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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Bela Lugosi Born 125 Years Ago Today

Bela Lugosi was born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Lugos in what was then known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The European actor with an exotic accent is famous for portraying the vampire Count, Dracula in the original 1931 film of the same name, as well as for his roles in many other classic horror films. Through the 1930s, Lugosi occupied an important niche in popular horror films. Interestingly, the man was 49 by the time he had become a movie star with the 1931 release of Universal's benchmark film.

Lugosi later helped to organize the Screen Actors Guild in Hollywood during the mid-'30s, joining as member number 28. He began his stage career in 1901 in his native land and started appearing in films during World War I. Lugosi would flee to Germany after the "Great War" as a result of his unwanted left-wing political activity organizing an actors' union. Persistent in his beliefs,

In 1920 Lugosi left Germany to emigrate to the United States and began making a living as a character actor. It wasn't until 1927 that he would make a mark for himself playing Count Dracula in the legendary 1927 Broadway stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. Although Lugosi struggled with the English language and learned his lines phonetically, the play enjoyed immense success for three years before it was subsequently, and memorably, filmed by Tod Browning in 1931. The role established Lugosi as one of the screen's greatest personifications of pure evil.

Sadly, Lugosi's greatest triumph would be his downfall. A distinguished stage actor in his native Hungary, the life long thespian ended up a drug-addicted pauper in Hollywood, thanks largely to typecasting brought about by his most famous role. Lugosi's reputation rapidly declined after his great success mainly because he was only too happy to accept any part (and script) handed to him. Because of this, he and ended up playing pathetic parodies of his greatest role in low-grade poverty row shockers. He ended his career working for the legendary "Worst Director of All Time", Edward D. Wood Jr. and died of a heart attack August 16, 1956 in the midst of one of Wood's productions, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Per his own request, the world's most legendary vampire was buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.

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