St. Joseph News-Press, April 22, 1955
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Bela Lugosi, who won fame in the role of Dracula on the stage and screen, was scheduled for a hearing today in psychopathic court on his application for commitment to a state hospital.
The 71-year-old Hungarian actor, who ranked with Boris Karloff as the foremost purveyor in horror movies, voluntarily signed himself into Los Angeles General Hospital yesterday as a drug user.
Psychiatrists at the hospital said Lugosi is not a narcotic addict, however, and that he has been using a narcotic off and on over a period of perhaps 20 years as medication.
Lugosi, if his papers are approved today, can be committed to a state hospital, ostensibly for the purpose of breaking the drug habit. A mental hygiene counselor at General hospital said, however, that the former actor told him he had not followed his profession for years, and that the private sanitarium where he had been informed him that he should go to the county institution for free help.
Lugosi began his movie career in Hollywood in 1931. He would be eligible for the Motion Picture Relief Fund, Inc., hospital in Woodland Hills except that he has not performed in a film in the last five years, thus is disqualified.
Lugosi’s fourth wife divorced him in 1953, charging he was cruel to her.
Associated Press Wirephoto, April 22, 1955
Bela Lugosi, 71, former screen star, discusses his condition in a ward of General Hospital today while awaiting a hearing to determine if he may be committed to a state hospital for treatment as a chronic user of narcotics for sedation. He signed himself into the hospital yesterday saying he had been using a drug for medication purposes over a period of years.
Los Angeles Newspaper, April 22, 1955
Actor Bela Lugosi, broken and weak after an admitted 20-year struggle against drugs, sits on a bed in psychopathic ward of General Hospital here today after giving himself up and asking for aid to break the habit. Picture was taken during bedside hearing on the movie “Dracula'” petition for voluntary self-commitment. At left is Superior Judge Wallace L. Ware who said to Lugosi, “It was a commendable thing for you to do.” Right: Deputy Counsellor J. Langos.
Los Angeles Examiner, April 23, 1955
BELA LUGOSI TELLS 20-YR DOPE HORROR
Pain-Killer Began Addiction That Ruined Actor’s Life
by Henry Sutherland
While Bela Lugosi was horrifying the theatergoing world as vampire, zombie, ghost or monster, his own horror-stricken eyes were fixed on a monster more terrible than any he portrayed, he disclosed yesterday.
It was a secret drug habit, rising from an innocently opened bottle like some malevolent djinn, growing, towering over him, tightening its grip until it destroyed his body and threatened his mind.
Gaunt, emaciated—looking like the ghost of a ghost—Lugosi told the Examiner of 20 years of horror while dangling bare feet and pipe-stem legs from a General Hospital cot. As he spoke he was awaiting a self-sought psychopathic court hearing before Superior Judge Wallace L. Ware which later sent him to the Norwalk Metropolitan Hospital for treatment and—he hopes—recovery.
Tears sometimes interrupted the 72-year-old Hungarian actor’s discourse, but 50 years on stage and screen stood him in good stead.
His manner was courtly, and the beautifully modulated voice, familiar made the occasion more like a royal levee than a chat with a ruined old man, clad in wrinkled grey pajamas, in a psychopathic ward.
“It all began 20 years ago, while I was working on a picture,” Lugosi recalled. “I was troubled by severe pains in my les. My work suffered. So I took injections of morphine to deaden that pain.”
“So, I started morphine. Soon I found that I was depending on it. I became frightened. You will never know how frightened. But while the effects of the narcotic lasted—only while they lasted—I could work.”
Lugosi said he concealed his addiction from friends and associates in Hollywood, although his wife, Lillian, finally learned of it.
“Nobody knew,” he said. “I couldn’t tell them. Nobody would understand.”
Efforts to rid himself of the habit only tightened its hold upon him, and added new drugs to his medicine chest, Lugosi recalled. He said:
“Three years after I began the morphine I went to England to revive Dracula,” (the play which rocketed Lugosi to the pinnacle as ‘master of terror’ on the New York stage in 1927).
“In England I learned about methdone,” Lugosi said. “In those days no prescription was required for the methadone in England. So I bought a big boxful and brought it back to this country.”
Dr. James McGinnis, chief psychiatrist, interjected that methadone is a drug used in the treatment of addicts to “taper off” their desire for morphine, and that it is rare for one to become addicted to it.
But Lugosi continued:
“I used it instead of morphine. When I switched to methadone I injected two cubic centimeters every two hours. Before I went to bed I injected two cubic centimeters of demerol (a drug increasing the effect of narcotics), and I also took barbiturate capsules so I could sleep for eight to 10 hours.”
“So—and so only—I could work.”
Lugosi recalled a last effort to rid himself of the drug with the aid of Lillian Lugosi, before she divorced him in 1953.
With his consent, Mrs. Lugosi limited his narcotics to tapering off shots, and he had fair success, he said. But domestic problems proved unsolvable and the divorce followed.
