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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dracula: Vs. Frankenstein

Number nine in the chapter I used to propose my book Vampires' Most Wanted. I've always found the "rivalry" between Universal Studio's two greatest monsters interesting. Especially in light of how Karloff's fortunes began to rise as Lugosi's fell. And yet, the two monsters are forever linked even though their stories were published 79 years apart.

9. The Rivalry

Mary Shelley
With the fantastic success of “Dracula” Universal Studios began to realize just what might best butter its bread during the hard times of the Depression when people were looking for a little escapism in movie theaters to take their minds off the real horrors of every day poverty. With this in mind, Universal turned to adapting to film another horror classic in the hopes of keeping the gravy train running. While at a house party with friends, an unassuming young woman entered into a contest with her fellow house members and wrote what would become one of the most revered novels of all time. Like Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published in 1818, would eventually spawn stage productions. What better follow up to “Dracula” then “Frankenstein,” and what better actor to offer the role to than the man who wowed them as Dracula? 

A dashing Lugosi
When Bela Lugosi received the script, however, he was not impressed. He saw in the creature nothing that he could wrap his acting chops around. The fiend had no dialogue, simply grunts, and the make up would hide the very features that Lugosi had hoped to parlay into a career of romantic leads. It was his eventual flat-out refusal of the part to Universal executives that did the trick, and quite possibly sealed the fate of his future career. Lugosi would forever regret giving away the role that gave the man who ultimately took it a success that would forever eclipse his own. 

Boris Karloff had been in Hollywood for 10 years and had made 80 films, usually appearing in bit parts, before being noticed by director James Whale in the studio commissary one day. He was dressed in his best suit, but all Whale could notice was his face, which he felt could very well be perfect as the face of the Frankenstein monster. Born William Henry Pratt in 1887, Karloff, like Lugosi, left family expectations behind, changed his name to Boris Karloff and appeared on the stage before finding his way to Hollywood, working odd jobs between bit parts in movies. It’s likely during filming that Karloff often wondered if Lugosi had made the better decision. Arriving in the makeup chair at 4 a.m. Karloff had to sit perfectly still for five hours while the monster’s thick makeup and prosthesis were applied. He wore padding to make his relatively thin frame appear more imposing, heavy shoes to make himself taller, and steel struts to stiffen his legs for the monster’s famous gait. After shooting, it took two hours to take it all off. He lost about 30 pounds during filming. 

Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein's Monster

The effort paid off, however, judging by the reaction of a secretary who chanced upon him one day while the actor was taking a break outside between scenes. The sight of him made her faint. It was decided after that incident that a veil would be needed for any further excursions outside while in make up.

When “Frankenstein” was released it was a smash even bigger than “Dracula.” It seems only logical. The country’s appetite for film horror had been whetted by “Dracula” it was only natural that they’d want more.

It was also apparent that “Frankenstein” had a superior director in James Whale, a former stage director, who seemed more comfortable with this new medium of “talkies” than did Tod Browning whose past experience had been in silent films. There’s a desperate madness fueling the story of “Frankenstein” that Whale is able to bring out in the actors, the sets and the pacing of the movie. Though to be fair, Browning had been blazing a trail directing the first talking supernatural thriller with unexpected budget constraints brought on by the Depression. These were budget constraints that “Frankenstein” probably never felt thanks largely to the success of “Dracula.”
The Monster makes a friend
There was perhaps another reason why Karloff’s monster outdid Lugosi’s. Quite simply, Dracula was not a sympathetic character, while the Frankenstein Monster was. Drawing upon her own issues of abandonment, Mary Shelley fashioned a creature whose very creation was the stuff of horror: Dead flesh, bone, sinew, patched together and somehow sparked into life. He was in physique a monster, but would he have been so in emotion and thought were it not for the fact that his creator, horrified by his own actions, had turned his back on him? Was that when the monster truly emerged? In the novel, the monster has speech and a level of intelligence, most of it gained on his own. He also has a rage toward the man who reanimated him, then left him to fend for himself. In the movie, the level of the monster’s intelligence is questionable, and he communicates in grunts and groans, yet he is still the creature, confused, perhaps afraid, and abandoned to his own devices. How many people during the Depression felt as abandoned, confused and angry as this?

Dracula finds some food
Dracula, on the other hand, was a predator. As sensual as Lugosi played him the movie Dracula was still the cold, blood-sucking fiend of the novel, standing over the bed of an innocent woman ready to take her life to prolong his. Perhaps even worse, he passed this living death on to his victims who, as blood suckers themselves, would join him in eternal damnation. Later movies would bestow consciences onto the characters of the vampire, but the Dracula of the book, the plays and the 1931 movie was devoid of it.

Karloff and Lugosi "The Black Cat"
Karloff and Lugosi would go on to make more movies together, most successful. But Karloff’s name began to outshine Lugosi’s even on the movie poster as he was billed simply as “Karloff,” “Bela Lugosi” appearing under him in smaller letters. The studio used Lugosi’s name to help sell pictures, but when it came to parts and pay, he was no where near their golden boy Karloff. In the film “The Raven,” Karloff was originally pegged to play the scientist, Lugosi the gangster, but Karloff prefered the gangster’s part, so the two switched. Years later, in their last film together for Universal, “Black Friday,” they tried to switch roles again, but this time, the Karloff role was given to another actor and Lugosi was given what amounted to a bit part. The one time Lugosi was given the material to best Karloff was in “The Son of Frankenstein” playing the sinister of Ygor to Karloff’s mute monster. But as time went on, their careers would separate, Karloff rising and weathering any storms that might have hit it, Lugosi floundering. Karloff was able to avoid the typecasting that hit Lugosi so hard and was working with a young actors into his final years. Karloff died in 1969 at the age of 82.

Dracula and The Monster tip a glass together.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dracula: The International Touch

The eighth entry in my would-be chapter for Vampries' Most Wanted. A good story needs to be told, continuously, by many people.

8. The Spanish and British Draculas

It is the height of irony that the Spanish “Dracula,” filmed at night, with a lower budget, using the sets of the English version, is considered by many to be the superior movie. Universal, like many studios, found themselves in a quandary when it came to the advent of talkies. In English speaking countries, many theaters had yet to be wired for sound; while in the Latin countries, a big market, a movie acted in English would provide little enjoyment. To solve the problem of talkies vs. silent movies, many movies were re-cut to include written dialogue on the screen, in the fashion of silent movies. Since dubbing was a difficult at the time, studios decided it would be more lucrative to simply film a second version of the film starring a Latin cast reciting Spanish dialogue. 

Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tovar
Filming began Oct. 10, 1930, the Spanish crew starting around 8 p.m., a few hours after the American crew left. Carlos Villarias was chosen for the role of Dracula, though he lacks the sensuality that Lugosi was able to give to the role. Lupita Tovar played a much more seductive Mina than was seen in the English version, in large part due to the more revealing costumes the women wore in the Spanish version. Produced by Paul Kohner (later to wed Tovar), it was directed by George Melford who seemed to have a better grasp of the possibilities of the script. The camera work was more comfortable and imaginative. Able to watch the dailies of the English version, the production team was able to see what worked and what didn’t and seemed determined rework the shots used by the English team. Unlike Lugosi, who emerges from his coffin by way of a simple cut away; Vallarias emerges in a puff of smoke. While light shining on Lugosi’s eyes was to give the impression of Dracula’s mesmerizing affect, a simple close-up of Vallarias’ gaze proved just as powerful. Dracula’s brides are used to greater effect, more closely resembling the description of the wild brides in Stoker’s novel. 
Dracula's Brides
So efficient was the production team that they were moving faster than the set up of the sets. While retakes were being shot by the American crew, Kohner’s production, having come in at a final cost of $66,069 in 22 nights, was being previewed on the Universal set the first week of January, 1931. It would be one of the last foreign language films shot thanks to the belt tightening that studios were having to do during the Depression. Not to mention that countries were starting up their own film industries. Available for some time only at the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress and only for study by film scholars, the film can now be seen on select DVD releases of “Dracula.”
Christopher Lee
After the success of “The Curse of Frankenstein,” a retelling of the Frankenstein story released in 1957, Hammer Studios in England decided to try their hand at the Dracula legend, releasing “The Horror of Dracula” in 1958. It’s a bold and in some ways superior retelling of the story with Christopher Lee in the title roll and Peter Cushing playing his arch nemesis Van Helsing. The pair would go on to do battle in other movies of the Hammer Dracula series. The plot has been streamlined even further than the 1931 movie thanks to all the action taking place in or around Castle Dracula. Gone is Renfield and the reason to establish his connection to the Count. Jonathan Harker is back, as his is narration, in the opening but rather than a real estate lawyer, he is a man posing as a librarian in the hopes of getting close enough to destroy the vampire. In trying to destroy Dracula’s one bride, he disturbs the count who is able to attack him. 

Peter Cushing
When Van Helsing, in league with Harker, tracks his friend down to Castle Dracula, he finds the young man a vampire and puts his soul to rest. Dracula has, by this time, fled to exact revenge on Harker’s fiancé Lucy, Lucy’s brother Arthur Holmwood and Arthur’s wife Mina. At the end of the movie, Arthur and Van Helsing chase the vampire back to Castle Dracula where they dispatch him. As in the novel, Dracula never introduces himself to the family he’s terrifying. Rather, he remains on the periphery, appearing to his victims only at feeding time. While his first entrance is startling, Lee’s Dracula at first lacks the mysterious creepiness of the novel and the 1931 movie. He seems, in fact, a rather personable chap if only slightly intimidating. Yet, as the film continues and the curious need for revenge grips him, Lee’s performance turns decidedly menacing, almost feral, his sudden appearances in the rooms of his victims chillingly predatory. His vanquishing is a much more dramatic thing than in the 1931 version as we see first his foot, then his hand, then his face turn to ash as Van Helsing forces him into the light using crossed candle sticks. With the success of these two Hammer monsters, the studio went on to utilize the Mummy and the Werewolf.

(Dracula and Van Helsing working out a few things. 1958 Hammer Studios)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dracula: A Symphony of Horror

Another excerpt from the original chapter on Dracula I would have liked to have seen in my book Vampires' Most Wanted. Poor Flo. She just gets the whole play thing ironed out, is on the verge of inking a deal with Universal for the movie rights to Dracula, and suddenly out of nowhere, someone nearly steals the thunder.

7. That Other Movie

"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"
In 1922 Florence Stoker, guardian of her husband’s vampire legacy took on a German film studio and won. Sort of. Dracula was perfect for the sort of eerie expressionism notable in German cinema with movies like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “The Golem.” Businessman Enrico Dieckmann and designer/painter/architect Albin Grau had big plans for their new baby brain child Prana-Film but when it came to the movie business they were out of their league, and their biggest mistake, not acquiring the rights to Dracula from Florence Stoker, would be the company’s last. 

F.W. Murnau
Directed by F.W. Murnau, the title of the film, “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror” borrows the word Bram Stoker used in the novel (though it’s claimed that the term “nosferatu” doesn’t really mean anything) as well as the basic plot. The producers must have realized somewhat the dangerous ground they tread on for some details and names were changed. The vampire is named Count Orlock and Jonathan Harker becomes Thomas Hutter sent to work on the business transaction by his employer, Knock, who as the film progresses is the one who has the Renfield-like breakdown. As in the Stoker novel, Orlok ventures to Hutter’s home town, Wisborg, Germany leaving Hutter to find a way to make his escape and follow behind. When Hutter confronts him, Orlok bites him and turns him into a vampire. He returns to his wife Ellen who, after reading The Book of Vampires her husband has brought with him, learns that only a woman pure in heart can kill a vampire. Bravely, she gives herself to the lurking vampire, detaining him until the sun is up and he is destroyed. The idea to shoot a vampire film may have come as early as 1916 when, while serving in World War I, Ablin Grau was told by a Serbian farmer that the farmer’s father was a vampire. As with the stage play and the Hollywood movie, “Nosferatu” trims down the novel while keeping the basic premise. 

Unlike the plays and later movie, it offers us a much more frightening vampire in the form of Count Orlok played by Max Schreck (whose name, ironically, means “terror” in German). Schreck’s vampire seems a cross between a bat and a rat, with large pointy ears, rat-like teeth, and claws for fingers that appear to lengthen as the film continues on. The vampire was like the sets, stark with sharp angles and shadows. The use of shadows is particularly impressive, especially toward the end of the film when the shadow of the vampire’s hand runs along Ellen’s body and closes over her heart. The film also offers a much more exciting scene of the ship voyage as Orlok emerges from below deck to kill the crew one by one. 

Max Schrek as Count Orlok
The film premiered at the Berlin Zoo March 4, 1922 to good reviews. Florence Stoker, however, was not impressed. In fact, she was furious. Joining the Society of Authors, she hoped the organization could help her gain some money in her case of copyright infringement against Prana Films. Unfortunately by June of 1922, Prana was close to liquidation, having been driven into receivership by bad debts. The case would drag on for years. If Prana-Films could not offer money for their copyright infringement, then she would accept having the film destroyed. But success was tied up in Prana-Film’s own legal battles and the cost that would be incurred should the Society have to pursue the receiver not only in Germany but every country where he might attempt to sell “Nosferatu.” 

Count Orlok heads to the door of another victim.
Realizing that obtaining money for their copyright infringement would be next to impossible, Florence, after winning appeal after appeal, insisted instead that the copies of the film be destroyed. It was around this time that the stage rights had been sold to Hamilton Deane and the last thing she wanted was this German atrocity gumming up the works. On July 20, 1925 the final judgment was that the prints and negative would be destroyed. As she was to discover, however, there was no real way to ascertain if all the prints and negatives had indeed been destroyed. To her horror, that October, she received a brochure from a new organization The Film Society which would be screening films in the manner of private clubs. Among the titles was “Dracula” by F.W. Murnau. After some investigation it was discovered that when an importer couldn’t find a theater in London to show the movie (it was deemed too horrible), it was offered instead to the Society. Further investigation was unable to discover the actual person who held the copies of the film. 

Eventually “Nosferatu” would surface in America in 1929 but at this point, Florence had bigger fish to fry and was counseled to let the hunt for “Nosferatu” end so as not to negatively influence her negotiations for the Hollywood version of Dracula. In fact, the owner of the print was eventually tracked down and the print purchased for $400 by Universal whose creative people intended to gut it for all it was worth for their movie. It is a lucky thing for film history that Florence Stoker’s raging insistence that the film be totally destroyed was never carried out completely. The film remains an important part of the vampire story on film.

Count Orlok disintegrates in the morning sun. It's believed that this made popular the notion that sunlight is fatal to vampires.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dracula: The House of the Monsters

Entry six in the Dracula chapter I used for the proposal of Vampires' Most Wanted. The tale of Universal Studios is a fascinating one, more so than I could go into this entry. But the movie studio created some of the most enduring movie monsters ever. And were it not for their willingness to take a chance on a film adaptation of Dracula, the character's popularity might never have become what it is.

6. The Studio

Carl Laemmle, Sr.
Were it not for nickelodeons, Dracula may never have risen. In 1905, A German Jewish immigrant by the name of Carl Laemmle noted the popularity of nickelodeons while on a buying trip to Chicago. For the cost of a nickel, a person could stand at a console and watch a short silent movie played out on a screen the size of a small television. Instantly struck by the hold film had over people, he purchased several nickelodeons and when The Edison-backed Motion Picture Trust decided to start charging fees for any of the productions that ran in the machines, Laemmle and a group of others decided to start producing their own product. From there, he merged his Independent Moving Pictures Company with eight other companies and formed the Universal Film Manufacturing Company (which was later incorporated as Universal Pictures Company, Inc. in 1925). 

The beginnings of Universal Studios
In 1915 he converted a farm near Hollywood to what was the world’s largest movie studio. When it came to the movie business, Laemmle danced to his own tune. Unlike his competitors, he did not risk his money on opening a theater chain and preferred to finance all his own films rather than take on debt. He also opened up his studio to tourists, creating a chemistry with the audience who flocked to the studio’s inexpensive westerns, romances and serials. It was for a decade, the largest studio in Hollywood and found in Lon Chaney, box office gold with his horror movies “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923) and “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925). 

Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Why then, would Carl Laemmle balk at producing further horror movies to feed the bank account? He was originally against the purchase of the rights to Dracula. Later, when discussing “Frankenstein,” he would claim that he didn’t believe in the morbid genre. People didn’t want to see that sort of thing. But he felt compelled to go with it since, “Junior wanted it.” In 1928, as a 21st birthday present, Carl, Sr., handed over the studio to his son Carl, Jr., making him president of Universal. Carl, Jr. saw the potential of both talkies and the horror genre. The Great Depression hit the nation hard and monster movies connected with need of movie-goers for escapism which was growing as bank accounts were dwindling. 

