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Friday, January 12, 2018

Bela Lugosi, the most famous Dracula of Hollywood, and the Hungarian Revolution

Earlier, around Halloween, I posted an article about Bela Lugosi and his involvement in the Hungarian Revolution of 1919. Lugosi was a very interesting and influential actor. So this history is much more in depth than the one I wrote.  This was translated by Google. សតិវ ​អតុ

His interpretation of Count Dracula marked a milestone in classical cinema and gave the popular myth many of the characteristics with which he is known today. Bela Lugosi was not only a talented actor, but also in himself a fascinating character, a first person protagonist of the Hungarian Revolution of 1918 and of the ephemeral life of the Soviet Republic of Hungary, as a Communist Party militant. 

Born under the name Blaskó Béla Ferenc Dezső, on October 20, 1882 in Lugos, then

Hungary, a territory that later became part of Romania just after its military invasion and the taking of Budapest to end the new Bolshevik state, Bela Lugosi was a famous actor of the silent film era that shook the audience with his roles in horror films. 

His place of birth was about 80 kilometers from the western border of Transylvania and Poenari Castle, one of the historic homes of Vlad the Impaler, the voivode that gave birth to the famous legend of Dracula of the English writer Bram Stoker, whom Lugosi would present with great acclaim both on stage and on screen. As you can see, his artistic name would take him from the city where he was born, the current Romanian Lugoj.

Lugosi lived hard moments at the beginning of his life. The youngest of four brothers decided to flee from the bosom of his middle class home to open a path for himself in the world of theater, with just 12 years of age. Being only a child and determined not to depend on his parents, he had to work as a miner and then in the railway lines that connected the different localities of his country. All this would cause that he could not access or have an education as it would have corresponded if he had followed under the skirts of his family, rich bankers, but come to less. 

He tried to participate with small roles in local traveling productions, but his lack of education and his temperament made it difficult for him to succeed.

"They tried to give me small roles in their works, but I was so ignorant, so stupid, that people laughed at me. But they allowed me the taste of the stage and also the rancid taste of humiliation. "
Imagini pentru bela lugosi if bela kun

His sister , however, gave him support by lending him money and getting him minor roles in productions of the Szabadka Theater in Budapest. There, although without much education, Lugosi showed natural talent, although still in the rough, and soon rose to more important roles.

Although members of the National Theater were exempt from military service, when the first world war broke out, in June 1914, Lugosi put aside his career in the world of interpretation to fight for Hungary against Russia and the Western powers. After being discharged from the army due to health problems in 1916, Lugosi returned to the National Theater.

At that time, the actors were exempt from military service and Lugosi had no martial background. However, for reasons that are still unclear, he volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian army almost immediately. Maybe he was looking for adventure or felt the emotional impulse of patriotism that gripped so many other men at that moment. He was assigned to the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry Division, serving as an infantry lieutenant. The unit was sent to the eastern front, where they fought in Galicia against the forces of the Russian Empire. Lugosi was finally assigned to the ski patrol. His unit soon found itself involved in the brutal winter campaigns of the Carpathians. They began in earnest at the end of January 1915. To give just one example of the danger and death that permeated these battles, the Austro-Hungarians lost two thirds of an army of 100,000 men in less than three weeks. Although largely forgotten, the struggle that occurred on top of the snowy Carpathians is considered by some historians as the deadliest of the entire war on any of the fronts.

Lugosi did not escape unharmed from the fight. He suffered both mentally and physically. One of the few times he spoke about the war took place in an interview years later when he recalled that "There was a moment that I could never forget. We were protecting a forest from the Russians. All of us were cowering under huge trees, every man under a tree. A young, unwary officer slipped out of the cover and a bullet hit his chest. I forgot that the Russians fired from their line with machine guns ... I ran to him and gave him first aid. I went back to my tree and discovered that it had been thrown to the sky in pieces. I became hysterical. I cried there on the forest floor, like a child ... not of fear, not even of relief ... of gratitude for how God had paid me for having that outburst of good heart . "

Lugosi was wounded twice, the first time in battles near Rohatin, Galicia (Rohatyn, Ukraine today), the second time in the Carpathians. These wounds made him receive a decoration for his bravery, but they also took him out of the war. Soon after, in early 1916, Lugosi was discharged after 18 months of service. 

