The Best Dracula Ever - Halloween or Anytime

Le Vampire, engraved by R. de Moraine in 1864
Le Vampire, engraved by R. de Moraine in 1864
Bela Lugosi in 1920. Quote: "There was no male vampire type in existence. Someone suggested an actor of the Continental School who could play any type, and mentioned me." [Photos this page public domain unless otherwise credited.]
Bela Lugosi in 1920. Quote: "There was no male vampire type in existence. Someone suggested an actor of the Continental School who could play any type, and mentioned me." [Photos this page public domain unless otherwise credited.]

Versatile and Fascinating

A Halloween HubMob is the best excuse in the world to write about the very best portrayal of the Vampire Dracula during the 19th - 21st centuries thus far.

The 1927/1931 Dracula role took over this actor's entire career. The submersion was discouraging at times when he felt the character drained him, but he accepted his type casting in a way that he could use to please millions of audience members everywhere with his portrayals, even in bad films. In fact, he accepted roles in many bad films later in his career as well as in higher quality movies, but fans would watch him in anything. He developed a large cult following and a generation living 100 years after his original work in Hungary, Austria, and Germany are joining the club. In the 1930s, he reportedly received more fan mail from women and girls than did Clark Gable, who received a lot.

I'd never heard of Dracula until middle school, when on a grocery shopping trip with my mother, I found a book rack in the store with discount books. One was a paperback of Draculawith an aquiline profile on the cover. I must have been 13 at the time. Reading the book, I was fascinated with the time period, Bram Stoker's style, and the legends of fascinating regal monsters in Eastern Europe. We did not have the Goth movement at the time, but middle school kids were just becoming aware of vampirism and becoming fascinated with the romantic aspects of it. Roles in vampirism were not necessary for me to become fascinated with Bela Lugosi, though, because I would have been fascinated with him in his Shakespearean theater days as well. His accent, mannerisms, and style were riveting; though he'd been long deceased by the time I discovered him.

If not for the momentum started by his acting career and the advances in communcations via television, print media, and the Internet, Twilight would not now be so popular. Back in school, I read the histories, legends, and gothic novels available and most of them were pretty poorly done. it was skin to experiencing Star TrekĀ® films and novels with bad story lines and unfitting characters. They were bad.

When Bela Lugosi was buried in 1956, it was in full costume for his stage and screen role, Count Dracula. At the funeral, Boris Karloff is said to have approached the coffin, leaned over and asked. "Bela, are you joking?" This was reported during a late night talk show one evening, but I cannot recall which one.

Bela Lugosi was quite a versatile actor and man, although he was typecast as a villain and a vampire king. He could play any role, good, bad, and funny.

You may be surprised to know that in his native Hungary, he was as well known and respected for his portrayal of Jesus Christ as for that of villains and the whole continuum in between. At the Pearly Gates, Peter may have also asked him if he was joking with the getup. Thinking that makes me smile.

Dracula and Van Helsing

Who is this Lugosi? - A Witch Hunt Survivor

Perhaps people in general do not realize that Bela Lugosi helped to organize SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, in the 1930s and was a target of early post-WWII Cold War witch hunts before Joseph McCarthy's search and lynching engine was fully up and running. It came after him, but he stood up to it; he played a demon only on the screen, not in real life and certainly not one set upon the destruction of America. The notion was absurd in its application to an actor that fought long and hard to come to America and find success, much like late night TV host Craig Ferguson today. Bela had fled his own country after wartime, because he had formed an actor's union and that action was seen as Communist. In America, SAG is viewed yet today by some as Communistic, as are all unions. It is an extreme notion.

I cannot forget the section of his biography, written by his son, that describes his speech before a group of citizens and actors, decrying injustice. So overcome by emotion, he reverted from English to Hungarian and the crowd understood him through the emotions he portrayed. This is simply unforgettable and so is Bela.

Life in Hollywood was hard during WWII and the Cold War, and Bela was typecast pretty readily as a villain and began taking any role that came along. His son Bela Lugosi, Jr. reportedly followed his dad's advice to avoid the theater arts altogether. He became an attorney, instead.

Grandson Timothy Lugosi maintains the family tribute site to Bela: The Official Bela Lugosi Website. Done in red and black, it is professionally attractive and offers a Blog and a Mailing List, along with many other features. Please visit ~ ^ ^ ~ HERE.

Home? I have no home.

Beware the Dragon

Martin Landau as Lugosi

Out of the Carpathian Mountains

Bela was born in Lugos, Hungary near Romania's Carpathian Mountains in 1882 and modified the town's name as his stage name to replace his family name, Blasko.

Independent and disliking schoolwork, he left home at the early age of 12 to pursue an acting career and was successful in doing so in Hungary. When World War I later broke out, he volunteered for military duty and frontline action, although actors were exempt, becoming a Captain in the Ski Patrol and earning at least one medal for his wounds in three differect actions. He was patriotic.

After wartime, Lugosi continued to work to support the actor's union in Hungary and left the country when the government interfered. An actor's union was looked upon as a Communist organization.

Bela could speak no English, yet having gone to Vienna and then Germany, he came to America. Here, he formed an acting company of Hungarian expatriates and began to learn English. He learned his entire stage roles phonetically in the meantime and was even successful as a Shakespearean actor. I admire him for this. He also read extensively every day and I admire him as much for this.

In 1927, he accepted the role of the Count in Broadway's Dracula and became history. His accent and high class costume and mannerisms are legend. Since the 1931 Universal Pictures film version of Dracula, Bela Lugosi has been much imitated. Even the Muppets have The Count.

Back in Transylvania in 1903, Bela was in the stage production of The Bat and this was perhaps the first step toward Dracula in 1927. The role lasted his adult life, including in stage productions as late as 1943 in Boston and 1951 in London (He died in 1956).

Above everything else - acting, politics, humanitarianism, education - Bela was dedicated to his family, especially to his wife and son in the 1950s.

For this, I admire him the most.

Public domain graphic by US Military or DoD.
Public domain graphic by US Military or DoD.
Some people say that this is the worst movie ever made. Other people love it. Some love it for being bad.
Some people say that this is the worst movie ever made. Other people love it. Some love it for being bad.
Quote: "I look in the mirror and say to myself, Can it be you once played Romeo?"
Quote: "I look in the mirror and say to myself, Can it be you once played Romeo?"
Devil Bat - In COLOR! Also Includes the Restored Black-and-White Version!
Devil Bat - In COLOR! Also Includes the Restored Black-and-White Version!

Bela Lugosi is a well-meaning scientist, driven mad by his greedy bosses. He seeks his revenge in the only way he knows how: by breeding a race of Devil Bats to do his sinister bidding!

 

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Screams and Thrills 15 comments

Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

Great Hub Patty - He was always an acting hero to me add the SAG drama and it sets it in stone. Viva Bela Lugosi!!


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 6 years ago from Windermere, FL

Patty Inglish, great hub. In this one article you have given us a great summary of the movie life of Bela Lagosi, Count Dracula. He was one of my favorites, and obviously he is still very popular, especially around Halloween. You're a very fine writer. Keep up the good work, and it's nice to be a new fan of such a successful writer. Don White dusanotes


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

@Hmejmr1 - Yes, SAG and all that related hoopla were important. I'm sorry he could not kick drugs and alcohol much sooner in his life; often wonder if playing the dark characters lead actors into these things.

@dusanotes - Thanks for reading and commenting. I would like to have seen his other acting - especially Shakespeare and and passion plays.


lyricsingray 6 years ago

Actor or not, he looks so much like Dracula, well, the one in my mind. This was so well written, and to me, fascinating - Thanks!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Patty I still think that even with all the special effects of the movies today the Dracula a la/Bela Lugosi was definitely the best.

Great hub about one of my favs

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


loveofnight profile image

loveofnight 6 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

you bring back memories, i remember sitting in front of the tv when i was young watching this guy. i use to love watching him


skgrao profile image

skgrao 6 years ago from Bangalore City - INDIA.

In India there are Dracula's in every village male and female.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

@lyricsingray - indeed, he said he had "the look" they wanted for a new persona on stage and he made the part almost too well, didn't he?

@Zsuzsy - I'm having a great week and month already. Some of my friends from Nigeria come to the US South for aprayer comference and it went great. I'm glad you like this Hub. I am thinking more about people like Heath Ledger that played such creepy characters like Joker (that remind me of actual patients) and wonder if they curse themselves by doing so. Regardless, it's another testimony to avoid drugs and mixing prescriptions.

@loveofnight - yes, black and white movies on an old black and white TV!

@skgrao - what is done about and for these unfortunate people?


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Oh, wonderful hub for HubMob, you did an excellent job! One of my favorite movies is "Ed Wood". I saw Bela Lugosi as Dracula on Insomniac Theatre on TV, which would run old movies late at night, and I'm a fan of his.


Anath profile image

Anath 6 years ago

An absorbing read Patty, I've just become a fan of Lugosi.


bloodnlatex 6 years ago

Dracula is one of my favorite characters, and no one has ever played him better than Bela. In my eyes, he IS Dracula...

Great hub


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

@Paradise7 - Our city had "Chiller Theater" through the 1970s and they made a tradition of sowing the classsic horror films on Friday nights in May, followed by the show "Lumia", a poetry show -- That's where I first heard the classic "High Flight" by a now-famous WWII Canadian pilot. I miss both shows.

@Anath - Thanks very much for reading and commenting! Yes, we can see more of the whole man in his life beyond the stage, and how much mental and physical turmoil he was in, in "Ed Wood." Glad you've become a Lugosi fan.

@bloodnlatex - There has been no one else like Lugosi in the theater, imo, and I grieve his substance abuse problems and hope he found eternal rest. Thanks for reading!


febriedethan profile image

febriedethan 6 years ago from Indonesia

Patty, what make me admire you so much, you even can pronounce the word free in my language : gratis. Thank you!

Great hub as usual.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

@febriedethan - :) Thanks so much; I work to get the feel of languages as much as possible since they are so important. Glad to make you smile!


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

There is no other Dracula that come close to Bela Lugosi.

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