1929: Reel Life A Bit Slow, Real Life A Bit Hot

Bela Lugosi - The Veild Woman

A publicity still for The Veiled Woman (1929)

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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.