Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Béla Lugosi was the stage name of actor Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó (October 20, 1882–August 16, 1956). He was born in Lugos, Transylvania, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), the youngest of four children of a banker.
Lugosi started his acting career on the stage in Europe in several Shakespearean plays. He however, became most notably known for his portrayal of Dracula in a stage production of Bram Stoker's classic vampire story.
He left from his native Hungary for Germany in 1919 after persecution following his complicity in the forming of an actor's union, and emigrated to the United States in 1921. On June 26, 1931, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
He was most famous for his title role in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) (building on the stage role). The film was a success, but Lugosi was typecast as a horror heavy with such movies as White Zombie and Scared to Death. He declined an offer to appear as The Monster in Frankenstein but made an impression as the insane Ygor in two sequels, Son of Frankenstein and Ghost of Frankenstein before finally consenting to play the creature in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man . He also had a small role in the comedy classic Ninotchka opposite Greta Garbo.
Several films, such as The Black Cat and the aforementioned Son of Frankenstein paired Lugosi with his chief rival in the realm of horror movies, Boris Karloff. Lugosi's attitude towards Karloff is the subject of contradictory reports, some claiming he was openly resentful of Karloff's long-term success and ability to get good roles beyond the horror arena, while others suggested the two actors were - for a time at least - good friends.
Later on, the acting jobs dried up and he became addicted to morphine, though he did get to recreate the role of Dracula one last time for the film Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948.
Late in his life, he again got to star in movies, albeit lousy ones. Ed Wood, a long-time fan of Lugosi's, offered him numerous roles in his films, always playing some variant of a mad scientist/vampire type, even in movies — such as Glen or Glenda — in which such a role made no sense. The biographical film Ed Wood, by Tim Burton, portrayed Wood's relationship with Lugosi, who was played by Martin Landau. Because Lugosi appeared in B-Movies, he was featured in several episodes of the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, most notably, Bride of the Monster.
He died of a heart attack, aged 73, in Los Angeles, California, while sitting in a chair. The script for Final Curtain, written by Ed Wood, was in his lap. (The role was later given to Kenne Duncan , and the shots of that production made their way into Wood's Night of the Ghouls, a sequel of sorts to Wood's previous Lugosi films.)
One of Lugosi's most infamous roles was in a movie that was released after he was dead. Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space featured footage of Lugosi interspersed with a double who looked nothing like him. Wood had had great difficulty in financing the project, and was only able to shoot short, silent scenes that he planned to incorporate into the whole of the film once he had found the remainder of his funding. However, Lugosi died three years before the funding came through (from the Baptist Church of Beverly Hills, no less). Wood hired his wife's chiropractor to double for Lugosi, who is easily spotted by the fact that
- He looks nothing like Lugosi
- He covers his face with his cape in every shot.
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