Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy Birthday Bela

Bela Lugosi was born 124 years ago today in Lugos, Hungary. Born with the name Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882. He was the youngest of four children. He started his acting career on the stage in Hungary in several Shakespearean plays and other major roles, and also appeared in several silent films of the Cinema of Hungary under the stage name Arisztid Olt. During World War I, he served as an infantry lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army. Lugosi emigrated to the United States in 1921, and on June 26, 1931 became a naturalized citizen. On arrival in the US Lugosi worked for some time as a laborer, then returned to the theater within the Hungarian-American community. He was spotted there and approached to star in a play adapted by John L. Balderston from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The production was very successful. Despite his excellent notices in the title role, Lugosi had to campaign vigorously for the chance to repeat his stage success in Tod Browning's movie version of "Dracula" (1931), produced by Universal Pictures. Following the success of "Dracula," Lugosi received a studio contract with Universal.