Another influence of the horrible war in Lugosi was the influence of the Russian revolution, which spread like wildfire across the eastern front among the workers and peasants in the ranks of all the armies. As Alan Woods explains in his analysis of the Hungarian Soviet Republic , "The victory of the October revolution in Russia had an electrifying effect in Hungary. The masterful anti-war agitation of the Bolsheviks during the peace negotiations of Brest-Litovsk, found a great echo among the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers tired of the war. The demand for "peace without annexation or compensation" was echoed in the factories, in the villages and in the trenches. In this situation the anti-war party of the bourgeoisie led by Karolyi - the "Hungarian Kerensky" - gained influence among the masses . " 

Or, as the Austrian newspaper Deutsche Volksblatt described, the atmosphere on the front was hectic,"The fourth and ninth Romanian armies refused to fight in the war, strikes broke out among Romanian workers in Ploesti, Bucharest, etc. "The Romanian and Czech armies are characterized by the absence of discipline, Bolshevik ideas are spreading, the most obvious example is that the movement of Basarabia peasants and workers has turned against the Romanian government ."

In these circumstances, Lugosi returned to Budapest. Moving from the stage to silent films and even organized the National Union of Hungarian Actors, the first union of film actors in the world. On April 10, 1916, less than twenty months after his last performance in Budapest, he returned to the stage at the National Theater. As the war dragged on for the next two and a half years, Lugosi continued to perform in a variety of roles on stage and also got his first start in the film. It was as if I had never gone to the trenches. Maybe he was able to forget the war, but his side effects in Hungary were about to influence the rest of his life.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was defeated and divided in November 1918. Hungary became a republic. Then, Lugosi became actively involved in the political turmoil. He became the creator and leader of the newly created actors union in December 1918. He advocated ending the power of the theater managers who prioritized the profits over art. 

Imagini pentru bela lugosi if bela kun
Bela Kun speaking to the Hungarian working masses
He was a staunch supporter of the Hungarian Revolution of 1919 that briefly brought the Hungarian Soviet Republic of Bela Kun to power, unleashing Lugosi's passion for free art, culture, and the triumph of the workers over the bourgeoisie. When the Romanian troops entered Bucharest and the fascist government of Horthy was imposed, the savage revenge of the bourgeoisie imposes a wave of terror, torture, persecution and mass shootings, also against the world of culture, which makes Bela Lugosi, as would Bela Kun, the revolutionary leader, decide to flee the country, both become enemies of the new government.

After working for a time in German cinema, Lugosi decided to immigrate to the United States. After a brief stop in Italy, he left for New Orleans, arriving on December 4, 1920. From there he would move to New York, where he finally found the role that would bring him to fame. 

His marked Hungarian accent caused that, considering that at that time everyone still considered Transylvania, the country where Bram Stoker located Dracula, as part of Hungary, gave him the role in a play on Broadway in which He would play Count Dracula on Broadway and then starred in the 1931 Universal Pictures film, becoming a movie legend forever.

Of course, Lugosi would also be in the crosshairs of Sen. McCarthy's witch hunt in the 1950s, because it was too favorable to communist ideas, to the USSR and, incidentally, to President Roosevelt's policy. However, his career was already plummeting, leaving the good of Lugosi in the limits of poverty, surviving with varied and poorly paid jobs. At the end of his career he would be "rescued" by Ed Wood for his B-movies, shortly before his death in 1956, in Los Angeles. 

He would never return to the revolutionary Hungary for which he fought and from which he had to flee after the triumph of Marshal Horthy and his criminal fascist dictatorship.

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