Bela Lugosi

  1. Boris Karloff, Frankenstein, 1930.   
    “It’s alive…  it’s alive… It’s alive!”  Lugosi loved to say he refused because it was a mute rôle.  And he did not come to America “to be a scarecrow, with make-up covering his handsomeness! Truth is he was miffed at not  being allowed to design his own make-up – and he was simply dropped when James Whale took over as director from Robert Florey, who helmed Lugosi’s long-lost 20-minute Monster test with Edward Van Sloane as the mad Dr F.   Sloane said Lugosi’s creature looked like The Golem in a wig with “a polished clay-like skin.”  Whereas Karloff’s  famous make-up, by Jack P Pierce, took four hours to apply and is copyrighted by Universal until 2026! Karloff knew  Pierce, and Jack knew the importance of the role .. “He  postponed the actual test until  he  was quite ready,” recalled Karloff. “We worked at night, oh, for  about a couple weeks,” recalled Karloff, “on various things on the make-up, all Jack’s ideas.  When he felt he had it down, we did the test, the studio liked it and I got the part. Then, as always happens, I did five or six more tests with slight alterations to the make-up.  But it’s all Jack’s work. No one can take that away from him.” Lugosi tried to make up for lost time (and glory) by being The Monster in the terrible  Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, 1942. Karloff joked about being upset at being  picked because he was in best suit at the time, looking sharp and handsome.  He called the monster “the dear old boy.” “Any actor who played the part was destined for success,” said Boris, who supplied exactly what Lon Chaney told him was the secret of screen success – individuality. “Doing something no one else can or will do.” That is how Karloff surpassed Lugosi as a horror superstar… for the next  40 years.

  2. Warner Oland, Werewolf of London, 1934.      Schedules clashed  and Lugosi was too busy making Mark of the Vampire, he had no time to be Dr Yogami in  the latest Universal horror. 
  3. Ernest Thesiger, Bride of Frankenstein, 1934.      Frankenstein director James Whale refused to tackle any seuqel. Kurt Neumann was to take over in 1933, with a monstrous Boris Karloff and a scientific Bela Lugosi. They made The Black Cat instead, while Universal waited for Whale to change his mind. As he did – in exchange for a totally free hand.
  4. C Henry Gordon,  The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936.    According to  the Warner Bros collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, Lugosi was tested for Surat Kahn but (as usual) Gordon was deemed more suitable for and evil-looking killer of prisoners, women and children  during, in this instance, the 1854 Crimean War.
  5. Charles Laughton, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1938.      Director William Dieterle’s one and only titular choice was Laughton.  However, he was trying to set up a  Cyrano De Bergerac at MGM.  Before that dream collapsed  and he signed on as  Quasimodo, RKO looked at the obvious (Lugosi or Lon Chaney Jr) and  the intriguing… Robert Morley, Claude Rains, even Orson Welles. 
  6. Boris Karloff, Black Friday, 1939.       Lugsoi was set asDr Sovac transplantinga gangster’s brain into his colleague, Boris Karloff. Director Arthur Lubin felt Karloff was no hood and he was rapidly replaced by Ridges (wh was nobody) .The truth was Lubin felt Karloff would bea better Sovac and poor Lugosi was demoted to a less important (and supposedly hypnotised) cameo – although his name remained important enough to remain in second billing. Boris on Bela: “A great technician, worth more than he got. But in some ways a fool to himself.”
  7. Lon Chaney Jr, Man Made Monster, 1940.  Without  ever knowing why, Atwill and Lon Chaney Jr  inherited  what was  The Electric Man when bought  by Universal in 1935 for  Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi… aka as The Man in the Cab, The Human Robot, The Mysterious Dr R  and – wait for it! –  The Mysterious Dr X.
  8. Lon Chaney Jr, The Wolf Man, 1941.    Hearing Boris Karloff had dropped out, Lugosi tried hard to inherit the titular Larry Talbot. But Universal was less than enchanted with how he played The Monster the year before inFrankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Dick Foran  – a B-Western star! – got the ’41 role but junior Lon  had more sway.  He made all five Wolf Man horrors. Furthermore, he’s the only actor to have been the four main Universal monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy and now, The Wolf Man.  His  make-up took six hours to put on and three hours to take off.  There’s another day gone!
  9. John Carradine, House of Frankenstein, 1944.      Dropped from his signature role when Universal was less than enchanted with how he played The Monster the year before in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.
  10. Herbert Rawlinson, Jailbait, 1954.      The world’s worst film-maker, Edward D Wood Jr,  enters  Lugosi’s final years. Ed Wood wrote his next film, Bride of the Monster, for Bela when he could not make this one (featuring a pre-Herculean Steve Reeves). So Dr Boris Gregor was played by the ex-silent  star – who died of lung cancer the morning after final scene.

  11. James “Duke” Moore, Final Curtain, 1957.      Lugosi was found dead, with this script in his lap…   Ed Wood intended the film as a pilot for a TV series.  His  exec producer was Ernest Moore, brother of Belai’s replacement. When Peter Lorre and Vincent Price went to view Bela’s body, set for burial in his Dracula costume, Lorre said: “Should we drive a stake through his heart… just in case?”
  12. Robert H Harris, How To Make A Monster, 1957.      The famous AIP boss, Samuel Z Arkoff (ex-lawyer for the Ed Wood clan) had been planning his “Ghastly Ghouls in Flaming Color!” for the veteran horror star when Lugosi died on August 16, 1956.   Film was finally released  in ‘58 summer.  In a double bill with  Roger Corman’s Teenage Cave Man (Robert Vaughn, no less). Doze were da days!
  13. Kenne Duncan, Night of the Ghouls  , 1959.   The role tells all: Dr Acula..! Lugosi, Dracula, himself, three times during his 115 screen roles, was first due as Acula in an earlier Ed Wood film that was never made. Many fans (!), even historians, thought the same about Ghoul – “just a figment of Wood’s imagination.” Until Wade Williams was buying rights to the infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space from Wood’s widow. And Kathy happened to mention a movie that was never released because Wood could not afford the laboratory bills. Williams settled the debt and bought rights to both films. Er, are we supposed to thank him… ?


 Birth year: 1882Death year: 1956Other name: Casting Calls:  13