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Bela Lugosi Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (5) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (49) | Personal Quotes (12) | Salary (22)

Overview (5)

Born in Lugos, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary [now Lugoj, Timis County, Romania]
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameBéla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó
Nicknames Adelbert
Dracula
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Bela Lugosi was born Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó on October 20, 1882, Lugos, Hungary, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), to Paula de Vojnich and István Blaskó, a banker. He was the youngest of four children. During WWI, he volunteered and was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant, and was wounded three times.

A distinguished stage actor in his native Hungary, Austria-Hungary, he ended up a drug-addicted pauper in Hollywood, thanks largely to typecasting brought about by his most famous role. He began his stage career in 1901 and started appearing in films during World War I, fleeing to Germany in 1919 as a result of his left-wing political activity (he organized an actors' union). In 1920 he emigrated to the US and made a living as a character actor, shooting to fame when he played Count Dracula in the legendary 1927 Broadway stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. It ran for three years, and was subsequently, and memorably, filmed by Tod Browning in 1931, establishing Lugosi as one of the screen's greatest personifications of pure evil. Also in 1931, he became a U.S. citizen. Sadly, his reputation rapidly declined, mainly because he was only too happy to accept any part (and script) handed to him, and ended up playing pathetic parodies of his greatest role, in low-grade poverty row shockers. He ended his career working for the legendary Worst Director of All Time, Edward D. Wood Jr..

Lugosi was married to Ilona Szmik (1917 - 1920), Ilona von Montagh (? - ?), and Lillian Arch (1933 - 1951). He is the father of Bela Lugosi Jr. (1938). Lugosi helped organize the Screen Actors Guild in the mid-'30s, joining as member number 28.

Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack August 16, 1956. He was buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: ReelDeal-2 and Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Spouse (5)

Hope Lininger (25 August 1955 - 16 August 1956) (his death)
Lillian Arch (31 January 1933 - 17 July 1953) (divorced) (1 child)
Beatrice Weeks (29 September 1929 - 2 October 1929) (divorced)
Ilona von Montagh (7 September 1921 - 1924) (divorced)
Ilona Szmik (25 June 1917 - 1920) (divorced)

Trade Mark (8)

Black slicked back hair
Thick Hungarian accent
His pale complexion
The role of Count Dracula
Best known for his roles in horror films and particularly in films produced by Universal Studios
Renowned for treating even the most ridiculous of material with immense respect and his aggressive work ethic
Intense hypnotic gaze
Sartorial elegance and regal bearing wearing a tuxedo

Trivia (49)