“When my wife and my son (Bela George Lugosi, now 17) went away it broke my heart,” the actor said. His voice broke and tears streamed his withered cheeks.
“I went back to the dope then.”
Recovering he continued:
“During the 20 years my habit cost me thousands of dollars. I cannot estimate how much. I only know I spent money on it when I didn’t have money to eat.”
“Half a country I worked. But now I have only my old age pension—just enough for my rent—not enough for my food.”
Lugosi said that seven weeks ago he appeared with Tor Johnson, Swedish wrestler, in a Rolling M Productions film called Bride of the Atom, but that:
“The money I got I had to pay on my bills and for food.”
“My friend, Mr. Hall, sends me food. I ask him, ‘How will I repay you back.’ He tells me: ‘If you die, forget it, If you get well, you can repay.”
Dr. McGinnis disclosed that Lugosi’s friend, Manley Hall, writer and lecturer, brought the actor to General Hospital two months ago and that:
“Through the Motion Picture Relief Fund we arranged to place Lugosi in the Kimball Sanitarium. He remained there until two days ago, when it was decided to transfer him here for the present hearing.”
“We feel that the Metropolitan Hospital at Norwalk will be the best place for him, and he agrees.”
Lugosi nodded, but he did not conceal that he has illusions about his desire for commitment to the institution. He said:
“I used to inject the methadone in my legs, but I lost 50 pounds—from 180 pounds to 130—and my limbs became just strings of muscle. When I could no longer find a place to inject, that was the end.”
“Three days ago I got my last ‘dummy’ shot—just the needle, with no liquid—at the sanitarium. Now, I’m in the stage where I am panicky for it. But I cannot get it here. That’s why I want to go to Norwalk.”
With a dignity which no circumstance seemed capable of overcoming, Lugosi concluded:
“I was afraid to here (to the psychiatric ward) because of the insanity associated with this place. For my mind is all right. It is only my body that is sick.”
“But here I found the most pleasant disappointment. I thought I was to be just a number, but I am getting all of the breaks to bring me back to life.”
In ordering Lugosi’s commitment following the hearing held in the ward, Judge Ware told the actor:
“The court commends you for your voluntarily seeking correction of the drug addiction. You are only 72, and have a good deal of life left ahead of you, provided that you live it right.”
“God bless you, judge.” Lugosi replied.
Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1955
BELA LUGOSI TELLS LONG DOPE ORDEAL
Actor Bela Lugosi, who earned lasting fame as a portrayer of horror movie characters, yesterday described a personal life of narcotic addiction that had rivaled his screen roles over a period of two decades.
He recited his own terror story of addiction to Superior Judge Wallace L. Ware, who committed the actor to Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk for a minimum sentence of three months and a maximum of two years.
Lugosi, who said his age is 72 and his weight a skinny 125 pounds, gave an emotional account of his life under the influence of narcotics as his sat on the edge of a General Hospital cot.
Contrast in Dress
In contrast to the impeccable dinner-jacketed appearance he made in his most successful film appearances, he was dressed in a rough hospital pajama jacket and trousers. His emaciated legs dangled short of the floor and his fluttering hands nursed a cup of coffee and a nervously chewed cigar.
“Shooting pains in my legs, back in the days when I was making ‘horror’ films made a medical addict of me,” he confessed.
“I starred using morphine under doctor’s care. I knew after a time it was getting out of control.”
“Seventeen years ago on a trip to England. I heard of a new drug less harmful than morphine. It was called methadone. I smuggled a big box of it back home. I guess I brought a pound.”
“Ever since I’ve used that or Demerol. I ljust took the drugs. I didn’t eat. I got sicker and sicker.”
Period of Withdrawal
“There was one period, a few years ago, when I quit. My wife Liliian, who divorced me in 1953, got me to quit.”
“She gave me the shots. And she weaned me. Finally I got only the bare needle. A fake shot, that’s all. I was done with it.”
“Then she left me. She took our son. He was my flesh. I went back on the drugs. My heart was broken.”
He entered General Hospital Wednesday, accompanied by a friend, writer Manley Hall, who he said had aided in his support for years.
Yesterday, after a 45-minute hearing Superior Judge Wallace L. Ware assented to Lugosi’s plea for commitment at Metropolitan State.
St. Joseph News-Press, April 24, 1955
The Windsor Daily Star, April 25, 1955
Trail’s End For Lugosi
By ALINE MOSBY
HOLLYWOOD, (UP) – Bela Lugosi, committed to a hospital as a narcotics addict, was famed for frightening people. But in real life he is a quiet, gentle man who got into horror movies by mistake and was haunted by the stigma.
Lugosi was once a romantic leading man on the stage. But after he achieved fame as “Dracula,” the fine actor’s career was dependent upon playing the mad scientist who pours evil potions into smoky test tubes and keeps a monster locked up in his laboratory.
He had four unhappy marriages. Once during a lull in the monster fad he was on relief.
Now, at 72, the man who used to send chills up fans’ spines does not appear frightening. Calling himself a “broken, old man,” Lugosi is in a state hospital at his own request after 20 years of addiction.
Lugosi came to the United States in 1923 to appear in romantic comedies on Broadway. He was a heart throb until he accepted the hit play, “Dracula.”
“When it closed, Bela Lugosi was a monster in human form. The only work I could get was monstering,” he sadly said in an interview.
He played Frankenstein’s monster, after once turning down the role in favor of Boris Karloff because the make-up was uncomfortable. Lugosi also played the monster’s sidekick with the broken neck. In 63 horror films he killed more than 300 characters. He was hanged, burned, frozen, smothered by lava and drowned in swamps on the screen. He was a zombie, a bloody phantom, a hungry ape and a vampire with steel claws.
“I didn’t know if you were a success in one character in this country you were branded,” he said. “Unfortunately they haven’t let me play decent characters since.”
In the early ’30’s the monster man had a mansion, two cars and a fat bank account. Then British censors laid down the law on horror pictures. Hollywood stopped making them. By the end of 1937 Lugosi and his wife were collecting $15 a week relief.
But in 1941 a new horror movie cycle started and Lugosi worked again. Then came more lean years. Recently the one-time leading man did a cruel satire of his monster self in a Las Vegas burlesque house.
He admits now “I gambled all that salary away.”
Lugosi came home to an empty house as his fourth wife divorced him two years ago. He admits he has been eating for the last few weeks because of generosity of friends.
The busy-browed actor actually was afraid of newspaper reporters, child actors, noise of any kind and, he told me, of dying.
“Death is the only thing that really is frightening to me,” he said. “The calendar turns, and eventually you have to go.”
Sweetwater Reporter, April 25, 1955
Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1955
FILM FRIENDS TO HELP LUGOSI IN DOPE FIGHT
Bela Lugosi, whose horror movies never matched the terrors of his 20-year fight against the dope habit, yesterday in General Hospital took a first step toward rehabilitation.
The veteran 72 year old portrayer of such characterizations as Dracula, the White Zombie and the Batman had walked into the psychiatric ward of the hospital last Thursday asking for help in his personal fight.
Yesterday the medical care he was receiving was augmented by a helping hand from the show business he has been a part of for more than 50 years.
He was told arrangements are being made for a lavish Hollywood premiere of the last movie he made, Bride of the Atom, and the proceeds will go to him. The actor was destitute when he committed himself Thursday.
And he was given the script for his next picture, The Ghoul Goes West, production of which has been postponed until Bela has recovered entirely from drug addiction and is ready to work again.
Bearer of the tidings and the script was Tony McCoy, young producer of Lugosi’s last film, who promised to hold up the shooting of his next one until Bela can star in it.
Arrayed behind McCoy when he broke the news to Lugosi were members of both cast and crew of the star’s last film from Director Ed Wood and leading players to property men and grips.
Deeply touched by the obvious respect and devotion showed by this little segment of show business, Lugosi wept unrestrainedly in his bed. In a voice choked by emotion he said:
“This is so heart-warming, such a miracle. I cannot believe it. To know that people have such faith in me is better than medicine. I will not let them down.”
“The premiere of Bride of the Atom the first week in May will be in the heart of Hollywood, Bela, with all the trimmings, lights and all,” Producer McCoy told Lugosi. “The proceeds will go into a trust fund and you will draw from it weekly.”
“I plan to shoot your next one starting June 1, but I’m putting it back until you’re able to star in it. That’ll be your comeback picture.”
“I have made up my mind now,” Lugosi said, “I had never made my mind up before to leave the drugs alone. Now that it is made up it becomes a law. I will need time in the hospital. I mean to take the time and do it right. They had me on the hook. I mean to dehook myself.”
Other players who worked with Lugosi in his last film explained why the veteran Hungarian actor star was so popular with the cast and crew.
“It was his gracious charm and his willingness to help us, said Don Nagel, Loretta King and Tor Johnson. “He was a perfect trouper all during production. We want him to the finish and we’re waiting for him to rejoin us.”
When his general physical condition improves, Lugosi will be transferred to Metropolitan Hospital in Norwalk for completion of treatment.
He has explained that he began using drugs 20 years ago because of pains he suffered in his legs and never managed to break the habit.
United Press, April 25, 1955
HORROR STAR BELA LUGOSI
IS NOW BROKEN OLD MAN
by Aline Mosby
United Press Hollywood Writer
Hollywood (UP) — Bela Lugosi, committed to a hospital as a narcotics addict, was famed for frightening people. But in real life he is a quiet, gentle man who got into horror movies by mistake and was haunted by the stigma.
