Bela Lugosi and Janet Taylor as Lucy in the 1943 production of Dracula
(Thanks to Kevin Kelly for identifying this photograpah)
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.
“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.”
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.)
The Film Daily, April 13, 1943
COMING and GOING
BELA LUGOSI has hit town (Ed: New York) to rehearse the revival of “Dracula.” At the end of the play’s tour he will return to the Coast.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 14, 1943
On his way East from Hollywood is Bela Lugosi to play once more the diabolical “Dracula” on the stage. He originated the role of the one-man Blood Bank on Broadway some 16 years ago. This time the production will be under the auspices of Harry H. Oshrin and J.J. Leventhal, for whom Mr. Lugosi will tour for a while before reviving the old melodrama in New York.
The Windsor Daily Star April 24, 1943
April 30, 1943
Klein Auditorium, Bridgeport, Connecticut
The Billboard, May 1, 1943
BRIDGEPORT, Conn., April 24. – Klein Memorial will have Bela Lugosi in Dracula April 30. Claudia, which played here several weeks ago, is rebooked for May 21-22
May 1, 1943
Bushnell Auditorium, Hartford, Connecticut
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.”
May 3-15, 1943
Plymouth Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston College Heights, April 30, 1943
by Charlie Manning
We are awaiting the appearance of Bela Lugosi in “Dracula,” Bram Stoker’s chilling novel and play. We do hope that this European actor and refugee from Hollywood mystery yarns will give as fine a performance as won him his screen contract in the same play back in 1927. The show opens at the Plymouth on May 3rd.
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.
The Billboard, May 29, 1943
J.J. Leventhal’s production of The Play’s the Thing, starring Lionel Atwill, supported by a good cast, opened at Plymouth Tuesday (18) to warm notices. (Seats, 1,398. Scale: Evenings and Saturday matinee, 55 cents – $1.65; Wednesday and Thursday Matinee, 55 cents – $1.10.) But the cards were stacked and the gross was tepid at $2,800. Final week of Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, ended May 15 with $7,400, a very good showing at the same house. (Scale: Evenings, 55 cents – $2.20; Saturday matinee, 55 cents – $1.10.)
May 9, 1943
Camp Farmingham, Massachusetts
May 19-29, 1943
Locust Theatre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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.
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….”
May 23, 1943
Fort Mede, Maryland
May 31-June 5, 1943
Erlanger Theatre, Buffalo, New York
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.”
Unknown Newspaper, May 30, 1943
(Courtesy of Castle of http://www.facebook.comDrawbridgeOfTheCastle)
June 7-13, 1943
Hanna Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio
Programme from the performance on June 13th
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.
June 14-19, 1943
Nixon Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 5, 1943
The Pittsburgh Press, June 6 , 1943
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – June 7, 1943
The Pittsburgh Press, June 9, 1943
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Jun 10, 1943
Stage and Screen
“Dracula,” which comes to the Nixon mext week with Bela Lugosi in person, has long been a hardy moneymaker. Horace Liveright, much against the advice of American showmen then in London, decided to purchase the American rights to the play, and it opened at the Fulton Theater, New York City, October 5, 1927, where it ran for almost an entire season. While “Dracula” was a profitable show, it was not one of those $20,000 a week smashes, but did go blithely on its way grossing a good weekly average. It could easily have rounded out a solid year at the Fulton, but its run there was terminated in order to allow the culmembers of the cast to play “Dracula” for O.D. Woodward, to whom the West Coast rights had been leased, and barring the week in travel “Dracula” continued its run in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the West Coast lessee for some reason or other decided he could improve on the way the play was shown in New York and he changed the story around. As a consequence “Dracula” was not a big success in Los Angeles. However, the coast man then decided he would revert to the original script. He did so and opened the play in San Francisco, where it did well.
“Dracula” opened its road tour in Atlantic City, September 17, 1928. Repeat engagements were tried in two cases (Werba’s Brooklyn Theater, and the Windsor Theater, Bronx, New York), and these repeat grosses came within $500 of the original engagement grosses. In Newark, during Washington’s Birthday week, “Dracula” captured the record of the Broad Street Theater for a non-musical play with $118,000 at $2 top. At the Boulevard Theater, Jackson Heights, Long Island, it did $20,000, which tops the record.
There may be several reasons for the success of “Dracula.” The original Bram Stoker novel has sold 50,000 copies yearly for the past 30 years and the adaptation by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderson, the latter then London correspondent for the old New York “World”, was done painstakingly and carefully.
The Daily Times, Beaver and Rochester, June 11, 1943
“Dracula,” the Vampire play ranked a s one of the most successful mystery plays in the annals of the stage, comes to the Nixon Theatre for one week beginning Monday evening, June 14, at popular prices, matinees Wednesdfay and Saturday.
Direct from Hollywood to play Count Dracula, the arch-fiend whose unearthly desire provide the thrills of the drama, will be the eminent star of stage and screen Bela Lugosi, who originated the part in New York.
Dramatized by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston the play is based on Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name, which has been read by two generations of booklovers. Though it is more than two decades since the book was published, the book has run through numerous editions and still ranks as a big seller.
In this drama of the uncanny and supernatural, Lucy Seward, daughter of the physician in charge of a sanitorium near London, is mysteriously anaemic. Dr. Van Helsing, specialist in obscure diseases suspects a vampire which according to legend is an ugly soul that grave-bound by day, roams the earth at night, and suspects it sustains its earthly life by sucking the blood of the approaching victims. It is with the search for the vampire and the subsequent spine-chilling developments that the play is principally concerned.
In the streamline version of “Dracula” Mr. Lugosi has a fine supporting cast among whom are Frank Jaquet, Charles Franes, Mary Heath, Guy Spaull, Eduard Franz and Len Mence. The play has been staged by IO.D. Woodward.
Bela Lugosi, the star of “Dracula” when World War 1 was over became an official in connection with the Hungarian Goverment’s administration of the Theatre, and when the White Army overthrew the Hungarian Republic created in the revolution that followed the war, he was forced to flee the country as a political refugee. He escaped to Vienna and then, reaching Berlin, worked in pictures in 1919 and 1920 for the Luna Company. From Berlin he went to Italy and worked his way to the United States as an assistant engineer on a freiht boat. Lugosi finally landed in New York, reported to the proper authorities and was allowed to remain in the country. He applied for citizenship papers, which he finally received in 1930.
Not knowing a word of English when he first came to the United States, he joined a Hungarian repertoire company that played towns with large Hungarian populations. They would start in New York with a new play and after touring it they would return for a new production and start all over again.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jun 12, 1943
The Pittsburgh Press, June 13, 1943
A DANGEROUS GENTLEMAN is Bela Lugosi in the title role of “Dracula” this week on the Nixon stage. He’s a “human vampire” who becomes the terror by night in the melodrama.
By KASPAR MONAHAN
For a soothing Sabbath day essay I’m choosing the subject of the vampire, quite pertinebt in view of the fact that the menacing looking gent atop this column is with us this week in a revival of “Dracula.” This essay is intended to be quite scientific – so if you’re of a frivolous turn of mind, then turn to the comic pages, or, perhaps, the Village Smithy – who nearly always is in jocose mood, come war, high water, or even rationed beer. (Well – maybe that’s an exageration as to the last item.)
No doubt – I’m getting into the scientific groove now – you’ve seen a number of the so-called horror movies, those shivery concoctions dealing with various manifestations of supernatural evil. Gents turning into wolves, folks very much dead but traipsing about with staring eyes and making young Hollywood lovlies howl in holy terror, or, as in “Dracula,” those blood-sucking human vampires.
Possibly, you’ve just dismissed these movies as mere fancies conceived in the feverish brain pans of slightly demented studio scribblers. If so, you’re paying these plagiaristic wights an undeserved compliment. Few have that much imagination.
All these yarns are simply variations on age-old superstitions, derived from legends handed down from generation to generation, and rooted in antiquity.
