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Dracula (1931) Poster

(1931)

Trivia

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Bela Lugosi was so eager to repeat his stage success and play the Count Dracula role for the film version, that he agreed to a contract paying him $500 per week for a seven week shooting schedule, a paltry sum even during the days of the Depression. In fact, his salary was only one quarter that of actor David Manners who played Jonathan Harker. However, this fact might be misleading. Although David Manners earned $2,000 a week, he likely didn't pocket all of that money. Manners was under contract to Warner Bros./First National, which had "loaned out" their contract player at a rate considerably higher than the performers' weekly salary. Hence, much of Manners' salary went directly to Warner Bros./First National.
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Among the living creatures seen in Dracula's castle in Transylvania are opossums, armadillos, and an insect known as a Jerusalem Cricket (Stenopalmatus Fuscus). This insect was common in Southern California, which may explain its cameo in the film. The inclusion of armadillos was due to the fact that armadillos had occasionally been seen digging in graveyards, which led to the mistaken belief that they would dig their way into coffins and eat the cadavers.
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In the scene where Dracula and Renfield are traveling to London by boat, the footage shown is borrowed from a Universal silent film called The Storm Breaker (1925). Silent films were projected at a different frames-per-second speed from that later adopted for sound films, accounting for the jerky movements and quicker-than-normal action of these shots.
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When Bela Lugosi died in 1956, he was buried wearing one of his many black silk capes, but not the one that he wore in Dracula. That one was put on auction by his son, Bela Lugosi Jr., in 2011. The starting bid being set at $1,200,000, it failed to sell. Later, in November 2019, the family donated it to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where it was being restored as of February 2020. It will be put on display along with an exclusive collection of prestigious and priceless Golden Age of Hollywood star props and artifacts. It ought to be noted that there was a persisting - yet untrue - rumor that being buried in one of his vampire capes was Lugosi's dying wish when, in fact, it was decided by Bela Lugosi Jr. and his mother, Lugosi's ex-wife, Lillian Arch. The Lugosi family has long corroborated these facts to be accurate.
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While it is rumored that Bela Lugosi could not speak English very well, and had to learn his lines phonetically, this is not true. Lugosi was speaking English as well as he ever would by the time this was filmed.
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The original release featured an epilogue with Edward Van Sloan talking to the audience about what they have just seen. This was removed for the 1936 re-release and is now assumed to be lost. The later Frankenstein (1931) similarly copied this model by featuring a prologue.
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Dracula's castle was a painting on glass in front of the camera. The coach traveling along the road was real but the background was not.
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Although it was his most famous role, Bela Lugosi played Dracula only once more on screen, in the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). However, he played Dracula-like characters in movies such as The Return of the Vampire (1943).
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Cinematographer Karl Freund achieved the effect of Dracula's hypnotic stare by aiming two pencil-spot-lights into actor Bela Lugosi's eyes.
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Dracula never once blinks his eyes, an effect that enhances the undead character's otherworldly aura, abetted by Bela Lugosi's famous, menacing stare.
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A Spanish-language version, Drácula (1931), was filmed at night on the same set at the same time, with Spanish-speaking actors.
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The innkeeper says to Renfield in front of the inn, "The driver - he is afraid - Walpurgis Night." (0:02:55). This is an anglicized form of the German 'Walpurgis-Nacht', which is the Eve of Saint Walpurgis, the evening of April 30, also known as May Eve (the eve of May Day). This night is one of several during the year in which supernatural beings of various kinds roam at large, according to the traditional superstitions of various regions.
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There was no real musical soundtrack in the film because it was believed that, with sound being such a recent innovation in films, the audience would not accept hearing music in a scene if there was no explanation for it being there (e.g., the orchestra playing off camera when Dracula meets Mina at the theatre).
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When she died on June 12, 2014 at the age of 104, Carla Laemmle was the last surviving cast member of this film. She played the role of the ungainly teenage coach passenger reading the history of Transylvania aloud. She rightly claimed that she was the first woman in talking pictures to have the first line of dialogue in a horror film.
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The original Broadway production of "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi opened at the Fulton Theater on October 5, 1927 and ran for 261 performances. Also in the original cast was Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing and Herbert Bunston as Doctor Seward. These three were the only actors from the original 1927 Broadway production to repeat their roles in the film.
