Bela Lugosi Obituaries

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Bela Lugosi died in his sleep at about 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 16th, 1956. He was 73. The cause of death was recorded as a coronary occlusion with myocardial fibrosis. His body was discovered by his fifth wife, Hope, in their apartment at 5620 Harold Way, Los Angeles, on her return from work. His funeral was held on Saturday, August 18th. He was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City in full Dracula costume. Contrary to popular legend, Bela Lugosi did not express a desire to be buried in his famous costume. It was the decision of his fourth wife, Lilian and their son, Bela G. Lugosi, who believed that it is what the actor would have wanted.

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Bela's Death Certificate

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The New York Times, August 17, 1956

Bela Lugosi Dies; Created Dracula;

Portrayer of Vampire Role on Stage and Screen Was Star in Budapest

Began Career in 1900

 LOS ANGELES, Aug. 16

Bela Lugosi, who won, international stage and screen fame in the title role of Bram Stoker’s mystery, “Dracula,” died tonight. He was 71 years old.

A year ago the Hungarian-born actor appealed for help to Los Angeles County authorities, saying he was a narcotics addict and wanted a cure.  He was admitted to Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk to begin a three-month rehabilitation course.  When he was released, Mr. Lugosi said he was convinced that he had been cured forever.

During World War I Mr. Lugosi was a lieutenant in the Hungarian Infantry.  He served for more than two years on the Serbian frontier and later in Russia.  In 1921, after the war and the political revolution in Hungary, he went to New York.  He organized a Hungarian dramatic company in which he was producer, director and star.

Mr. Lugosi was born in Lugos, Hungary, on Oct. 29, 1884, a son of an upper-class family.  He studied at the Academy of Theatrical Art in Budapest and began his career as an actor in 1900.  In 1911 he was leading man at the Magyar Szinhaz, a Budapest theatre, and two years later became leading man at the Royal Hungarian National Theatre.

He started playing Shakespearean roles in Hungary and had three years of classical roles, including Ibsen and others. He fled the Communist reign of terror of the post-World War I period, and came to this country, via Berlin.  

He produced several Hungarian plays here and made his first appearance on the English-speaking stage at the Greenwich Village Theatre as Fernando in “The Red Poppy.”

This was during the early Nineteen Twenties.  It was followed by his appearance as the Sheikh of Hammam in “Arabesque” at Daly’s Theatre.  Many important roles came thereafter, including those of Sergius Chernoff in “Open House,” “Father Petros in “Devil in the Cheese,” and at the Fulton Theatre in this city in October, 1927, as Count Dracula in “Dracula,” which ran throughout the season and was followed by a tour of two years.

Mr. Lugosi virtually created the role of Dracula, the mad count who lured victims to his macabre castle in the Hungarian mountains and there turned into a vampire and murdered them.

In September, 1933, Mr. Lugosi appeared as Siebenkase in “Murder at the Vanities,” and, in 1944 he returned to the stage, after a long absence, in the role of Jonathan Brewster in a touring company of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

Mr. Lugosi first acted in motion pictures in 1915, and since that time had appeared in a great many films, mostly in the role of a monster.  Among these were “The Wolf Man,” “The Ghost of Frankenstein,” “The Body Snatcher,” “Zombies of Broadway,” “The Human Monster,” “One Body Too Many,” “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and “The Mark of the Vampire.”

In 1939 he portrayed one of the Communist commissar in the film “Ninotchka,” which starred Greta Garbo.

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The Vancouver Sun, August 17, 1956

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Gettysburg Times, August 17, 1956

BELA LUGOSI, OF “DRACULA” FAME, IS DEAD

HOLLYWOOD (AP)  – Bela Lugosi famous for his portrayal of the “Dracula” on stage and screen, and only recently conqueror of himself after 17 years of drug addiction, died late yesterday of natural causes. He was 73.

After a long and active career in motion pictures, the Hungarian-born actor surrendered himself to Los Angeles authorities last year, saying he was a hopeless drug addict and wanted a chance of rehabilitation. He said he had started taking demerol in England in 1938 and never had been able to completely free himself from the use of drugs in one form or another.

He was treated for three months at the nearby Metropolitan State hospital in Norwalk, then passed a rigid examination and was released to resume his film career. His last role was in the movie “The Black Sleep.”

Wife Found Body

Lugosi’s second wife, the former Hope Lininger of Johnstown, Pa., said she found him dead when she returned home from work. They were married last August. She had encouraged Lugosi to appeal for help in his fight against drug addiction, and he said she was the inspiration for his decision to enter hospital.

