Bela Lugosi was born Be’la Ferenc Dezso Blasko in 1882 in Lugos, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania). During WWI Lugosi was an infantry lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Yes, that is correct, it’s the other side. Since he was active in the Actors Union during the Hungarian Revolution of 1919 he was forced to leave his homeland. For a time he continued to act in Berlin but left for America in 1920. he arrived in New Orleans in December 1920. This makes me wonder, where the rats disappearing on the boat and did he mingle with the Crescent city vampires.
After working on the stage for three years he got his first silent screen role in America, he had been in a dozen or so in Hungary. By 1927, he was back on Broadway in the role of “Dracula.” It has always been rumored the Lon Chaney Sr. was the first choice for the role but died before shooting began. There is some controversy with this a Chaney was under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and would not have been available. Well, Lugosi got the role of Dracula (1931) and since then he has been the archetypical vampire to most of us. However, this stuck Lugosi in the horror genera. Lugosi showed his range in Son of Frankenstein (1939). But perhaps his greatest role was in White Zombie (1932). Another horror movie was Zombies on Broadway (1945).
He helped organize the Screen Actors Guild in the mid-30’s, joining as member number 28.
Lugosi was typed into the horror genre because of his accent. a change in ownership at universal causes the number of horror roles to decrease. He also began taking opiates for his war wounds.
He finished his career in b movies such as Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) which was completed with a stunt double following his death. He died of a heart attack August 16, 1956. Buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.
After leaving rehab in 1995 Bela Lugosi talks frankly about his drug and alcohol use.