Frankenstein's Monster
The Wolfman

The Mummy
Not all of Carl, Jr.’s ideas were healthy for the studio. His creation of a theater chain and occasional high-quality film productions proved too taxing financially for a studio that, like the others, was struggling to stay afloat in the poor fiscal climate. But his insistence that horror would prove to be a goldmine was all too right as the studio saw success with “Dracula,” the “Frankenstein” movies, “The Mummy,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Wolfman,” and decades later, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” These monsters would be horror staples for decades to come. In the past few decades, it brought us film terrors like “The Exorcist” and “Jaws” ; and sublime fantasies like “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.” Were it not for the success of that original monster mash, who knows where the studio would be today?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dracula: The Silver Screen

Entry four in my would-be chapter for my book Vampires' Most Wanted:

4. The Movie

The story of Dracula’s arrival on the silver screen is as involved as the novel itself due in large part to an uncertainty of adapting it to the screen; and the vast amount of adaptations floating around. In this tale, however, timing was everything for there was an even greater nemesis approaching that would ultimately impact the entire world. 

There were at this point two incarnations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (well, three if you count the unfortunate Morrell piece). The Hamilton Deane play was a slightly different version from the book. The Liveright production was a different version of the Deane play. Florence Stoker had managed to iron out rights over both productions, and a few in between (including that other movie to be discussed later), but she realized that should a film version be produced it would very likely rely heavily on the plays, not on her husband’s novel, leaving her rights further back in the dust. She had spent the past several years fighting for her rightful piece of the Dracula pie and was not about to let Hollywood take a taste without paying for it.

Universal studios was an early contender for the film rights, but was dragging its feet perhaps due partly to the amount of people involved. Along with Stoker there was Deane, Balderston and Liveright and it seemed that one was always threatening to sue the others, or Universal itself if an agreement was signed without their name on it. There was also the hesitation on the part of Carl Leammle, Sr. the man who started the movie studio. Horror just wasn’t his thing even though it had proven lucrative for him in the past. He had to be convinced by his son, Carl Leammle, Jr. to take on the project. At last, however, the principle players, rather than see the chance for a film slip away, agreed to a deal and the movie was green-lighted.

Conrad Veidt
The first choice to play Dracula was Conrad Veidt, a German actor whose heavy accent led him to return to Europe rather than face making a go of it in talkies. It was a concern of many a silent film star when sound came to the movies. The next choice was the “man of a thousand faces” himself, Lon Chaney who would ultimately play a vampire in the lost “London After Midnight,” but would lose his battle with throat cancer before getting the chance to play Dracula (in the 1943 movie “Son of Dracula,” his son, Lon Chaney, Jr., star of “The Wolfman,” would play the role his father had to pass up).
Lon Chaney as the vampire from "Vampire at Midnight"
Finally, with deal in hand, Universal hired Louis Bromfield to write the screenplay. A Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist, he was also a Broadway dramatist and was fascinated by the new style of the talking picture. What he was given to work with were two vastly different versions of the same story, each with strengths in their own right. Three stage plays (including the Morrell play) and the book. He favored the novel’s construct which would be easier filmed than it would have been staged. He also favored the idea of massive sets for Dracula’s castle and Carfax Abbey and even fancied a storyline that would meld the old, decrepit Count of the novel with the youthful Count of the New York production. Dracula would revert back to the old man during fits of hunger.

There was only one problem with putting Bromfield’s vision to print: The Great Depression, which was affecting everything nationwide including the magic of Tinseltown. It would dog every aspect of production for “Dracula” and it’s a wonder what might have been had the movie been awarded a budget larger than $355,000.

Tod Browning
Slated to direct the feature was Tod Browning, Lon Chaney’s director at Metro Goldwyn Mayer and a man who shared Chaney’s curious fascination with the grotesque (one of his most famous pictures would be the 1932 movie “Freaks” starring real side-show performers solving a murder). In his book Hollywood Gothic David J. Skal terms Browning “…a maddeningly difficult director to asses.” He had the talent, but lacked the execution of it. Browning’s drinking was legendary among his contemporaries in the industry and undoubtedly affected his work. For a man who seemed to favor the controversial, his direction of "Dracula" at times seems remarkably afraid to take chances. The movie is filled with long, static scenes that would have been better served by being interspersed with reaction shots or different angles. One shot runs nearly three minutes without a break or reaction shot that would have made it that much stronger. Dracula’s entrance is suitably spooky but his exit at the end of the film is anything less than climactic as we see Van Helsing leaning over Dracula’s coffin, the audience merely hearing the vampire’s groan as the Professor stakes him. The action cuts to Jonathan Harker helping Mina come out of the trance she was in from Dracula.

Was it Browning’s inability to get a handle on the movie that led to poor directing decisions, or rather Universal breathing down his neck to save money? It’s possible it was a bit of both. It was this cost cutting that turned Bromfield’s vision into something the much more closely resembled the plays. While the trip to Transylvania remained, the chasing of Dracula back to Transylvania was cut. Perhaps in a desire to make Renfield’s connection to the Count easier to understand, it was his character that journeyed to Castle Dracula where the Count put him under his spell. Dracula’s sea voyage to England which was supposed to show the vampire one by one wiping out the crew was reduced to stock footage of a ship sailing on the churning sea and Renfield tending the vampire’s coffin in the hold. Eventually, Dracula does come on deck, but we’re left with Lugosi gazing off camera at what must have been meant to be the crew he was about to attack. Still, this rendition did give us one of the creepiest scenes ever shot as the hold of the wrecked ship is opened the next day and Dwight Frye’s mad Renfield smiles ominously up at the camera. 

