Entry three in the sample chapter I used to propose my Vampires' Most Wanted book to Potomac Publishers. In this, Florence Stoker lends a hand to propel the character of Dracula from character in a gothic novel to horror icon. You have to kind of feel for poor Florence suddenly propelled in the weird world of rights trying to keep this legacy safe.
3. The Play
That would be the key problem with adapting Dracula to the stage. There are three major sections: Harker’s travels to Transylvania; the count’s arrival, and introduction of the characters in England; than a trip back to Transylvania as Dracula tries to escape from the very people he’d hoped to destroy. It is a huge novel with a lot of exposition told from the points of view of the many and various characters. For novel form, the pacing was fine. For a play, it could prove to be a weeklong production. Without intermissions.
Hamilton Deane had a curious connection with Stoker. His family owned the estate next to the Stoker’s familial home and as a former actor, he had made his debut with the Henry Irving Vacation Company in 1899. During the 1920s he established The Hamilton Deane Company and found his eye turning toward producing an adaptation of Dracula, which he wrote while bedridden with a severe cold. Of course the first thing that would have to go would be Transylvania scenes in the beginning and the end, which would be far too expensive to stage. Cost consciousness would be something plaguing future adaptations as in the Deane play when the character of Dracula would raise a vase to smash a mirror only to lower it because the production couldn’t afford to replace mirrors for every performance. The play would be a basic drawing-room melodrama with the characters changed or merged to cut down the amount of characters in the story. Seward owned a sanitarium but was Lucy’s father, not beau; Harker was Lucy’s fiancé; and Mina was no where to be seen it having been established in the dialogue that she had already succumbed to a strange wasting illness that Lucy was suffering from in the opening of the play. Count Dracula has already purchased Carfax Abbey, sold to him by Harker, and apparently insinuated himself in the lives of the Sewards during Harker’s absence giving the impression that he is a good, if rather strange neighbor.
|The drawing room production that would influence the movie.|
Eventually, Deane did answer London’s call and the play opened at the Little Theatre on Feb. 14, 1927, with a uniformed nurse in the theater ready to administer first aid to fainting audience members. A stunt used later by other producers of horror. “Dracula” was savaged by the critics but was boffo at the box office. Soon, the production had to be moved to Duke of York’s Theatre, a larger playhouse. This, however, was news to Deane who by this time had decided to take the play back on the road with his touring company. His backer, Harry Warburton, concerned at losing a London success, approached Florence Stoker with the suggestion that they continue producing the play in London and cut Deane out altogether. Understandably perturbed, Deane filed a complaint with the Society of Authors regarding the infringement of his rights and eventually Deane’s touring rights were extended. Not to be outdone, however, Florence Stoker commissioned Charles Morrell to create a new stage adaptation that she would own completely. Deane would ultimately be vindicated, however, in the failure of Morrell’s adaptation to run more than a few weeks. It was the Deane play that Horace Liveright would attend in 1927 and decide to bring to New York.