently scaring the wits out of Abbott & Costello in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Lugosi reports that Universal-International is mulling two subjects based on his Dracula portrayal. “There is enough material in the original novel for half a dozen pictures,” the Hungarian actor told me. Meanwhile, he plans to take the famed blood-sucker to London for an eight-week stage run this summer.

Chaney is organizing his own producing company with Curt Siodmak, top writer of gruesome scripts. They plan to create new characters “more horrible than any yet seen on the screen.” I can hardly wait.

(NOTE: The two Dracula films and the stage production of Dracula failed to materialize. Lugosi eventually portrayed Dracula on the British stage in 1951. See 1951 British Dracula Tour – Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia)

*

San Mateo Times, San Mateo, California, March 4, 1948

LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD

by Bob Thomas

 Hollywood, Mar. 4—(AP)—Bela Lugosi plans to play in Harvey next fall. “I will give a slightly different interpretation of the role,” he said, uttering the understatement of the week.

*

The New York Times, March 14, 1948

OLD GHOULISH FRIENDS ROAM THE SETS AT UNIVERSAL

Universal-International, long the home of spectral entertainment attained a chimerical crescendo in recent weeks with an incarnation of Venus, a mermaid, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Invisible Man all working at once. The majority of these loveable characters are concentrated in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, a film described by the studio as a comedy. Glen Strange is playing both The Monster and The Invisible Man, since, in the first characterization he need only be visible and in the second, only audible. Lon Chaney, Jr. has resumed his old mantle as the studio’s lycanthrope and will climax the drama by battling to the death with the monstrous Mr. Strange.

Bela Lugosi, the perpetual Dracula, disclosed last week, that he is to be revived for his new appearance by one of the unwary comedians who is foolish enough to pull an oaken state out of his heart. Mr. Lugosi, who was scrambling on the floor of his dressing room for a missing shirt stud at the time, commented that he was relieved that Universal had not asked him to do anything unbecoming to Dracula’s dignity in the association with Abbott & Costello. “There is no burlesque for me,” he said. “All I have to do is frighten the boys, a perfectly appropriate activity. My trademark will be unblemished.” He will not be permitted to sink his teeth in anyone’s jugular vein in the comedy; and will have to content himself with hypnotizing a girl and transforming himself into a bat from time to time.

*

The Bulletin, Norwich, Connecticut, August 4, 1948

CELEBRATED ACTOR DELIVERS ADDRESS

AT LIONS MEETING

 Bela Lugosi, guest artist at the Noriwch Summer theater this week, was the principal speaker at the regular meeting of the Norwich Lion’s Club, held at Longo’s Inn Tuesday evening, President T. Joseph Puza presided over the meeting.

Mr. Lugosi, who appears as “Dracula” at the summer theater, was introduced by Edward Obuchowski, program chairman for the evening.

In his address, Mr. Lugosi remarked on how well he has been enjoying his stay in Norwich and he likened this community to the thousands of others in the United States, as all being eager for some productions of the legitimate theater, “since,” he said, “the theater reflects the country’s background and culture.”

Mr. Lugosi urged the Lions and other similar organizations to go all-out to see that the theater is brought to every outlying district in the country. Mr. Lugosi said that this should be done by season tickets and other ways which will guarantees the producers success in their venture.

In a more humorous vein, Mr. Lugosi described in detail how he became the “master of horror and the supernatural” in being chosen to play the gruesome part of “Dracula.”

Mr. Lugosi said the play was originally shown in England. An American producer saw it and bought the production rights. Considerable difficultly arose in selecting an actor for the part of Dracula, until someone recommended Mr. Lugosi. Mr. Lugosi, who speaks with a Hungarian accent, was a natural of the past almost immediately.

The Lions gave Mr. Lugosi a rising vote of thanks for his interesting address. Mr. Puza gave Mr. Lugosi a Lion’s certificate in appreciation of his interesting talk.

Accompanying Mr. Lugosi were Ted Post, director of the playhouse, and David Fox, public relations head for the playhouse.

Both Mr. Lugosi and Mr. Post make brief remarks thanking the Lions for the many courtesies extended them. Before leaving Mr. Lugosi said “I don’t know when I ever had as fine a time as I have had tonight” and call the Lions “a regular bunch of fellows.”

*

Bella and Billie O'Day

The Miami Daily News, Miami, Florida, September 3, 1948

CITY ‘DISAPPOINTS’ LUGOSI – ‘PEOPLE DON’T DIE HERE’

by Grace Wing

(Miami Daily News, Staff Writer)

Count  Dracula, one European celebrity who would rather bite a lady’s neck than kiss her hand, is afraid he may find Miami a little disappointing.

Because somewhere Dracula—or Bela Lugosi, to give him his own name—had heard that people don’t die here.

