A publicity still used for productions of Dracula in 1950
The summer of 1950 began for Bela Lugosi as had 1947, 1948 and 1949—playing in summer stock. He spent the week of July 4th appearing in Dracula in Vermont (his last appearance in the play in America). Then came his last chance of returning to Broadway, in a supporting role in The Devil Also Dreams. Tryout performances through July and August ranged across Massachusetts, New York, and Canada. Reviews were not bad; Lugosi himself drew consistent praise; but backers could not be convinced to stay with the production.
The Devil Also Dreams is Lugosi’s first role that openly parodies his career. He played Petofy, “a stage struck and slightly mad actor working as a butler anxious to return to the footlights and demonstrate to his master’s guests that Shakespeare is improved by translation to Hungarian.” For some reviewers, Lugosi was the gem of the show.
Otherwise, 1950 saw the familiar mix of guest appearances on television, radio, and stage shows. He ended the year hosting The Bela Lugosi Horror & Magic Show, billed as “Mr. Horror Himself!”
The Evening Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida, March 16, 1950
LUGOSI ASSAILS CRIME COMICS, RADIO DRAMAS
by C. Winn Upchurch
Independent Staff Writer
Bela Lugosi makes is living as the horror man of the movies but as a father he is against crime comics, crime radio dramas and movies that deal with blood—red blood and smoking guns.
The Hollywood actor arrived in St. Petersburg Wednesday after driving here from New York with his wife-manager. The two are stopping at the Tides hotel and next week Lugosi will star in the title role of Dracula to be presented by the St. Petersburg Players at the South side junior high school auditorium.
Lugosi has portrayed the role of Dracula some 1,000 times but there was a time when he played romantic leads. That was in his native Hungary. He came to the United States in 1920 as a “political refugee” fleeing from the Reds.”
Off stage and in his natural dress Lugosi does not appear to be the horror man that he is onscreen or stage, a modestly dressed man, wearing white sport shoes and sporting a new bow tie, he’s more the type of a retired businessman.
He has a 12-year-old son attending military school in California and Lugosi made it emphatic that his son is not allowed to read crime comics, listen to crime radio programs or see “horror” movies. “It is no good for the youngsters,” the man who has become famous as the scare-the-daylights-out-of-you actor explains.
Lugosi uses no make-up for his Dracula role.
“I just mug the part,” he laughs.
Mr. and Mrs. Lugosi reside in Greenwich Village, New York.
He is not under contract to any of the movie studios but prefers to free lance.
“That way I can select my own roles,” he says in his slight European drawl.
He is currently making a personal appearance tour and from here will return to New York where he appears on radio and television shows, one of his recent shows being the popular Suspense program and another a television appearance with Milton Berle.
Lugosi doesn’t think of his screen portrayals as horror types.
“I just make funny faces,” he puts it.
The Morning Heraldn, Union Town, Pennsylvania, June 7, 1950
LITTLE OLD NEW YORK
by Ed Sullivan
On our new Thursday night WPIX show, Bela Lugosi delighted me by confessing that the slump in horror pictures had driven him and Boris Karloff eastward, with Karloff switching from ghouls to Peter Pan…Lugosi revealed something I never knew: that he was chosen as “Dracula” as the result of playing a romantic lead in Arabesque. He played the part of the sheik and his use of his hands attracted the attention of Horace Liveright and director John B. Williams, who were searching for a male vampire. The mystery play was such a tremendous success that although produced at the Fulton Theatre as long back as 1927, Lugosi is still identified as “Dracula.” Nedda Harrigan, now Mrs. Josh Logan, and Dorothy Peterson were the femmes in that 1927 cast.
Bela Lugosi clowning with the cast of The Devil Also Dreams
August 16, 1950 Toronto Globe & Mail
Dracula Role Is Frankenstein To Bela Lugosi
By Alex Harris
Bela Lugosi, the screen horror-man who became famous for his portrayal of Dracula, has had just as much trouble getting away from that fiendish character as have millions of movie goers whose dreams he has haunted.
In fact, Lugosi says that the part has become to him something of a Frankenstein, a man-made monster turning on its maker. It has taken Lugosi 23 years to get away from his monster.
Lugosi, who turns out to be a soft-spoken charming chap with old-European manners, was born in Hungary and trained as an actor. Training there was quite a bit different. If one wanted to be an actor he had to attend the Academy of Theatrical Arts in Budapest and get a degree just as a doctor, lawyer or engineer has to do here.
It was a tough grind, but if one succeeded in pulling through, as Lugosi did, one was a professional man, an artist whose social standing was way up there. Work, too, was pretty well guaranteed because each city of 50,000 or more had a municipally financed theatre. Budapest talent scouts would tour such theatres and if an actor looked good to them he was invited to the capital for a guest performance. And if that succeeded, the actor was set for life—with a full-time job, three months vacation and so on.
The political unrest in postwar Hungary interfered, however, and Lugosi went to the United States in 1919. Unable to speak English, he formed a Hungarian language theatrical group which lasted for three years, by which time Lugosi had mastered enough English to play romantic leads on Broadway.
“That was a long time ago, so I was justified,” he recalls.
It was in 1927 that a Broadway producer was looking for a man to play Dracula. American actors, says Lugosi, were unable to tackle the part because most of them had been trained to develop their own personalities, while in Hungary actors were trained to subdue their own personalities and thus be able to play any part.
In any case Lugosi got the part, was fired after five days of rehearsal, was rehired and played the role so well that he has done little else since but horror parts.
After making the movie version, Lugosi was signed to play the monster part in Frankenstein, but he didn’t like it. “All I did was grunt and wear a lot of padding,” he says.
Lugosi tried to quit the part, but had to agree to find a substitute. He found Boris Karloff, then a bit paleyr, and recommended him for the part.
“So, you see, I creatred another monster for myself. Until then I was the only horror man in the movies,” the Hungarian actor smiles.
August 21, 1950 Ottowa Globe & Mail
Bela Lugosi Balks at Blood, Lives for Laughs
It was “20° colder inside” at the Chateau Laurier last night—not because of any air-conditioning system, but solely due to the presence of some of the entertainment world’s most chilling personalities.
Responsible for at least 15° was Bela Lugosi, main name in the cast of The Devil Also Dreams, a new play by Fritz Rotter and Elissa Rohn trying out with considerable success in Toronto, Montreal and Ottowa prior to opening on Broadway next month.
Others in the cast of the play—which is slated for a one-night stand at the Capitol tonight are Claire Luce, Francis L. Sullivan, Richard Waring and Oswald Marshall.
Mr. Lugosi, wearing a most unsinister bow tie, welcomed reporters to his room last night without so much as a snarl. He looked remarkably happy for a vampire who hadn’t had a blood highball all evening.
But far from yearning for a little hemoglobin, he was hoping he’d never have to look a red corpuscle in the face again.
“Having threatened people for the last 23 years,” he said in a voice still heavy with the accent of his native Hungary, “I’m having the best time of my life making people laugh.”
He likes it, but he’s not quite used to it. Mrs. Lugosi, who travels with him, says the first time he played the new comedy-drama, her husband was almost pushed off base when the laughs started. He just wasn’t expecting it. Now, when the laughter doesn’t come, annoyance molds his face into the scary expression that made him tops among the nastiness boys.
In Europe and Hollywood prior to the smash success of Dracula, Lugosi played a variety of stage and screen roles, but Dracula typed him and he has been a raiser of hair ever since.`
In The Devil Also Dreams, he plays the part of a broken down old actor employed as a butler by a successful writer who has run out of ideas. The writer stumbles on a young playwright with a new play which he palms off as his own.