Lugosi once was a romantic leading man on the stage. But after he achieved fame as “Dracula,” the fine actor’s career was dependent upon playing the mad scientist who pours evil potions into smoky test tubes and keeps a monster locked up in his laboratory.
He had four unhappy marriages. Once during a lull in the monster movie fad, he was on relief.
Now, at 72, the man who used to send chills up film fans’ spines does not appear frightening. Calling himself a “broken old man,” Lugosi is in a state hospital at his own request after 20 years of addiction.
Lugosi came to the United States in 1923 to appear in romantic comedies on Broadway. He was a heart throb until he accepted that hit play, Dracula.
“When it closed, Bela Lugosi was a monster in human form. The only work I could get was in monstering,” he sadly said in a recent interview.
He played Frankenstein’s monster, after once turning down the role in favor of Boris Karloff because the make-up was uncomfortable. Lugosi last played the monster’s sidekick with the broken neck. In 63 horror films he killed more than 300 characters.
He was hanged, burned, frozen, smothered by lava and drowned in swamps on the screen. He was a zombie, a bloody phantom, a hungry ape and a vampire with steel claws.
“I didn’t know if you were a success in one character in this country you were branded,” he said. “Unfortunately they haven’t let me play decent characters since.”
In the early 30’s the monster man had a mansion, two cars and a fat bank account. Then British censors laid down the law on horror pictures. Hollywood stopped making them. By the end of 1937 Lugosi and his wife were collecting $15 a week relief.
But in 1941 a new horror movie cycle started and Lugosi worked again. Then came more lean years. Recently the one-time romantic leading man did a cruel satire of his monster self in Las Vegas burlesque house.
He admits now, “I gambled all that salary away.”
Lugosi came home to an empty house as his fourth wife divorced him two years ago. He admits he has been eating for the last few weeks because of generosity of friends.
The bushy-browed actor actually was afraid of newspaper reporters, child actors, noise of any kind and, he told me, of dying.
“Death is the only thing that really is frightening to me,” he said, “The calendar turns, and eventually you have to go.”
Rockford Register-Republic, April 29, 1955
Lugosi Fights Drug Habit
NORWALK, Cal. (INS) – Actor Bela Lugosi, now pathetic shell of the star who once held audiences spellbound with his portrayals of “Dracula” and other horror characters, is in the toughest role of his life today – that of trying to “kick” the drug habit.
Behind the bars and walls of Norwalk Metropolitan hospital he set himself the rugged task of trying to free himself of the narcotics addiction that has, until now, been his private and secret horror for 20 years.
Lugosi, once a robust 180 pounds but now wasted away to a mere 130, was committed to the hospital at his own request after a bed-side hearing conducted in the psychopathic ward of the General hospital by Superior Judge Wallace L. Ware.
The former star, 72, was given a minimum sentence of three months in hospital and a maximum of two years.
Lugosi, once so handsome he was known as “the Barrymore of Budapest” in the Hungarian capital where he first achieved acting fame, was gaunt and emaciated as he talked to newsmen before the hearing. His legs looked little more than pipestems as he dangled them over the side of the hospital cot.
The actor related he made a million dollars with “Dracula” and other horror plays and pictures. But he said:
“I don’t have a dime of it left. I am dependent on the goodness of friends for my food. I get a small pension which takes care of the rest.
He said he started taking morphine 20 years ago to relieve severe pains in his legs. In time he found himself “hooked.”
In an effort to escape the addiction, he switched to a substitute, methodone, which he first learned about and first used in England while doing a revival of “Dracula” in London. Later he used another narcotic in combination with the methodone and took heavy dosed of sleeping pills as well. He was such a slave to the drugs he went without food to buy then.
Lugosi said he beat the habit once, before his wife, Lillian, divorced him in 1953. With his consent, she give the drugs to him and tapered them off until, finally, all he was getting was “dummy shot.
But the picture changed overnight when he and his wife broke up.
With tears streaming down his withered cheeks, he said:
“When my wife and son (Bela George Lugosi, 17) went away it broke my heart. I went back on dope then.
Folha Da Manha (Sao Paulo), May 19, 1955
Theatre of Life presents
Spokane Daily Chronicle, July 30, 1955
Medics to Decide if Lugosi’s O.K.
LOS ANGELES, July 30. (AP) – A board of physicians will decide next week if Bela Lugosi can be released from the state hospital where he voluntarily sought aid in fighting a drug addiction.
The 72-year-old film menace, pale, worried and thin, committed himself last April. He asked for help in breaking a drug habit he said had plagued him for two decades.
He was sent to the Metropolitan State hospital at near-by Norwalk for a minimum of three months and a maximum of two years. Lugosi, now 20 pounds heavier, expects to be released after next week’s hearing.
After his release the Hungarian-born actor hops (sic) to resume his acting career, which brought him his greatest fame in the film version of “Dracula,” Bram Stoker’s novel.
