As we wind down to spirit of Halloween, I wanted to bring up the actor Bella Lugosi with you. Who was the one of the most misunderstood and underrated actors of the 20th century.
Who was Bella Lugosi?
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó was born on October 20th 1882 in Hungary, he became famous portraying Count Dracula, and for other roles in various other horror films.
Lugosi, the youngest of four children had changed his name which was based after his hometown known as Lugoj Romania.
At the age of 12, Lugosi dropped out of school. He began his acting career probably in 1901 or 1902. His earliest known performances are from provincial theatres in the 1903–1904 seasons, playing small roles in several plays and operettas.
He went on to Shakespeare plays and other major roles, he had a long extensive classical career in Hungary including roles in “Hamlet”, “Macbeth”, “King Lear”, “Taming of the Shrew” and “Richard III”.
Moving to Budapest in 1911, Lugosi played dozens of roles with the National Theatre of Hungary in the period 1913–1919. Although Lugosi would later claim that he “became the leading actor of Hungary’s Royal National Theatre”, almost all his roles there were small or supporting parts.
During World War I, he served as an infantryman in the Austro-Hungarian Army from 1914 to 1916. There he rose to the rank of captain in the ski patrol and was awarded the Wound Medal for wounds he suffered while serving on the Russian front.
Due to his activism in the actors’ union in Hungary during the time of the Hungarian Revolution of 1919, he was forced to flee his homeland.
He first went to Vienna and then settled in Berlin in the Langestrasse where he continued acting. Eventually, he travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana, US as a crewman aboard a merchant ship.
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.
His son, Bela Lugosi Jr., has been practicing law in city of the Los Angeles since 1995. He took his father’s advice and decided to become a successful lawyer instead of pursuing an acting career.
Lugosi’s 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.
In 1994 movie release called, “Ed Wood,” starring Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, and Martin Landau playing Bella Lugosi. There was a kinship between fan Ed Wood and movie star Bella Lugosi.
Today’s YouTube presentation brought to you by user name Si Mezler is Martin Landau talking about his remarkable role as Bela Lugosi in the 1995 movie called, “Ed Wood.”
In 1994 Martin Landau won an Oscar for his supporting role playing opposite Johnny Depp in the movie called, Ed Wood.
Bela’s Los Angeles home was purchased by Johnny Depp, the actor who portrayed his friend Edward D. Wood Jr. in the film Ed Wood (1994).
Contrary to popular belief, Bela and Boris Karloff did not hate each other, as the famous scene from Ed Wood (1994) would lead one to believe. Both actors’ children have said that the only rivalry that existed between them is when they were both up for the same parts, and in reality, Lugosi and Karloff had almost no relationship off-set.
On the set, Bela camouflaged his drug addiction by sipping burgundy.
Actor Basil Rathbone once recounted that Bela was drinking heavily on the set of his last true film appearance: The Big Sleep (1956).
In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Bela played Dr. Lajos which was Count Dracula’s alias. In real life, Lajos was the name of Bela’s older brother.
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 actually 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.
As mysterious as Bela Lugosi was, he brought Count Dracula to life as we remember his performances this Halloween.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell