1923: Portrait Of The Young Actor

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 presentRomeo & 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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