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.
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.
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.
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. FollowDracula 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 Draculaand Frankenstein and crowds stood in line, that the tide turned again for me. I was cast inSon 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 inYou’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…”
Leo Gorcey and Bela Lugosi in Spooks Run Wild
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.
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 Frankenstein. 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.