5 Things You May Not Know about Bela Lugosi
Like today is his birthday. Happy 135th Birthday to the legend Bela Lugosi!
1) He was born to play Dracula
For real tho…
Bela Lugosi was born Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko in former Austria-Hungarian Empire. His hometown of Lugos was only about fifty miles away from the western border of Transylvania and the infamous Poenari Castle, main fortress to legendary Vlad the Impaler. In case you don’t know, Vlad the Impaler is the 14th century Romanian Prince that is the basis for the character of Dracula. So, it only makes sense the man who lives a day’s walk from the home of Dracula would give the definitive portrayal.
2) From Grade School Drop-out to The National Theater
As a child, Bela Lugosi was something of a rebellious boy who didn’t quite gel with authority. Before he was even a teenager, Lugosi had dropped out of the Hungarian State Gymnasium then ran away from home. He worked a series of odd jobs before returning home to his mother, whose husband was able to hook-up Lugosi with a local traveling theater company. Soon after, he was accepted into the Hungarian Academy of Performing Arts where he specialized in Shakespeare. After graduating, Lugosi spent the early 1900s performing Shakespeare in traveling troupes across the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1913, he joined the Hungarian National Theater in Budapest, where he continued to play roles in plays like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Not bad for a grade school dropout, am I right?
3) Ski Captain (And the World of War 1)
With a strong love for his homeland, Lugosi took a break from acting to fight in The Great War AKA World War 1. He served as an infantryman in the Austro-Hungarian Army for two years, rising to the rank of captain in the ski patrol while fighting against the Russians. He was awarded the Wound Medal and later discharged for injuries suffered while in battle. Unfortunately, that injury would plague him for the rest of his life and lead his decades long battle with opioid addiction.
4) Forced to Flee
Despite taking a hiatus from acting to serve his country, he was eventually forced to flee Hungary in 1919. Lugosi had left leaning politics in his youth and was an advocate for the actors union in Budapest. When the Hungarian Revolution took hold, his work with the union was seen as having communist, and therefore Soviet, sympathies. Seeing the writing on the walls, Lugosi fled his motherland, first going to Germany before finally settling in the US. He would become a naturalized citizen in 1931.
5) Reports of his death were greatly exaggerated
Rumor has it Universal studios originally almost hired Ian Keith to play the role of Dracula in the film Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein because they thought Lugosi was dead! The film marked the final time Lugosi would play Dracula.
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub