Long before Robert Pattinson sparkled as Edward in Twilight, Tom Cruise went androgynous as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, and Gary Oldman brought Count Dracula to the screen, there was Bela Lugosi, who gave life to the original on-screen vampire, in the 1931 film Dracula. You know his accent, it has been mimicked endlessly, but did you know that Lugosi was also a trained Shakespearian actor? In honor of Halloween, we give you a few other little-known facts about the man who played grand-daddy to all modern-day blood-suckers.
Bela Lugosi was Hungarian. He is often mistaken for Romanian because of the origin of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and how closely people identify Lugosi with the role. While Lugosi’s hometown Lugos (hence, Lugosi) is currently in modern-day Romania, when he was born, the town was part of Hungary, and he grew up speaking Hungarian.
Lugosi’s upper-class father wanted his son to be a banker, but at age 11 young Bela ran away from home to work in a coal mine, and eventually found his way to the theatre, where he found his true calling as a stage actor.
Bela Lugosi fought in WWI on the Russian front, and was a captain in the Hungarian army’s elite ‘ski patrol’.
Once in America, Lugosi had to memorize all his roles phonetically, because he could not speak English.
Lugosi loved drinking another fortifying red liquid: wine. He was a connoisseur of California wine and today there is a brand of Bela Lugosi wine sold by his progeny.
After he originated the role as Dracula, Lugosi received more adoring female fan mail than the age’s most popular leading man, Clark Gable.
Though Bela Lugosi acted in over 100 films, only four of his roles were as vampires.
Lugosi has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The US Post Office issued a 32-cent commemorative stamp in honor of Lugosi.
There is a persistent urban legend that before he died (in 1956), Bela Lugosi asked to be buried in his vampire cape from Dracula. Despite his family’s denial, the rumor lives on, as does the legend of the great Hungarian actor who brought more than a little creepiness from Hungary to Hollywood.
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