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The opening music to this film is from Act 2 of Swan Lake.
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After playing Renfield, Dwight Frye would find himself typecast. He found himself restricted to playing eccentric or jittery characters that had a manic edge to them - or criminal lunatic types.
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During an interview with film historian David J. Skal, actor David Manners recounted how the production was disorganized and that Tod Browning showed little interest in directing the film. None of the cast members took filming seriously, except for Bela Lugosi. Manners witnessed Lugosi strolling up and down the set with his cloak wrapped around him and saying, "I am Dracula". This was Bela's own "method" of psyching himself up and building his concentration to stay in character. Lugosi was a staunch professional who cared deeply about his acting. Years after his death, Lugosi was accused by various biographers of confusing real life with his role. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as reported by Carroll Borland, his son, Bela Lugosi Jr. and other people who knew him.
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The large, expansive sets built for the Transylvania castle and Carfax Abbey sequences remained standing after filming was completed, and were used by Universal Pictures for many other movies for over a decade.
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Universal's original plan was to make a big-budget adaptation of "Dracula" that would strictly adhere to the Bram Stoker novel. However, after the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression, Universal chose not to risk an investment on such a sprawling film. Instead, it adapted the much less expensive Hamilton Deane stage play.
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The spider webs in Dracula's castle were created by shooting rubber cement from a rotary gun.
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In the first scene, the young woman reading from the tourist book was played by Carla Laemmle, niece of Carl Laemmle, founder and head of Universal Pictures.
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The movie's line "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make." was voted as the #83 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
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Before he was cast as Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi acted as an unpaid intermediary for Universal Pictures in negotiating with the widow of author Bram Stoker in an attempt to persuade her to lower her asking price for the filming rights to the Dracula property. After two months of negotiations, Mrs. Stoker reportedly lowered her price from $200,000 to $60,000. This further demonstrated to Universal what an asset to them he was, and how eager Lugosi was to repeat his stage success as Count Dracula and secure the film role for himself.
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Several folkloric elements often associated with Dracula are not visible in this film. At no point does Dracula display fangs. Also, the famous vampire bite mark on the neck is never shown either, although, twice, characters examining victims' necks do talk about bite marks.
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Some of the original prints of the film were tinted green to give it a more eerie look.
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The opera performed when Dracula first meets Dr Seward is Wagner's Overture to Die Meistersinger.
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Generally regarded as the film that kick-started the Horror genre in Hollywood.
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When Universal purchased the rights to the 1927 Broadway play, Lon Chaney was considered for the title role. However, Chaney died on August 26, 1930, and the role went to Bela Lugosi. His son Lon Chaney Jr. would later play Count Alucard, the son of Count Dracula, in Son of Dracula (1943).
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Richard Matheson claimed, in an interview with the Archive of American Television, to have conceived of his famous science fiction story 'I Am Legend' after viewing this film: "My mind drifted off, and I thought, 'If one vampire is scary, what if the whole world is full of vampires?'".
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The Royal Albert Hall sequence of the movie was filmed on the same stage where The Phantom of the Opera (1925) starring Lon Chaney had been filmed.
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Bette Davis (who had a contract at Universal at the time) was considered to play the part of Mina Harker. However, Universal head Carl Laemmle Jr. didn't think too highly of her sex appeal.
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Although he lived for 67 years after the film was released, David Manners (John Harker) claimed that he never watched it.
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The peasants inside the inn are praying The Lord's Prayer in Hungarian.
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Due to studio demands to cut costs, the film was shot in sequence.
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This was the sixth most popular movie at the U.S. box office for 1931.
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When Carl Laemmle moved Universal to California in 1914, a version of "Dracula" was one of the first projects being considered. It was over fifteen years before this version was produced.
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The film was met with very mixed reactions upon its release in Bela Lugosi's home country of Hungary. Critics already considered Dracula adaptations to be "old hat" and singled out Lugosi's performance as the worst part of the movie. According to contemporary newspaper articles, even theater audiences would at times loudly mock the film as it played, causing the entire room to erupt in laughter throughout the movie. Lugosi's Dracula became part of public consciousness in Hungary, even though the film itself was mostly forgotten for several decades until it received a limited DVD release in 2004.
