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Bela Lugosi
Actor
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó, better known as Bela Lugosi, was a Hungarian-American actor, famous for portraying Count Dracula in the original 1931 film and for his roles in various other horror films.
Born: October 20, 1882, Lugoj, Romania
Died: August 16, 1956, Los Angeles, CA
Spouse: Hope Lininger (m. 1955–1956),
Count Dracula was Actor Bela Lugosi's most famous role. Lugosi played him in stage productions and the 1931 Universal Pictures film Dracula.

Bela Lugosi was born in Lugos, Hungary on October 20, 1882. He ran away at age 11 and worked odd jobs including stage acting. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1921 and was cast as the lead in a Broadway production of Dracula. He became nationally known when a film version of the play was released in 1931.
Early Life
Actor. Bela Lugosi was born as Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko on October 20, 1882, in Lugos, Hungary, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His birthplace was only some fifty miles away from the western border of Transylvania and the Poenari Castle, the legendary home of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, whom Lugosi would portray to great acclaim on both stage and screen. Although descended from a long line of Hungarian farmers, Lugosi's father, Istvan Blasko, broke with family tradition to become a baker and banker. Bela Lugosi was a temperamental and rebellious child. "I was very unruly as a boy, very out of control," he later admitted. "Like Jekyll and Hyde, except that I changed according to sex. I mean, with boys I was tough and brutal. But the minute I came into the company with girls and women, I kissed their hands… With boys, I say, I was a brute. With girls, I was a lamb."

In 1919, Lugosi fled to Vienna, as legend has it buried beneath a pile of straw in wheelbarrow. From there he traveled to Berlin where he quickly found work in the German cinema. Lugosi appeared in several German films in 1920, most notably The Head of Janus, an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Despite this quick success in Germany, Lugosi decided to immigrate to the United States; after a brief stop in Italy, he set sail for New Orleans, arriving on December 4, 1920. From there he immediately made his way to New York City, where an already sizeable Hungarian theatrical community welcomed him with open arms. Lugosi plunged himself into New York's Hungarian theater as an actor and director of many Hungarian productions over the next several years. Despite not yet having a firm grasp of the language, he made his English-language stage debut in a 1922 production of The Red Poppy, for which Lugosi memorized his lines phonetically. Since silent films still predominated, Lugosi's language skills were not a barrier to his acting in American movies. He made his American film debut in The Silent Command (1923) and then appeared in The Midnight Girl (1925).

Dracula

In 1927, Lugosi accepted the titular role in the American theatrical run of Dracula, a play based on Bram Stoker's gothic novel of the same name. Lugosi's Dracula was unlike any previous portrayals of the role. Handsome, mysterious and alluring, Lugosi's Dracula was at once so sexy and so haunting that audiences gasped when he first opened his mouth to speak. After a half-year run on Broadway, Dracula toured the United States to much fanfare and critical acclaim throughout 1928 and 1929. "It is a marvelous play," Lugosi said. "We keep nurses and physicians in the theater every night… for the people in the audience who faint." With the popularization of "talking pictures" – movies with sound – Universal decided to make a film version of Dracula starring Lugosi. The 1931 film, entitled The Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known, was a smash hit and forever immortalized Lugosi's chilling portrayal of Dracula. Although countless actors have played Dracula since to this date, vampire enthusiasts idolize Lugosi as synonymous with the character.

Throughout the 1930s, Lugosi was typecast as a Hollywood horror villain – playing monsters, murderers, and mad scientists – in dozens of B-list films. His most notable performances were Murderers in the Rue Morgue (1932), White Zombie (1932), International House (1933), The Raven (1934), Dracula's Daughter (1936) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). While none of these roles were especially noteworthy in isolation, Lugosi's cumulative body of work during the 1930s established him as one of the first great stars of the horror genre. Nevertheless, throughout his entire career Lugosi was frustrated by his inability to break through into other types of films. "I am tyred, doomed to be an exponent of evil," he said. "But I want sympathetic roles. Then parents would tell their offspring, 'Eat your spinach and you'll grow up to be a nice man like Bela Lugosi.' As it is, they threaten their children with me instead of the bogey-man."


Later Years and Legacy
In 1956, Lugosi began work on a sci-fi thriller called Plan 9 From Outer Space. However, he passed away in the middle of filming on August 16, 1956, aged 73. Lugosi was fittingly buried in his Dracula cape.

Despite Lugosi's death, Plan 9 from Outer Space was completed with director Ed Wood's wife's chiropractor taking over his part. The final version of the film bizarrely mixes footage of Lugosi as well as footage of his replacement (who looks nothing at all like him), one of many oddities that make Plan 9 From Outer Space both a cult classic and a film many critics have called the worst of all time.

The actor who became synonymous with Dracula, Bela Lugosi paved the way for the incredible proliferation of vampire movies in Hollywood. His depiction of Dracula as at once dangerous and mysteriously sexy continues to shape the way vampires are portrayed in such pop culture phenomena as Twilight and True Blood. However, Lugosi was much more than a one-hit wonder who played out the rest of his career in B-grade slasher movies. He was a multitalented and immensely gifted performer who mastered Shakespearean acting in Hungary before coming to define the American horror film genre. Nevertheless, despite his dozens of films and stage performances, Lugosi lives on for posterity not so much as an actor but as the personification of his greatest character. When he performed as Dracula, Lugosi spoke for his personal legacy as much as for his character when he pronounced the immortal line, "I am Dracula."