The 1938 Dracula & Frankenstein Double-Bill

Regina Theatre

On Thursday, August 5, 1938, the Regina-Wilshire Theatre at Wilshire and La Cienega in Los Angeles, trying to stave off bankruptcy, began what was intended as a four-day run  of a tripple-bill feature of Dracula, Frankenstein and Son of King Kong. The bill unexpectedly captured the public’s imagination and became an overnight sensation. It was soon playing 21 hours a day to packed houses while police controlled the crowds queuing around the block. At the same time, an unemployed Bela Lugosi, who, apart from one week’s work in the Republic serial S.O.S Coastguard in 1937, had not been offered film work for two years, was suffering dire financial problems. At the start of the year, he had been forced to apply to the Motion Picture Relief Fund for help with medical costs when his son, Bela George Lugosi, Jr., was born on January 5th, 1938. His only work during 1938 had been an appearance on the Baker’s Broadcast radio programme on March 13th, on which he sang a duet with Boris Karloff. As the crowds began to grow outside the Regina-Wilshire, he was forced to move into a rented house when the mortgage company foreclosed on his beloved mansion at 2227 Outpost Drive. Realising the goldmine he had stumbled upon, Emil Umann, manager of the Regina-Wilshire, quickly hired the unemployed actor to make nightly public appearances at the cinema.

Universal, which had rented the films to Umann at a flat rate, found itself missing out on the massive profits that the cinema was making. Quickly striking 500 new prints of Dracula and Frankenstein, the studio set a publicity campaign in motion and rented the newly struck prints to cinemas across the country, which all duplicated the success of the Regina-Wilshire under terms more beneficial to the studio. As the campaign gained momentum, Universal, who had taken credit for Emil Umann’s inspired idea, pulled their prints from the Regina-Wilshire after four weeks, leaving him out in the cold as the profits continued to roll in. Bela Lugosi headed off on a West Coast tour of personal appearances at cinemas to promote the Dracula and Frankenstein double-bill. On October 17th, Universal rushed Son of Frankenstein into production, heralding the beginning of the second cycle of Hollywood horror films and the end of Lugosi’s financial woes. Of his unexpected return to the spotlight, he told the press, I owe it all to that little man at the Regina Theatre. I was dead, and he brought me back to life.”

On a much smaller scale, the double-bill of  Dracula and Frankenstein did excellent business again when re-released in 1951. Unlike in 1938, however, it did not revive Bela Lugosi’s once again failing career.

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The Film Daily, June 7, 1938

The Film Daily June 7, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein Double Bill, The Film Daily, June 7, 1938 1

Dracula Frankenstein Double Bill, The Film Daily, June 7, 1938 2

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Daily Variety, August 20, 1938

Courtesy of http://belathenomadyears.blogspot.com/

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Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 24, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 24, 1938 2

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 24, 1938

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Seattle Daily Times, August 25, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 25, 1938

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Seattle Daily Times, August 26 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 26 1938

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Seattle Daily Times, August 27, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 27, 1938

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National Box Office Digest, August, 1938

If you are within traveling distance it will be worth your while to journey to Regina one of theses nights. Because there is another treat in store for you.

And that is the ovation that greets the appearance of Bela Lugosi in “Dracula.” Lugosi has been all but forgotten in Hollywood, though he has been with us all the time. But the thumbs were down on horror pictures, and everybody proceeded to forget that Lugosi was a veteran actor, trained in the hard Continental school, long before Fate linked him with Dracula on the Broadway stage and later on the screen.

But the paying customers didn’t forget Lugosi. The proof is there in the Regina box office till, and can be heard from Regina audiences.

Perhaps it is about time for someone to “discover” Bela Lugosi.

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Seattle Daily Times, August 31, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 31, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, August 31, 1938 2

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Seattle Daily Times, September 1, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, September 1, 1938

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Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 2, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 2, 1938 1

Dracula Frankenstein Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 2, 1938 2

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Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 3, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 3, 1938

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Oregonian, September 17, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Oregonian, September 17, 1938

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 3, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 3, 1938

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 1938

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 1938 2

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 1938

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 1938 2

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 1938

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 13, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 13, 1938

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Rockford Register-Republic, October 14, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Rockford Register-Republic, October 14, 1938 2

Dracula Frankenstein, Rockford Register-Republic, October 14, 1938 3

Dracula Frankenstein, Rockford Register-Republic, October 14, 1938

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Canton Repository, October 14, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Canton Repository, October 14, 1938

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Canton Repository, October 15, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Canton Repository, October 15, 1938

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Daily Variety, October 15, 1938

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San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 1938

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Universal 1938 pressbook ad

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Five thousand people queued outside the Victory in Salt Lake City to see the double-bill. Unable to meet the demand, the manager rented the Broadway Theatre across the street and the films played simultaneously through the night.

Victory Theatre 3

Victory Theatre 1

Victory Theatre 2

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Rockford Register-Republic, October 17, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Rockford Register-Republic, October 17, 1938

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The Rialto cinema, New York 

The double bill opened October 17, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein * The Rialto cinema, New York

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Rockford Register-Republic, October 23, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein,Rockford Register-Republic, October 23, 1938

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Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, October 19, 1938

Wisconsin State Journal Madison, October 19, 1938

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Wisconsin State Journal, Madison,  October 23, 1938

Wisconsin State Journal Madison October 23, 1938

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Seattle Daily Times, October 25, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Seattle Daily Times, October 25, 1938

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Dallas Morning News, October 26, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Dallas Morning News, October 26, 1938

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Berkerley Daily Gazette, October 27, 1938

Dracula & Frankenstein Berkerley Daily Gazette, October 27, 1938

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Dallas Morning News, October 28, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Dallas Morning News, October 28, 1938 2

Dracula Frankenstein, Dallas Morning News, October 28, 1938

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The Film Daily, October 28, 1938

The Film Daily, October 28, 1938

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The Lewiston Daily Sun, October 29, 1938

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Berkerley Daily Gazette, October 29, 1938

Dracula & Frankenstein Berkerley Daily Gazette, October 29, 1938

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The Strand, Sunday October 30- Tuesday November 1

The Strand

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Berkerley Daily Gazette, October 31, 1938

Dracula & Frankenstein Berkerley Daily Gazette, October 31, 1938

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5

3

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Meriden Record, November 2, 1938

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 Evening Star, November 3, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Evening Star, November 3, 1938 2

Dracula Frankenstein, Evening Star, November 3, 1938

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Meriden Record, November 3, 1938

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Meriden Record, November 4, 1938

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The Meriden Daily Journal, November 4, 1938

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Red Bank Register, November 10, 1938

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Prensa, November 13, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Prensa, November 13, 1938 2

Dracula Frankenstein, Prensa, November 13, 1938

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The Montreal Gazette, November 16, 1938

Dracula & Frankenstein The Montreal Gazette, November 16, 1938

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RKO Newsette, November 17, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein RKO Newsette theatrer handbill, November, 1938

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The Journal and Republic, November 17, 1938
The Journal and Republic, November 17, 1938

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 The Montreal Gazette, November 17, 1938

Dracula & Frankenstein The Montreal Gazette, November 17, 1938

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Evening Star, November 18, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Evening Star, November 18, 1938

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The Montreal Gazette, November 18, 1938

Dracula & Frankenstein The Montreal Gazette, November 18, 1938

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The Montreal Gazette, November 19, 1938

TWIN BILL OF HORRORS

A  full programme of horror is promised those who visit the revival of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” at the Princess this week. Each picture will be remembered as creating a favorably frightening impression in its day, and the combination should supply a sufficient number of thrills.

Of the two, “Frankenstein” remains the most effective. “Dracula” proves to be very funny in moments when it should hold us breathless. The difference seems to lie in the manner of acting.

In “Dracula” it was considered enough that Bela Lugosi stand in well-cut dinner clothes (that is, well-cut for a man who must live in a coffin all the time that tailors’ establishments are open) and deliver piercing glances at the camera. The rest of the acting seems to be as dated as the clothes ladies wear, more so in fact. Helen Chandler makes a fluttering victim, with David Manners a stalwart hero.

“Frankenstein” is quite another thing. Here the characterizations given by Boris Karloff and the late Colin Clive, as the scientist and his monster, bring conviction to the strange tale of re-creation. Karloff deserves the fame which the performance brought him. Here is no mass of make-up but a genuine attempt to project the reactions of a monstrous and unhuman creature. The moments when he sees the sunlight for the first time are still impressive ones.

