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antoniacarlotta

Would Bela Lugosi's Career Have Been Different if He Played the Monster in Frankenstein?

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My newest video is about the life and career of Bela Lugosi. He was clearly very talented, and his career spanned more than 50 years, but after Dracula, he struggled to break out of the horror genre. Bela had turned down Frankenstein, which was a huge win for Boris Karloff. After this, Bela was hardly picky about the film roles he accepted, and some wonder if it's because he was scared to make the same mistake again. Karloff also didn't seem to struggle with typecasting the way Bela did. Do you think Bela's career trajectory would have been different if he had played The Monster too?

 

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43 minutes ago, antoniacarlotta said:

Karloff also didn't seem to struggle with typecasting the way Bela did.

I thought I had either heard or read somewhere that Karloff was often disappointed that his film career was mostly horror films.

Lugosi was indeed talented. I was impressed with his performance in NINOTCHKA. His Hungarian accent could be difficult to understand at times, though, like Conrad Veidt and Marlene Dietrich's German accent. Veidt and Dietrich worked on their diction, though, and gradually became easier to understand.

He also suffered greatly from debilitating Sciatica and was addicted to Morphine, so he may have been thought of as unreliable or difficult to work with.

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5 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

I thought I had either heard or read somewhere that Karloff was often disappointed that his film career was mostly horror films.

Lugosi was indeed talented. I was impressed with his performance in NINOTCHKA. His Hungarian accent could be difficult to understand at times, though, like Conrad Veidt and Marlene Dietrich's German accent. Veidt and Dietrich worked on their diction, though, and gradually became easier to understand.

He also suffered greatly from debilitating Sciatica and was addicted to Morphine, so he may have been thought of as unreliable or difficult to work with.

Yeah, you  might be right about his addictions getting in the way later on. Even before Bela mastered English, he started learning his roles phonetically (and supposedly still gave incredible performances.) He seemed to have a great ear for that - I wonder if there's a reason he never tried to eliminate (or at least reduce) his accent altogether?

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I thought he was reasonably effective at his one turn as the monster in Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man.

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I don't know about Bela Lugosi, but Boris Karloff's career would certainly have been different.

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16 hours ago, antoniacarlotta said:

Do you think Bela's career trajectory would have been different if he had played The Monster too?

I think Bela would have become the #1 Horror Man at Universal in  the 1930s. If Karloff had not played the Monster I don't think he would have become a star, probably just a supporting character actor. 

However I think Bela still would have been eclipsed by Lon Chaney Jr in the 1940s.

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16 hours ago, antoniacarlotta said:

My newest video is about the life and career of Bela Lugosi.

Well done video. Here are my top ten Bela Lugosi films, have you seen all of them?

1. Dracula (1931) He is still very creepy and sinister in this role, my favorite scene may be where confronts Van Helsing about Mina, saying "my blood now flows through her veins"

2. Murders In the Rue Morgue (1932) He is a depraved scientist using an ape to commit murders. A still shocking scene involves the torture of a woman of the streets (Arlene Francis) tied to a tilted cross.

3. White Zombie (1932) The original Walking Dead film. Lugosi gives one of his more sinister portrayals with several shots of his hypnotic eyes.

4. The Black Cat (1934) He is a more sympathetic character as a doctor seeking vengeance against evil devil worshiper Boris Karloff.

5. The Raven (1935) He plays the most raving mad doctor on film  here. He is a Poe obsessed surgeon jilted by a woman, he tries to get revenge on her and her family and friends by blackmailing gangster Karloff into taking part in his plan.

6. The Invisible Ray (1936) Bela plays one of his most normal roles in this science fiction thriller, as a brilliant doctor dealing with crazed scientist Karloff who is turned into a radioactive killer.

7. Son Of Frankenstein (1939) He plays the broken necked, snaggle toothed Ygor, who gets the Monster (Karloff) to do his bidding. Bela is unrecognizable in this part and his performance is excellent.

8. The Human Monster (1939) One of Lugosi's most evil roles as a doctor who murders his patients for insurance money.

9. Invisible Ghost (1941) Lugosi plays a kindly man who is turned into a homicidal maniac under some sort of hypnotic spell. This is low budget but underrated film with some haunting images.

10. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) This was the second and last time he played Dracula on film. Although a comedy, Bela maintains his dignity and has great presence as the Count, especially in the hypnosis scenes with Costello. 

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19 minutes ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

Well done video. Here are my top ten Bela Lugosi films, have you seen all of them?

 

Great list, Detective Jim. May I add a couple more:

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), with Bela continuing in his role as Igor to Lon Chaney's Frankenstein Monster.

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Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) with Lugosi as the Monster, perhaps not his greatest performance but a fun film. One of the problems in appreciating Bela here is that the Monster, I believe, is supposed to be blind but that is not well established in the screenplay.