Take the were-wolf, for instance. Our ancestors believed there were such critters. In England and on the Continent in medieval times many poor, half-witted wretches were charged with the crime of turning into wolves on occasion and biting their mother-in-law or devouring their landlords of wintery nights when the moon was ful. If this is not so – then the Encyclopedia Britanica, without which I could never write a scientific treatise of this sort, is a catalogue of pipe dreams.
As to the Zombie, which today is a very expensive and, I might say, an exceedingly atrocious drink, that baby prowls the West Indies, according to the more naive denizens of those islands. You bury him, but he won’t stay put. Undertakers down there must have a trying time of it, and nobody knows how many of them have suffered nervous breakdowns, T’ch!
At this time, however, our breathless interest (no kidding, have you read this far?) is held by the human vampire, in my opinion the most subtle and most fascinating of our weird menagerie of fanciful demons. Whereas, the werewolf is rather uncouth and makes a very devil of a howling nuisance of himself, and the Zombie is an unmannerly roughneck with rudely staring eyes, our vampire wafts gracefully about in the shadows and moves to the attack with the utmost of stealth and with nary a sound. Unlike the Zombie who or which will stalk you down and bat your brains out or crack your neck (he or it has no ring style whatever), the vampire operates with rare delicay.
He doesn’t kill in precipitant and vulgar fashion. He merely slips some of the victim’s blood while said victim is sleeping at night. Then he’ll stroll back to his grave and slumber through the day, to repeat the dainty process the following night and the next night until one day Uncle Steve will remark, “My, how awful pale Yvette is looking lately – the gal ain’t got no more blood nor a Navy bean.”
Uncle Steve, of course is a fathead, not having read a scientific paper, like this. He should know that a vampire, one of the undead, is slowly slaying Yvette – and what’s more that Yvette will turn into a vampire herself if something isn’t done – and quick. And vitamins will help her hardly at all.
Well, the foregoing, if you’re still with me, may give you some idea of what you’ll be witnessing if you attend the Nixon this week. Mr. Bela Lugosi, who has given multitudes of movie fans the heebie-jeebies, is the vampire of the title role. He was a sensation about 15 years ago when I saw him in “Dracula” in Los Angeles – being the major competition in that daffy metropolis for Peter the Hermit, a barefooted tangle-haired old coot wandering the balmy streets, and Aimee Semple McPherson in her long white robe herding the faithful to heavenly bliss. Later he made a movie “Dracula.”
The human vampire has its origin in the folk-tales or bull sessions of peasants centuries ago in the region inhabited by Slavic tribes – the Ukraine, parts of Russia, Poland and Serbia. Some of the Czechs and Hungarians of Slavonic strain also were press agents for the vampires. And, possibly, the folks of Hungary – Mr. Lugosi’s birthplace incidentally (and significantly) – did more publicity for the vampire than any other people. Along about 1730 and for five years thereafter wild-eyed yarns about vampires poured out of Hungary and spread all over Europe – until everybody was suspicious of any neighbor with rosy cheeks or a slight red nose.
Things in time quieted down until the late twenties when “Dracula” came to the footlights. For 65 weeks he scared London and frightened the timid in New York for nearly a year. Berlin in 1929 – not having Hitler for a bogieman, then – was his host for eight months.
Now the old boy is back for another fling at it. All this week he’ll be done in every night and in plain sight of the cash customers. One of the characters will drive a stake through his heart – hooray! Class in demonology now over – so back to you V. Garden, you sluggard.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 14, 1943
Bela Lugosi and “Dracula”…the two are inseperable virtually synonomous, for never has an actor been more indelibly identified with a role, and never has a role so dominated an actor’s private fortunes.
For some 20 years Lugosi played all manner of character and romantic leads, from Shakespeare to Ibsen. Then, in 1929, he created that strange half-human, half-bloodsucking vampire bat character of Bram Stoker’s famous novel. Ever since then “Dracula” has pursued him as relentlessly as he pursued his women victims in the play.
At first the actor was grateful, it made him important and within two years it elevated him to stardom both on stage and screen.
