Saturday, 7 April 2012


    Dracula the stage play, adapted by Hamilton Deane and J.L Balderston, opened at the Palace Theatre, Leicester on Monday 30th July 1951 and it starred the great Bela Lugosi reprising his most famous role. 
    The play was on a six month tour of England, during which Lugosi also starred in the film "Mother Riley Meets the Vampire".
 On stage the star worked very hard as each night saw two performances, one at six o'clock and another at 8.15. 
    The Palace Theatre management took no risks with squeamish patrons, as a note in the programme shows; 
    "The management cannot be responsible for patrons who may faint or feel unwell, but first aid attendants are in the theatre throughout the performance."
The Palace Theatre, sadly demolished in 1959.

    "Old John" (a Leicester Evening Mail correspondent) went to see Mr Lugosi for a piece in his "Round the Clock Tower" column on 31st July.
    His first impression of Lugosi was that just as Dracula sleeps by day, so does Bela Lugosi, as he took a look around the city well into the night and in the morning he went to bed.
    When Old John eventually got to speak with the star Lugosi confided that "after 24 years of Count Dracula I am waiting for someone to find me a comedy role." 
    Old John writes "The hypnotic eyes lit up as he admitted a partiality for blood oranges and raw steaks", and notes "off stage Lugosi is a quiet charming man who collects stamps in his spare time and is accompanied everywhere by his wife Lillian......but when I ask his age.....ah the artist's temperament appeared then and I changed the subject hastily, fearing a Lugosi scowl."

    Another local newspaper, The Illustrated Leicester Chronicle, sent reporter Douglas Goodlad to interview Lugosi on 4th August.
    He begins his article by informing his readers that Lugosi hardly wears any make-up on stage and he achieves his "horrific countenance" by facial expression.
     To Lillian Lugosi he asks "does he frighten you?" to which she answered that he did not.
     Lugosi said "I love the part, it's fascinating. In Transylvania there are such things as Vampire bats and blood thirsty is easy to see how legends have grown up about creatures half-human, half-bat."

    As they said goodbye, Goodlad noted "he didn't give me one of those sinister `goodbyes` we've heard from him on the screen, nor did he disappear in a  cloud of white mist.
    Instead his wife said `Bela your tie's crooked, let me fix it` and that little domestic touch banished the un-dead Count as effectively as a stake through the heart. Bela smiled and said `thank you` and it was a warm human smile."

   Sadly Bela Lugosi would fail to resurrect his film career and he was destined to end his days with parts in low budget films.     His last being the wonderfully bad "Plan 9 from Outer Space", directed by Ed Wood, which is well worth seeing and now has cult status.
   After divorcing his wife Lillian in 1955 and marrying again, Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack in his Los Angeles home on 16th August 1956, aged 73.

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