I understand Miami has no cemeteries,” he murmured in a menacing Blue Danube accent, going on to explain that it is one of his hobbies to collect epitaphs off tombstones.

*          *          *

The reporter was too loyal to explain that it actually is Miami Beach which has no cemeteries.

To anyone still young enough to be scared out of a year’s growth, the horror maestro would have been an anticlimax as he appeared at WIOD this morning for an interview by Billie O’Day.

Instead of the sinister black cloak in which Dracula enfolds his fainting victims, Lugosi was sporting a baby-blue shirt and a red polka-dot tie.

*          *          *

“What kind of blood’s in circulation these days, with meat prices the way they are?” he was asked. Lugosi raised one eyebrow, the way you’ve seen him do, and said he hasn’t been sampling any lately, he’s taken up cigars. And he pulled a long stogie out of his vest pocket and lighted it.

No longer as young as a matinee idol, Lugosi said he came to this country from his native Hungary 28 years ago, and that he first created the role of Dracula on the stage in 1927. The famous movie, which is revived every year, was made in 1931.

Not at all a mythical character. Count Dracula really lived in the Transylvania mountains where Lugosi was born. But nobody can prove he ever lured guests into his castle, hypnotized them and drank their blood. Still…

*          *          *

Back in the 20’s, European emoting was considered a little heavy for American romances, s—with his accent all ready-made—Lugosi determined he would become Dracula. He wears no make-up for the part.

“What about those—hands—the way you crook your fingers?’ he was asked after he posed for a picture menacing Miss O’Day.

“oh, those…I am double-jointed!” he laughed.

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1950

1950: Lugosi Also Dreams

The summer of 1950 began for Lugosi as had 1947, 1948 and 1949—playing in summer stock. He spent the week of July 4th appearing in Dracula in Vermont (his last appearance in the play in America). Then came his last chance of returning to Broadway, in a supporting role in The Devil Also Dreams. Tryout performances through July and August ranged across Massachusetts, New York, and Canada. Reviews were not bad; Lugosi himself drew consistent praise; but backers could not be convinced to stay with the production.

The Devil Also Dreams is Lugosi’s first role that openly parodies his career. He played Petofy, “a stage struck and slightly mad actor working as a butler anxious to return to the footlights and demonstrate to his master’s guests that Shakespeare is improved by translation to Hungarian.” For some reviewers, Lugosi was the gem of the show.

Otherwise, 1950 saw the familiar mix of guest appearances on television, radio, and stage shows. He ended the year hosting The Bela Lugosi Horror & Magic Show, billed as “Mr. Horror Himself!”

*

Bela as Dracula

A publicity still used for productions of Dracula in 1950

*

The Evening Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida, March 16, 1950

LUGOSI ASSAILS CRIME COMICS, RADIO DRAMAS

by C. Winn Upchurch

Independent Staff Writer

Bela Lugosi makes is living as the horror man of the movies but as a father he is against crime comics, crime radio dramas and movies that deal with blood—red blood and smoking guns.

The Hollywood actor arrived in St. Petersburg Wednesday after driving here from New York with his wife-manager. The two are stopping at the Tides hotel and next week Lugosi will star in the title role of Dracula to be presented by the St. Petersburg Players at the South side junior high school auditorium.

Lugosi has portrayed the role of Dracula some 1,000 times but there was a time when he played romantic leads. That was in his native Hungary. He came to the United States in 1920 as a “political refugee” fleeing from the Reds.”

Off stage and in his natural dress Lugosi does not appear to be the horror man that he is onscreen or stage, a modestly dressed man, wearing white sport shoes and sporting a new bow tie, he’s more the type of a retired businessman.

He has a 12-year-old son attending military school in California and Lugosi made it emphatic that his son is not allowed to read crime comics, listen to crime radio programs or see “horror” movies. “It is no good for the youngsters,” the man who has become famous as the scare-the-daylights-out-of-you actor explains.

Lugosi uses no make-up for his Dracula role.

“I just mug the part,” he laughs.

Mr. and Mrs. Lugosi reside in Greenwich Village, New York.

He is not under contract to any of the movie studios but prefers to free lance.

“That way I can select my own roles,” he says in his slight European drawl.

He is currently making a personal appearance tour and from here will return to New York where he appears on radio and television shows, one of his recent shows being the popular Suspense program and another a television appearance with Milton Berle.

Lugosi doesn’t think of his screen portrayals as horror types.

“I just make funny faces,” he puts it.