All he did before this was forgotten. He was caught in the inexorable tentacles of an octopus, he became a horror specialist and fit for nothing else. He was “Dracula’s” puppet, the shadowy figure hung over an intolerable situation. As “Dracula,” typifying “horror” pictures, fared, so Lugosi fared, the character made him a screen star, gave him a fine home and the influence that goes with such a position.
England banned horror pictures a few years later; Hollywood followed suit, and off the screen for two years, Lugosi soon went broke.
A small exhibitor a few years later “dared” to try “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” on a twin bill revival and again the “horror thrillers” came back with a bang. Then followed “The Son of Frankenstein,” in which Boris Karloff was starred with Lugosi, to tremendous returns. Since then he has appeared in about 10 more of the same type and is back, to use his own words, “in the chips again.”
On leaave from Hollywood, Lugosi brings his new streamlined version of “Dracula” to the Nixon tonight for a week. He has “imported” some of his supporting cast, among whom are Frank Jaquet, Wallace Widdecombe, Mary Stevenson, Janet Tyler, Len Mence, Guy Spaull and others.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 15, 1943
By Harold V. Cohen
There are revivals, it seems, and revivals. Last week “The Bat” came back to the Nixon and there was the heavy smell of ancient limburger all over the place. This week it’s “Dracula” and the corn’s just as old but a lot greener. For age hasn’t laid such a withered hand on this ancient tale of the one-man Blood Bank and B pictures haven’t completely staled its honorable hokum.
Of course, there’s that unholy horror from Hollywood, Mr. Bela Lugosi, to put the eeee into creeeep, and there’s a young lady in Miss Mary Heath so seductive and lovely you don’t wonder that the King of the Vampires has been content to rest in his tomb for such a vision to come along. Miss Heath, by the way, looks like a debutante edition of Miss Madeleine Carroll, which means that she is very pretty indeed. Mr. Lugosi, on the other hand, doesn’t look anything like Miss Madeleine Carroll, debutante edition or otherwise, and he is not very pretty indeed. However, Mr. Lugosi’s duties in “Dracula” are strictly of the scarehelloutaya variety and in that, it seems needless to remind you, he plays second fiddle to no man, especially bogey.
It’s a right good cast Mr. Harry Oshrin has assembled, by the way, for this “Dracula” although what the doggone package of a graveyard and gruesome would be like without Mr. Lugosi is another thing. Somehow he injects just the right touch of boo, which isn’t surprising since he’s been creeping up and down spines for a considerable number of years and then Miss Heath gives some substance to his werewolf. As a matter of fact, this Miss Heath would not only bring out the werewolves in packs but also any and all other kinds of wolves, up to and including the 1943 version.
Anyway between Mr. Lugosi, who is awfully horrible, and Miss Heath, who is awfully eye-easy, and with the help of several other able actors who are neither as horrible as Mr. Lugosi nor as fetching as Miss Heath, the current “Dracula” isn’t bad at all. Fifteen or sixteen years ago, people used to faint dead away in the aisles when Count Dracula came floating into the room on a broomstick and a puff of smoke, but there should be no fainting dead away today, unless it’s from laughter, although it’s still not quite that funny.
No, there remains yet a few honest moments of the grim and the macabre in “Dracula,” and when Mr. Lugosi, bathed in a green light that makes him look like a long, slimy, crooked hand in the direction of a prospective candidate for his evil eterna, why Mr. Bram Stoker’s old bat-boy actually becomes a modest shudder all over again, or at least a reasonable fascimile thereof. And in this day of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, the Gorilla Man, and the Dog-Faced What-Is-It, even a reasonable fascimile thereof isn’t to be snored or sneezed at.
The other people in the company fill the standard horror types altogether satisfactorily. Mr. Eduard Franz is excellent as the half-wit Draculean the Count starts off on flies and spiders before graduating him to the big leagues; Mr. Frank Jaquet turns in a first-rate performance as the learned professor who knows all the aniodotes, and Miss Joy Nicholson, Mr. Guy Spaull, Mr. Chester Francis and Mr. Len Mence all play their well-ordered positions well and respectably although Mr. Francis might look just a little more worried.
With any kind of a daughter in such grave danger of becoming a bloody nuisance down through the ages, a father would be upset, but when that daughter happens to be Miss Heath, her old man ought to be positively epiletic.
The Pittsburgh Press, June 15, 1943
By KASPAR MONAHAN
They had the devil’s own time – almost literally – getting the best of the “king of the vampires” last evening at the Nixon, for “Dracula” in the pkay of that title is a tough customer. Wise, too, for he has been prowling the earth for some five centuries – and a gent who has lived that long is bound to learn a trick or two beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.
However, in the final scene of the concluding act, persistence and justice finally emerged victorious. In the gloom and humidity several of the brave characters found the crafty old blood-quaffer and pounded a stake through his heart as the ghastly green light illuminated his livid countenance.
That’s the only way you can you can dispose of a human vampire – and, obviously, the only way to bring down the curtain on a play concerned with vampires. You can’t shoot ’em or poison ’em or have the law on ’em. They’re beyond the law, beyond comprehension and, speaking personally, beyond common sense.
Nexrt week the house goes dark, so the cleaning crew may swab up the gore and Sam Nixon may comb the bats out of his leonine mane and get things lined up for the new season.
Headed by Bela Lugosi, an experienced practitioner of the black arts these many years in the movies, it’s an uncommonly good crew of actors engaged in the outlandish clap-trap that is “Dracula.” There is, for instance, the very lovely Miss Mary Heath, who is the victim of the nocturnal marauder – the “undead” monster who drains her of her blood by night and snoozes all day in his secret tomb. There is her father, played by Charles Francis, in good fashion, and Frank Jaquet as the Dutch scientist who in the end is the Nemesis of the grisly fellow. And Eduard Franz is good, too, as a demented fellow, the “slave” of this Dracula.
To the accompaniment of backsatge noises – the howling of dogs, the maniacal laughter of our crazy man, whistling of bats (I suppose bats whistle) Dracula goes about his hellish business. He has come from his old stamping ground of “Transylvania” to England by airplane, bearing with him six caskets, each filled with the soil of his native heath.
Why? Because it is revealed a vampire must “sleep” by day in the earth in which he was originally buried. Well, you can see that finding all six coffins is quite a job. And you have to find them in the daytime for from sunset to sunrise there’s nothing you can do with a vampire – particularly one like Dracula, who has been feasting on human blood for 500 years.
In the meantime, our Dutch scientist staves off the fellow by dint of calling on heaven, brandishing holy objects, rubbing window sills and doors with “wolfbane,” until at last (praise be!), the preposterous hokus-pokus ends with its supreme strain on the credulity – driving of the stake through Dracula’s black heart.
All this to save the lovely Mary Heath from a fate immeasureably worse than death – and not only her, but future generations of Britishers; for if Dracula lives, God save the king and everybody else.
However, “Dracula” is better than the revival of “The Bat,” last week’s entry. “Dracula,” I think, is funnier – and when those back-stage wolves get going, louder.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 18, 1943
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 19, 1943
June 21-26, 1943
National Theater, Washington, D.C.
The Billboard, June 12, 1943
Duffy-Pitts ‘Bat’ Shelved in D.C., Nat’l on Fence
WASHINGTON, June 5. – Henry Duffy’s production of The Bat, featuring Zasu Pitts, which was scheduled to come into the National Theater here for the week of June 14 has been canceled out. Reason given was that show has been abandoned by Miss Pitts and producer.
This leaves house dark for the week, which is just as well, perhaps, since any engagement that week would be against the Ringling circus, always strong here. National’s summer schedule resumes following week with Bela Lugosi in Dracula. This old suspense thriller will play a week at scale of 50 cents to $1.50.
So far, National is still playing hide-and-seek with local drama desks over whether it will keep open thru warm months. Chances are now that it will shutter, especially if schedule becomes spotty and too many dark weeks arise.
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.”
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.