The Sunday Sun, July 30, 1955
Drug Cure ‘Greatest,’ Says Bela Lugosi After Treatment
LOS ANGELES (AP) – “The greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
That was actor Bela Lugosi’s comment Friday as he prepared to end next Friday a three month stay at Metropolitan State Hospital, where he says he has been cured of narcotics addiction.
The veteran of dozens of horror movies told a Los Angeles reporter:
“I am leaving here with a philosophy of life. All my life I was not used to rules…the regimen of hospital life has shown me there must be certain rules for all.”
Ten days after leaving the hospital he will start work in a new movie.
Last April the 72-year-old star of “Dracula” and other screen shockers signed himself into the county’s general hospital and told doctors, “I need help to overcome the drug habit.”
Too ill to go into court, the emaciated actor was given a hearing in a hospital ward. He said he started using morphine to deaden leg pains 20 years ago, later gave up morphine but used various other drugs thereafter.
Lugosi said he hadn’t a dime left of the half million dollars he said he had made in films.
He said his hospital stay was brightened by thousands of letters from all over the world, including Egypt and South Africa.
The Rockford Morning Star, August 3, 1955
Daytona Beach Morning Journal, August 3, 1955
Bela Lugosi To Leave Hospital
NORWALK, Calif. (AP) – Physicians said yesterday Bela Lugosi, former film actor, will be released from a state hospital where he underwent three months treatment for drug addiction.
Officially, Lugosi will be on leave of absence from Metropolitan State Hospital. Tests conducted there showed he had improved “remarkably” his doctor said.
The onetime actor who played in such movies as “Dracula,” “Chandu” and “Frankenstein,” passed a hospital examination yesterday. He had committed himself to the hospital on April 22.
Lugosi will remain under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Dept. of Mental Health for a year. He has indicated he hopes to resume his acting career.
The Argus (Melbourne), August 4, 1955
Front page news abroad
DOCTORS SAID YESTERDAY that Bela Lugosi, former film actor, will be released on Friday from a California hospital, where he underwent three months of treatment for drug addiction.
Kentucky New Era, August 4, 1955
Treatment For Drug Addiction Nears End
Norwalk, Calif. (AP) – Rehabilitated Bela Lugosi will leave Metropolitan State Hospital Friday and start work on a new movie in two weeks. He was treated for three months for drug addiction.
The 66-year-old actor, his step firm, his voice firm, and his eyes as piercing as ever, has come a long way back from the emaciated addict who could barely walk when he was committed to the hospital at his request.
Long Beach Press Telegram, August 5, 1955
Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1955
BELA LUGOSI LEAVES HOSPITAL TO BEGIN
Norwalk, Aug. 5 — Actor Bela Lugosi, self-committed three months ago for drug addiction, today left Metropolitan State Hospital with a firm resolution “Not to disappoint my new-found friends.”
The friends were the “thousands” who wrote to the movie “Dracula” during his rehabilitation and expressed faith in his ability to overcome the drug habit.
“I’m not going to disappoint those people,” Lugosi declared as his picked up his small suitcase and prepared to leave the hospital.
He was met there by his divorced wife, Lillian, and their son, Bela Lugosi, Jr., 18. The 66-year-old actor will stay with a nephew.
SET FOR FILM
In two weeks, Lugosi will start work on a role in the film, The Ghoul Goes West. He has been studying his part at the hospital.
Tuesday Lugosi was pronounced fit to leave the hospital by a board of medical examiners. During his stay he put on 20 pounds and lost the emaciated appearance he had when he entered.
“I’m no longer addicted to drugs,” he commented. “I’ve licked a habit of 20 years and I’m a happy man again.”
Photograph with inscription on reverse given to Mrs Perkins, one of the nurses at the Metropolitan State Hospital, by Lugosi
Binghamton Press, August 18, 1955
Bela testified before the Senate subcommittee
Associated Press Wirephoto, August 24, 1955
BELA LUGOSI TO WED
Hope Lininger, 40, movie studio cutting room clerk, lights the pipe of former horror actor Bela Lugosi, 73, as they make final plans for their marriage tonight. In a copyrighted story, the Los Angeles Mirror-News said today the wedding will climax a strange romance which began when Miss Lininger wrote Lugosi daily anonymous letters while he was being treated for drug addiction in a state hospital. When he was released as cured he found her after a long search and the romance followed.
A letter from Bela to Hope shortly after leaving hospital
The Victoria Advocate, August 24, 1955
Horror Actor To Take Wife
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Aug. 24 (AP) – Horror-movie actor Bela Lugosi, 73, today obtained a license to wed a film studio employe who wrote him letters of encouragement recently while he was in a state hospital for treatment for drug addiction.
The bride-to-be is Miss Hope Lininger, 40, who says she was a Lugosi fan as a little girl in Johnstown, Pa. It will be her first marriage and the fifth for the veteran actor.
Miss Lininger said the wedding may be “today, tomorrow or Friday.” They plan to honeymoon in New York.
