The man known to the world as Bela Lugosi was born Bla Blask, October 20, 1882, in a small town in southern Hungary called Lugos. Later, he would adopt the stage name Bela Lugosi, which means "Bela from Lugos." Bela was the 4th child of Istan and Paula…more
1917 – married Ilona Szmik (divorced Bela to return to Hungary)
1920s – married Ilona von Montagh (divorced)
1920s – married Beatrice Weeks (divorced after only three days)
1932 – Lillian Arch (nearly 30 years younger than Bella; divorced, later married actor Brian Donlevy)
1955 - Hope Lininger (married until Bela's death)
Lugosi never learned how to drive an automobile.
According to Bela, Jr., his father's favorite actor of the 1950's time period was Marlon Brando.
Sadly, there are no monuments whatsoever to Bela today in his hometown of Lugoj, Romania. The reason is that Lugosi was Hungarian and the Romanian government many years ago forcibly moved all the ethnic Hungarians out of the region and re-settled them. The Romanian government has refused to allow any monuments to Lugoj's most famous native son for fear of stirring up ethnic tensions anew.
One of the few films in which Bela played a genuinely nice guy was the 1932 comedy: Broadminded - in which he co-starred with Joe E. Brown and Thelma Todd.
Bela's favourite food dish was reportedly Hungarian goulash.
Bela once claimed that he was paid only $500.00 for appearing in the 1932 film White Zombie. Other sources say he received $800.00. Still, a paltry sum considering the success of his previous film, Dracula.
Forrest J. Ackerman the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland once claimed that he prevented a depressed Bela from committing suicide in 1954.
Bela frequently claimed to have left home at the age of 12 to make his way in the world.
Bela and actor Charles Laughton did not get along when they appeared together in the 1932 film Island of the Lost Souls. Lugosi reportedly said of Laughton, "I thought I was an arrogant guy until I met him."
Bela and fellow Hungarian Peter Lorre appeared in only one film together: the 1940 horror spoof You'll Find Out.
Bela played his most famous role of "Count Dracula" on-screen twice: the first time in the classic 1931 film; the second time for laughs in 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Bela appeared in two horror films entitled The Black Cat. The first was with Boris Karloff in 1934, and the second with Broderick Crawford, Basil Rathbone, and Alan Ladd in 1941.
Actor Basil Rathbone once recounted that Bela was drinking heavily on the set of his last true film appearance: The Black Sleep (1956).
Bela disliked Lon Chaney, Jr. immensely. The roots of their "feud" began in 1941 when Lugosi was replaced by Chaney as the star of The Wolf Man (1941).
Bela declined an offer to appear as "The Monster" in Frankenstein (1931) because the role had no dialogue and would have concealed Lugosi beneath heavy makeup. The role was taken by the man who became Lugosi's principal rival in horror films, Boris Karloff. Lugosi wanted to play the role of the scientist, Dr. Frankenstein, but Colin Clive was cast instead. Bela finally played Frankenstein's "Monster" in 1943's Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.
As Bela's career began to wither away, he became increasingly eccentric, often appearing in public clad in his Dracula costume.
In 1924, Bela signed on to direct a drama titled The Right to Dream, but was unable to communicate with his cast and crew which got him quickly fired. He sued the producers, but was found by the court to be unable to helm a theatrical production and was ordered to pay fines totaling close to 70 dollars. When he refused, the contents of his apartment were auctioned off to pay his court costs - an inauspicious beginning to his life in America, indeed.
Bela was intensely active in politics in his former homeland. He went so far as to organize an actors' union following the 1918 collapse of the Hungarian monarchy.
Bela was buried wearing one of the many capes from the Dracula stageplay, as per the request of his fifth wife and son. While it was stated that Lugosi made no requests regarding his burial, either verbally or through his will, this appears to be urban myth; verification can be obtained from the special edition DVD of Dracula.
During the late 1940's when the acting jobs dried up, Bela became seriously addicted to morphine. It was originally prescribed to him for severe back pain earlier on in that decade.
On June 26, 1931 - Bela became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
One of Bela's earliest appearances for the German film industry was in the 1920 adaptation of the Karl May novel Die Todeskarawane (The Death Caravan) opposite the ill-fated Jewish actress Dora Gerson.
During World War I Bela served as an infantry lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army. He was discharged when World War I was still being fought. The circumstances of his discharge are still shrouded in mystery although Bela would later claim that he feigned insanity in order to get out of the service and return to civilian life.
Bela was 6' 1" (1.85 m) tall and had blue eyes.
Bela worked extensively to help immigrant Hungarian actors adapt to America, and find acting jobs.
Bela's Star on the Walk of Fame for his contributions to the Motion Picture industry is located at 6340 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA.
Bela was a noted Shakespearean actor in Hungary, with roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew and Richard III, among others. He appeared in several Hungarian films under the name Arisztid Olt.
Bela was further immortalized in the song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by the Bauhaus, which was featured in The Hunger (1983), and went on to become a dancefloor mainstay at goth dance clubs in the 1980s.
Bela's name had become such as asset that various 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 Bela's 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."
Bela was portrayed by Martin Landau in the film Ed Wood (1994).
Bela's performance in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) created such a sensation that he reportedly received more fan mail from females than even Clark Gable.
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).
Bela performed in live-action reference footage for the Night on Bald Mountain sequence of Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). He was, of course, the demon.
Bela's first American major motion picture part was as the villainous "Hisston" in The Silent Command (1923).
Bela's first stage role in the US was in The Red Poppy. Unable to speak English, he was forced to learn the role by rote. He was rewarded with excellent reviews and it earned him his first US film role.
Bela is pictured on one of a set of five 32¢ US commemorative postage stamps, issued September 30, 1997, celebrating "Famous Movie Monsters." He is pictured as his most famous role - Dracula (1931).
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 men's 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. However, near the sad end of his life, Lugosi allegedly had some morphine-addled fantasies that Karloff was a boogie man out to get him.
On the set, Bela camouflaged his drug addiction by sipping burgundy.
Were it not for his death, Lon Chaney, rather than Bela, would have been the director Tod Browning's choice for the starring role in Dracula (1931).
Bela is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, USA. Specific Interment Location: Grotto, L120, 1.
Bela's son, Bela Lugosi Jr., practices law in Los Angeles, California.
Bela's nickname was "Adelbert" which also was his Confirmation name.
Even though Bela appeared in over 100 movies, some fans are surprised to learn that he only played a vampire 4 times: he was Count Dracula in Dracula (1931) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948); he played Count Mora in Mark of the Vampire (1935) and Armand Tesla in The Return of the Vampire (1944).
Bela was one of the charter members of the Screen Actors Guild. He was SAG member # 23.
Bela frequently rented out his house for film companies to use when he was short on cash (which was rather often). At the time of his death, Bela was in such poor financial condition that Frank Sinatra was rumored to have paid for his funeral.
Legend has it that Final Curtain was the script Bela was reading when he died. When they found Bela dead on the couch, he was clutching this script, written by his good friend Ed Wood.
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.
Lugosi: I guess I'm pretty much a lone wolf. I don't say I don't like people at all but, to tell you the truth, I only like them if I have a chance to look deep into their hearts and their minds.
Lugosi: A screen actor is compensated in the knowledge that millions will see his performance at one time when only hundreds will see it on stage.
Lugosi: Because of my language and pantomime with which almost all Europeans accompany their speech, I was catalogued as a heavy.
Lugosi: Chill drama holds no love for me as a spectator.
Lugosi: Every actor is somewhat mad, or else he'd be a plumber or a bookkeeper, or a salesman.
Lugosi: Every actor's greatest ambition is to create his own definite and original role but I found this to be almost fatal.
Lugosi: I enjoy my work. I haven't been an actor for 30 years without getting pleasure out of the profession.
Lugosi: I have lived too completely. I think I have known every human emotion.
Lugosi: I used to be the big cheese. Now I'm playing just a dumb part.
Lugosi: I'll be truthful. The weekly paycheck is the most important thing to me.
Lugosi: If you are not serious, people will sense it.
Lugosi: In Hungary, acting is a profession. In American, it is a decision.
Lugosi: To portray a maniac offers a compelling challenge.
Lugosi: To win a woman, take her with you to see Dracula.
Lugosi: Without movie parts I was reduced to freak status. I just couldn't stand it.
Lugosi: You can't make people believe in you if you play a horror part with your tongue in your cheek.