Oregonian, January 7, 1939
Omaha World Herald, January 22, 1939
Dallas Morning News, January 23, 1939
The San Francisco News of 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.
Bela Lugosi, Omaha World Herald, March 15, 1939
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 scre big girls, too.
Pittsburgh Press, Aprill 11, 1939
By ALEXANDER KAHN
HOLLYWOOD, April 11 – 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 “drouth” and sighed his thanks that it was over.
“For 24 months I did not get a single call from the studios,” he said. “Not understanding 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 founsd 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 signed 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 considering a deal to go to England and make a picture for British International Pictures.
Is it any wonder that Lugosi sits around humming snatches of songs and grinning happily at everyone?
Variety, April 19, 1939
April 15 (London to New York)
George Sanders, Adolph Zukor, Gladys Cooper, Victor Saville, Bela Lugosi, Voctor Cook (Queen Mary)
Variety, April 26, 1939
N.Y. to L.A.
Irving Berlin, Pat Casey, Mr. and Mrs. S. Charles Einfield, James R. Grainger, Monroe Greenthal, Hal Horne, Bela Lugosi, Al Margolles, A.H. McCausland, Lilly Messinger, Bill Miller, Irving Rubine, Herbert J. Yates.
Reading Eagle, June 11, 1939
By Jimmie Fidler
Idol Chatter: Wish some film factory would give Bela Lugosi another of those vampire roles – they always knock me for a ghoul.
The Times-Picayune, June 29, 1939
The Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, August 29, 1939
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.
Omaha World Herald, October 8, 1939
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.”
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.”
The New York Post, October 17, 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!”
Omaha World Herald, November 30, 1939
The Hammond Times, Hammond, Indiana, December 7, 1939
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.
Syndication, December, 1939
Not until he donned suit and whiskers of old St. Nick did Bela Lugosi, master of screen make-up, fool his son, Bela, Jr., on whom Lugosi has tested guises for the past year. Bela, Jr., who will be two years old on January 5, 1940, failed to penetrate his father’s disguise as Santa Claus until Lugosi, Sr., voluntarily de-bearded himself. Bela, Jr., who laughed with glee at his father’s grotesque get-up in the recent “Son of Frankenstein,” will soon be confronted with another disguise when his father dons a new make-up for Universal’s forthcoming “Friday the Thirteenth.”