Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bela Lugosi: "They won’t all be children scarers," 1939

(Editor's note: THE MORGUE is a feature that usually runs on Sundays here at The Collinsport Historical Society. But this interview with Bela Lugosi from 1939 was just too good to sit on until the weekend. The text is presented here exactly how it was printed, complete with archaic punctuation, the incorrectly spelled "Igor," etc. There's also a bit of unintentional sadness in the conversation because of the dark turns his later life would take. But let's not dwell on that, 'kay?)

Broadway Newsreel by Hy Gardner
April 5, 1939

(In which Columnist Bela Lugosi outscares Bogey Man Gardner)

Bela Lugosi and Hy Gardner
LUGOSI: You know, you remind me an awful lot of Eddie Cantor …

GARDNER:  Except for s slight difference.

LUGOSI: What’s the difference?

GARDNER: About $260,000 a year and five daughters.

LUGOSI:  Have a cigar, Mr. Gardner. My cigars have no nicotine in them. The doctor says nicotine makes you nervous …

GARDNER:  Fine thing. You worried about getting nervous … And after the shivers you’ve give 130,000,000 Americans, too. Tell me, if you don’t mind my asking the questions, when you were a little boy were you afraid to sleep alone in the dark?

LUGOSI: That’s the first time anybody ever asked me that question. I never had a chance to be scared when I went to sleep because I came from a poor Hungarian family and there were too many of us in the house to be alone or to be frightened. BUT I found out that I was afraid to be alone when I first went to Hollywood.

GARDNER:  In other words, you didn’t agree with Greta Garbo’s policy of being alone?

LUGOSI:  I don’t know about Greta, but I do know that I moved into a very large house all by myself and thought I have a couple working for me they lived in a different wing of the home. And when I went to bed at night I never could fall asleep — It was so dreary and never-wracking. I’d read and read and read until the coming of the dawn. That seemed a little friendlier. 

GARDNER:  Well, when did you finally get over it?

LUGOSI:  I got over it when I married my first wife.

GARDNER:  What do you mean your “first wife?”

LUGOSI: I’ve been married four times.

GARDNER:  Don’t tell me that Tommy Manville’s been making those Dracula pictures!

LUGOSI: No, the name is still Lugosi. I got married the first time because I was lonesome and I needed companionship and I got it for two years.
Bela Lugosi concocts a Dracula' Cocktail for actress Majorie Weaver in New York City, 1940.
GARDNER: What about your second wife?

LUGOSI:  I was married to her for 14 days, and before you go any further let me tell you that that was a long time compared to the duration of my third marriage.

GARDNER:  Well, how long — or how  short a time did that last?

LUGOSI:  Exactly three days …

GARDNER:  In other words, you’ll almost be a Broadway columnist as long as you were married to your third wife. Would you call her a guest wife?

LUGOSI: I don’t know what you’d call her, but I think that marriage is like everything else. It’s a matter of a good break, and I finally found a woman six years ago who is a mother, a goddess, a watchdog, a secretary and a wife all combined. She was Lillian Arch before she became Mrs. Lugosi, and we’re now on our seventh year together.

GARDNER:  That would seem to indicate that “4” is par on your matrimonial course, huh?

LUGOSI: “Pa” is right … I became a daddy 14 months ago and I’ve never been happier.

GARDNER:  I understand that Boris Karloff had a baby girl about the same time.

LUGOSI: Yes, he did. We often get together and talk about when our children grow up and how nice it would be if they fell in love with each other.

GARDNER:  That would be a fine romance … The son and daughter of two bogey men.

Lugosi as "Ygor" in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, 1939.

LUGOSI:  Talking about my son — If you saw the picture “Son of Frankenstein” you will remember I was Igor, the fellow who was hung for murder but who lived with a broken neck. The part was difficult and I had to keep my neck and shoulder in a vice for so long that for six weeks after the picture was finished I still walked around with my head and shoulders bent to the left. Lillian made me stay away from our little boy for a while because he began walking round-shouldered too — she thought he might think that was the proper way to walk.

GARDNER: What do most people say to you when they meet you?

LUGOSI:  Most people are very nice and I think that just as many of them that say “hello” also say “Come now, Bela, scare us.” Nevertheless, they look upon my parts of Dracula and Igor just as characters and don’t confuse it with my own personality.

GARDNER:  What clubs do you visit when you are in New York?

LUGOSI:  I don’t go to clubs very often. My favorite place is Zimmerman’s Budapest … I love to sit and eat Hungarian food and I could listen to Hungarian music all night.

L. Zimmerman Budapest Restaurant was located at 117 W. 48th St. in New York City.
GARDNER: Can you play any instrument?

LUGOSI: I can play the piano a little.

GARDNER: Do you think you’ll ever get a chance to play the piano in a picture?

LUGOSI: I don’t know. That’s up to Universal. I just signed a contract to make eight pictures for them and they promised they won’t all be children scarers.

GARDNER:  I understand you’re going to England. What are you doing there?

LUGOSI: I’m just going there for a trip — to make a picture out of Edgar Wallace’s story, “The Dark Eyes of London” … I should be back here on April 21.
GARDNER: You came from Hungary. Are you a citizen of the United States.

LUGOSI: Yes, thank God … I’ve lived here for 20 years and I have been a citizen for 10 years. I hope I am a good one. I know I don’t take it for granted. I feel I am an awfully lucky person to be an American and I think that every naturalized American and every person born in this land should kneel on his knees every morning and utter a prayer for being an American.

GARDNER:  That’s one of the most potent punch lines any column ever had — so thanks, Dracula, for a happy ending …

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