Lugosi was released last Aug. 5 from Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, Calif., to which he was sent three months earlier at his own request. He said he “licked a habit of 20 years.”
Lugosi said Miss Lininger sent him letters every day at the hospital and signed them “just a dash of hope.” The actor said he located the woman from a return address on one of the envelopes.
The Hungarian-born actor has been twice widowed and twice divorced. His fourth wife, former actress Lillian Arch Lugosi, 43, divorced him two years ago.
Proof that Hope Lininger “was a Lugosi fan as a little girl in Johnstown, Pa.” is contained in a fan letter she wrote to Modern Screen, which was published in the December, 1935 issue
Modern Screen December 1935
Between You & Me
The Miami News, August 24, 1955
Los Angeles Mirror-News, August 24, 1955
BELA LUGOSI TO WED TONIGHT
Hospital Stay Leads To Romance With Fan
by Frank Laro, Mirror-News Staff Writer
Back in 1931 a schoolgirl crouched down fearfully in a movie-theater seat in Johnstown, Pa.
All around her were girls her age—they gasped and applauded when their celluloid appeared on the silver screen,
They were Clark Gable, Ronald Colman and Cary Grant.
But this teen-ager had a hero all her own. The ones who applauded and shrilled over Gable, Cooper, Colman and Grant are living comfortable today with guys they met in the audience, not on the screen.
The little girl who sat all by herself in that dark theater has seen a strange dream come true.
Tonight, Hope Lininger, 40, a cutting-room clerk at RKO Studios, will be married to the dream that other girls her age in 1931 thought a nightmare.
Miss Lininger tonight will become the bride of Bela Lugosi, 73, released a few weeks ago from Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk, pronounced cured as a drug-addict.
In 1931 he was the sinister “Dracula,” a cape-clad vampire, and he never really escaped from such horrendous roles. A type, they said. And that he was.
The romance of Miss Lininger and Bela Lugosi is one of the strangest in the history of the movies and the theater.
“When I was a little girl, and even when I got older, I didn’t have much to do with boys,” Hope remembers.
“I had a very unhappy home, a variety of stepfathers, no brothers, and I lived alone most of the time.”
“I chose Bela Lugosi when I saw him in Dracula as my hero. That was because I wanted someone all to myself. I knew the other little girls would never be Lugosi fans. I felt this was a hero I had all to myself.”
Hope, whose marriage to Lugosi will be at the home of Manley P. Hall, writer and publisher of books and pamphlets as transcendental as the romance he will sanctify, confesses that she is astounded by the quirks of fate that have brought her to the altar.
“There was, of course, the fact that I was a fan of his while I was a little girl,” she puzzles. “But, then when he got in trouble I felt he was such a stray sheep. I think no one can ever accuse me of being a gold digger.”
“He doesn’t have a dime and no one but me wants him. If he doesn’t want to work that is all right with me. I have a job.”
“He needs help and I think I can give it to him.”
Hope, who has worked at the RKO studios for 10 years, says she had another personal interest in Lugosi’s destiny.
“There was a background in my life of people who suffered from narcotics, the way he did,” she says.
When Lugosi went to Norwalk, Hope started writing him letters. One a day. They were long—sometimes eight pages—and were crowded with the details of what she considered a humdrum life.
She never attached her name to the letters. “Just a Dash of Hope,” they were signed.
The great actor, who confesses now he was particularly intrigued by the anonymity of the letters, says:
“This was definitely someone I had to find. Here was a fan—and there have been many foolish letters in my fan mail—who professed to love me for 20 years. She had never written before.”
“I was struck by the fact she wrote me only when I got in trouble.”
When Lugosi got out of the hospital he searched for Hope. He didn’t know her name. He had only her address.
“But I finally found her. I got her on the telephone. I asked her to come and see me.”
“When she came in the house I wondered. She was an attractive woman. What was her angle, I wondered. After all, I know I have no money, my youth is gone and I am a sick man.”
“But then I considered that she had written me every day during those terrible months I spent in the hospital. It dawned on me, suddenly, that she believed in a Higher Power I believed in, too.”
“After I met her I realized she belonged to my class. She has sophistication and education. We speak the same language.”
Lugosi, who is as astonished as Hope about their romance and marriage, accounts for it partly because he feels lonesome.
“I miss a family life,” he says. “I am devoted to my son, Bela, Jr., who is 18. He is just as devoted to me.”
Lugosi confesses to a lingering love for his ex-wife, Lillian, 43, who divorced his in 1953.
“It was a terrible history of alcoholism, and finally, addiction to drugs,” the actor says.
“But my son, my son, what have I done to him.” He exclaims. “But, I know he still loves me.”
Lugosi and Miss Lininger obtained their marriage license this morning.
The marriage will be performed tonight at Hall’s home before a small group of close friends.
They plan no immediate honeymoon but will journey to New York late next month where Lugosi will testify before a subcommittee of the U. S. Senate on drug addiction.
He has optimistic expectations that he will soon return to stardom on the screen and is now studying a script, The Ghoul Goes West, which will be produced independently of the big studios.
“Just another one of those things,” he calls it.
“My life is about ended, but it is a great thing to be able to say that while I have life there is Hope.”
Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 24, 1955
She Chooses Him as Hero
Anonymous Notes to Actor Result in Lugosi Wedding
HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 24. (AP) – Bela Lugosi will be married tonight to a movie studio employee who wrote him daily letters of encouragement while he recently was hospitalized for drug addiction, the Mirror-News said today.
The copyrighted account identified the bride-to-be as Miss Hope Lininger, 40, a cutting room clerk at RKO studios. It said she and the 72-year-old Hungarian actor will be married at the home of Manley P. Hall, writer-publisher of books and pamphlets, before a small group of close friends.
Lugosi, famed for portrayals of horror roles, was divorced two years ago by his third wife, former actress Lillian Arch Lugosi, 43.
Lugosi was released last August 5 from Metropolitan state hospital in suburban Norwalk, to which he was committed three months earlier at his own request. He said he was “no longer an addict to drugs” and “I’ve licked a habit of 20 years.”
The Mirror-News account quoted Miss Lininger as saying that when she was a little girl in Johnstown, Pa., she chose Lugosi as a screen hero when other girls picked Clark Gable or Gary Cooper because she wanted someone to herself and –
“I knew the other little girls would never be Lugosi fans.”
She had seen the sharp-featured actor as the star of “Dracula.”
The paper said she wrote Lugosi daily letters when he was hospitalized, signing them “just a dash of hope.” Lugosi was quoted as saying he became intrigued by the anonymity and got her telephone number through the return address.
Binghamton Press, August 25
Bela Lugosi and Hope Lininger on their wedding day
The Bulletin, August 25, 1955
Associated Press Wirephoto, August 25, 1955
HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 25—BELA LUGOSI AND BRIDE—Bela Lugosi, the 73-year-old horror-movie actor, and his bride, Hope Lininger, 40, drink a toast beside their wedding cake after their marriage here last night.
The bride, who had never met him, sent him letters of encouragement while he recently was a drug addiction patient at a state hospital. He was released Aug. 5 and looked her up. Their romance followed. She is a film studio worker.
The Free Lance-Star, August 25, 1955
Actor Is Married To His No. 1 Fan In Calif. Last Night
HOLLYWOOD, (AP) – Bela Lugosi, the horror movie menace, and his No. 1 fan, a woman who wrote him encouraging letters during his stay for drug addiction treatment, were married last night.
The 73-year-old actor and Hope Lininger, 40, a fan of Lugosi’s since her girlhood in Johnstown, Pa., were wed in a ceremony performed by Manley P. Hall at his Hollywood home.
The marriage was the first for the blonde film studio employe. It was the fifth for Lugosi, freed Aug. 4 from a state hospital where he had admitted himself three months earlier for treatment.
He said that his bride wrote him daily letters while he was in the hospital. She didn’t sign her name, but Lugosi learned her phone number from her address and later met and wooed her.
The couple said they would take a honeymoon trip to New York next month. The actor described as rehabilitated by state physicians, said he would start a new film soon.
Hall, a long-time friend of Lugosi, identified himself as a writer, philosopher and an ordained minister. He married the couple in front of a huge hearth, flanked by Chinese devil dogs, amid the odor of burning incense. Lugosi’s son Bela Jr., 17, was best man, and Mrs. Pat Delaney, a city jail employe, was matron of honor.
The Long Island Star-Journal, August 25, 1955
Los Angeles Examiner, August 25, 1955
BELA LUGOSI, 72, DRACULA ACTOR, MARIED TO ONE-TIME FAN, 39
Credits Bride With Dope Fight Aid
Bela Lugosi, 72, veteran actor of Dracula fame who recently won a battle against drug addiction, last night had good reason for reiterating his life-long philosophical observation, “Where there’s life there’s hope.”
Lugosi and Hope Louise Lininger, 39, an RKO Studio cutting room clerk, were married shortly after 8 pm at the home of Manley P. Hall, author and founder of the Philosophical Research Foundation, 2308 Hillhurst Drive.
Hall, an ordained minister and long-time friend of the actor performed the simple ceremony in his living room surrounded by objets d’art of the Far East while photo flash bulbs winked.
The bride, a devoted Lugosi fan for more than 20 years, wore a blue-and-gray silk print and Lugosi a gray business suit. Best man was the actor’s 18-year-old son, Bela, Jr., and dress and matching accessories matron of honor was Mrs. Pat Delaney, a friend of the bride.
When the couple obtained their marriage license in Santa Monica yesterday Lugosi explained the romance by saying:
“My career—and my very life—seemed reaching an end because of drug addiction a few months ago, when I voluntarily entered Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk, but I was discharged as cured August 3.”
