The road trip all began, as most of them do, with a theme. The plan was to visit many of the sites where the renowned actor, Bela Lugosi, may have set foot. Research was studied, maps were gathered, and four Arizona Bela Lugosi fans headed out to Hollywood on their very own Bela Tour.
Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) was a Hungarian-American actor famous for portraying Count Dracula in the original 1931 film and for his roles in many other horror films. He immigrated to the United States in 1921. He appeared as Count Dracula in a 1927 Broadway adaption of Bram Stoker’s novel, and was talent-scouted as a character for the new talkies filming in Hollywood. This led to appearing in the classic 1931 Dracula talkie filmed by Universal Pictures. His movie career consisted mostly of horror roles throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s.
Bela had several wives as well as several Hollywood homes and residences. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956 while reclining on a sofa in his Los Angeles home. He was 73 years old. Lugosi was buried wearing one of his Dracula cape costumes and buried on a hillside in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. His grave stone is a flat, simple display.
They say that Bela Lugosi’s funeral procession was hijacked by Bela himself. After the coffin was loaded on the hearse to begin its journey to Holy Cross Cemetery, the driver (for no apparent reason) made an illegal left turn and followed a route that Lugosi often took in life. Toward the end of his life, Bela would often take long walks along Hollywood Boulevard, often stopping to purchase his beloved cigars. During the funeral procession the driver temporarily lost control of the vehicle and swerved toward Hollywood and Vine–perhaps Bela’s ghost was hoping to stop for one last cigar.
The hunt for Bela Lugosi began with visiting one of his Hollywood Hills residences. Cindy’s late uncle later purchased the home which was filled with many of Lugosi’s personal items. She spoke of visiting her uncle as a young girl and climbing into one of Bela Lugosi’s coffins that remained in the house. Her uncle collected many pieces of furniture and props that belonged to Bela Lugosi. The group was lucky to find the gate opened for a few quick photos.
They also passed by the small apartment on Harold Way in the Los Angeles vicinity where Bela spent his final days. Our “Dearly Departed Tour” guide paused for a few moments (of silence) so we could photograph his last residence.
Hollywood Boulevard was one of Bela Lugosi’s favorite stomping grounds. It was there where he stopped to buy cigars or a newspaper each day, and the gals on the Bela Tour speculated he met and joined his Hollywood film cronies at the grand Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where they spent the night. The gals had dinner at Musso and Frank Grill–another location where he may have met friends and associates for dinner. There are no photos or proof he dined in the 1919 restaurant, but the owners stated that all the big names in the film industry used to have dinner there. Photographs were not allowed to assure the patrons privacy.
A stroll down Hollywood Boulevard will take you past shops with Bela Lugosi movie posters, wax museums with Bela Lugosi in full Dracula costume and cape, and you can easily find his Hollywood Star at 6340 Hollywood Boulevard.
The Bela Tour took us further south for a night on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. It is said Bela Lugosi sailed on the Queen Mary from New York City in March of 1939 on his way to London to star in Edgar Wallace’s “Dark Eyes of London.” Bela would wander around the promenade deck looking for someone to frighten. He admitted on shipboard that little children would shriek at the sound of his name.
The Bela Lugosi tour ended with a visit to Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California and a profound stop at his grave site. It seems that Lugosi spoke for his own personal legacy as well as for his character each time he looked into the camera and pronounced the famous immortal line, “I am Dracula!”
Be sure and view the slideshow and video on this stories page!