Day 166 of Colourisation Project – October 20
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Taken out of context, it’s hard to imagine this debonair looking gentleman could be a blood sucking vampire. But that’s just the stereotype that Hungarian-born actor, Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó, better known as Béla Lugosi was fraught with for most of his acting life.
Born this day, October 20, 1882, Bela Lugosi achieved cult status for his sinister portrayal of the sartorially splendid vampire, Count Dracula, a role he made famous on both stage and film. Ironically he took the stage name Lugosi to celebrate his birthplace Lugos, in what was then part of the Kingdom of Hungary and the former historical region of Transylvania, the setting of Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire.
Few roles have so influenced and consumed an actor as that of Dracula. Lugosi once commented, “It’s a living, but it’s also a curse. It’s Dracula’s curse…..He [Dracula] has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, he has drained me of everything.”
Throughout the 1930s, Lugosi found himself typecast as a horror villain, playing monsters, murderers and mad scientists in dozens of B-list films, such as Murders in the Rue Morgue(1932), White Zombie (1932), International House (1933), The Raven (1934), Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Son of Frankenstein (1939).
Indeed perhaps it was a curse. Coming from a long and distinguished career on the Hungarian stage playing Shakespearean roles, including Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew and Richard III, Lugosi’s name was forever etched into the national consciousness with such lines as “I never drink…wine” delivered in his distinctly sublime baritone and heavily accented voice.
Lugosi spoke very little English when he made Dracula in 1931. In a role he had already made famous on Broadway, Lugosi learned his lines phonetically. It would take another two years before he became fluent in English. Despite this he went on to have a prolific career in Hollywood.
Béla Lugosi paved the way for the plethora of vampire movies that followed in Hollywood. His haunting and engaging portrayal of the blood-sucking Count has helped to define the genre of American horror films. His influence still prevails in the way vampires are portrayed in today’s resurgence of the genre in films such as Twilight and True Blood.
Lugosi died of heart attack in 1956 at the age of 73. In keeping with the immortal line, “I am Dracula,” his wife and son had him buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape from his 1931 film role.
“Because of my language and pantomime with which almost all Europeans accompany their speech, I was catalogued as a heavy.” – Bela Lugosi