The mad Renfield guards his master's resting place
Dracula insinuates himself in the lives of Dr. Seward, his daughter Mina, her fiancé John Harker and Mina’s friend Lucy in a rather bland fashion and for no apparent reason. As in the plays, he becomes a welcomed visitor to Seward’s sanitarium until they figure out that Lucy’s death and Mina’s wasting condition can be tied to him. And Lucy as the "woman in white" was wasted as only one poorly lit scene alludes to her attacks on the young girls.

And yet, the influence this, the first talking supernatural thriller in film history had on cinema in general and the vampire genre in particular can not be discounted. Principal photography on the film was finished $14,000 under budget, which must have made the Leammles’ hearts jump for joy, as did, no doubt, eventual response to the film. The premiere was scheduled for Feb. 13, 1931 at the Roxy Theatre in New York to take advantage of Friday the 13th. When it was realized that this was the day before Valentine’s Day, they opened it Feb. 12. While not an instant smash, (it was pulled from the Roxy after eight days, grossing $112,000) the film picked up speed as it traveled across the country, eventually becoming the studio’s top money making picture of the year and vindicating Carl Leammle, Jr.’s faith in the financial potential of the horror genre and creating a few monsters all its own.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dracula: The Man Who Would Be Dracula

My editor actually wanted me to cut this entry from the book (I did manage to put it in the chapters on Scary Vampires. It was a request I couldn't honor (it's freakin' Bela Lugosi, for crying out loud). Though in some respects, the request is in keeping with the life that was Bela Lugosi's. He would touch the tiniest corner of fame, and then have it pulled away from him whether through his actions, through timing, or through circumstances.
5. The Star
The iconic look
What was it about Lugosi? Was it the regal bearing every bit the bearing of a count? Was it the strange cadence to his speech as he wrestled with words so foreign to him? Whatever it was, Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula left an indelible imprint on the film going psyche and remains the archetype for the vampire decades after his performance. It seems amazing that the studio considered several other actors for the role before at last giving it to Lugosi, the man who played it so successfully on Broadway. He wore the role like a well tailored suit though in the end, the suit would be in tatters.
A young Bela Lugosi
Born Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko Oct. 20, 1882 in Hungary (not far from Transylvania) he would eventually take as a stage name a version of his home town’s name Lugos. His father was a banker and the Blasko children were expected to enter respectable careers as well. His siblings did. He couldn’t. Perhaps he had too much of the adventurer about him. Eventually he ran away to escape his father’s ruling ways. In 1913, he joined the National Theatre Company, after finding work in the back of a chorus with the Szeged theater and plenty of manual labor before that.
He was not a timid man. In 1914 he enlisted in the army to fight in the Great War. Once, while under fire from Russians, he left the tree he was using as cover to help a wounded comrade and then returned only to find that the tree had been blown away by a mortar in his absence. After his discharge he went back to the National Theatre Company and was eventually talked into Hungarian cinema by a friend. It was around this time that he became very political, trying to create a National Trade Union of Actors among theater and cinema actors; as well as writing politically orientated articles for trade journals. Decades later, he would be instrumental in forming such a union in Hollywood, though then, he did so anonymously perhaps remembering the turbulent time in Hungary. He backed the wrong horse politically and when Bela Kun’s communist regime fell, Lugosi was one of the many people fleeing from the wrath of the new government. He fled to Vienna and eventually to Germany where he found work in cinema there. In a curious coincidence, one of the people he found work with was F.W. Murnau, director of that other movie. Eventually, however, he found himself drawn to the United States and landed in New Orleans after an uncertain voyage across the ocean on a ship where the crew wasn’t exactly fond of his politics. He found his way to New York, immersed himself in the Hungarian community, and eventually found his way on the stage.
Aspiring star
His uncertainty with the English language has been given as one reason for his inability to find work. And it’s true that in the beginning he had to learn his part phonetically. But while he wasn’t a formally educated man, he was self-educated; a voracious reader who craved knowledge, perusing several periodicals daily, Hungarian and English. And he even sculpted the likeness of his own head that would appear in the 1932 play “Murdered Alive” that he starred in.
It’s possible that he would have had a more successful career had he stayed and made films in Germany. In Europe, as he explained once, an actor was expected to play a variety of rolls and play them well. In the U.S., the audience wanted to see the same thing over and over. He often bemoaned his reputation as a bogeyman, but it paid the bills.
Dracula's hungry
Dracula was a part that he lobbied for hard when the movie was being planned, even going so far as to contact Florence Stoker to help obtain the rights (his lobbying would eventually work against him with Universal executives who smelled his desperation and weren’t afraid to play off it). One can understand; he did after all perfect it on Broadway. The very traits that made him perfect for the role of Dracula, however, may have spoiled for him others. The distinct features, the mesmerizing stare, the thick accent; once that was associated with Dracula it was hard for audiences to see him for anything other than Dracula, or the characters of horror he would be compelled by financial need to return to throughout his life. Perhaps if the follow up movie he made to Dracula had been better, he might have been able to deter the typecasting. “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” based loosely on the Edgar Allen Poe tale, was given to director Robert Florey who had been scheduled to direct “Frankenstein” before it was given to James Whale. Lugosi played Dr. Mirakle, a mad scientist using virgins in an attempt to create a creature that he could breed with his ape Erik. While Lugosi’s performance was suitably unnerving, the movie itself left much to be desired thanks to some injudicious cutting.
After that he would be plagued by having to compromise, as he did when having to take $500 a week to star in Dracula. Money did not sit comfortably in Lugosi’s pocket. He was very much a man who lived for today and was also guilty of giving away money to people who needed it. Yet, fortune seemed always against him. He worked for a studio that changed hands in 1936 and the new owners were only interested in what they could get from his decreasing king of horror image. As his money troubles deepened, Universal would continue to take advantage of him and he would often work in outside, low budget productions that cemented his image further. When given something to sink his teeth into, he was perfectly up to the task as he did in the small budget “White Zombies.” 
(L to R) Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
In his movies with Boris Karloff he was more than capable of holding his own and the common belief is that he stole the movie from him when he appeared as Ygor in “Son of Frankenstein” a role that was originally much smaller but grew as filming went on. Later he would play a notable yet small role in the Greta Garbo film “Ninotchka” which the actor hoped would prove that he could play something other than horror.
His worsening finances though left him taking whatever roles that he could. He was an actor after all, this was his craft. But he had been a star, and that’s what people were seeing; a fading star, taking whatever roles would pay the bills. And very often, they didn’t. In 1936 a ban on horror movies in Britain encouraged Universal to take them off their shooting schedule, leaving even less productions that would be open to Lugosi. When Bela Lugosi, Jr. was born in 1938, with no work coming in, Lugosi was left turning to Actor’s Relief to help pay the hospital bills. When a re-issuing to theaters of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” resuscitated the horror market, the five-year deal he inked with Universal allowed him to buy back his beloved dogs after poor finances forced him to give them away. It brought him films, like “Ninotchka” but horror crept back in “Ghost of Frankenstein” where he reprised his role of Ygor to Lon Chaney, Jr.’s monster (Karloff had give up the role by this time); and in “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” he donned the make-up he refused over a decade before and at last played the Monster.
Abbott and Costello meet Universal Studio's big three monsters
Throughout his career, he spoke hopefully of making the transition to other roles but that reality seemed to slip further away from him. Back on the stage he saw some success replacing Karloff in the play “Arsenic and Old Lace” (many say his performance was better than Karloff’s). He reprised the role of Dracula in the film “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” a film and his performance that was well received with critics and audiences. As the years went by, however, his body of work seemed heavy with forgettable movies like “Scared to Death,” “Mother Riley Meets the Vampire” (a film he agreed to do to collect passage fare back from England) and “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla.” It was in the 1950s that he met Ed Wood, a huge fan of Lugosi’s who tried to help him launch his career in earnest but poorly made films that Wood directed. It didn’t help.
In 1955, Lugosi entered rehab for a drug addiction that started during his days with Universal. Divorced from his fourth wife, he was living in an apartment and relying on the charity of friends to get him through. Upon leaving rehab three months later, he spoke glowingly of his plans to star in “The Ghoul Goes West” to be directed by Ed Wood. And in an effort to help people appreciate the danger of drug addiction, he starred in “The Devil’s Paradise,” a show that ran in a little theater in Hollywood. The “Ghoul” film never saw the light of day and on Aug. 16, 1956, he was found dead by his fifth wife. Lugosi made what he could with his career and the chances he was given. In the end, that might be all that anyone can say about their life.

