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Count Dracula was Actor Bela Lugosi's most famous role. Lugosi played him in stage productions and in the 1931 Universal Pictures film Dracula.
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In 1913, he joined the Hungarian National Theater in Budapest and starred in more Shakespearean plays, as well as Cyrano de Bergerac and Faust.
Although members of the National Theater were exempt from military service,
in June 1914 the highly patriotic Lugosi put his acting career on hold to fight for Hungary against Russia in World War I. After being discharged from the army due to health problems in 1916, Lugosi returned to the National Theater and delivered a celebrated performance as Jesus Christ in The Passion. Over the next few years, Lugosi gradually transitioned from stage acting into Hungary's rapidly growing silent film industry. In addition to acting in many silent Hungarian films, Lugosi organized Hungary's National Trade Union of Actors, the world's first film actors' union. He was a staunch supporter of the 1919 Hungarian Revolution that briefly brought Bela Kun's Hungarian Soviet Republic into power, and as a result when the revolution collapsed Lugosi found himself a wanted enemy of the new government. "After the war, I participated in the revolution," he said. "Later, I found myself on the wrong side."
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).
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 theatre 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.
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