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After viewing the initial cut, Universal president Carl Laemmle reportedly said that the film gave him the "heebie-jeebies" and ordered that it be re-edited. Tod Browning was bitterly disappointed by the studio's 11th hour re-edit, and claimed that his best work ended up on the editing room floor. The re-cut apparently introduced a number of continuity errors into the film, which disappear when fans have re-edited the film to match the continuity of the shooting script. See "Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning" by David J. Skal and discussion at monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/topic/40203/DRACULA-Restored.
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This film was based on the stage play rather than the book. As the actual book included such key characters as a group of wild west cowboys, the original story was far too convoluted for the budget to handle. Interestingly, later versions of the play gave a nod to the film. For example, Dracula's line, "I do not drink...wine," was not in the play but was later added in order to meet audiences' expectations.
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Contrary to popular misconception, Bela Lugosi did not wear a hair piece in the film. However, he did sport a fake widow's peak in many publicity stills. Later, Lugosi would wear a more pronounced widow's peak for his role in White Zombie (1932).
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Edward Van Sloan and Dwight Frye also appeared in the horror classic Frankenstein (1931). They are the only 2 actors to have appeared in both films.
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It has been rumored that a longer version is in existence. Prior to the film being re-edited before release, the running time was closer to approximately 84 minutes.
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Apparently morose over the loss of friend and collaborator Lon Chaney and in the midst of severe alcoholism, the normally meticulous Tod Browning was said to have been sullen and unprofessional during the shoot. Among his actions were to leave set, leaving cinematographer Karl Freund to direct scenes. He would also recklessly tear pages out of the script if he felt them to be redundant.
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When Dracula arrives at the theater, the music heard coming from the orchestra is the beginning of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony." When he enters the seating area, the music heard is the ending of Richard Wagner's Overture to the opera "Die Meistersinger." Later in the scene, the music from the Unfinished Symphony is heard again.
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Contrary to what has been written by both Jewish and anti-Semitic writers, the neck order worn by Dracula is not a Star of David.
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Thanks to Bela Lugosi, who negotiated with the author's widow, Universal acquired the film rights to "Dracula" from Bram Stoker's widow and the play's writer Hamilton Deane for $40,000.
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Bela Lugosi played the role of Dracula on Broadway in 1927 before touring the country with the show. The American performance of the British stage actor Hamilton Deane's adaptation of the book was a smashing success. Soon after the play began touring, Universal started to express interest in the script.
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While in full costume, Bela Lugosi delighted in strutting up and down the set while proclaiming "I am Dracula!". He would do the same while looking in the mirror. This was his actor's way of preparing his mental state for the role. Lugosi, a classically trained actor from Hungary, was utilizing one of the many acting techniques that he had learned in order to get into character and bring out the best performance.
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Universal Studios commissioned a new musical score from composer Philip Glass. It premiered at The Brooklyn Academy of Music on 26 October 1999.
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Helen Chandler, who played Mina Seward, was convinced she was heading for superstardom after making "Dracula." She was described as suffering from delusions of grandeur and with "her head up in the clouds." By the time Chandler died in the 1960s, she had long been forgotten.
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This "Universal" production became the most famous and successful film to pair David Manners with Helen Chandler. The pair had made two films at "Warner Brothers/First National" and one at "Fox."
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Originally, the film was intended to be made on a larger budget, with a story that followed the novel.
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Lon Chaney wasn't actually cast in the title role, despite numerous reports to the contrary. While the actor was being considered by Universal at the time of his passing, it is unlikely that Chaney would have been free to accept the role, as he was in the process of renegotiating his exclusive contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
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Contrary to popular belief, this film does not contain the famous Organ Piece "Toccata and Fugue in D minor." The film that does contain the organ piece is The Black Cat (1934)), which also stars Bela Lugosi and David Manners.
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The theme music at the start of the film is the second movement from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Considering the general date in which the story is set, this would have been only a few years old, with a popular version of the sheet music being widely available.
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In 2020, Legendary Comics released a graphic novel adaptation of Bram Stoker's original novel, using Bela Lugosi's likeness for Dracula. This graphic novel finally put Lugosi in an adaptation of the novel, rather than the stage play the 1931 movie is based on. The graphic novel also gave Lugosi fangs for the first time.
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The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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Assuming its copyright has not lapsed already, this film and all others produced in 1931 enter the U.S. public domain in 2027.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Part of the original SHOCK THEATER package of 52 Universal titles released to television in 1957, followed a year later with SON OF SHOCK, which added 20 more features.
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Among the other actors mentioned as possible candidates for the role of Count Dracula were John Wray, Paul Muni, Conrad Veidt, Chester Morris, and William Courtenay.
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John Carradine was among the actors considered for the title role. However, there is no corroborating evidence from that time period, only Carradine's own later testimony. He also claimed to have turned down a makeup test for the Monster in Frankenstein (1931), due to the absence of dialogue. This statement seems to have a greater bearing of truth, as the actor did indeed work at Universal in the late spring-early summer of 1931, on Heaven on Earth (1931).
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Both this film and the Spanish version filmed at the same time (Drácula (1931)) feature a cast member who lived to be over 100 years old; Lupita Tovar in the Spanish and Carla Laemmle in the English.
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Carla Laemmle, who played the teenage coach passenger, was the niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle. At the time, Universal was very much a family operation, with Laemmie employing dozens of family members.
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The film opens on Walpurgis Night (30 April). The feast of Saint Walpurga is celebrated in many European countries. According to legend, on Walpurgis Night, the witches celebrated a sabbath and evil powers were at their strongest.
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In this version of the Dracula story, the woman partially transformed into a vampire is Mina Seward. In the original novel, her name is Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and she has no relation to Dr. Seward. In the novel, she works as a school mistress (schoolteacher) and she had lost both of her parents at a young age.
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Only a year later Universal also used the Swan Lake theme for the opening credits to "The Mummy".
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After the death of Lon Chaney, one of the first actors considered for the title role was Ian Keith.
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Tod Browning and Bela Lugosi had collaborated two years earlier on The Thirteenth Chair (1929).
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Some film reference books list the running time of "Dracula" as being 84 minutes. However, such a version has yet to materialise.
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Playing the half-crazed Renfield would typecast Dwight Frye for the rest of his career. He would forever be associated with playing jittery, manic characters.
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The protagonist, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, does not appear until 31 minutes into the film, and does not confront Dracula until 40½ minutes after the film begins.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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Vlad the Impaler, an actual person who practiced horrific revenge on his enemies, lived in Transylvania (Wallachia) in the 15th century. A structure known as Dracula's castle is today a popular attraction in Bran, Romania.
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The original choice for the title role was Conrad Veidt, but as he had returned to Europe, the studio ended up casting Bela Lugosi. Veidt is best known for playing Major Strasser in Casablanca (1942).
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The journey from Transylvania to England would have involved sailing from the Black Sea through the Bosphorus to the Mediterranean, and then to England, or overland to the Baltic coast and across the North Sea. For the time of this film, showing a three masted schooner may have added drama, but was likely inaccurate. Steamships were the norm, Titanic and Lusitania notwithstanding.
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This was the first of many films about the 'Count' and launched both it's star and the studio -Universal- on Horror careers.
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The very old wine Count Dracula pours has a storied tradition. Romania is known for excellent red wines.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When this film was re-released after the Production Code was strictly enforced in 1934, many edits and deletions were ordered by censors. The censors removed Renfield's scream as he is being killed and Dracula's moan as the stake is driven through his heart. These two audio deletions were later restored.
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The studio did not want the scene where Dracula attacks Renfield to be filmed, due to the perceived gay subtext of the situation. A memo was sent to the director stating "Dracula is only to attack women."
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The shooting script features a scene not found in the film in which Van Helsing kills Lucy following her transformation into a vampire. In the scene, Van Helsing brings John into the graveyard to prove the existence of vampires. There, they witness Lucy walking into a mausoleum. After consoling John, Van Helsing pulls a parcel from his pocket and makes clear his intentions to follow Lucy and destroy her. At this point, the film was to have cut back to a scene of Dracula abducting Mina.
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In an ironic twist of fate, Bela Lugosi was seen with blood dripping down his lips in Daughters Who Pay (1925), whereas his Dracula never was! His character there, Serge, forcibly kisses the leading lady, who was dancing with a rose between her lips. The thorns in the stem cut him and, after being seen bleeding from the mouth, Bela's Serge proceeds to touch a kerchief to his lips.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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