Born: Bela Ferenc Denzso Blasko in Lugos, Hungary (now Romania), 20 October 1882. Education: Attended State Superior Gymnasium, Lugos, and Academy of Performing Arts, Budapest. Family: Married 1) Ilona Szmik, 1917 (divorced 1920); 2) the actress Ilona von Montagh, 1921 (divorced 1924); 3) Beatrice Woodruff Weeks, 1929 (divorced 1929); 4) Lillian Arch, 1933 (divorced 1953), son: Bela, Jr.; 5) Hope Linniger, 1955. Career: 1902—first stage appearance in Ocskay Brigaderos , Deva, Hungary (under name Bela Lugossy); later acted with Franz Joseph Repertory Theatre, Szeged Repertory Theatre, Hungarian Theatre, 1911–13, and National Theatre, 1913–19; 1917—Hungarian film debut in A Leopard ; 1919—left Hungary when leftists were defeated, and appeared in several German films in
(as Arisztid Olt)
A Leopard ( The Leopard ) (Deesy); Az azredes ( The Colonel ) (Kertesz, i.e. Curtiz)
Alarcosbal ( The Masked Ball ) (Deesy); Naszdal ( Song of Marriage ) (Deesy); Küzdelem a letert ( A Struggle for Life ) (Deesy); 99 (Kertesz, i.e. Curtiz); Tacaszi vihar ( The Wild Wind of Spring ) (Deesy); Az elet kiralya ( The King of Life ) (Deesy); Lili (Hintner)
(as Bela Lugosi)
Der Fluch der Menschheit (Eichberg); Der Januskopf ( Janus-Faced ; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ) (Murnau) (as butler); Die Frau im Delphin, oder 30 Tage auf dem Meeresgrund (Kiekebusch-Brenken); Die Teufelsanbeter ; Lederstrumpf ( The Deerslayer ) (Welling) (as Uncas)
Der Tanz auf dem Vulkan ( Daughter of the Night ) (Eichberg) (as Andrew Fleurot); Nat Pinkerton ; Johann Hopkins der Dritte
The Silent Command (Edwards) (as Hisston)
The Rejected Woman (Parker) (as Jean Gagnon)
The Midnight Girl (Noy) (as Nicholas Harmon); Daughters Who Pay (Terwilliger) (as Serge Oumansky)
How to Handle Women (Craft); The Veiled Woman (Flynn)
Prisoners (Seiter) (as Brottos); The Thirteenth Chair (Browning) (as Insp. Delzante)
Such Men Are Dangerous (Hawks) (as Dr. Goodman); Wild Company (McCarey) (as Felix Brown); Viennese Nights (Crosland) (as Hungarian Ambassador); Renegades (Fleming) (as the Marabout)
Oh, For a Man (MacFadden); Dracula (Browning) (as Count Dracula); Fifty Million Frenchmen (Bacon); Women of All Nations (Walsh) (as Prince Hassan); The Black Camel (MacFadden) (as Tarneverro); Broad Minded (Le Roy) (as Pancho); Murders in the Rue Morgue (Florey) (as Dr. Mirakle)
White Zombie (Halperin) (as "Murder" Legendre); Chandu, The Magician (Varnel and Menzies) (as Roxor)
Island of Lost Souls (Kenton) (as Leader of the Apemen); The Death Kiss (Marin) (as Joseph Steiner); International House (Sutherland) (as Gen. Nicholas Petronovich); Night of Terror (Stoloff) (as Degar); The Whispering Shadow (Hermand and Clark—serial) (as Prof. Strang); The Devil's in Love (Dieterle) (as prosecutor)
The Black Cat (Ulmer) (as Dr. Vitus Werdegast); Gift of Gab (Freund) (as man in closet); The Return of Chandu (Taylor—serial—features The Return of Chandu and Chandu on the Magic Island released 1935) (as Chandu)
The Best Man Wins (Kenton) (as Doc Boehm); Mysterious Mr. Wong (Nigh) (as Mr. Wong); Mark of the Vampire (Browning) (as Count Mora); The Raven (Landers) (as Dr. Richard Vollin); Murder by Television (Sanforth) (as Arthur Perry); The Phantom Ship ( The Mystery of the Marie Celeste ) (Clift) (as Anton Lorenzen)