Dracula: The Tangled Web Woven

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

Florence Stoker
With her husband dead, Florence Stoker was left to safeguard his most famous creation, not only for his memory, but for her livelihood. It was, after all, the only real legacy that he’d been able to leave her and as more and more interest began to be shown in Dracula, especially when it came to the stage, Florence began to realize the true worth of that legacy. It had always been Stoker’s hope to bring his creation from the pages of a novel to the stage of the Lyceum Theatre. After publication, and to protect the copyright of a stage version, he arranged a reading of his play “Dracula: or The Undead A Play in a Prologue and Five Acts” at the Lyceum, in front of a small contingent of actors and friends. Irving, who Stoker had hoped would play the vampire, was hardly impressed and after the reading simply pronounced it “Dreadful!” Irving was more than likely thinking not of the success of the play as a whole, but rather of the small amount of stage time he as Dracula would end up having were he to agree to the role. This might have been when the first cracks of the rift between Stoker and Irving would begin to form. To be fair to Irving, however, the reading did take four hours, quite possibly because the author, too close to the material, would have a hard time making the edits needed to trim the novel down.

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.
It is with this production that the archetypal image of Dracula emerges. Hardly the uncouth, old man that Harker first meets in the novel; the Dracula of the stage looks dapper in evening dress and opera cape. This of course serves the medium better since the Dracula of the play is better able to interact in scenes with the other players as opposed to existing on the boundaries of the story as he does in the novel. The treatment apparently satisfied Florence Stoker who gave Deane license to produce the play. Edmund Blake was the first actor to play Dracula while Deane himself chose the role of Van Helsing. Staged in Wimbledon in 1925 the play was an instant success and soon Deane was besieged with offers to bring it to London, though he preferred to take it on the road, the role of Count Dracula now played by Raymond Huntley who, at the time, was 22 but made up to look much older. The cape was part of the company property, but the actor was expected to provide his own evening clothes. The stand-up collar which has become so associated with the character originated as a way to camouflage the actor’s head as he stood with his back to the audience. In this position, he was able to appear to disappear by slipping out of the cape and down a trapdoor. 

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.

Horace Liveright
Liveright was a New York theatrical entrepreneur famous as much for the eccentricities of his personal life as for his productions. He lived large, took risks and was willing to take a risk on this curious phenomenon of the English stage if it could be adapted to better suit American audiences. The structure was good, but Deane’s dialogue left much to be desired. He turned to John L. Balderston not only to write the American adaptation, but to convince the widow Stoker to part with the rights for an American production. Having met Liveright once, the proper Florence Stoker was decidedly put off by the air of scandal that he wore so casually but she was becoming an old hand at this copyright nonsense and the sort of money they spoke of, thousands of American dollars, would definitely keep her comfortable in her old age. Balderston would streamline the play even further, cleaning up awkward or heavy lines. Raymond Huntley was offered the part in the Broadway version but turned it down when Liveright wouldn’t meet his salary demands. The part then went to an unknown Hungarian actor named Bela Lugosi who brought to the role a charismatic sensuality that was missing in the English productions. 

Bela Lugosi displaying the immortal image of Dracula

The Broadway production boasted a better budget for elaborate effects and sets and in this production the vampire could actually smash the mirror with the vase. The play opened Oct. 5, 1927 at the Fulton Theatre a success to critics and audiences alike. Unlike Deane, who preferred touring with his play, Liveright was nervous about touring with his production. When the receipts began to slow for the New York production, Liveright at last agreed to subcontract the West Coast rights to O.D. Woodward and after the play closed in New York after 33 weeks, Lugosi headed west with that company. Playing ten weeks in LA and San Francisco, it proved to be as lucrative a property as it was in the east. Soon, Liveright, along with Louis Cline, mounted a tour of the eastern seaboard and the Midwest which starred Raymond Huntley who had obviously reconsidered his decision not to join the New York production. It would seem Dracula fever had swept the nation. The only place to go now was the silver-screen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dracula the King Part II

Continuing the chapter I submitted in my proposal for my book Vampires' Most Wanted years ago, I offer an entry on the author himself, Bram Stoker. 

2.  The Author

Bram Stoker
He seemed a perfectly respectable man. A pillar of society, one might even say. Unlike masters of horror such as Edgar Allan Poe whose personal demons were evident in his photographs and his deeds; Bram Stoker’s demons, if he had any, were hidden in the cloak of Victorian respectability. That there may have been demons seems apparent at least in Stoker’s writings which were full of any number of horrors from blood sucking vampires, to demonic cats, to psychopathic children. That last example was from a book of fairy tales actually published for children called Under the Sunset.

Stoker was born Nov. 8, 1847 in Dublin, Ireland and was no doubt subjected to a number of superstitious tales concocted by the Celtic heart. In fact, he was probably influenced heavily by stories of the terrible cholera epidemic that gripped the country in 1832 where whole families were wiped out by the plague. His mother Charlotte told a story of a traveler who fell to the plague on the road outside of town. Digging a pit, the townspeople pushed the still living man into it feeling that it was only a matter of time before he succumbed to the disease. This was a tale of cold reality that must have stayed with him and perhaps flavored the character of Van Helsing who could so methodically stake, then decapitate the corpse of a young woman to save her soul. Stoker suffered from a strange affliction the first eight years of his life that left him bedridden. His sudden recovery leads one to suspect that this invalidism could have been more psychological than physical. If that were the case, then perhaps his demons were capable of manifesting themselves.

By the time he entered university, any lingering illness had long since gone. He was described as a “red haired giant” excelling in football and track and eventually becoming the athletics champion of Trinity College. So physically fit was he that later in life he would be awarded the Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society when he jumped into the Thames to save, in vain, the life of a suicidal man. He also began to exhibit the type A personality and passion for history that would serve him well in later years, becoming president of the Philosophical Society and “auditor” of the Historical Society. With honors in science Stoker graduated from Trinity in 1871. His father Abraham was a civil servant in Dublin Castle and after graduation, Stoker found himself working as a clerk at the Castle as well.

Henry Irving performs
It was shortly after this that Stoker would meet Dracula; or more to the point, the man who was very likely the true inspiration for Dracula. Seeing Henry Irving perform in “The Rivals” and three years later, “Two Roses” sparked a passion that Stoker may have always had for the theater and began to spark his writing career as well. After Irving’s performance of “Two Roses” prompted no notices in the paper, Stoker contacted the Evening Mail demanding to know why. He was told, quite simply, that they couldn’t afford a critic. So in 1871 he became the paper’s unpaid critic. It was a busy time for the aspiring writer who, along with his civil service job, attended theater performances and wrote reviews at night, and worked on a master’s degree in mathematics at Trinity. Then there were the stories. “The Crystal Cup” his first story, a fantasy, was sold to the magazine London Society. His imagination sparked yet still chained to his desk job, in 1878 he published The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland a book detailing his experiences and thoughts on the rather dull life of a civil servant. In 1876, pleased with Stoker’s review of his performance as Hamlet, Irving arranged to have dinner with the aspiring writer and a deep friendship was formed. Over the years, they would visit each other, Stoker traveling to London, Irving to Dublin until 1878 when Irving invited Stoker to join his venture to take over The Lyceum Theatre.

The Lyceum Theatre
The theater had been around for over a hundred years prior to that, had burned down in 1830 and was rebuilt to be even larger, capable of holding 1,500 theater goers. The history of such an establishment must have called to Stoker as much as the chance to work with his great friend Henry. Yet, it would be risky. After 13 years of civil service, Stoker would be giving up a dependable job and a pension to join the uncertain world of the arts. He also had a responsibility to the beautiful Florence Anne Lemon Baclombe, whose life as the future Mrs. Stoker would also be affected by his decision. There had been a rival—somewhatfor Florence’s affections in the form of one Oscar Wilde. Seven years Wilde’s senior, Stoker had had some past acquaintance with the future writer, evening dining with Oscar’s parents occasionally who undoubtedly found more in common with the staid Stoker than they did with their own son. Florence did have some feelings for Wilde who was closer to her age but his future at the time seemed too uncertain for a woman craving stability. Eleven years her senior, Bram Stoker seemed to possess the stability that would see her safely and comfortably into old age.

