Bela Lugosi  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Béla Lugosi (October 20, 1882August 16, 1956), was a Hungarian actor best known for his portrayal of Count Dracula in the American Broadway stage production (1927), and subsequent film (1931), of Bram Stoker's classic vampire story.

Typecasting

Through his association with Dracula (in which he appeared with minimal makeup, using his natural, heavily accented voice), Lugosi found himself typecast as a horror villain in such movies as Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, and Son of Frankenstein for Universal, and the independent White Zombie. His accent, while a part of his image, limited the roles he could play.

It is an erroneous popular belief that Lugosi declined the offer to appear in Frankenstein. Despite the fact that Lugosi was not interested in the role of Frankenstein's monster due to the onerous makeup job and the role's lack of dialogue, James Whale, the film's director, replaced Lugosi and would do this again in Bride of Frankenstein (Lugosi was supposed to play the role of Dr. Pretorius). A recent Lugosi scrapbook (see external link below) surfaced with a news clipping listing both Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the film together. This gives credence to the possibility that Lugosi was going to play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. Also, a cinematographer who shot test footage of Lugosi for the role of the monster said that Lugosi was happy with the role, and had given him a box of cigars.

In a recent discussion, it has also been speculated Lugosi wanted out of the role because he and James Whale had different interpretations of the monster. There is speculation that Lugosi wanted to play the monster closer to Shelley's original, who had dialogue. Whale's interpretation allowed for no dialogue. Lugosi was quoted as saying the role "did not have meat enough."

Regardless of controversy, the role was taken by the man who became Lugosi's principal rival in horror films, Boris Karloff. Several films at Universal, such as The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939) (and minor cameo performances in 1934's Gift of Gab) paired Lugosi with Karloff. Regardless of the relative size of their roles, Lugosi inevitably got second billing, below Karloff. Lugosi's attitude toward Karloff is the subject of contradictory reports, some claiming that he was openly resentful of Karloff's long-term success and ability to get good roles beyond the horror arena, while others suggested the two actors were — for a time, at least — good friends.

Attempts were made to give Lugosi more heroic roles, as in The Black Cat (1934), The Invisible Ray (1936), and a romantic role in the adventure serial The Return of Chandu, but his typecasting problem was too entrenched for those roles to help. His thick accent and the fact that he never mastered the English language like his fellow Hungarian actors, Peter Lorre and Paul Lukas also hindered the variety of roles he was offered. Another problem seems to stem from the apparent fact that he was uncomfortable doing comedy.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bela Lugosi" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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