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Iconic Hungarian-American actor.
Lugosi is best remembered for playing Count Dracula, on stage and in film
He first starred as Count Dracula as early as 1927, in a Broadway adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, moving with the play to the West Coast in 1928 and settling down in Hollywood. He later starred in the classic 1931 film version of Dracula directed by Tod Browning and produced by Universal Pictures. Through the 1930s, he occupied an important niche in horror films, but his Hungarian accent and notoriety as "Dracula" limited his potential casting, and he unsuccessfully tried for years to avoid the typecasting.
He was often paired with Boris Karloff, who was able to demand top billing because of Lugosi’s inability to speak the English language clearly. Lugosi was kept employed by the studio principally so that they could put his name on the posters. Among his pairings with Karloff, he performed major roles only in The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939)
By the late 1930s Lugosi had become hopelessly addicted to morphine and methadone, initially prescribed by his doctors for sciatica, His gradually worsening alcoholism didn’t help his career. After 1948, the offers dwindled to a few parts in low-budget films, notably, those directed by Ed Wood. Wood, a fan of Lugosi, had found him living in obscurity and near-poverty and offered him roles in his films, such as an anonymous narrator in Glen or Glenda (1953) and a Dr. Frankenstein-like mad scientist in Bride of the Monster (1955), Finally there was a brief (posthumous) appearance in Wood's infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957), cobbled together from impromptu test footage.
This is an extraordinary memento of the twilight years of a great Hollywood icon.
In the early 1950s a great British fan of horror, John Street, decided to write to his hero, Bela Lugosi, to tell him how wonderful his acting and his films were (and John Street’s fan letters were exceptional).
We can only imagine how the actor, largely forgotten by Hollywood, short of money, living in a rented dump in a rundown area of Los Angeles and with only Ed Woods interested in him, responded to John’s letter of praise. But we have a clue in the form of this vintage sepia photograph (about 6” x 4.25”) of Lugosi in his prime, boldly signed in green ink. We have further evidence in the actual envelope Lugosi used, which is signed in the same green ink (“B.Lugosi, 4601 Rodeo Lane, Los Angeles 16, California). The envelope has two British Queen Elizabeth stamps that John Street presumably enclosed, showing that his fan letter was sent after 1952.
The margins of the photograph have been trimmed and there are two small flecks missing from the surface of the lower right corner edge but overall condition is good. The envelope shows evidence that it was exposed to light rain, but Lugosi’s signature and address remain completely readable.
A very rare treasure from the Ed Wood years.