“Listen to them, children of the night; what music they make.” Count Dracula
Dracula is the immortal 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the famous character Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy.
Of all the film adaptations of the classic novel, the 1931 Dracula directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi is most synonymous with Stoker’s legendary character, Count Dracula of Transylvania.
The film was produced by Universal and is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which in turn is loosely based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The 1924 stage play was substantially revised in 1927 and was the first authorized adaptation of Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula, and has influenced many subsequent adaptations.
The 1927 Broadway production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role, which he reprised in the 1931 film adaptation of the play. A 1977 Broadway revival designed by Edward Gorey, starring Frank Langella, won the Tony Award for Best Revival.
Bram Stoker’s novel had already been filmed without permission as Nosferatu in 1922 by German expressionist filmmaker F. W. Murnau. Bram Stoker’s widow sued for plagiarism and copyright infringement, and the courts decided in her favor, essentially ordering that all prints of Nosferatu be destroyed.
Enthusiastic young Hollywood producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. also saw the box office potential in Stoker’s gothic chiller, and he legally acquired the novel’s film rights. Initially, he wanted Dracula to be a spectacle on a scale with the lavish silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). (Wikipedia)
The decision on casting the title role proved problematic. Initially, Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other actors, including Paul Muni, Chester Morris, and Ian Keith.
Today, Dracula is widely regarded as a classic of the era and of its genre. In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
To many film lovers and critics alike, Lugosi’s portrayal is widely regarded as the definitive Dracula. Lugosi had a powerful presence and authority on-screen. The slow, deliberate pacing of his performance (“I bid you… welcome!” and “I never drink… wine!”) gave his Dracula the air of a walking, talking corpse, which terrified 1931 movie audiences.
He was just as compelling with no dialogue, and the many close-ups of Lugosi’s face in icy silence jumped off the screen. With this mesmerizing performance, Dracula became Bela Lugosi’s signature role, his Dracula a cultural icon, and he himself a legend in the classic Universal Horror film series.
Where it all started 😱
Stoker’s visit to the English coastal town of Whitby in 1890 is said to be part of the inspiration for Dracula. He began writing novels while a manager for Henry Irving, as well as, director of London’s Lyceum Theatre, beginning with The Snake’s Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897.
During this period, Stoker was part of the literary staff of the The Daily Telegraph in London, and he wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). (Wikipedia)
Stoker was bedridden with an unknown illness until he started school at the age of seven when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, “I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave the opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.”
Before writing Dracula, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer, and traveler. Dracula likely emerged from Vámbéry’s dark stories of the Carpathian mountains. Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires.