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In Praise of Bela

This linked article was posted in response to the new DRACULA miniseries from the BBC, which introduced to the world a new iteration of the legendary titular character, Claes Bang. Mr. Bang—the name still makes me smile—is but the latest in a long, long line to portray Bram Stoker’s bloodsucking Count Dracula. Dracula is, in fact, the fictional character most often portrayed in film and television. (Only Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes come close.) There have been literally hundreds of Draculas since the novel was published well over a hundred years ago. But of the multitude, there is one name, one performer, who stands heads and shoulders above the rest. You already know who I’m talking about: Bela Lugosi.

There have been some great performers to portray the Count, and a few not so great ones. But Lugosi *is* Dracula. His portrayal is the definitive one, the permanent, the archetypical one, the one against which all others must be measured. This is even more impressive an accomplishment when one realizes that Lugosi only played Count Dracula *twice*–at least in the movies. He appeared in the role onstage hundreds of times.

Lugosi’s personification of Dracula was a blessing to we fans, but Bela, a phenomenal actor capable of playing any sort of role, lamented being typecast. “Where once I had been the master of my professional destinies, with a repertoire embracing all kinds and types of men…I became Dracula’s puppet…the shadowy figure of Dracula, more than any casting office, dictated the kind of parts I played…Now I am the boogieman.” You’re *our* boogieman, Bela. And we wouldn’t want any other.

TheCheezman • January 22, 2020


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