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Return of the Vampire (1944), a highly atmospheric vampire tale with Bela wearing the cape once again. Although, for copy right reasons he is not called Dracula, making this technically not a Dracula film, this was the closet he had come to the role since his star making turn as the Count in 1931.

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And thanks for the great Lugosi video Antonia. I look forward to seeing your video on Bela's homes (even if it is sad to see the modesty of his last residence).

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2 minutes ago, TomJH said:

Return of the Vampire (1944), a highly atmospheric vampire tale with Bela wearing the cape once again. Although, for copy right reasons he is not called Dracula, making this technically not a Dracula film, this was the closet he had come to the role since his star making turn as the Count in 1931.

This one was a good vampire film, Bela is still very creepy in the role and he has one of his best demises at the end. I liked the talking werewolf too.

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It's tough to pick just one Lugosi performance as my favourite. I love, just love, watching him when he played Dracula the second time in the Abbott and Costello film, bringing an aristocratic dignity to the role amidst all the (successful) comedy chaos around him. But then there was also his broken necked Igor in Son of Frankenstein, stealing that film, in my opinion, from one of the most illustrious casts that any Universal horror film ever had. And did you ever see a more contrasting performance to his silken smooth Dracula than in this portrayal, showing his acting range.

But, if forced to pick just one performance, I look back to the beginnings of his Hollywood career and his role as Legendre, the zombie master, in that artfully created little "B" of ominous atmosphere, White Zombie. Lugosi is a commanding screen presence is this film, but he delivers a far more subtle performance here than in many other portrayals (try comparing this one, for example, to his mad doctor in The Raven). And those eyes used to hypnotize his helpless victims, to break down any resistant will power they may possess. Lugosi's marvelously understated performance makes the evil of his character that much more chilling and believable. This, to me, may well be Lugosi at his finest.

MV5BMmEwNGQyYjMtYzJhNS00ZjMzLWIxOTktNGY3

 

 

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Remember...Lugosi made 46 movies,  16 of them in America before doing DRACULA.  And since too, he's done several roles not in the horror genre.  So it seems it was his choice to be typecast?  

Sepiatone

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21 hours ago, antoniacarlotta said:

Yeah, you  might be right about his addictions getting in the way later on. Even before Bela mastered English, he started learning his roles phonetically (and supposedly still gave incredible performances.) He seemed to have a great ear for that - I wonder if there's a reason he never tried to eliminate (or at least reduce) his accent altogether?

Check out THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR (1929) which LUGOSI starred in for TOD BROWNING two years before they did DRACULA together! In his role as a Police Inspector investigating a murder at a seance in India, Lugosi has quite a bit of English dialogue and he does a great job with it.

(it might be on youtube)

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14 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

Well done video. Here are my top ten Bela Lugosi films, have you seen all of them?

1. Dracula (1931) He is still very creepy and sinister in this role, my favorite scene may be where confronts Van Helsing about Mina, saying "my blood now flows through her veins"

2. Murders In the Rue Morgue (1932) He is a depraved scientist using an ape to commit murders. A still shocking scene involves the torture of a woman of the streets (Arlene Francis) tied to a tilted cross.

3. White Zombie (1932) The original Walking Dead film. Lugosi gives one of his more sinister portrayals with several shots of his hypnotic eyes.

4. The Black Cat (1934) He is a more sympathetic character as a doctor seeking vengeance against evil devil worshiper Boris Karloff.

5. The Raven (1935) He plays the most raving mad doctor on film  here. He is a Poe obsessed surgeon jilted by a woman, he tries to get revenge on her and her family and friends by blackmailing gangster Karloff into taking part in his plan.

6. The Invisible Ray (1936) Bela plays one of his most normal roles in this science fiction thriller, as a brilliant doctor dealing with crazed scientist Karloff who is turned into a radioactive killer.

7. Son Of Frankenstein (1939) He plays the broken necked, snaggle toothed Ygor, who gets the Monster (Karloff) to do his bidding. Bela is unrecognizable in this part and his performance is excellent.

8. The Human Monster (1939) One of Lugosi's most evil roles as a doctor who murders his patients for insurance money.

9. Invisible Ghost (1941) Lugosi plays a kindly man who is turned into a homicidal maniac under some sort of hypnotic spell. This is low budget but underrated film with some haunting images.

10. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) This was the second and last time he played Dracula on film. Although a comedy, Bela maintains his dignity and has great presence as the Count, especially in the hypnosis scenes with Costello. 

Love this list! Gives me a good sense of what to watch for whichever movie mood I'm in. I got a lot of recommendations for White Zombie, so I think that's first up on my watchlist this weekend. 

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I don't think FRANKENSTEIN would have made a difference for Lugosi (But it would have made a big - and not positive - difference for FRANKENSTEIN).

