British Tour of Dracula (1951)

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British Tour of Dracula

British Tour

Bela photographed by Editta Sherman

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Folklore states that when Bela Lugosi travelled to England to appear in a revival tour of Dracula in 1951, he found himself surrounded by amateur performers in a production that dramatically folded soon after its premiere at Brighton’s Theatre Royal. Unpaid and stranded in England, so the story goes, he appeared in Mother Riley Meets The Vampire, a quickly organised film, to raise funds to pay for passage back to America for himself and his wife.

In reality, all of the cast members were professional actors, as dictated by the rules of the British actors’ union Equity. The senior members of the cast had enjoyed long careers on the stage. Of the younger members, Richard Butler, the play’s Jonathan Harker,  went on the have a long and successful career, appearing in high profile plays, TV series and films.  Dracula toured the UK from April 30th to October 13th, 1951, during which time Bela Lugosi performed his signature role 229 times. While the production failed to deliver on a promised West End run, which Lugosi dreamed would restore his professional fortunes, it did not close until he announced that he did not have the energy to continue with the exhausting demands of life on the road and requested that the tour be terminated. He would never perform in the famous vampire play again.

Far from being a last-minute desperate attempt to pay his way back home, Lugosi’s participation in Mother Riley Meets The Vampire was first announced in the press over two months before filming began, long before there was any indication that the tour of Dracula would end.

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Tour Timeline

Bela and Lillian leave New York aboard the S.S. Mauretania – April 3

Bela and Lillian arrive in Southampton – April 10

Bela, Lillian and Richard Eastham, Dracula’s director, dine at L’Écu de France in London – April 11

Bela guested on The Charlie Chester Show on BBC TV – April 14

Bela interviewed on the BBC Radio programme In Town Tonight – April 14

Reception for the cast and crew near The British Museum – April 15

Rehearsals begin in a banquet room above a pub in Pont Street, South Kensington, London – April 16

Lillian Lugosi’s 40th birthday – April 21

Rehearsals move to the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End – April 23

Dress rehearsal at the Theatre Royal, Brighton – April 29

Theatre Royal, Brighton – April 30-May 5  (8 performances)

Lewisham Hippodrome – May 7-12 (12 performances)

Golders Green Hippodrome – May 14-19 (8 performances)

Streatham Hill Theatre – May 21-26 (8 performances)

Dudley Hippodrome – May 28-June 2 (12 performances)

Bela and Lillian visit the Accles and Pollock’s works in Oldbury – May 29

Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne – June 4-9 (8 performances)

Empire Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush – June 11-16 (12 performances)

Bela attends the Sunday Pictorial Film Garden Party at Morden Hall Park, Surrey – June 16

Bela interviewed on the BBC Radio programme In Town Tonight – June 16

King’s Theatre, Glasgow – June 18-23 (7 performances)

Empire Theatre, Middlesbrough – June 25-30 (12 performances)

Bela appears at the Stockton Festival of Britain Week in Ropner Park – June 30

The Grand Opera House, Belfast – July 2-7 (12 performances)

Wood Green Empire – July 9-14 (12 performances)

The Manchester Hippodrome – July 16-21 (12 performances)

Theatre Royal, Norwich – July 23-28 (7 performances)

Bela attends a British Legion fete in Drayton, Norwich – July 28 (?)

Palace Theatre,  Leicester – July 30-August 4 (12 performances)

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – August 6-11 (7 performances)

Bela appeared at the Sheffield Gala – August 6

Bela opened a new wet pea cannery at the Bachelors factory in Sheffield – August ?

The Empire, Chatham – August 13-18 (12 performances)

Bela attends a Festival Park Fete in Gillingham – August 16

Alma Theatre, Luton – August 20-25 (12 performances)

Theatre Royal, Nottingham – August 27-September 1 (8 performances)

The Chiswick Empire – September 3-8 (12 performances)

The New Theatre, Cambridge – September 10-15 (12 performances)

The Derby Hippodrome – September 17-22 (12 performances)

No performances – September 23 – October 7

Theatre Royal, Portsmouth – October 8-13 (12 performances)

Bela’s 69th birthday – October 20

Bela begins filming Mother Riley Meets the Vampire at Nettlefold Studio – November 5

Bela and Lillian attend the London premiere of Scrooge – November 22.

Bela and Lillian leave Southampton aboard the Queen Elizabeth –December 5

Bela and Lillian arrive in New York – December 11

Bela interviewed aboard ship by Jack Mangan for the TV show Ship’s Reporter – December 11

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Click on the following links for detailed information on the British Dracula tour

Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia

Exclusive Interviews With The Cast & Company