This Is Why Hungarian Immigrant Bela Lugosi Was Hollywood’s Best Dracula, According to Author Koren Shadmi
Koren Shadmi, author and illustrator of "Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood's Dracula," details Bela Lugosi's career in the book.
Bela Lugosi's depiction of Count Dracula in Tod Browning's iconic 1931 film continues to fascinate and horrify audiences 90 years later.
Some may say there was never a better vampire than Bela Lugosi. But who was this creature of the night?
Koren Shadmi, author and illustrator of "Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood's Dracula," spoke with Inside Edition Digital about the role and its impact on his career.
"As far as vampires go, he was the best vampire," Shadmi said about the Hungarian-born actor.
He says his career began in Europe, and he eventually made his way to New York, where he was a theater actor in local plays.
"He was actually the first person in the United States to play the role of Count Dracula in the theater," he noted. "Then that led to the legendary role in the Tod Browning movie from 1931.
"He has this fantastic Hungarian accent that if we think about the way Count Dracula is portrayed today, and even if you go to the Muppets, the Count, they all have that accent," he continued. "He has this European feeling to him, and he brought that to the character, this European gentleman."
Shadmi added that Lugosi brought some refinement to the character.
"That was one of the more innovative things about the depiction of Dracula or this vampire who's actually a gentleman," he said. "He's not just a ghoul or a monster. He's this charming, educated man that is, beneath the surface, you have this hidden monster.
"I think there's something timeless about the movie, it's set in another period, and it has this slow-moving hypnotic pace," he added. "There's something kind of powerful about the first depiction of this really seminal figure in horror."
But, according to Shadmi, playing Dracula was both a blessing and a curse for Lugosi.
"Dracula was the height of his career," he said. "He was in many other great movies, but he never reached that same level of fame."
The actor was typecast as a horror movie villain, and he appeared in 99 films over his career.
"One of my favorites is 'The Black Cat,'" Shadmi said. "It's one of his first collaborations with Boris Karloff, and it's just an amazing Art Deco, creepy, eerie movie that you wouldn't see today. He was also in the Ed Wood movies, which are considered some of the worst movies of all time."
Bela Lugosi died in 1956 at the age of 73, but his Dracula lives on.
"He really makes the audience believe that there's a very dark side to him. And there was a dark side to him," he said. "I wouldn't say, definitely not evil, but he definitely was struggling with demons throughout his life. And he's able to translate that to his performances.
"There's something very demonic about his performances, and he really convinces you that there is an evil side to him," Shadmi said. "I think that that's his power."
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