1950: Dracula

Bat Head 2

Dracula

March 20-25, 1950

The Theatre, St. Petersburg, Florida

The Theatre, St. Petersburg, Florida March 20 -25

Lugosi autograph Dracula St Petersburgh PlayersAn autograph signed by Bela Lugosi during the run in St. Petersburgh

The Theatre, St. Petersburg, Florida Matt Hughes Collection

Courtesy of Matt Hughes 

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The Evening Independent, March 16, 1950

Horror Man Here For Play

Lugosi Assails Crime Comics, Radio Dramas

By  C. WINN UPCHURCH

Independent Staff Writer 

Bela Lugosi makes his living as the horror man of the movies but as a father he is against crime comics, crime radio dramas and movies that deal with blood – red knives and smoking guns.

The Hollywood actor arrived in St. Petersburg Wednesday after driving here from New York with his wife – manager. The two are stopping at the Tides hotel and next week Lugosi will star in  the title role of “Dracula” to be presented by the St. Petersburg Players at the South Side junior high school auditorium.

Lugosi has portrayed the role of “Dracula” some 1,000 times but there was a time when he played romantic leads. That was in his native Hungary. He came to the United States in 1920 as a “political refugee fleeing from the Reds”.

Off stage and in his natural dress Lugosi does not appear to be the horror man that he is on screen or stage, a modestly dressed man, wearing white sport shoes and sporting a bow tie, he is more the typr of a retired businessman.

He has a 12-year-old son attending military school in California and Lugosi made it emphatic that his son is not allowed to read crime comics, listen to crime radio programs or see “horror” movies. “It is no good for youngsters,” the man who has become famous as the scare-the-daylights-out-of-you actor explains.

Lugosi uses non make-up for his Dracula role.

“I just mug the part,” he laughs.

Mr. and Mrs. Lugosi reside in Greenwich Village, New York.

He is not under contract to any of the movie studios but prefers to free lance.

“That way I can select my own roles,” he says in his slight European drawl.

He is currently making a personal appearance tour and from here will return to New York where he appears on radio and television shows, one of his recent shows being the popular “Suspense” program and another a televbision appearance with Milton Berle.

Lugosi doesn’t think of his screen portrayals as horror types.

“I just make funny faces,” he puts it.

The Evening Independent, March 18, 1950

St. Petersburg Times, March 18, 1950

St. Petersburg Times, March 19, 1950

St Petersburg Times, March 19, 1950 (1)

Bela Lugosi and Dracula, both of whom will be seen with the  St. Petersburg Players for a week beginning tomorrow night at 8:30 o’clock, are inseperable and virtually synonymous.

Never has an actor been more identified with a role and never has a role so influenced and dominated an actor’s private fortunes.

How the man and role are melded into each other will be more than apparent at The Theatre, Tenth Street South and Seventeenth Avenue, where the thrilling vampire play, “Dracula,” is to be shown nightly this week with matinee on Saturday at 2:30 o’clock.

For some 20 years Lugosi played all manner of character and romantic leads, including Shakespeare and 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 to “Dracula”. The character lifted him from relative obscurity and made him a figure of importance on the New York stage. Within two years it elevated him to stardom in the screen.

But all that Lugosi had done before that date was forgotten. As though caught in the inexorable tentacles of an octopus, he became typed as a “horror” specialist, a master in that medium, but fit for nothing else.

Where once he had been the master of his own professional destinies, he became “Dracula’s” puppet. The shadowy figure of “Dracula”, more than any casting office, dictated the kind of parts he could play. To an actor accustomed to a wide variety of roles, it was an unsatisfactory situation.

As “Dracula,” typifing “horror” pictures, fared, so Lugosi fared. The character made him a screen star, gave him a fine home and wealth. A few years of that and such films were banned by England. Hollywood quit making them. Lugosi, off the screen for two years, went broke, lost practically everything.

Then a small, independent exhibitor, experimenting to revive dwindling box office receipts, booked “Dracula” and “Frankenstein.” Crowds stood in line until 2a.m. to see them.

Taking its cue from this, Universal put on a revival of the pictures throughout the country. When the response was equally startling, the studio cast Lugosi and Boris Karloff in “The Son of Frankenstein”. Lugosi was back in pictures; “Dracula” had made him a star again.

“Dracula,” which will thrill theatregoers for a week, beginning tomorrow, is the St. Petersburg Players’ last attraction of the season.

 

St. Petersburg Times, March 20, 1950

‘Dracula’ Stars Lugosi Tonight

The St. Petersburg Players will wind up their season this week with a spine-chilling roar. “Dracula,” starring the internationally famous Bela Lugosi , starts tonight for a week’s run at The Theatre, Tenth Street South and Seventeenth Avenue. It is the season’s last play.

The story of the creature, half-human, half-vampire who stalks women victims, has thrilled and chilled theatregoers simce it was first produced in 1929. Since its beginning, Lugosi has been as inseparably identified with “Dracula” as Crosby is with crooning. Curtain at 8:30.

St. Petersburg Times, March 21, 1950

The Evening Independent, March 21, 1950

That old but ever new stage play and movie,”Dracula” was given by the man who created the role, Bela Lugosi, at the South Side Junior High School, last night. He had good support from the St. Petersburg players and this was necessary to make the play the success that it was at the first performance here. “Dracula” will be given each evening this week, through Saturday with matinees Wednesday and Saturday.

Lugosi faced an almost full house, last night. Half the audience were youngsters 10 to 16 years of age and they received the thriller with wild enthusiasm and did not overlook a line. They were silent when the curtain was up, thoroughly absorbed in the drama that was presented and the star of stage and screen could not have asked for a better or more attentive audience.

Lugosi is a finished and polished actor. He plays the “vampire” role with suavity and smoothness and has a lot of personal magnatism that gets over the footlights. He has played the role 1,000 times, on the stage, and the film has been shown at least once a year in almost every city in this country ever since it was first made in 1931. It always draws, no matter how often it has been shown.

“Dracula” was made from a book written some 60 years ago. Years later it was converted into a stage play and was given first in London where it ran for three years to capacity houses. Then it was presented in New York and Lugosi, who had been trained as an actor in Hungary, was given the role of “Count Dracula.” The play deals with a human vampire who sucks the blood of his victims. It is a real melodrama that has interest for adults as well as children when it is played well, as it was last night.

Lugosi is, of course, the star and is the central figure of the play. But he needs good support and got it from a good cast. The mysterious background was well built up in ther first act before Lugosi appears and the scene was well set for his appearance. The best tribute that could be paid the performance was the tense silence that prevailed through the whole play.

Bruce Blaine gave, last night, the best performance he has given this season. He played the role of the insane man who was under the domination of “Dracula.” It was a difficult part to play and Blaine did it very well. Elizabeth Hargen, as “Lucy”, gave a fine and sensitive performance, being especially effective in the scene where she attempts to drink the blood of her sweetheart. David Hooks, Leigh Gutteridge and Fred Scollay made the first act tensely interesting as they unfolded the plot against “Lucy.” Frank Edgar as the attendant did well. Constance Kelly handled a small role convincingly.

“Dracula” is well worth seeing.  A.R.D.

 

St. Petersburg Times, March 22, 1950

By NORMAN BUNIN

For ten weeks now, two acting groups have been providing St. Petersburg with stage productions in the tradition of the old stock companies. But not until Monday night has the city had an audience in that same tradition.

Several hundred children who comprised most of the audience for the St. Petersburg Players’ initial presentation of “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi, gasped, screamed and applauded in a heartfelt manner their inhibited elders have long abandoned.

THE EERIE TALE of Count Dracula, the blood-sucking vampire, transported these eager young theatre-goers above and beyond the humdrum world of carping teachers and unfinished homework as few movie thrillers or other items of their weekly adventure fare could. 

The adults on hand may have pretendded that it was sophistication rather than meek restraint which prevented them from joining so fully in the spirit of the evening, but the kids weren’t bothered by labels. It is true that, conditioned by too many radio comics, they laughed in places the playwrite never intended them to, but the modern cynicism vanished when Lugosi unleashed his store of scare tactics.

What has been said was not intended to keep adults away from “Dracula.” If they can throw one, they’ll enjoy it. Certainly there is purgative value in an evening of concentrated, fast-moving horror for one who suffers from the more insidious, creeping fears of an atomic age. The play is hokum, but hokum on a grand scale.

AND LUGOSI is no mere bogey-man. He is, indeed, a fine and accomplished actor, whose playing is well worth seeing, for it is one of the few remaining examples in this country of the old European tradition – over-emphasized, drawn in sweeping melodramatic strokes, but always moving.

The visiting star has also staged the play – with lots of action, hidden doors, weird lights – all the ingredients to chill his spectators.

The local company gives him ample support.

This week’s run of “Dracula” (through Saturday) is the last effort of the season by the St. Petersburg Players at South Side Junior High School. Let’s hope we see them again next year.

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July 4-8, 1950

St. Michael’s Playhouse, Winooski Park, Vermont.

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