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Trivia / Dracula (1931)

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  • Actor-Shared Background: Fittingly enough, Bela Lugosi was Hungarian. When the original novel had been published, Transylvania was in Austro-Hungary.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: 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, an insultingly small amount even during the days of the Depression.
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  • Completely Different Title: Became Vampire in Taiwan.
  • Creator Backlash: David Manners (Harker) hated this movie and hated talking about it. Considering he had easily the worst role in the film with much less to do than the book's Harker, it's difficult to blame him.
  • Creator Breakdown: During the filming, director Tod Browning was very hard to work with due to his alcoholism and the sadness caused by the loss of his friend Lon Chaney.
  • The Foreign Subtitle:
    • Finland: Dracula: Old Vampire
    • Netherlands: Dracula the Vampire
  • Gay Panic: 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".
  • Missing Episode: In its original release, the movie had an epilogue in which Edward Van Sloan addressed the audience. It starts out sounding like a reassuring This Is a Work of Fiction message, until at the last moment he subverts it with "There really are such things as vampires!" The epilogue was cut from the 1936 re-release due to fears of offending religious groups by endorsing the occult, and is now considered lostnote .
  • Old Shame: Despite the film being a horror classic, many cast and crew members of Dracula (1931) felt this way about the film:
    • Bela Lugosi enjoyed making the film and playing the character, though he later referred to it as a "blessing and a curse" and disliked the typecasting that occurred after the film. He spent his later years making B-films (at best) and battling drug addiction.
    • Director Tod Browning did not enjoy making the film, since his original choice for the film, Lon Chaney, had died, and the film was being made on a much lower budget than he wanted. The cast complained about Browning being a hands-off director, and showing no enthusiasm for the project whatsoever.
    • Dwight Frye (Renfield) was also typecast as crazy loons after the film, and he was not happy about it. His career never recovered, and he died of a heart attack in 1943 at the age of 44.
    • Helen Chandler (Mina) wanted to play Alice in a film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and wasn't happy being stuck in a horror picture instead. Her career never got off the ground, and she battled alcoholism only a few years later, and nearly burned to death in a fire 15 years before her death at age 59.
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    • David Manners (John) didn't have it as bad as his co-stars, but he disliked being a Hollywood actor and making Dracula, and in an interview shortly before he died in 1998, claimed to have never seen the finished film.
  • Real-Life Relative: 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.
  • Recycled Set:
  • Star-Making Role: For Bela Lugosi.
  • Those Two Actors: 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.
  • Troubled Production: The film became a horror classic, but also became an Old Shame for many involved due to a rough production:
    • Initially planned to be a high-budget adaptation of the novel, the onset of The Great Depression forced Universal head Carl Laemmle Jr. to adapt the less expensive stage play based on the novel. Bela Lugosi, who had already played Dracula on stage to critical acclaim, lobbied hard to reprise his stage role for the film. Laemmle had no interest in Lugosi and considered a laundry list of actors over him, but relented in part due to Lugosi agreeing to a pay of $500 per week for seven weeks of filming, a paltry sum even by Depression standards.
    • Filming was rocky and disorganized. On top of being an early talkie film, film with all the troubles that implies, Tod Browning was depressed over the death of his friend Lon Chaney and unhappy about the film's low budget, sinking into alcoholism during the shoot. Amid complaints about his difficult attitude and unfocused direction, Browning passed many scenes onto cinematographer Karl Freund, who went uncredited for his directorial contributions. The cast was deeply unhappy with the messy shoot, and Lugosi grew disillusioned and concerned he would be typecasted. Late into production, Lugosi was reportedly offered to once again play Dracula for a stage tour and said "No! Not at any price. When I'm through with this picture I hope to never hear of Dracula again."
    • While the film was a standout critical and box office success, many involved in the film viewed it with mixed emotions at best. Lugosi's concerns about typecasting proved prescient, as he was ruthlessly typecasted as vampires and vampire-like villains in horror and sci-fi films. Dwight Frye, who played Renfield, was also a victim of typecasting and not happy about it. David Manners, who played Harker, would later state that he hated the filming process so much that he refused to watch the final film.
    • Of special note is the Spanish version of the film, which was shot concurrently at night using the same costumes and sets (a not-uncommon practice for early talkies). Despite having less shooting time and a smaller budget, the Spanish production averted troubles and benefitted from the missteps made by their Anglo counterparts, viewing the English dailies before filming to improve their own work. Considered a lost film until it was rediscovered in the 1970's, it is now considered by many film historians to be the superior film of the two.
  • Urban Legend: 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 had lived in the United States for a decade by 1931, and was speaking English as well as he ever would by the time this was filmed.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • If he hadn't died, the role of Dracula would have gone to Lon Chaney. Conrad Veidt was also considered. John Carradine (who donned the cape in two later Universal films) claimed he was a candidate.
    • Lew Ayres was originally cast as Johnathan Harker.
    • The producers originally wanted the film to be a faithful adaption of the original Bram Stoker novel with a big budget, but the depression crunch forced them to adapt the stage play instead.
    • 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. Only the Spanish-language version retains these events, leaving Lucy's fate a Plot Hole in the English film.
    • Bette Davis (who had a contract at Universal at the time) was considered to play Mina Harker. However, Universal head Carl Laemmle Jr. didn't think too highly of her sex appeal.