Bela Lugosi (October 20, 1882 — August 16, 1956; born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó) was a Hungarian-born stage and screen actor mostly known for his work in horror movies, in particular the title role in the 1931 version of Dracula. Following this film's success, he suffered severely from type-casting and the limitations of his heavy native accent, and spent the vast bulk of his career eking out a living in various low-budget productions, culminating (if that is the word) in his work with director Ed Wood.
Lugosi was born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Lugos, Hungary (hence his stage name). He began acting in theater at a young age and served in the Austro-Hungarian Army in World War One, being wounded in action against Russia. Lugosi began his film career while the war was still ongoing, but after Bela Kun's failed Communist revolution, Lugosi (active in trade unions and a supporter of Kun's government) was blacklisted in his home country and fled to Germany, where he continued his career, including, oddly enough, several successful Westerns. He emigrated to the United States in 1920 and became a citizen in 1931.
After some minor film roles through the '20s (already typecast as villains) and a successful stage career (where he often played romantic and heroic characters), Lugosi achieved his Star-Making Role as Count Dracula in Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's stage adaptation of Dracula. Lugosi began the role in 1927, playing the Count in 261 performances on Broadway before touring the country. After the tour concluded he relocated to Los Angeles and began focusing on movies. Ironically, he had to lobby to play Dracula on film as Universal initially wanted an established star for the role. note
Although Lugosi appeared in several successful films for Universal after Dracula, he failed to break through his typecasting and remained overwhelmingly cast in horror and science fiction movies, often of negligible quality. During this time, he worked on several occasions with/was overshadowed by Boris Karloff. He managed to make a sort of comeback in death, however, when Martin Landau won an Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood.
Other notable or infamous movies in which he appeared: White Zombie, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Wolf Man, Son of Frankenstein (as Ygor, generally regarded as one of his best performances), Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space. He also had a supporting role in the classic Greta Garbo comedy Ninotchka, although he's still scary (he's a commissar). Many Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will also remember him from the serial The Phantom Creeps ("Zees vill zimplify everytink!"), as well as the movie Bride of the Monster ("He tampered in God's domain").
Also rather well known for being dead. It wasn't his idea, but he was buried in Dracula costume. A persistent urban myth holds that Peter Lorre joked at Lugosi's funeral that they should drive a stake through his heart just in case. In fact, Peter Lorre wasn't even at Lugosi's funeral.
Bela Lugosi on TV Tropes:
- Dracula (1927 Broadway production)
- Dracula (1931)
- Island of Lost Souls (1932)
- Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
- White Zombie (1932)
- The Black Cat (1934)
- Mark of the Vampire (1935)
- The Raven (1935)
- The Invisible Ray (1936)
- Ninotchka (1939)
- Son of Frankenstein (1939)
- The Devil Bat (1940)
- The Wolf Man (1941)
- The Corpse Vanishes (1942)
- The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
- Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
- The Body Snatcher (1945)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
- Glen or Glenda (1953)
- Bride of the Monster (1955)
- Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)note
Bela Lugosi is known for these tropes:
- Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Lugosi had double-jointed fingers, allowing him to make creepy motions with his hands.
- All in the Eyes: Multiple movies would make good use out of an illuminated close-up of Lugosi's. Dracula aside, both White Zombie and its sequel (which Béla wasn't actually in, funny enough) used this effect.
- Many people say that Bela wasn't that great of an actor, but pretty much everyone agrees that those eyes of his... those eyes... eyes that pierce you to your very soul. There is no escaping them... Uh. That is to say: Most people agree that he could use his eyes to amazing effect.
- Badass Cape: Dracula's long cape.
- Black Cloak: Buried with one, too, at his family's request, though against his own wishes.
- Classical Movie Vampire: His role is the Trope Maker. Most Dracula parodies follow this trope because of how renowned Legosi's performance was.
- Compelling Voice: He made sure to try to vocalize Dracula's hypnotic voice.
- Dramatic Pause: Somewhat justified in the fact that English is quite different from Hungarian (so different that the heavy accent it leaves when transitioning to English probably made his English sound worse than it actually did to most people. He was actually a very good speaker!) In fact, in 1934's The Black Cat, he has a small bit of dialogue in Hungarian, and naturally, the delivery of it flows like melted butter.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Lugosi's most notable film role before moving to America is probably that of Chingachgook in the 1920 silent two-parter Lederstrumpf.
- Fake Shemp: In Plan 9 from Outer Space.
- The "Fun" in "Funeral": He was buried in his Dracula cape, and his old friend Peter Lorre joked that they should stake him just to be sure.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Bela Lugosi did not swear (not much, anyway), but Ed Wood made him give a whole lot of it.
- High Collar of Doom: By wearing the collar of the black cape up in the stage play of Dracula, turning around would blend in with the curtain and make it seem like he disappeared. In the movie version, he kept the collar up just for the heck of it, and high collars became an iconic part of the Villainous Fashion Sense.
- I Do Not Drink Wine: Dracula didn't, but Béla? It's said he was quite a fan.
- The Igor: His role in Son of Frankenstein helped codify this trope. He's the original Ygor!
- Immigrant Patriotism: Lugosi was a proud and patriotic naturalized American, though also maintained pride in his Hungarian roots.
- Large Ham: He could play the part subtle at moments, but he loved to just flourish with the role.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The man's name, and most of his characters.
- Ominous Opera Cape: The way he flourished the long, black cape as Dracula made dark capes a common villain accessory.
- The Rival: With Boris Karloff, to an extent. Lugosi resented that Karloff always received top billing when they costarred together, and they often competed for roles when they weren't collaborating. Most film historians tend to discount stories that they had a full-on feud, however; according to Karloff, he had Lugosi had a friendly working relationship, while Lugosi's children insist that he harbored no personal animosity towards Karloff, even if he was occasionally jealous of Karloff's greater success.
- Stage Name: He was born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó (or Blaskó Béla Ferenc Dezső in Hungarian name order), and took the name Lugosi from his hometown of Lugos, Hungary (which is now Lugoj, Romania). In many of his Hungarian films, Lugosi also used the name Arisztid Olt.
- Universal Horror: The genre in which he did his most famous work.
- Vampires Are Sex Gods: He played Dracula as a seductive and charismatic villain. The studio forbade him from preying on men for exactly this reason.
- Lugosi himself was turned into a sex symbol overnight because of Dracula.
- Vampire Vords: This is a trope he actually averted. He had no problems pronouncing his W's.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: He got roles after Dracula, but they eventually dried up. You can see Ed Wood for a potrayal of his later years.