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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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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 definitely typed, 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."
After a few lean years in the late 1930s, when horror movies fell out of vogue in Hollywood, in the 1940s Lugosi once again began appearing in countless horror films as well as sequels and spoofs such as The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Despite his prolific acting career and high profile, due to Universal's ruthless compensation system and his own careless spending, Lugosi lived the majority of his adult life deeply mired in debt. He spent the last few years of his career in the early 1950s back on the stage in revival productions of Dracula as well as Arsenic and Old Lace.
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.
Bela Lugosi married five times. In 1917, while still in Hungary, he married Ilona Szmik. They divorced two years later, when Lugosi fled for Germany and Szmik refused to leave her native land. In 1921, shortly after arriving in New York, he married Illona von Montagh, but they too divorced after three years in 1924. Lugosi married his third wife, Woodruff Weeks, in 1929; their marriage lasted all of three days. In 1933, he married his fourth wife, Lillian Arch, and they remained married for twenty years before finally separating in 1953. He married Hope Lininger in 1955 and they stayed together until his death a year later.
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