“Hope, who went to the movies to see me instead of Clark Gable and the rest when she was a young girl in the early 30s, waited until I was down and almost out before writing fan letters to me, and she signed ‘A dash of Hope.’”
Her cheerful letters did more than anything else to help me win my fight against the dope habit, and when I was released I looked for her and found her. She had written her address on one of her daily letters.”
“I chose Bela as my hero when I saw him in Dracula many years ago,” said the bride, “and he is still my hero. He needs help and I mean to give it to him.”
The Argus (Melbourne), August 26, 1955
Bela marries the girl who wrote
In Hollywood yesterday Bela Lugosi, 73, horror actor of stage and screen, who has just finished treatment for drug addiction, was married, in a simple ceremony, to Hope Lininger, 39, a film studio cutting clerk.
The marriage was the first for the bride and the fifth for Lugosi, who said his bride wrote him daily letters while he was in hospital.
She did not sign her name, but Lugosi learned her telephone number from her address, and later met and wooed her.
Bela Lugosi Jr. with Hope Lininger and his father
The Age, August 26, 1955
Macabre wedding for Horror Actor
HOLLYWOOD, California, August 25 (A.A.P.). – Bela Lugosi, 73, horror actor of stage and screen, who admits he was a drug addict, was married last night to Hope Lininger, 39, a film studio cutting clerk.
The best man was Bela Lugosi, junior, 17-year-old son of the bridegroom and the matron of honor was Mrs. Pat Delaney, a city goal employee.
The marriage, the first for the bride, was the fifth for Lugosi.
The couple said they would take a honeymoon trip to New York next month. The actor described as rehabilitated by State physicians, said he would start a new film soon.
The couple were married in front of a huge hearth, flanked by Chinese devil dogs, amid the odor of burning incense.
The Kingston Daily Freeman, August 26, 1955
The Windsor Daily Star, November 16, 1955
Tonawanda News, November 16, 1955
Quotes From The News
LOS ANGELES – Actor and former narcotics addict Bela Lugosi testifying before a Senate subcommittee on pushers who try to get young people to sell narcotics;
“They are selfish, greedy people who are only interested in money. Whether they are dressed as angels or not, they are real devils in disguise – murderers.”
Rockford Register-Republic, November 16, 1955
Warsaw Times-Union, December 2, 1955
SO THEY SAY
Whether they are dressed as angels or not, they are real devils in disguise – murderers. – Actor Bela Lugosi on drug pushers, who try to enlist aid of young people.
United Press, February 15, 1956
Drama Behind The Camera
ORDEAL OF BELA LUGOSI
Hollywood (UP) – Hollywood’s top bogey men are making a super-colossal horror film, but behind the cameras is a rea-life drama that’s more startling.
While the cameras rolled, a slender old man watching on the sidelines said softly, “I used to take five or six needles a day. And when I took the cure they took it all away from me. It was horrible, just horrible…”
Bela (Dracula) Lugosi is back in the movies for the first time since he confessed he was a narcotics addict and committed himself to a state hospital.
In the old days Lugosi was the star, the mad scientist who stirred bubbling concoctions. But on this set Basil Rathbone is playing the looney doctor. Lon Chaney, John Carradine and Akim Tamiroff also are in The Black Sleep, Lugosi plays Rathbone’s butler, a mute servant “who just lets people in and out.”
Tells His Story
“There is Basil playing my part,” Lugosi said. “I used to be the big cheese. Now I’m playing just a dumb part. I have no dialogue because I was a bit worried whether I could do justice to the expectations. I’m still recuperating.”
On the gloomy set, Rathbone was reviving a man in the coffin. But I shivered more from the off-screen horror story Lugosi told me.
“I began using narcotics to kill the pain of sciatica,” he said. “Finally the doctor said I used so much I would die in six months if I didn’t stop.”
“I couldn’t afford the sanitarium. The only solution was to volunteer to enter the county hospital. There was no sense in trying to hide my problem.”
“The cure was very painful, terrible:
“I was able to get out in three months because of the kind letters from all over the world. I even got a telephone call from Japan. It was hell, to go through what I went through. I didn’t know I had so many friends—so many people who knew about me and gave a damn about my situation. They helped cure me.”
“A Terrible Thing”
I asked Lugosi what he thought of the controversial film about addicts, The Man With The Golden Arm. The 73-year-old actor began to cry.
“The movie made it so easy for the dope victim to get out of it,” he wept. “The youth of our country did not get the impression of what a terrible thing it is. I have a son who is 18. He watched how I ruined my life.”
“Oh, if only the young people could see me, the result…”
On the movie set, old friends came up to shake Lugosi’s hand on his first day back at work. The cast presented him with a black leather bound script book.
“I was once nice to them. It all comes back to you,” the actor said.
Binghampton Press, February 17, 1956