The Invisible Ray (Hillyer) (as Dr. Benet); Postal Inspector (Brower) (as Benez); Shadow of Chinatown (Hill—serial) (as Victor Poten)
S.O.S. Coastguard (Witney and James—serial) (as Boroff)
Son of Frankenstein (Lee) (as Ygor); The Gorilla (Dwan) (as Peters); The Phantom Creeps (Beebe and Goodkind—serial) (as Dr. Alex Zorka); Ninotchka (Lubitsch) (as Razinin); The Human Monster ( Dark Eyes of London ) (Summers) (as Dr. Orloff)
The Saint's Double Trouble (Hively) (as Partner); Black Friday (Lubin) (as Eric Marnay); You'll Find Out (Butler) (as Prince Saliano)
The Devil Bat (Yarborough) (as Dr. Paul Carruthers); The Black Cat (Rogell) (as Eduardo); The Invisible Ghost (Lewis) (as Mr. Kessler); Spooks Run Wild (Rosen) (as Nardo the monster); The Wolf Man (Waggner) (as Bela)
Ghost of Frankenstein (Kenton) (as Ygor); Black Dragons (Nigh) (as Dr. Melcher/Colomb); The Corpse Vanishes (Fox) (as Dr. Lorenz); Bowery at Midnight (Fox) (as Prof. Brenner/Karl Wagner); Night Monster (Beebe) (as Rolf)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Neill) (as monster); The Ape Man (Beaudine) (as Dr. Brewster); Ghosts on the Loose (Beaudine) (as Emil)
The Return of the Vampire (Landers) (as Armand Tesla); Voodoo Man (Beaudine) (as Dr. Marlowe); Return of the Ape Man (Rosen) (as Prof. Dexter); One Body Too Many (McDonald) (as Larchmont)
The Body Snatcher (Wise) (as Joseph); Zombies on Broadway (Douglas) (as Prof. Renault)
Genius at Work (Goodwins) (as Stone)
Scared to Death (Cabanne) (as Leonide)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Barton) (as Count Dracula)
Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire ( Vampire over London ; My Son, The Vampire ) (Gilling) (as Von Housen); Glen or Glenda? ( I Changed My Sex ) (Wood); Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla ( The Boys from Brooklyn ; The Monster Meets the Gorilla ) (Beaudine) (as Dr. Zabor)
Bride of the Monster (Wood) (as Dr. Eric Vornoff)
The Black Sleep (Le Borg) (as Casimir)
Plan Nine from Outer Space ( Grave Robbers from Outer Space ) (Wood) (as ghoul man)
Lenning, Arthur, The Count—The Life and Films of Bela "Dracula" Lugosi , New York, 1974.
Everson, William K., Classics of the Horror Film , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1974.
Lander, Edgar, Bela Lugosi: Biografia di una metamorfosi , Milan, 1984.
Mank, Gregory William, Karloff and Lugosi: A Haunting Collaboration , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1990.
Bojarski, Richard, The Complete Films of Bela Lugosi , Carol Publishing Group, 1992.
Marrero, Robert G., Vintage Monster Movies , Key West, 1993.
Svehla, Gary J., editor, Bela Lugosi , Baltimore, 1995.
Edwards, Larry, Bela Lugosi: Master of the Macabre , Sarasota, 1997.
Rhodes, Gary D., Lugosi: His Life in Film, on Stage, & in the Hearts of Horror Lovers , Jefferson, 1997.
Lennig, A., "Bela Lugosi: The Raven," in Film Journal (Virginia), January-March 1973.
Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), September 1982.
Beylie, Claude, "Lugosi, bel ange noir," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), March 1985.
Weaver, Tom, "Bela Lugosi in Black Dragons ," in Filmfax (Evanston, Indiana), December-January 1991–1992.
Stein, Michael, "Landau's Lugosi," an interview, in Outré (Evanston, Illinois), vol. 1, no. 1, 1994.
French, L., "Tim Burton's Ed Wood ," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 6, 1994.