*

The Morning Heraldn, Union Town, Pennsylvania, June 7, 1950

LITTLE OLD NEW YORK

by Ed Sullivan

On our new Thursday night WPIX show, Bela Lugosi delighted me by confessing that the slump in horror pictures had driven him and Boris Karloff eastward, with Karloff switching from ghouls to Peter Pan…Lugosi revealed something I never knew: that he was chosen as “Dracula” as the result of playing a romantic lead in Arabesque. He played the part of the sheik and his use of his hands attracted the attention of Horace Liveright and director John B. Williams, who were searching for a male vampire. The mystery play was such a tremendous success that although produced at the Fulton Theatre as long back as 1927, Lugosi is still identified as “Dracula.” Nedda Harrigan, now Mrs. Josh Logan, and Dorothy Peterson were the femmes in that 1927 cast.

*

Bela having fun after a performance of The Devil Also Dreams (1)

Bela Lugosi clowning with the cast of The Devil Also Dreams

*

August 16, 1950 Toronto Globe & Mail

Dracula Role Is Frankenstein To Bela Lugosi

By Alex Harris

Bela Lugosi, the screen horror-man who became famous for his portrayal of Dracula, has had just as much trouble getting away from that fiendish character as have millions of movie goers whose dreams he has haunted.

In fact, Lugosi says that the part has become to him something of a Frankenstein, a man-made monster turning on its maker. It has taken Lugosi 23 years to get away from his monster.

Lugosi, who turns out to be a soft-spoken charming chap with old-European manners, was born in Hungary and trained as an actor. Training there was quite a bit different. If one wanted to be an actor he had to attend the Academy of Theatrical Arts in Budapest and get a degree just as a doctor, lawyer or engineer has to do here.

It was a tough grind, but if one succeeded in pulling through, as Lugosi did, one was a professional man, an artist whose social standing was way up there. Work, too, was pretty well guaranteed because each city of 50,000 or more had a municipally financed theatre. Budapest talent scouts would tour such theatres and if an actor looked good to them he was invited to the capital for a guest performance. And if that succeeded, the actor was set for life—with a full-time job, three months vacation and so on.

The political unrest in postwar Hungary interfered, however, and Lugosi went to the United States in 1919. Unable to speak English, he formed a Hungarian language theatrical group which lasted for three years, by which time Lugosi had mastered enough English to play romantic leads on Broadway.

“That was a long time ago, so I was justified,” he recalls.

It was in 1927 that a Broadway producer was looking for a man to play Dracula. American actors, says Lugosi, were unable to tackle the part because most of them had been trained to develop their own personalities, while in Hungary actors were trained to subdue their own personalities and thus be able to play any part.

In any case Lugosi got the part, was fired after five days of rehearsal, was rehired and played the role so well that he has done little else since but horror parts.

After making the movie version, Lugosi was signed to play the monster part in Frankenstein, but he didn’t like it. “All I did was grunt and wear a lot of padding,” he says.

Lugosi tried to quit the part, but had to agree to find a substitute. He found Boris Karloff, then a bit paleyr, and recommended him for the part.

“So, you see, I creatred another monster for myself. Until then I was the only horror man in the movies,” the Hungarian actor smiles.

*

August 21, 1950 Ottowa Globe & Mail

Bela Lugosi Balks at Blood, Lives for Laughs

It was “20° colder inside” at the Chateau Laurier last night—not because of any air-conditioning system, but solely due to the presence of some of the entertainment world’s most chilling personalities.

Responsible for at least 15° was Bela Lugosi, main name in the cast of The Devil Also Dreams, a new play by Fritz Rotter and Elissa Rohn trying out with considerable success in Toronto, Montreal and Ottowa prior to opening on Broadway next month.

Others in the cast of the play—which is slated for a one-night stand at the Capitol tonight are Claire Luce, Francis L. Sullivan, Richard Waring and Oswald Marshall.

Mr. Lugosi, wearing a most unsinister bow tie, welcomed reporters to his room last night without so much as a snarl. He looked remarkably happy for a vampire who hadn’t had a blood highball all evening.

But far from yearning for a little hemoglobin, he was hoping he’d never have to look a red corpuscle in the face again.

“Having threatened people for the last 23 years,” he said in a voice still heavy with the accent of his native Hungary, “I’m having the best time of my life making people laugh.”

He likes it, but he’s not quite used to it. Mrs. Lugosi, who travels with him, says the first time he played the new comedy-drama, her husband was almost pushed off base when the laughs started. He just wasn’t expecting it. Now, when the laughter doesn’t come, annoyance molds his face into the scary expression that made him tops among the nastiness boys.

In Europe and Hollywood prior to the smash success of Dracula, Lugosi played a variety of stage and screen roles, but Dracula typed him and he has been a raiser of hair ever since.`

In The Devil Also Dreams, he plays the part of a broken down old actor employed as a butler by a successful writer who has run out of ideas. The writer stumbles on a young playwright with a new play which he palms off as his own.

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Related Pages

Bela Lugosi On The Stage

Bela Lugosi’s Life As Reported In The Press 

The 1938 Dracula & Frankenstein Double-Bill 

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