If she resented Stoker’s ultimate decision to take Irving’s offer, it didn’t stop him. The couple married Dec. 4, 1878 and traveled on to Birmingham, joining Irving less than a week later. As acting manager of the Lyceum, Stoker had his hands full, especially since the fledgling company had no real capital, a personal overdraft of 12,000 pounds and Irving’s desire to have everything new, costing in excess of 10,000 pounds. The theater was beneficial to Stoker both financially and spiritually offering him a chance to put not only his mathematical mind to good use, but also his imagination. Promotion was a big part of his duties and he publicized upcoming productions with vast advertising. He worked incessantly, writing hundreds of letters a day in Irving’s name, along with the speeches the great actor was deliver to outside organizations.

In 1878 Irving Noel Thornley Stoker was born to the couple, but as absent a husband he was, he also turned out to be equally as absent a father. A day’s work at the Lyceum could last well into dawn the next morning. Some blame for this has been said to rest on the lovely shoulders of Florence Stoker, who it was claimed was a very frigid woman unable to even scrape up much maternal interest in her son. Still, one has to wonder if Florence simply found it far too difficult to compete with the likes of Henry Irving and the Lyceum Theatre crowd for her husband’s affections. For over two decades, Irving had a hold over Stoker that couldn’t be broken. One which even Stoker himself might have realized and acknowledged in the character of Dracula. 

In 1882, Under the Sunset was published and well received by critics. Kept busy with a few annual Lyceum Theatre company tours of the United States (where he was also able to meet some of the top names in theater and literary circles of the time such as Ethel Barrymore, Arthur Conan Doyle and Alfred Lord Tennyson, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain), Stoker at last published his first novel, Snake’s Pass in 1890. Stoker’s drive and passion helped him with the incredible work schedule he insisted on keeping, but did cause his writing to suffer since it left him little time for rewriting. Later novels, written in desperate need of cash, would suffer from this as well. With Dracula, he took his time and got it right. The majority of his research for the novel was done at the British Museum. Having holidayed with his family in Whitby, a fishing village and seaside resort on the North Sea of England, he was heavily influenced by the stone abbey found there. Whitby must appear in the novel, but the source of the evil would emanate from Transylvania where vampire folktales and superstitions ran rampant.

Dracula was published in 1897 to mixed reviews, some, perhaps put off by what has ultimately made it so unique—the story told in letters and journals—for making it seem somehow disjointed. It was not an immediate hit, its success building slowly over time until by 1901 it was translated into a number of languages such as French and German. There were bright spots: accompanying the Lyceum Company on yet another tour to the U.S. in 1899, the American press quickly acknowledged their amazement that the author of Dracula was a business manager.

The business manager, however, was finding life becoming increasingly difficult. To keep up with Florence’s desire for middle class respectability, there was no way they could afford to live on his royalties as a writer, so he was forced to remain with the Lyceum Theatre. Things were beginning to sour, however, as Irving’s grand style and expensive tastes began to catch up with the theater’s coffers and Stoker was left fending off the creditors. After a serious bout of pleurisy and pneumonia left him unable to perform for several weeks, Irving sold the Lyceum Theatre agreeing to stay on as actor-manager. Not being consulted first, Stoker felt betrayed and while he stayed on with the theater, this drove a stake in what had been the closest of friendships.

Later novels would follow into the 20th century, some horror, some romance. He wrote often of young women defying convention, as Mina Harker did in her small way in Dracula. He wrote about mummies, werewolves, giant white worms, and revisited the vampiric theme in Dracula’s Daughter, Dracula’s Guest and other Weird Stories and The Lady in the Shroud, but none would gain the success or the influence that Dracula did. In 1905, after a performance of Becket at a London Theater, Henry Irving collapsed and died in the lobby of his hotel. Stricken by the loss, it was up to Stoker to send out the missives that the great actor was dead. Mourned by the country, Irving’s ashes were buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Marker in Westminster Abbey
The name of Bram Stoker was noticeably absent from the actor’s will. 

For decades, the hearty “red haired giant” had worked himself incessantly, enjoying the highest of opportunities and suffering the lowest of disappointments. In his 57th year, it seemed as if his constitution had finally begun to wane. A year after Irving’s death, the man who would take long rambling walks was left partially crippled by a stroke that also affected his eyesight. This did not stop him from writing Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, a memoir of his time with the great actor that was published in 1906. Perhaps unable to express his own misgivings of the negative side of Irving (though those misgivings could have already been expressed in Dracula), Stoker’s work was more a star-struck salute than a deep insight into the complicated relationship between the two men. Curiously, in 1908, in articles he wrote for Nineteenth Century Magazine, Stoker wrote out against the raciness of many novels then being published, perhaps truly never realizing the sexual subtext that ran like blood through the veins of his greatest work. It seemed, with the work load he shouldered, so much of his creativity was almost instinctual, flowing from imagination to paper without a second thought.

On April 20, 1912 Bram Stoker, living off the largess of friends and a grant from the Royal Literary Fund a year before, threw off this mortal coil, dying in the small London apartment that he and Florence were forced to move. He published several books, but would be remembered not for the other novels or for his prolific output, but rather for the one character that perhaps haunted him in his final years. Dracula.

The ashes of Stoker and his son in an urn on display at Golders Green Crematorium