Lugosi's problem was that he was not able to capitalize on the fine performances he gave in THE INVISIBLE RAY and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN.  His role in NINOTCHKA was fine but brief. Lugosi was limited by his thick accent, similar to how Eduardo Ciannelli found limited range in Hollywood (though he was a brilliant stage actor and singer). Lugosi's addiction forced desperate decisions aka Monogram. So it's a pretty sorry story all-around. But Bela Lugosi was an intelligent, informed actor. At least he had one bright light in '48 when he played a much more literate Dracula in that superb horror comedy.

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I rather suspect that more film buffs today are interested in the life of Lugosi than they are of Karloff, who had the more successful career of the two. I see far more comments on these boards about Bela than I do of Boris.

And I think that's because, while Karloff's career had its ups and downs, his own life was pretty stable (at least that's the impression that I have). Lugosi, on the other hand, with his spotty career including the ignominy of his final films with Ed Wood and, in particular, his drug addiction, can be seen as a tragic figure. And tragic lives trump stable lives every time when it comes to interest, even if that interest is of a slightly morbid variety, at times.

I would bet a small sum of money, without researching it first, that there are more biographies about Lugosi than there are of Karloff.

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8 hours ago, antoniacarlotta said:

Love this list! Gives me a good sense of what to watch for whichever movie mood I'm in. I got a lot of recommendations for White Zombie, so I think that's first up on my watchlist this weekend. 

WHITE ZOMBIE is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, so many copies of it on DVD and the internet are very poor quality; make sure you search for the HD RESTORED version, which has a nice clear pic and less tinny sound.

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On 1/25/2020 at 5:38 AM, TomJH said:

I rather suspect that more film buffs today are interested in the life of Lugosi than they are of Karloff, who had the more successful career of the two. I see far more comments on these boards about Bela than I do of Boris.

And I think that's because, while Karloff's career had its ups and downs, his own life was pretty stable (at least that's the impression that I have). Lugosi, on the other hand, with his spotty career including the ignominy of his final films with Ed Wood and, in particular, his drug addiction, can be seen as a tragic figure. And tragic lives trump stable lives every time when it comes to interest, even if that interest is of a slightly morbid variety, at times.

I would bet a small sum of money, without researching it first, that there are more biographies about Lugosi than there are of Karloff.

It's funny, I wouldn't have thought about the number of biographies before, but I bet you're right. I suppose I'll know for certain when I make a video about Karloff...maybe later this year. I'll have to confirm/disprove that for you then 😉

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5 hours ago, antoniacarlotta said:

It's funny, I wouldn't have thought about the number of biographies before, but I bet you're right. I suppose I'll know for certain when I make a video about Karloff...maybe later this year. I'll have to confirm/disprove that for you then 😉

I haven't done any research to support my theory about general interest in Lugosi being greater. It's a gut feeling based on observation of comments and articles. It will be interesting, Antonia, if you do find there are fewer Karloff biographies in existence. Karloff certainly had some great highlights in his film career, most of them in the '30s, moreso, I feel, than Bela.

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My favorite Bela Lugosi movie is The Black Cat. The 1934 version with Boris Karloff, of course, and not the 1941 version with Basil Rathbone.

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16 minutes ago, LiamCasey said:

My favorite Bela Lugosi movie is The Black Cat. The 1934 version with Boris Karloff, of course, and not the 1941 version with Basil Rathbone.

This is my favorite Bela Lugosi movie, but part of that is because I enjoy the cast and Ulmer's direction...so Lugosi is just icing on the cinematic cake.

With regards to accents and typecasting, maybe he thought his accent and the horror genre was his calling card. And there was no need to "fix" that. I would say Karloff was more interested in proving his versatility, and in some respects I see Karloff as an early method actor. 

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1 hour ago, Janet0312 said:

I'm thinking that Lugosi's agent sucked. 

It looks like in the 1940s he was signed with the William Morris Agency for a while, and then rotated through 5 agents in the next 5 years. He signed with Virginia Doak, and lastly it seems, Don Marlowe. All that jumping makes me think none of his agents really believed/invested in him, or something else may have been at play that kept him from working. 

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Outside of DRACULA, my two favorite Bela Lugosi's performances are:

1. THE BLACK CAT, he does turn in a very fine and sympathetic turn in here, even if there are moments he still seems a bit creepy. But compared to Karloff's character, Bela's is still much more easy to feel empathy for.

2. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN....love his role as Ygor in here, there is absolutely NO trace of Dracula in this performance. It is so unfair that he was never allowed another role that proved he could be so much more than the infamous Count Dracula.

As for Bela working out as the monster in FRANKENSTEIN, just another case of "What if....".....but I just can't imagine anyone but Karloff in the title role. 

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