Wednesday, October 20, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20

Today is Bela Lugosi's birthday.

Though all other roles he played would be forever eclipsed by his performance as Dracula in the 1931 Universal film, it was a role he not only made his own, but became the defining portrayal of Count Dracula that actors for decades to come would emulate in some degree, even if merely in costume and hair style. His distinctive accented speech patterns have also been imitated widely, but most simply became parody. Superficial imitations of Lugosi's Dracula are not the same as the real thing.

What makes his performance so great is its understated quality. He's eerie and mysterious, completely other, especially when compared to the other characters around him. His acting style is in contrast to theirs. His poor command of the English language and strange, stilted, manner of delivering his lines amplifies this otherness, as do his movements. There are many scenes of Lugosi simply staring at the other characters, and a certain slow predatory manner of moving when he leans forward that bring to mind an owl, another predator of the night who's otherly appearance is seen as eerie. Much has been made of Lugosi's use of his hands, and these also give his Dracula a certain alien, predatory air, echoing the spiders that fill his abode, their slow articulated movements channeling all of Dracula's hypnotic powers. It's almost as if Lugosi's Dracula is moving in a trance himself, or a dream, or most certainly a nightmare.

Did you know that there is a Bela Lugosi Daylily? The Hemerocallidaceae hemerocallis was created in 1995 and named after the actor. You can learn more about it here and here. It apparently grows well under less than ideal conditions for other plants. I think I'm going to try and plant some next Spring.



Robert Pope said...

Lugosi's stillness and his sleek hair always brought to mind Thomas Harris' descriptions of Hannibal Lecter (with his head "sleek as an otter" and how often other characters around him notice how he remained perfectly motionless...)

Todd Franklin said...

Wow, I didn't know about the Bela flower, that's interesting!