Author Topic: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.  (Read 429 times)

CanadianMonsterGuy

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A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« on: July 13, 2020, 01:27:26 PM »
Not spurred on by the world events or our desire to  address racism  but after doing some reading I tossed an idea that could Mr Lugosi have been victim of  'studio prejudice'.   I speak of the period with the horror ban in effect and especially after  BLACK FRIDAY (1940).   Is it possible that Universal did not understand Mr Lugosi's good points or was this simple a box office decision to pass him over for roles?    It has been noted that he did have troubles with English and perhaps has the  "attitude' of being a  "Star" in his own country which he was.  He also made some poor business decisions along the way. I wonder if there was something more to his change in fortune?  Hollywood then as  now in some cases  is written for the  White male of Christian decent. Taking into account most of the studio heads were Jewish decent and sometimes spoken of not to favourably by  the very people in Joseph Breen's office.  Love some opinions on this idea of Bela not being handled correctly by the powers  that be.     cheers

BigShadow

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2020, 04:04:46 PM »
I believe it had a lot to do with negotiations, prejudices, cultural misunderstandings, pride, and poor decisions.  Not necessarily all of that for each role he was passed up for or that he passed on, but some did play a part in how his career went.  There's really no one particular reason, and it seems not only the studios were to blame, but Lugosi himself.  It's a tragedy on both sides, and if there weren't these issues, Lugosi and the studies would have made a lot of money, and Lugosi would have been a bigger star.  But one thing is for certain, Lugosi gave his all, no matter how small the paycheck or how small the movie.  He could make a bad script into a good film.  And it's sad that his full potential was never met in the U.S.  Although his role in Dracula was great, could you imagine if he was directed by Melford instead of Browning? 
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Mike Scott

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2020, 06:45:26 PM »
Welcome to the UMA, CanadianMonsterGuy !   :)
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CanadianMonsterGuy

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2020, 08:06:07 PM »
Thanks for the welcome, "You came to meet me not to greet me"

Bela was such a massive talent in his own country I believe point touched on such as  ego on both studio and himself. Still one can think you are perfect for a role but if the powers that be dont then you dont get it. I believe he wasnt the 'american type' as with all exotic types which is a a horrid way to group even today. Hollywood at the time was not comfortable with non white actors, and  actresses  hence you got Myrna Loy playing  Asian women in  THE MASK OF FU MANCHU.     Rudolph Valentino before Lugosi could get away with it but that was silent film. I also think that as a a result of that inability to work with non whites coupled with an ego and frankly not learning to speak the language was a factor. Learning English is hard and most likely harder then doing that would have bettered  his chances.

aura of foreboding

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 10:32:04 PM »
Lugosi communicated fluently in English by the time Dracula debuted.  He only learned his lines phonetically for the Broadway show. 

Lugosi was doing quite well for himself through the mid-1930s.  Lugosi started being cast aside in the years preceding Son of Frankenstein, and the studio tried to screw him over big time in that film.  Lugosi, however, made the movie the success it was.  Lugosi suffered major prejudice starting in the '40s, notably during Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, after the start of America's involvement in WWII.  You can draw any number of conclusions as to the reason for the rise in prejudice against Lugosi as the US drew closer to involvement in the war.   

Hepcat

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2020, 09:37:24 PM »
I'm not convinced there was any prejudice against Bela Lugosi. Certainly the verdict of the only people that count, us (my prejudice is showing of course), is that Bela Lugosi was great. His heirs? Not at all, actually.

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aura of foreboding

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2020, 11:06:57 PM »
I'm not convinced there was any prejudice against Bela Lugosi. Certainly the verdict of the only people that count, us (my prejudice is showing of course), is that Bela Lugosi was great. His heirs? Not at all, actually.

 ;)

Hep, you have to admit his treatment after being cast in Son was extremely questionable, and, if not some sort of concerted effort based on some factor outside of his talent/professionalism, what would it be? 

Hepcat

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2020, 11:31:42 PM »
Hep, you have to admit his treatment after being cast in Son was extremely questionable....

Given the fact that I know very little about Bela Lugosi (other than him being great), logically I can't admit to anything. And that's also why I need to be "convinced".

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CanadianMonsterGuy

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2020, 11:55:08 AM »
Greg Mank wrote in  HAUNTED COLLABORATION  that he  speculates that its was FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN that did Lugosi in with Universal.   Bela ended up playing the monster since Karloff refused and Chaney Jr who was slated to do both roles of the monster and the Wolf man complained about Jack Pierce's make up processes  plus he was  raging alcoholic that lived to torment co stars.   Bela  was parachuted into the role with the  Siodmak script containing dialogue.  When the Studio brass saw the rushes of Lugosi speaking , they burst out laughing because of his heavy accent.  The picture was edited hence giving you have the lumbering, lip flapping appearance of the silent monster which they thought would sink the  film destroying the plans to build up Lon Chaney Jr as the new King of Horror.

aura of foreboding

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2020, 04:39:00 PM »
Yes, all that is accurate.  You have to ask yourself why is it that Lugosi's performance was treated as such, considering all they had to do was show a flashback to Ygor's brain going into the monster's body and the previous film.  There was something else going on.  You can read part of the original script and the dialogue for the monster, specifically around a campfire.  I think I read it in CLASSIC MONSTERS OF THE MOVIES, the FMTWM edition. 

CanadianMonsterGuy

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2020, 09:26:13 PM »
Good discussions  here. One wonders what went on but we all know its all about the money.   Shifting a little to 1945  and THE BODY SNATCHER.  Robert Wise mentioned that he seemed 'out of it' and required many takes for which he was  granted by patient crew.  The effects perhaps  of morphine Bela used to relieve ulcers perhaps caused by worry and a possible divorce . Still a brilliant role as Josef even if limited in screen time. I also understand the role was tailored for him  at cheaper salary that  he had to have.  Then the producer (Not Val Lewton)  altered the billing so  the BODY SNATCHERS appeared to be a KARLOFF/LUGOSI  picture for marquee value.    He was  really used and all that seemed to go his way were Monogram work and limited  radio because of his accent.  Not handled well in my opinion.


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aura of foreboding

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Re: A possible reason for the decline of Bela Lugosi.
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2020, 03:48:06 AM »