World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

L Entries
  Elsa Lanchester
  Martin Landau
  Fritz Lang
  Robert Lansing
  Glen A. Larson
  Jack Larson
  Jennifer Lawrence
  Christopher Lee
  Mark Lenard
  John Lennon
  John Lithgow
  June Lockhart
  Robert Longo
  Peter Lorre
  Eugene Lourie
  George Lucas
  Bela Lugosi
  William Lundigan
(1882–1956). Hungarian actor.

Acted in: Necklace of Death (silent) (1919); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (silent) (F. W. Murnau 1920); Dracula (Tod Browning 1931); The Murders in the Rue Morgue (Robert Florey 1932); Chandu the Magician (serial) (William Cameron MENZIES and Marcel Varnel 1932); The Death Kiss (Edward L. Marin 1932); The Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. KENTON 1932); White Zombie (Victor Halperin 1932); International House (Edward Sutherland 1933); A Night of Terror (Benjamin Stoloff 1933); The Whispering Shadow (serial) (Albert Herman and Coblert Clark 1933); The Black Cat (Edgar G. ULMER 1934); The Gift of Gab (Karl Freund 1934); The Return of Chandu (serial) (Roy Taylor 1934); Murder by Television (Clifford Sanforth 1935); Mark of the Vampire (Browning 1935); The Raven (Lew LANDERS 1935); Shadow of Chinatown (serial) (Robert F. Hill 1936); The Invisible Ray (Lambert Hillyer 1936); The Phantom Ship [The Mystery of the Mary Celeste] (Denison Clift 1936); S.O.S. Coast Guard (serial) (William Witney and Alan James 1937); The Phantom Creeps (serial) (Ford BEEBE and Saul A. Goodkind 1939); The Gorilla (Allan Dwan 1939); Son of Frankenstein (Rowland V. LEE 1939); The Human Monster [Dark Eyes of London] (Walter Summers 1939); You'll Find Out (David BUTLER 1940); Black Friday (Arthur LUBIN 1940); The Devil Bat (Jean Yarbrough 1941); The Invisible Ghost (Joseph H. Lewis 1941); The Black Cat (Albert S. Rogell 1941); Spooks Run Wild (Phil Rosen 1941); The Wolf Man (George Waggner 1941); The Night Monster (Beebe 1942); The Corpse Vanishes (Wallace Fox 1942); The Ghost of Frankenstein (Erle C. KENTON 1942); Black Dragons (William Nigh 1942); Bowery at Midnight (Fox 1942); Phantom Killer (William BEAUDINE 1942); The Ape Man (Beaudine 1943); Ghosts on the Loose (Beaudine 1943); The Return of the Vampire (Landers 1943); Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Roy William Neill 1943); Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (compilation) (1943); Voodoo Man (Beaudine 1944); Return of the Ape Man (Phil Rosen 1944); One Body Too Many (Frank McDonald 1944); The Body Snatcher (Robert WISE 1945); Zombies on Broadway (Gordon Douglas 1945); Genius at Work (Leslie Goodwins 1946); Scared to Death (Christy Cabanne 1946); Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton 1948); "The Cask of Amontillado" (1949), episode of Suspense; Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire [My Son, the Vampire] (John Gilling 1951); Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (Beaudine 1952); Bride of the Monster (Ed WOOD 1956); The Black Sleep (Reginald LE BORG 1956); Lock Up Your Daughters (compilation; host) (Sam KATZMAN 1956); Plan Nine from Outer Space (Wood 1959); Mondo Lugosi (compilation) (year of release unknown).
As evidence of the otherwise admirable David Thomson's lack of knowledge, and errant judgments, regarding science fiction films, consider his comments on Bela Lugosi: "He could be frightening in a way that other actors in horror never achieved: because he appeared to believe in the literal meaning of the films, and because it was possible to be persuaded that he was himself possessed." But this is the opinion of a person who has seen Lugosi in five films, not twenty-five films. In my own years of observing the high points and low points of Lugosi's career, I can detect no signs that Lugosi felt any special commitment to or interest in the supernatural, particularly since, after all, he did not significantly encounter the genre of horror until he played the role of Dracula on Broadway in his forties. Rather, the only thing that horrified Lugosi was observing the painful and gradual degradation of his own career.

To garner some understanding of this remarkable performer, consider this analogy: suppose that Laurence Olivier had, for some reason, emigrated to Russia after his success on the stage. Struggling with his uncertain grasp of the language, he happens to land a role as a vampire, which proves unexpectedly popular and leads to fame and several offers to appear in horror films. At first pleased by the attention and the income, he unhappily discovers that he cannot escape typecasting, and all his attempts to break out of horror into mainstream films prove futile. Thus, forced to work in one miserable horror film after another, he increasingly consoles himself with alcohol and drugs.

The analogy is not precise, since Lugosi was probably never an actor in Olivier's class; the point is that this is the way Lugosi would have characterized himself—an excellent, multi-talented actor unable to obtain roles in excellent films that would draw upon his multiple talents. And the sure knowledge that one could have been a contender has driven many a man to tears, and to drink. However, unlike other self-destructive performers who experienced long and embarrassing declines, like John CARRADINE and Lon CHANEY Jr., Lugosi commands respect for two reasons: he had some genuine acting talent, and he never gave less than his all to any performance. Here was a man who literally believed in the old theatrical cliché—"There are no small parts, only small actors." You will never observe him going through the motions or sleepwalking through a role, as is often the case with Carradine or Chaney; instead, he is always striving to provide a memorable performance (even in ludicrous travesties like Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire and Bride of the Monster), always doing his best to move and entertain his audience, even as he recognized that none of this would do anything to salvage the film or improve his fortunes. And it is this unwavering devotion to the craft of acting, I believe, that Thomson mistakes for his devotion to horror.

Lugosi has given the horror film two of its most memorable characters: Dracula, evocatively introduced in the 1931 film and most effectively reprised in the unofficial pastiche The Return of the Vampire (though also credibly reenacted in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein); and the charmingly sinister hunchback Igor, who provides Son of Frankenstein with its liveliest moments and virtually takes control of The Ghost of Frankenstein. Worthy of note as well are his commanding presence in the glacially-slow White Zombie, his surprising heroics in The Invisible Ray, and his mad scientist in Return of the Ape Man, but almost any Lugosi performance has something to offer the attentive viewer. One might even watch Zombies on Broadway and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire to see how calmly he endures the company of clowns. His most conspicuous failures came in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, where he was instructed to play the Frankenstein monster as a blind man though that information was omitted from the film, and in Bride of the Monster, where even the dying Lugosi's best efforts could not make an Edward D. WOOD, Jr. film watchable. (The unspeakably awful Plan Nine from Outer Space, filmed three years after Lugosi's death to make use of three minutes of Lugosi footage shot for a proposed vampire movie, should not really be counted as part of his filmography; for had he actually been on the set, he might have shamed everybody into doing a little bit better.)

Like Boris KARLOFF, with whom he had a long and complex love-hate relationship, Lugosi has endured after death as an icon, his image as Dracula endlessly replicated in comic books, cartoons, toys, and cereal boxes. Though never mentioned as an Oscar-worthy performer during his lifetime, Lugosi posthumously enabled Martin LANDAU to earn an Oscar by portraying him in Tim BURTON's sentimental biopic Ed Wood (1994). While devotees might challenge some aspects of Landau's performance, he did powerfully convey that Lugosi was a man determined to maintain his dignity at all costs; and one likes to imagine that the award Landau received was also intended as Hollywood's belated tribute to Lugosi himself.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2018 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art