1948: Dracula Returns, But Lugosi Doesn’t

Bela Lugosi in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Bela Lugosi as Dracula in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein


With one exception, Lugosi’s 1948 would be a repeat of his 1947: starring in summer stock productions of Dracula and Arsenic & Old Lace, scattered radio and personal appearances. Those appearances ranged from night clubs to vaudeville to Halloween shows.

The exception is Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Lugosi’s last work at a major studio, filmed in late winter, and released in June. He played Count Dracula onscreen for the first time since his 1931 classic, and showed that he had lost none of his magic. The film was a surprise success, one of the biggest money-makers of 1948. The triumph might have jump-started Lugosi’s ailing career, but the movie business saw Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein only as a comedy and not a return of gothic horror. The filming generated a fair amount of press interest, and Lugosi told reporters of his plans for a Dracula resurgence. Never happened. Even as Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein played to full houses, Lugosi scrounged for work at playdates ranging from Salt Lake City to Miami to New England.

Bat Head 3

Berkeley Daily Gazette, Berkeley, California, February 5, 1948


by Hedda Hopper

Bela’s Last Horror

Bela Lugosi swears Brain of Frankenstein will be his last horror picture; but he will have  one more fling at Dracula on the London stage. Then, of all things, he will do four weeks of Harvey. That can only be matched by Boris Karloff, another horror man, who did kindly old Gramps in On Borrowed Time last year.


Oakland, Tribune, Oakland, California, March 3, 1948


by Bob Thomas

Hollywood, Feb. 3—(AP)—Two of the screen’s ablest boogeymen, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, are planning projects to satisfy the most eager horror fans.

Both are currently scaring the wits out of Abbott & Costello in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Lugosi reports that Universal-International is mulling two subjects based on his Dracula portrayal. “There is enough material in the original novel for half a dozen pictures,” the Hungarian actor told me. Meanwhile, he plans to take the famed blood-sucker to London for an eight-week stage run this summer.

Chaney is organizing his own producing company with Curt Siodmak, top writer of gruesome scripts. They plan to create new characters “more horrible than any yet seen on the screen.” I can hardly wait.

(NOTE: The two Dracula films and the stage production of Dracula failed to materialize. Lugosi eventually portrayed Dracula on the British stage in 1951. See 1951 British Dracula Tour – Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia)


San Mateo Times, San Mateo, California, March 4, 1948


by Bob Thomas

 Hollywood, Mar. 4—(AP)—Bela Lugosi plans to play in Harvey next fall. “I will give a slightly different interpretation of the role,” he said, uttering the understatement of the week.


The New York Times, March 14, 1948


Universal-International, long the home of spectral entertainment attained a chimerical crescendo in recent weeks with an incarnation of Venus, a mermaid, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Invisible Man all working at once. The majority of these loveable characters are concentrated in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, a film described by the studio as a comedy. Glen Strange is playing both The Monster and The Invisible Man, since, in the first characterization he need only be visible and in the second, only audible. Lon Chaney, Jr. has resumed his old mantle as the studio’s lycanthrope and will climax the drama by battling to the death with the monstrous Mr. Strange.

Bela Lugosi, the perpetual Dracula, disclosed last week, that he is to be revived for his new appearance by one of the unwary comedians who is foolish enough to pull an oaken state out of his heart. Mr. Lugosi, who was scrambling on the floor of his dressing room for a missing shirt stud at the time, commented that he was relieved that Universal had not asked him to do anything unbecoming to Dracula’s dignity in the association with Abbott & Costello. “There is no burlesque for me,” he said. “All I have to do is frighten the boys, a perfectly appropriate activity. My trademark will be unblemished.” He will not be permitted to sink his teeth in anyone’s jugular vein in the comedy; and will have to content himself with hypnotizing a girl and transforming himself into a bat from time to time.


The Bulletin, Norwich, Connecticut, August 4, 1948



 Bela Lugosi, guest artist at the Noriwch Summer theater this week, was the principal speaker at the regular meeting of the Norwich Lion’s Club, held at Longo’s Inn Tuesday evening, President T. Joseph Puza presided over the meeting.

Mr. Lugosi, who appears as “Dracula” at the summer theater, was introduced by Edward Obuchowski, program chairman for the evening.

In his address, Mr. Lugosi remarked on how well he has been enjoying his stay in Norwich and he likened this community to the thousands of others in the United States, as all being eager for some productions of the legitimate theater, “since,” he said, “the theater reflects the country’s background and culture.”

Mr. Lugosi urged the Lions and other similar organizations to go all-out to see that the theater is brought to every outlying district in the country. Mr. Lugosi said that this should be done by season tickets and other ways which will guarantees the producers success in their venture.

In a more humorous vein, Mr. Lugosi described in detail how he became the “master of horror and the supernatural” in being chosen to play the gruesome part of “Dracula.”

Mr. Lugosi said the play was originally shown in England. An American producer saw it and bought the production rights. Considerable difficultly arose in selecting an actor for the part of Dracula, until someone recommended Mr. Lugosi. Mr. Lugosi, who speaks with a Hungarian accent, was a natural of the past almost immediately.

The Lions gave Mr. Lugosi a rising vote of thanks for his interesting address. Mr. Puza gave Mr. Lugosi a Lion’s certificate in appreciation of his interesting talk.

Accompanying Mr. Lugosi were Ted Post, director of the playhouse, and David Fox, public relations head for the playhouse.

Both Mr. Lugosi and Mr. Post make brief remarks thanking the Lions for the many courtesies extended them. Before leaving Mr. Lugosi said “I don’t know when I ever had as fine a time as I have had tonight” and call the Lions “a regular bunch of fellows.”


Bella and Billie O'Day

The Miami Daily News, Miami, Florida, September 3, 1948


by Grace Wing

(Miami Daily News, Staff Writer)

Count  Dracula, one European celebrity who would rather bite a lady’s neck than kiss her hand, is afraid he may find Miami a little disappointing.

Because somewhere Dracula—or Bela Lugosi, to give him his own name—had heard that people don’t die here.

I understand Miami has no cemeteries,” he murmured in a menacing Blue Danube accent, going on to explain that it is one of his hobbies to collect epitaphs off tombstones.

*          *          *

The reporter was too loyal to explain that it actually is Miami Beach which has no cemeteries.

To anyone still young enough to be scared out of a year’s growth, the horror maestro would have been an anticlimax as he appeared at WIOD this morning for an interview by Billie O’Day.

Instead of the sinister black cloak in which Dracula enfolds his fainting victims, Lugosi was sporting a baby-blue shirt and a red polka-dot tie.

*          *          *

“What kind of blood’s in circulation these days, with meat prices the way they are?” he was asked. Lugosi raised one eyebrow, the way you’ve seen him do, and said he hasn’t been sampling any lately, he’s taken up cigars. And he pulled a long stogie out of his vest pocket and lighted it.

No longer as young as a matinee idol, Lugosi said he came to this country from his native Hungary 28 years ago, and that he first created the role of Dracula on the stage in 1927. The famous movie, which is revived every year, was made in 1931.

Not at all a mythical character. Count Dracula really lived in the Transylvania mountains where Lugosi was born. But nobody can prove he ever lured guests into his castle, hypnotized them and drank their blood. Still…

*          *          *

Back in the 20’s, European emoting was considered a little heavy for American romances, s—with his accent all ready-made—Lugosi determined he would become Dracula. He wears no make-up for the part.

“What about those—hands—the way you crook your fingers?’ he was asked after he posed for a picture menacing Miss O’Day.

“oh, those…I am double-jointed!” he laughed.