Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dracula: The Curse

This entry was just for fun. Which is why it's number ten in the chapter I originally wrote on Dracula for Vampires' Most Wanted. I thought I'd end with a light bit of trivia (despite the whole death thing going on on it). Is there a curse? Who knows?

10.  The Curse
Was there a curse on Dracula that made itself known in the lives of those taking part in its adaptations? It’s a “romantic” notion in the entertainment world to blame the misfortunes of principle players on some sort of curse attached to the production. The film “Poltergeist” comes to mind. When one considers the huge amount of people who work on a film or television show, it would be unusual not assume that there would be a few curious death stories scattered among them. Still: What’s one to say about the sad last years of the author himself as he battled critical failure and ever decreasing fortunes?   
Horace Liveright
There was F.W. Murnau who, a decade after making “Nosferatu” died in a car crash not long before the release of “Dracula” on the west coast. Then there’s Horace Liveright, the man responsible for bringing the stage production of “Dracula” to the U.S. Of course, Liveright’s fortunes were never secure thanks in large part to his own personality. He gambled often and often won, but when fate turns it can turn hard. By the time “Dracula” the movie was being made, Liveright’s fortunes had taken a downhill turn as did his health. Unable to negotiate the film rights for “Dracula” he returned to New York but could never reclaim his former glory. He died of pneumonia, busted financially and socially, Sept. 24, 1933.
Dwight Frye
Of course there are few tales more poignant then that of Lugosi, a man who scraped hard for and achieved the heights of fame only to have it slip from his grasp in an instant, never to be seen again. His Renfield did not fare quite as well either. Dwight Frye was a versatile character actor who had a successful career in theater before being cast to play the insane Renfield in the 1931 movie “Dracula”. After that, he was chosen to play the insane laboratory assistant in James Whale’s “Frankenstein” released that same year; and the insane character of Karl, in “The Bride of Frankenstein. Frye worked steadily in Hollywood and theater throughout the 30s and into the 40s but was never really given a part that would challenge his range having now been typecast as the madman or killer by appearing in three of the biggest horror blockbusters of the 30s. His last role would have been a substantial and different one, playing Secretary of War Newton D. Baker in the biopic “Wilson” but the heart condition he had concealed for years from friends and employers alike at last caught up with him on a Hollywood bus on Nov. 7, 1943, and he died at age 44, days before filming was to begin.
Helen Chandler
Helen Chandler, the ethereal actress, would have preferred the role of Alice in the film  “Alice in Wonderland” but with that part given to another actress, she joined the cast of “Dracula” as Mina Harker. She’d begun her acting career on the stage in 1917 and played in a number of productions before making her film debut in “The Music Master,” a silent film released in 1927. After Dracula, she went on to a prolific career in films, radio and theater. Her demons, however, were strong and the alcoholism she’d never be able to conquer forced her career into decline. In 1950, after falling asleep while smoking, she was disfigured in the fire, sending her deeper back into the bottle. It was during surgery for a stomach ulcer that she had a heart attack and died April 30, 1965.

One of the saddest stories of a death connected to Dracula was the story of 16-year-old boy who, after attending one of the plays performances in 1927, took his own life by jumping in front of a train at Victoria Station. The boy’s mother, confined to a mental institution had tried to killer herself four times the year before and it’s possible the boy’s own depression was fueled by the scenes of Renfield in the asylum. Another life shattered in Dracula’s wake.

I hope you enjoyed the Dracula trip. It is a fascinating story and it would seem the fictional character's lust for power and immortality was eventually achieved.

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