Born in Lugos, Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), from which he derived his eventual professional surname.
His son, Bela Lugosi Jr., practices law in Los Angeles, California (1995).
Following his death, he was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Were it not for his death, Lon Chaney, rather than Lugosi, would have been the director Tod Browning's choice for the starring role in Dracula (1931).
Contrary to popular belief, he and Boris Karloff did not hate each other, as the famous scene from Ed Wood (1994) would lead one to believe. Both men's children have said that the only rivalry that existed between them is when they were both up for the same roles, and in reality, although Lugosi and Karloff had almost no relationship off-set, they were reportedly amicable whenever working together.
He was one of the charter members of the Screen Actors Guild.
In 1929 he married a wealthy San Francisco widow named Beatrice Weeks, a union which lasted all of three days; their divorce named Clara Bow as the "other woman"--it was a media sensation and launched him into national notoriety.
Pictured on one of a set of five 32¢ US commemorative postage stamps, issued 30 September 1997, celebrating "Famous Movie Monsters". He is shown as the title character in Dracula (1931). Other actors honored in this set of stamps, and the classic monsters they portray, are Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera (1925); Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941); and Boris Karloff on two stamps as The Mummy (1932) and the monster in Frankenstein (1931).
Had a long extensive classical career in Hungary including roles in "Hamlet", "Macbeth", "King Lear", "Taming of the Shrew" and "Richard III".
His first stage role in the United States was "The Red Poppy". Unable to speak English, he was forced to learn the role by rote. He was rewarded with excellent reviews and earned his first American film role, a villainous role in The Silent Command (1923) as a result.
At the time of his death, Lugosi was in such poor financial straits that Frank Sinatra was rumored to have paid for his funeral. Actually, Bela's widow Hope and ex-wife Lillian paid it; Sinatra's only connection to the aging actor was sending him a $1000 check during his drug rehabilitation. The rumor that Boris Karloff attended the funeral was also an urban myth, as he wasn't in California at the time.
He performed in live-action reference footage for the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence of Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). He was, of course, the terrifying demon Chernabog.
His Los Angeles home was purchased by Johnny Depp, the actor who portrayed his friend Edward D. Wood Jr. in the film Ed Wood (1994).
Further immortalized in the song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus, which was featured in The Hunger (1983) and went on to become a dance mainstay at goth dance clubs in the 1980s. The lyrics of the song described him in his Dracula costume, along with "Undead! Undead! Undead!" being chanted during the song's chorus.
His performance in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) created such a sensation that he reportedly received more fan mail from females than even Clark Gable.
His name had become such as asset that studios would give him prominent billing even when he was playing such supporting roles as butlers, as he did in Columbia's Night of Terror (1933), Fox's The Gorilla (1939), Universal's Night Monster (1942) and Paramount's One Body Too Many (1944).
In his collaborations with Boris Karloff at Universal, it was Karloff who always got top billing. When these same films were released as part of a DVD box set in 2005, Universal chose to market them as "The Bela Lugosi Collection".
There is a persistent myth that would have us believe that Bela Lugosi spoke very little English by the time he shot Dracula (1931), and learned his lines phonetically. This has been debunked by Lugosi historians and is simply not true.
He received only $500 per week for the seven-week engagement on Dracula (1931) a total of $3500. However, in 2007 purchasing power, that would be equal to $47,319. In comparison, Universal paid $2000 per week for the use of leading man David Manners, but Manners was a contract player at First National Pictures. The payment went to that studio, not to Manners, who was paid only his usual weekly rate from First National.
Served in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I as an infantry captain. He later recounted in stories on film sets about his experiences, which included acting as a hangman. He also said that at one point he hid in a mass grave of corpses to escape death. After being wounded three times, he was discharged while apparently feigning concussion-caused insanity.
Lugosi was contracted to appear in Dracula's Daughter (1936) at a salary of $4,000, but the original script in which the character appeared was rejected by Universal. The final script did not involve Dracula, except for an insert shot of him in his coffin, but Lugosi was paid off, earning $500 more for not appearing in Dracula's Daughter (1936) than he earned for starring in Dracula (1931).
According to biographer Robert Cremer, Lugosi was not only the finest party host among Hungarian members of the Hollywood community but also an inveterate practical joker. When other expatriates such as Joe Pasternak, Ilona Massey, Michael Curtiz and Willy Pogany were guests, he would hire comic actor Vince Barnett to play the role of a clumsy waiter spilling drinks and dropping plates of hors d'oeuvres, resulting in near misses for the guests to Lugosi's delight.
His wife and son had him buried in his cape from his role as the title character of Dracula (1931).
He did not wear fangs when playing the title character in Dracula (1931). The same was true of Frank Langella in Dracula (1979).
He has two roles in common with Christopher Lee: (1) Lugosi played Count Dracula in Dracula (1931) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) while Lee played him in ten films from Horror of Dracula (1958) to Dracula and Son (1976) and (2) Lugosi played Frankenstein's Monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) while Lee played him in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).
He has two roles in common with Lon Chaney Jr.: (1) Lugosi played Count Dracula in Dracula (1931) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) while Chaney played him in Son of Dracula (1943) and (2) Chaney played Frankenstein's Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), in which Lugosi also appeared, while Lugosi played him in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), in which Chaney also appeared.
He appeared with Boris Karloff in eight films: The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), The Invisible Ray (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), You'll Find Out (1940), Black Friday (1940) The Body Snatcher (1945) and Gift of Gab (1934).
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6430 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Bela Lugosi passed away on August 16, 1956, two months away from what would have been his 74th birthday on October 20.
Is referenced in The Kinks 1972 song "Celluloid Heroes", with the lines "Avoid stepping on Bela Lugosi, because he's liable to turn and bite.".
Contrary to popular belief, Lugosi only played Count Dracula in two films: Dracula (1931) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). He played vampires in many other films, but none of them--besides the aforementioned two--were Count Dracula.
Bela's personal cane featured in his infamous scene in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" sold at Bonhams and Butterfields for $10,000. This cane is considered one of the only remaining props from the film. [November 2015].
Bela Lugosi ventured the jump across the pond to the USA. There he first had to content himself with smaller roles, first at the theater and from 1923 in movies too.
Privately, Bela Lugosi struggled with his dependency upon morphine, a drug he was given to deal with leg pain from his war injuries. However, tabloid reports erroneously purported him as a "drug addict", however there is a significant difference between being physically and clinically depend upon a drug, and being "addicted" to it. The latter denotes the presence of a morbid mental want, which is absent in a medical dependency, which is a physiological need.
Because Bela Lugosi was also active political the situation in Hungary became precarious and finally he and his wife decided to leave Hungary. They came via Vienna to Berlin where he was able to continue his film career.
With "Glen or Glenda" (1953) he also appeared in a movie directed by Ed Wood jr. who sometimes is referred as the worst director ever. But because of this fact those movies became a kind of cult and Bela Lugosi became an icon for enthusiasts of such trash movies.
He already impersonated the figure of "Dracula" on Broadway from 1927 and when the director Tod Browning planned to make a movie of it the chance of Lugosi's life came - also because of the unexpected death of the actor Lon Chaney who was originally planned for the title role.
Because his parents were against his plans to become an actor he left the family and went to the theater where he made his first experiences as an actor. Finally he joined the film business in 1917 where he first used the pseudonym Arisztid Olt.
At the end of the Sledge Hammer episode Sledge Hammer!: The Last of the Red Hot Vampires (1987) there is a dedication "In Memory of Mr. Blasko", Lugosi's birth name.
Bela Lugosi's career was often mirrored by Boris Karloff who bizarrely seemed to tread closely in Lugosi's footsteps: starting with The Mummy (1932) which is long considered to be a close copycat for the master of horror's Dracula (1931). Bela Lugosi starred in The Black Camel (1931), a Charlie Chan movie. FIve years later, Karloff did Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936) ; Lugosi filmed The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934) and Karloff naturally followed suit years later with his own Mr Wong with Mr. Wong, Detective (1938). In 1939, Lugosi filmed The Gorilla (1939); Karloff promptly followed suit with his own copycat, The Ape (1940). Bela Lugosi was also the first to portray the mad scientist starting with Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), a role that Karloff would appropriate 6 years later with both The Man Who Lived Again (1936) & The Invisible Ray (1936). The pattern continued throughout Lugosi's career, inexplicably culminating with the unfair appropriation by Karloff of Dr. Sovac, the part initially written for Lugosi in Black Friday (1940). This turned an unknown actor into the star of the film, with Bela Lugosi unjustly relinquished to a minor role, Karloff with a part he was ill-suited for and, disappointingly for fans, neither horror star sharing any scenes together in this film.
In an eerie yet amusing pattern of bizarre similarities where Boris Karloff appears to have been copying Bela Lugosi's career, both gentlemen appeared in their own silent version of The Last of The Mohicans in fall 1920. However, while Lugosi starred in the German film Lederstrumpf, 1. Teil: Der Wildtöter und Chingachgook (1920) which came out first, in September 1920, with a sequel promptly following on November 10, 1920, Lederstrumpf, 2. Teil: Der Letzte der Mohikaner (1920), Karloff was merely an extra in the American version, The Last of the Mohicans (1920) which came out on November 21, 1920, a mere 11 days after Lugosi's second sequel!.
Bela Lugosi's personal life was also closely and eerily emulated by that of Boris Karloff: in January 1938, Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, gave birth to his first and only child, Bela Jr., a son. Upon hearing the news, Karloff promptly got busy because the very same year, in November 1938, his reported fourth wife, Dorothy Stine, gave birth to his only child, Sarah Jane, a girl. As if that weren't uncanny enough, both horror actors married a "Hope" as their fifth, and final, wife.
Although he expressed interest in playing a romantic lead as he had in Hungary, much like fellow horror actor, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi never once got to share a kiss with a female co-star in a romantic scene during his entire Hollywood career.
Became a proud and patriotic U.S. citizen in 1931, the same year he starred as the legendary Count Dracula (1931), whereas fellow horror actor, Boris Karloff lived in the U.S.A for 45 years yet never sought American citizenship.
Long before Dracula (1931), shots of Bela Lugosi's hypnotic eyes in extreme close-up were often used in his films, including Sklaven fremden Willens (1920), The Silent Command (1923) and, later, more famously in White Zombie (1932).
Perhaps Boris Karloff's fixation with his Master of Horror rival came from the simple fact that Karloff owed his fame -- and thereby, his subsequent career -- to Bela Lugosi: if it weren't for Lugosi turning down the role of Frankenstein (1931), the part would have never been offered to Karloff. Promoted in 1931 as "the Frankenstein monster", Bela Lugosi refused the role because of the heavy makeup and the part being mute.
Wore a tuxedo in nearly every film he ever made, except for the odd one such as Island of Lost Souls (1932).
Even though his nemesis and main horror rival repeatedly said disparaging things about Bela having trouble with his speech, lines and English comprehension, most notably after Bela's passing, in reality Bela Lugosi was erudite and had a superior command of the English language, as can be most notably heard in a 1944 radio interview where he talked about Hungary politics, whereas all along, his rival himself suffered from a major speech impediment: a very pronounced and risible lisp.

