While many consider British actor Christopher Lee (Dracula, The Wicker man, Lord of the Rings) as the best Dracula of all time and notwithstanding Sir Chris’s prodigious talent, chrismatic presence and enormous contribution to the horror genre through his association with the British insitution that was (and now revived) Hammer Horror Productions, Bela Lugosi remains for me the quintessential Dracula bringing to the part an authentic eastern European accent and a subdued sinisterness (!) that was not really present in the very camp and kitsch, but enormnously enjoyable, romps of Hammer Horror of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. On a personal note it was my very early acquaintance with Hammer Horror that fuelled my interest in the Dark Side and you can read a humerous autobiographical note about this at:
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó (20 October 1882 – 16 August 1956), better known as Bela Lugosi, was a Hungarian-American actor, famous for portraying Count Dracula in the original 1931 film and for his roles in various other horror films.
He had been playing small parts on the stage in his native Hungary before making his first film in 1917, but had to leave the country after the failed Hungarian Revolution. He had roles in several films in Weimar Germany before arriving in America as a seaman on a merchant ship.
In 1927, he appeared as Count Dracula in a Broadway adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, where he was talent-spotted as a character actor for the new Hollywood talkies. He would appear in the classic 1931 Dracula talkie by Universal Pictures.
Through the 1930s, he occupied an important niche in popular horror films, with their East European setting, but his Hungarian accent limited his repertoire, and he tried unsuccessfully to avoid typecasting. Meanwhile, he was often paired with Boris Karloff, who was able to demand top billing. To his frustration, Lugosi was increasingly restricted to minor parts, kept employed by the studio principally for the sake of his name on the posters. Among his pairings with Karloff, only in The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939) did he perform major roles again, although even in The Raven Karloff received top billing despite Lugosi performing the lead role.
By this time, Lugosi had been receiving regular medication for sciatic neuritis, and he became addicted to morphine and methadone. This drug dependence was noted by producers, and the offers eventually dwindled down to a few parts in Ed Wood’s low-budget movies.
Lugosi was married five times, and had one son, Bela George Lugosi.