Lockwood, C., "Bela Lugosi: A Modest Hollywood Bungalow for the Star of Dracula ," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles, California), April 1994.
Hanke, Ken, "Bela Lugosi and the Monogram Nine," in Filmfax (Evanston, Illinois), April-May 1994.
Shay, Don, "The Return of the Vampire," in Cinefex (Riverside, California), December 1994.
Madison, Bob, "Lugosi at the Academy Awards," in Scarlet Street (Glen Rock), Summer 1995.
Kohl, Leonard J., "The Sinister Serials of Bela Lugosi," in Filmfax (Evanston, Illinois), March-April 1996.
Randisi, Steve, "Bela's Atomic Bride ," in Filmfax (Evanston), May-June 1996.
"Bela Lugosi Transformed Motion Picture Industry," in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), June 1997.
Rhodes, G.D., "Bela Lugosi: Unmasking the Mysteries," in Filmfax (Evanston, Illinois), August/September 1997.
* * *
Though his talents were limited, Bela Lugosi was a screen original. His Count Dracula has become part of movie folklore; one cannot imagine the vampire without a black cape and aristocratic manner, intoning dramatically ironic or romantic lines such as "I don't drink—wine" or "To die, to be really dead—that must be glorious!" in a mellifluous or sinister Hungarian accent. Lugosi had been a matinee idol in the Hungarian theater and, to some extent, in the American: on Broadway, he played a Valentino-like sheik in Arabesque . His continental charm carried over to his Dracula—Valentino, the Sheik, through a glass darkly. Both are lady-killers, one figurative, one actual.
Lugosi rarely had the opportunity on screen to exhibit his persona's fatal charm. After he achieved movie stardom in Dracula , neither he nor Hollywood knew how to exploit his success or capitalize properly on his image. His one cinematic reprise of the Count was true to the original's spirit, but its context, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein , precluded the possibility for any of the original's dark passion and sexual suggestion, as did his two Dracula imitations in Return of the Vampire and Mark of the Vampire (a stupid "elaborate hoax" movie, wherein Lugosi is a mute, snarling monster, revealed to be an actor impersonating a vampire; all references to the supposed vampire's incest were deleted).
Lugosi made one bad career choice after another. He rejected the part of Frankenstein's monster, but more damaging were the parts he too often accepted: supporting roles or red-herring parts in murder mysteries (when he should have been playing the actual menace), leads in "B" and "C" pictures, often serials. His poor judgment hurt him; each time a horror cycle ended, he was unable, unlike Boris Karloff, to find employment. (His only appearance in an "A" picture after 1933 was a one-scene cameo in Ninotchka .)
In only a handful of films did Lugosi exhibit the passion and obsession that were the mark of his most successful characters. Karloff's "mad" scientists were usually kindly, misguided, fatherly types whose attempts to aid humanity went awry. Lugosi's were monomaniacal, driven men who often labored all for love of (or lust for) a woman (for example, in The Raven , The Corpse Vanishes , and Voodoo Man ). White Zombie and Murders in the Rue Morgue concern Lugosi's power over women; the loss of his wife and daughter spur Lugosi's revenge in The Black Cat and, for a change, a woman exerts hypnotic power over him in Invisible Ghost .
The equally obsessed Ygor—broken-necked, self-serving companion to Frankenstein's monster—was his other memorable creation, which displayed Lugosi's versatility but didn't help his career. He was more and more frequently cast as servants—either imperious (like his Dracula) or uncouth (like Ygor)—in somebody else's horror film, usually to lend menace to the production or another recognizable name to the cast.
By the time he played his last butler in The Black Sleep , he was associated with the inept Ed Wood, Jr., who, whatever his shortcomings as a filmmaker, treated Lugosi like a star. Wood cast him as the sage counselor in his very personal Glen or Glenda? , allowed him one last mad-scientist role in Bride of the Monster , and planned to star him as a vampire in the film that eventually became the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space —built around the few minutes of Lugosi footage shot before his death. Wood's dim awareness of Lugosi's power and presence bestowed on the actor's last works a certain ignominious nobility.