Personal Quotes (12)

I guess I'm pretty much of a lone wolf. I don't say I don't like people at all but, to tell you the truth, I only like it then if I have a chance to look deep into their hearts and their minds.
Circumstances made me the theatrical personality I am, which many people believe is also a part of my personal life.
Every producer in Hollywood had set me down as a type. I was both amused and disappointed.
I'd like to quit the supernatural roles and play just an interesting, down-to-earth person.
I'll be truthful. The weekly paycheck is the most important thing to me.
[on being typecast in villain roles] I find that, because of my language and gestures, that I am cataloged as what you call a heavy. My accent stamped me, in the imagination of the producers, as an enemy. Therefore, I must be a heavy.
In Hungary, acting is a career for which one fits himself as earnestly and studiously as one studies for a degree in medicine, law or philosophy. In Hungary, acting is a profession.
Every actor's greatest ambition is to create his own, definite and original role, a character with which he will always be identified. In my case, that role was Dracula.
Never has a role so influenced and dominated an actor's role as has the role of Dracula. He [Dracula] has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, he has drained me of everything.
[on playing Dracula] It's a living, but it's also a curse. It's Dracula's curse.
If I had one per cent of the millions Dracula (1931) has made, I wouldn't be sitting here now.
[in response to an interviewer question "Doesn't Dracula ever end for you?"] No. No. Dracula never ends. I don't know if I should call it a fortune or a curse, but it never ends.

Salary (22)

Dracula (1931) $3,500
50 Million Frenchmen (1931) $1,000
Chandu the Magician (1932) $2,500
White Zombie (1932) $800 /week
Island of Lost Souls (1932) $875
The Black Cat (1934) $3,000
Gift of Gab (1934) $250 (1 day)
Mark of the Vampire (1935) $3,000
The Raven (1935) $5,000
The Mystery of the Mary Celeste (1935) $10,000
The Invisible Ray (1936) $4,000
Postal Inspector (1936) $5,000 (flat rate)
SOS Coast Guard (1937) $1,500
Son of Frankenstein (1939) $500 /week, later raised to $3500/week
You'll Find Out (1940) $3,750
The Return of the Vampire (1943) $3,500
The Body Snatcher (1945) $3,000
Genius at Work (1946) $5,000
Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) $1,500 per week with ten week guarantee
Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) $5,000 (flat rate)
Glen or Glenda (1953) $1,000 (flat rate, 1 day)
Bride of the Monster (1955) $1,000

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