Nearly a century after their release, Old Hollywood classics like Dracula and Frankenstein still persevere in the public headspace. Of course, these classic horror films from Universal Pictures wouldn’t be nearly as popular if it weren’t for the iconic actors who played the titular monsters. Bela Lugosi played Dracula, while Boris Karloff played Frankenstein’s monster. The two actors appeared together in a few films, though it has often been rumored that they didn’t get along. Join Facts Verse as we explore the truth about the Dracula and Frankenstein feud that Old Hollywood lied about.
Did Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff Hate Each Other?
When one thinks of famous depictions of monsters, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Boris Karloff’s take on Frankenstein’s monster are likely two of the first things to come to mind. The two were some of the most iconic horror stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, though film fans at the time were led to believe that they didn’t get along. For decades, fans have debated whether or not Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff legitimately hated each other. The theory was plastered all over tabloid publications back in the day. The gossip helped draw attention to the stars. This, in turn, helped sell tickets whenever one or both of them showed up on the screen.
According to the majority of film historians, the supposed feud that occurred between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff during the days of Old Hollywood was a complete fabrication. Most seem to believe that Universal Pictures came up with the feud out of the blue in order to garner press for their new horror films. If this was the case, it certainly worked! However, if Universal Pictures was really lying about how the two performers felt about each other, it’s left a lasting impact that still affects people today.
By most accounts, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff got along perfectly well. Some even suggest that they related to each other to a considerable degree, as both stars had come to Hollywood from overseas and felt largely like aliens in the industry. This made them the perfect choice to play their respective iconic on-screen monsters. Before receiving the roles that would turn them into household names, both performers struggled for a time and faced adversity. Both stars were also in their 40s by the time they achieved fame.
Bela Lugosi Was Chased Out of Hungary
Bela Lugosi was born in 1982. At the time of his birth, the location where Bela was born was a part of Hungary. However, in the years since, the land has become a part of Romania. When Bela was only 12 years old, he ran away from his family home in the hopes of becoming an actor. After years of struggling, Bela eventually managed to find some modicum of success on the stage in his home country of Hungary. However, in the meantime, the young runaway was forced to pay his way working menial jobs.
Bela Lugosi finding success on the stage in his home country of Hungary came with a caveat, as World War I was just around the corner. Bela took a break from the life of an actor to join the war, and he saw a good deal of combat. Legend has it that the future star was wounded three separate times during his days in the war. Though this led to him being decorated as an officer, it also led to him developing a lifelong battle with substance abuse. The wounds that Bela received during World War I would haunt the actor for the rest of his life, and he would eventually turn to morphine and then methadone, to numb the pain.
In 1920, Bela Lugosi decided that it was time for him to take the trip from Hungary to the United States. There were several reasons for the performer to do so. For one thing, America was where most of the action was! For another thing, the actor had stirred up some trouble within the entertainment industry of his home country after taking some steps to try and set up and actors’ union. It seems that the entertainment industry in Hungary was averse to the idea, and Bela was essentially chased out of the country.
Bela Persevered in New York City
Coming to America from Hungary proved the right choice for Bela, even if he was forced to make it in a dire situation. The actor took up living in New York City, with the idea that he might be able to make it on the Broadway stage. Though Bela knew very little English at the time, he managed to scrape by and pick up what he could. After a few years of living in a predominantly Hungarian part of the city, Bela was well on his way to become an honorary American.
Since Bela Lugosi started out in New York City with barely little and could hardly even speak English, it seemed like the odds were against him. However, the actor persevered in the face of whatever challenge came his way. Soon, his breakout role would come by way of the 1927 Broadway play Dracula. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Bela First Played the Role of Dracula on the Stage
When Bela Lugosi ran away from home at the age of 12, he had it in the back of his head that he was going to become a star. The young man arguably didn’t know how right he was, though it would take him several decades before he finally received his breakout role on the Broadway stage. IN 1927, after living in New York City for a handful of years and working his way up in the theater scene, Bela finally managed to secure for himself a notable role on the stage. The actor was cast to play the titular lead in the Broadway play Dracula. With his Hungarian accent, Bela proved the perfect performer to play the vaguely foreign vampire.
The 1927 Broadway play Dracula was a big hit, and everyone loved Bela’s performance as the titular monster. However, an even bigger opportunity awaited the actor in the wake of this Broadway success. Around the time that Bela was making waves for playing the role of Dracula on the stage, motion pictures were transitioning over from silent features to what would come to be known as “talkies”. This meant that spoken dialogue was beginning to be incorporated into movies, and this changed the game!
Tasked with coming up with some good ideas for films that would utilize spoken dialogue, Universal Pictures eventually turned their sights on the hit Broadway play Dracula. The studio decided that it wanted to bring the play to the big screen, and this meant that it was time for Bela to finally find his place in the cinema! It wasn’t hard for Bela to translate his stage role over the big screen, and the result was the classic 1931 horror film Dracula. The film turned Bela into a household name, which was a longtime coming given the fact that the actor was 47 years old when it came out.
Boris Karloff’s Early Life Mirrored Bela’s
Dracula was an enormous success for Universal Pictures, but it wasn’t the only notable horror film that the studio released that year. 1931 was also the year that saw the release of Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff in the role of Frankenstein’s monster. With the two successful features, Universal Pictures knew that they had something magic on their hands. The classic age of Hollywood horror was born!
Boris Karloff’s early life mirrors that of Bela Lugosi in many ways. As compared to Hungary, Boris was born overseas in London. However, his mixed heritage gave made him stand out in comparison to the average Londoner. Boris’ father had been a diplomat, and he had met Boris’ mother while travelling in India. This meant that Bela was partly Indian, which gave him a unique physicality that would help him a good deal during his career in entertainment. Upon his coming of age, it was initially Boris’ intention to pursue a higher education and becoming a diplomat like his father. However, the young man had also been drawn to performing from an early age. Eventually, it was Boris’ love for performing that won out over his higher education.
According to the late Boris Karloff himself, his first taste of performing came at the age of 9 when he was cast to play a villainous role in a play based on Cinderella. Young Boris had a lot of fun playing the villain, and the experience stuck with him. Because of this, the role of Frankenstein’s monster proved a perfect fit for the man whereas many other actors would balk at playing a monster, especially if it meant working underneath several pounds of makeup. Famously, it has been said that Bela Lugosi was offered the role of Frankenstein’s monster before Boris, and he turned it down because he didn’t want to perform under the makeup. The role was then offered to Boris, who had no reservations.
Did Bela and Boris Really Feud?
After deciding that he wanted to try his hand at acting, the of-age Boris Karloff headed out to Canada in 1909. Later, he would end up in Hollywood. It took Boris over a decade to find the attention that he craved after arriving in America. Boris’ early work in Hollywood saw him performing as an extra. He could also often be found working as a ditch digger and a truck driver to get the bills paid. By the time that Boris received his breakout role of Frankenstein’s monster in 1931’s Frankenstein, he was ready for it!
Universal Pictures spread the rumors that Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff despised each other to help sell tickets to their features, but it seems that the two performers related to each other a great deal. They appeared together in a variety of movies for Universal Pictures, and it seems they got along just fine! The two are often credited with helping bring about the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, calling back to the time Bela was chased out of Hungary for similar reasons.
Though Universal Pictures claimed in the press that Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff didn’t get along, it has retrospectively come to light that the two were actually pretty good friends! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff were in their 40s before receiving their iconic horror roles, and that the two were actually good friends despite persistent rumors that they were involved in a feud? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!