“We had been very happy together,” she said. “It was a shock to find him gone. He was improving little by little, and there was no inkling of his passing.” An autopsy has been ordered.

Lugosi’s first wife was Lillian Arch, by who, he had a son, Bela Jr. They were divorced in 1953.

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Evening Standard, August 17, 1956

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Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Aug 17, 1956

Death Comes To “Dracula”

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Death Thursday night claimed Bela Lugosi, who won international stage and screen fame in the title role of Bram Stoker’s mystery, Dracula. He was 73.

The Hungarian actor had a long and active career but a year ago he appealed for help to Los Angeles county authorities, saying he was a drug addict and wanted a cure.

He was admitted to hospital to begin a three-months rehabilitation course and when he was released he said he was convinced that he had been cured forever.

Lugosi told authorities he had become an addict in England 17 years before and thereafter was never completely free from the use of drugs in one form or another.

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Breckenridge American, August 17, 1956

Breckenridge American (Breckenridge, Tex.), Vol. 36, No. 162, Ed. 1 Friday, August 17, 1956

Actor Dies

HOLLYWOOD (U.P.) – Horror actor Bela Lugosi died in his sleep Thursday.

The body of the Hungarian-born actor, who was 73, was discovered by his wife, a movie studio cutting clerk, when she arrived home from work at 9:45p.m. EDT. She said he usually took a nap in the afternoon.

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The Milwaukee Sentinel, August 17,1956

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Ogdensburgh-Advance, August, 1956

B. Lugosi Famed In The Films

Bela Lugosi, who won international stage and screen fame in the title role of Bram Stoker’s mystery, “Dracula,” died in Los Angeles Aug. 16. He was 74 years old.

A year ago the Hungarian-born actor appealed for help to Los Angeles County authorities saying he was a narcotics addict and wanted a cure. He was admitted to Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk to begin a three-month rehabilitation course. When he was released Mr. Lugosi said he was convinced that he had been cured forever.

During World War I Mr. Lugosi was a lieutenant in the Hungarian Infantry. He served for more than two years on the Serbian frontier and later  in Russia. In 1921, after the war and the political revolution in Hungary, he went to New York. He organised a Hungarian dramatic company in which he was producer, director and star.

Began career in 1900

He started playing Shakespearean roles in Hungary and had three years of classical roles, including Ibsen and others. He fled the Communist reign of terror of the post-World War I period, and came to this country, via Berlin.

He produced several Hungarian plays here and made his first appearance on the English-speaking stage at the Greenwich Village Theatre, New York as Fernando in “The Red Poppy.”

This was during the early nineteen twenties. It was followed by his appearance as the Sheikh of Hammam in “Arabesque” at Daly’s Theatre, New York. Many important roles came thereafter, including those Sergius Chernoff in “Open House,” Father Petros in “Devel (sic) in the Cheese,” and at the Fulton Theatre in New York city in October 1927 as Count Dracula in “Dracula,” which ran throughout the season and was followed by a tour of two years.

Mr. Lugosi virtually created the rile of Dracula, the mad count who lured victims to his macabre castle in the Hungarian mountains and there turned into a vampire and murdered them.

In September, 1933, Mr. Lugosi appeared as Siebentase in “Murder in the Vanities” and, in 1944 he returned to the stage, after a long absence, in the role of Jonathan Brewster in a touring company of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

Mr. Lugosi first acted in motion pictures in 1915, and since that time had appeared in a great many films, mostly in the role of a monster. Among these were “The Wolf Man,” “The Ghost of Frankenstein,” “The Body Snatcher,” “Zombies of Broadway,” “The Human Monster,” “One Body Too Many,” “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,” and “The Mark of the Vampire.”

In 1939 he portrayed one of the Communist commissars in the film “Ninotchka,” which starred Greta Garbo.

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Wisconsin State Journal, August 17, 1956

Actor Bela Lugosi, Screen ‘Dracula’ Dies in His Sleep

HOLLYWOOD (UP) – Actor Bela Lugosi, 73, best known for his screen portrayal of “Dracula,” died Thursday afternoon in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack.

His body was discovered by his wife, the former Hope Lininger, when she returned to their home from working at a studio. The actor, who was confined at his own request to a state hospital for treatment of narcotics addiction last year, had been ailing for the last three months.

Mrs. Lugosi, a movie studio cutting clerk, said she found the body of the Hungarian actor in his bed. She said he usually took a nap in the afternoon.

Lugosi was born Bela Lugosi Blasko, at Lugos, Hungary, on Oct. 20, 1888. He appeared on the European stage for many years before coming to New York. He starred in such Broadway stage plays as “The Red Poppy” and “Dracula,” the part he made famous in later years in the movies.

