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Bela Lugosi (1882-1956)

  1. Boris Karloff, Frankenstein, 1930.    
    "It's moving... It's alive... it's alive... it's alive... it's alive.... It's alive!" Wasn't Lugosi moving. The stage-screen Dracula was busy planning his, unmade, Quasimodo.   It was, of course, Karloff… in one of his 15 films that year! Lugosi loved to say he refused because it was a mute rôle. Truth is he was miffed about not being allowed to design his own make-up - and he was simply dropped when James Whale took over as director from Robert Flore, who had helmed Lugosi’s long-lost 20-minute Monster test with Edward Van Sloane as the mad Dr F.   Van Sloane said Lugosi’s creature looked like The Golem in a wig with "a polished clay-like skin." Lugosi tried to make up for lost time (and glory) by being The Monster in the far less auspicious Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, 1942. Karloff joked about being upset at being picked because he was in best suit at the ime,, looking sharp and handsome. "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 Lugsi 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. C Henry Gordon,  The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936.     Director Michael Curtiz' first thought for the (fictitious) warlord Surat Khan. As in: “You're not fighting a single legion - you're fighting the entire British army, Surat Khan!”
  4. 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. 
  5. Boris Karloff, Black Friday, 1939.       Lugsoi was set asDr Sovac transplantinga gangster’s brain intohis colleague, Boris Karloff. Director Arthur Lubin felt Karloff was no hood and he was rapidly replaced by Ridges.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 importantenough to remain in second billing. Boris on Bela: "A great technician, worth more than he got. But in some ways a fool to himself."
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?"
  9. 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.
  10. 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… ?

 





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