The general production bears up the good work of its leading players, resembling in some respects some of the old German films. Its one annoying feature is the theatrical aspect of the mountain scenes.

The whole evening should present as much of interest to those who have seen the films before as to those who come to see them for the first time. “Frankenstein should pave the way in public interest to the new film, “The Son of Frankenstein,” now in the making which will have both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in its cast.

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St Louis Theatre 2

St Louis Theatre 1

St Louis Theatre 3

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Rockford Register-Republic, December 10, 1938

Dracula Frankenstein, Rockford Register-Republic, December 10, 1938

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KiMo Cinema, Albuquerque , December 12, 1938

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The Empress Cinema

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Shea’s Riviera Cinema

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill 1939

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RKO Albee Cinema

Courtesy of Vintage Cinema Ads

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The Capitol Cinema

Capitol Cinema

Frankenstein Dracula double bill

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Dracula & Frankenstein Double Bill 1

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Pressbook, date unknown

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Dracula & Frankenstein Double Bill 1

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Shameful reminders of colour segregation.

The Joie cinema

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The Times, January 9, 1939

The films Frankenstein and Dracula will continue to be shownat the Rialto for another wee.

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Tripoli Theatre window card, January 1939

Dracula Frankensetein 1939 Double-Bill Window Card

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Macon Telegraph, January 15, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Macon Telegraph, January 15, 1939

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Macon Telegraph, January 18, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Macon Telegraph, January 18, 1939

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Heraldo de Brownsville, December 18, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Heraldo de Brownsville, December 18, 1939

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British trade ad

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The Times-Picayune, February 3, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, The Times-Picayune, February 3, 1939 2

Dracula Frankenstein, The Times-Picayune, February 3, 1939

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Columbus Daily Enquirer, February 7, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Columbus Daily Enquirer, February 7, 1939

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Rockford  Register-Republic, February 18, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Rockford Register-Republic, February 18, 1939

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The double-bill was proving a success in England when Bela visited to film Dark Eyes of London in England in 1939 

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Notice Frankenstein stars “Doris” Karloff!

Courtesy of Vintage Cinema Ads

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Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1939

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Heraldo de Brownsville, December 18, 1939

Dracula Frankenstein, Heraldo de Brownsville, December 18, 1939

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1940s UK Front of House Cards

Dracula - Frankenstein 1940s UK Front of House Card 1

Dracula - Frankenstein 1940s UK Front of House Card2

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Kentucky New Era, June 15, 1940

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Kentucky New Era, June 17, 1940

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Pitsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 1947

Dracula & Frankenstein, Pitsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 1947*

Unknown newspaper, September, 1947

Dracula & Frankenstein Double Bill September 1947 1

Dracula & Frankenstein Double Bill September 1947 2

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The Spokesman-Review, October 1, 1948

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Rockford Register-Republic, September 20, 1949

Dracula & Frankenstein Double-Bill, Rockford Register-Republic, September 20, 1949

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Courtesy of Vintage Cinema Ads

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1951 re-release pressbook

Dracula Frankenstein 1951 Pressbook 2

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Letter from William Brandt to Jack Bellman at Realart expressing delight at the success of the double-bill in 1952

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Victory Theatre, New York, 1952

Victory Theter New York

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Dallas Morning News, April 29, 1952

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill, Dallas Morning News, April 29, 1952

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Sacremento Bee, May 14, 1952

Dracula Frankenstein, Sacremento Bee, May 14, 1952

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Idaho Statesman, May 29, 1952

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill Idaho Statesman, May 29, 1952

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Canton Repository, June 1, 1952

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill Canton Repository, June 1, 1952

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San Diego Union, June 11, 1952

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill San Diego Union, June 11, 1952

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San Diego Union, June 14, 1952

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill San Diego Union, June 14, 1952 2

Dracula Frankenstein Double-Bill San Diego Union, June 14, 1952

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October 26, 1956

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Related pages and articles

Movie Comics 1939 Adaptations of Son of Frankenstein and The Phantom Creeps

Dark Eyes Of London

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One response to “The 1938 Dracula & Frankenstein Double-Bill

  1. Pingback: Dracula, Frankenstein 1938 Reissues Revive Universal Horror — Immortal Ephemera

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