The actor had little trouble making a name for himself in Hollywood. He was cast in villain roles of the chilling Frankenstein movie series and other “hair raisers.”

Survivors include his wife and a 17-year-old son, Bela Lugosi Jr., who lives here.

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Taunton Daily Gazette, Massachusetts, August 17, 1956

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The Knickerbocker News, August 17, 1956

Lugosi, Famed ‘Dracula’ POf Films, Is Dead at 73

HOLLYWOOD – Bela Lugosi famous for his portrayal of the “Dracula” on stage and screen, and only recently conqueror of himself after 17 years of drug addiction, died late yesterday of natural causes.

After a long and active career in motion pictures, the Hungarian-born actor surrendered himself to Los Angeles authorities last year, saying he was a hopeless drug addict and wanted a chance of rehabilitation. He said he had started taking demerol in England in 1938 and never had been able to completely free himself from the use of drugs in one form or another.

He was treated for three months at the nearby Metropolitan State hospital in Norwalk, then passed a rigid examination and was released to resume his film career. His last role was in the movie “The Black Sleep.”

Lugosi’s second wife, the former Hope Lininger of Johnstown, Pa., said she found him dead when she returned home from work. They were married last August. She had encouraged Lugosi to appeal for help in his fight against drug addiction, and he said she was the inspiration for his decision to enter hospital.

“We had been very happy together,” she said. “It was a shock to find him gone. He was improving little by little, and there was no inkling of his passing.” An autopsy has been ordered.

In World War 1 Lugosi served as a lieutenant in the Hungarian Infantry. He came to the United States after the revolution in Hungary and organized a dramatic company. He played the role of a Spanish Apache in “The Red Poppy” and from that gained the lead in Bram Stoker’s mystery, “Dracula.” His film career began in 1931.

Lugosi’s first wife was Lillian Arch, by who, he had a son, Bela Jr. They were divorced in 1953.

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Kenmore & Town News edition of the Tonawanda, August 17, 1956

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The Argus (Melbourne), August 18, 1956

The Argus (Melbourne), August 18, 1956

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American newspaper, August 18, 1956

BELA LUGOSI SHROUD TO BE DRACULA CAPE

Bela Lugosi will be buried today wrapped in the black cape of Dracula, the horror character that brought the greatest fame of his long acting career.

“It was his wish,” explained his widow, Mrs. Hope Lininger Lugosi.

Prior to this dramatic burial, funeral services for the veteran 74-year-old actor will be conducted at 2:30p.m. today at the Utter-McKinley Mortuary Chapel , 6240 Hollywood Blvd. The interment will be at Holy Cross Cemetery. The body will lie in state at the mortuary until an hour before the services.

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Daily Mirror, August 18, 1956

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The News and Courier, August 18, 1956

Actor Bela Lugosi, Who Played Horror Characters, Dies

Los Angeles, Aug. 17 (AP) – Bela Lugosi will go to his grave wrapped in the black cape of Dracula, the horror character in which he scored the greatest triumph of his long motion picture career.

The 73-year-old stage and screen actor, whose weird roles brought shudders to theatregoers for more than 30 years, was found dead in his home last night.

His success in the two-year Broadway run of “Dracula” marked him as a portrayer of evil characters. He began his movie career in 1931, appeared in such pictures as “White Zombie,” “The Black Car,” (sic) “The Son of Frankenstein,” and of course, “Dracula.”

Only last year he extricated himself from a web as horrible as any of his movie plots – narcotics addiction.

Lugosi made a fortune portraying vampires, zombies and monsters but friends said he gave away much of his fortune.

Mrs. Lugosi delivered the flowing cloak of Dracula to the mortuary and said it was her husbands request that he be buried in it.

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American newspaper August 18, 1956

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Boxoffice, August 18,1956

Bela Lugosi Is Dead

LOS ANGELES – Bela Lugosi, who won international fame on the stage and screen for the title role in “Dracula,” died Thursday night (16) at the age of 71. The Hungarian actor recently completed a three-month stay at Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk for rehabilitation as a narcotics user. When he was released he said he was convinced that he had been cured forever. 

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Folha Da Manha (Sao Paulo), August 18, 1956

Folha da Manha (current Folha de São Paulo) reported the death of Bela Lugosi in the edition of Saturday, August 18, 1956

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The Times, August 18, 1956

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The Virgin Islands Daily News, August 20, 1956

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The Stage, August 23, 1956

Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor died in Hollywood on August 16, aged 67. He was a leading actor on the Budapest stage before 1914, being notable as Hamlet, Cyrano and Liliom. At the end of the war of 1914-18 he went to the United States where, after playing in and producing various Hungarian plays, he appeared on the English-speaking stage in New York in 1920 as Fernando in “The Red Poppy.” In 1927 he scored an outstanding success as creator of the title-role in “Dracula” at the Fulton, and later appeared in the film version. After doing much film-work in Hollywood, he returned to the stage in 1944, touring the United States as Jonathan Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

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The Strait times (Singapore) September 2, 1956

DRACULA DIES IN A PRIVATE HELL

AT THE FINISH A PAUPER AND A DRUG ADDICT

AN APPRECIATION BY RENE MacColl

CHICAGO, Sat.

I ALWAYS want people to live and die strictly in character.

The news that 73-year-old Bela Lugosi, the man who created a really terrifying projection of the vampire Count Dracula, has died a pauper and a drug addict in Los Angeles seems fitting.

Maybe if they were revived now Lugosi’s films would cause only laughs.

Maybe we are all wiser and more sophisticated these days.

But I can tell you when I first clapped eyes on the screen Dracula all those years ago, Lugosi was as convincing and terrifying as a serpent dangling from a tree.

And when he transformed himself into a vampire bat and started working his way up the walls of his repulsive Transylvanian castle, you accepted it unquestioningly. It was hokum, but hokum in the grandest style.

What an extraordinary life the man led! The origins were a bit like that other splendid old-timer, Eric von Stroheim.

Like Stroheim, Lugosi was an officer in the Austro-Humgarian imperial forces during World War One.

Like Stroheim, after the swords had been hung up Lugosi came to America.

Her hit Broadway in the mid 1920s. In ’27 came the start of the climax – Dracula. I did not see him in it on the stage, but it must have taken tremendous virtuosity to het away with it in the living theatre.

But it was the film which really landed him in the select – and highly profitable – company of ghouls, ghosts, werewolves, and robots. Audiences screamed. People fainted. There were complaints of insomnia from the more impressionable. Yes, Dracula was the high spot.

The descent was slow – the descent into a private hell of his own.

The offers of parts came to a halt. Suddenly the man from Hungary was in his sixties and the shadows were lengthening. In a world of Buchenwald and Belsen it did not make sense to produce horror films any more.

To escape from the misery of stony-faced agents, friends who turned their backs, swanky restaurant doormen who told him to “get going, Bud,” Lugosi retreated into a world of dreams which may have been as awful as the other world of which he had given us all a glimpse for three and nine-pence.

Cheap lodging houses. The phone which never rang. Drugs.

A year ago he threw in the sponge publically and asked to be admitted to the California State Hospital for a cure. When he came out he said: “I am cured – forever.”

“Forever,” as far as Lugosi was concerned, meant just eight months more.

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Reading Eagle, September 27, 1956

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6 responses to “Bela Lugosi Obituaries

    • Yes, it’s amazing how many errors are contained in the obituaries, isn’t it. Shockingly poor journalism!

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  1. Pingback: RIP Bela! | monsterminions

  2. I have been researching our family history genealogy and found that Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko was a first cousin, once removed, of my husband Richard Edward Blasko, now deceased. Bela changed his last name professionally to Lugosi, which is the name of the town Lugos, Banat, Austria-Hungry which is now Lugoj, Hungry, Romania, where he was born on October 20, 1882. Bela was a gifted performer who began his career with the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary as a Shakespearean actor. In 1914, Bela voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army as a lieutenant serving in the Carpathian mountains and was wounded three times. Bela suffered a lifetime of pain from his military injuries. Bela emigrated to the United States in 1920. It was in 1927 that Bela was cast in the role of Dracula at Universal studios. Bela was also offered the role of Frankenstein but turned it down. The part was then offered to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff. In 1934 Bela and Boris were cast in “The Black Cat” their first of five films together. Because of his heavy accent, and lack of the English language it was difficult to cast Bela in romantic leading roles. Bela loved soccer. In 1935 Bela was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. Bela’s hobby was stamp collecting of which he owned over 150,000 stamps. Bela was honored by the United States Post Office when in 1997 they issued a 32 cent commemorative Dracula postage stamp. Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956 at the age of 73 and is buried under a simple gravestone at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles County, California. We are very proud of Bela, his film legacy and the Count Dracula character he portrayed. Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko (Lugosi) is remembered and loved.

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    • That’s fascinating, Rosemary. It must be such a thrill to learn that Bela is a member of your family. Please do let us know if you uncover any interesting facts about Bela and your family tree.

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  3. Pingback: Vintage Bela Lugosi

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