In addition to Lugosi, the actors who appeared in “Dracula” were Helen Chandler (as Mina), David Manners (as John Harker), Dwight Frye (as Renfield), Edward Van Sloan (as Van Helsing) and an uncredited cameo by Carla Laemmle (as a stagecoach passenger, who said the first lines of dialogue in the film). She was the niece of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle.
The landmark 1931 film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel was directed by Tod Browning. Karl Freund was the cinematographer for Browning’s film. After his work in cinema, Freund would help design the pioneering 35mm three-camera setup for television (with three simultaneous 35mm cameras) in the early 1950s, working with Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s production company, Desilu (for the couple’s 1951-57 groundbreaking sitcom, “I Love Lucy”).
Lugosi was not the first choice to play “Dracula” in Browning’s film adaptation
According to Turner Classic Movies’ article on the 1931 adaptation of “Dracula,” Bela Lugosi was not the studio’s first choice to play the title role of Count Dracula. Other actors were considered when Universal and competing studios were bidding for the screen rights to the novel, including Lon Chaney Sr. (who died in 1930) and Paul Muni.
Lugosi played Count Dracula in a Broadway stage adaptation of Stoker’s novel, beginning in 1927 (along with a successful country-wide tour from 1928-29). With his experience of playing Count Dracula on stage, Lugosi lobbied Universal executives to let him play the title role in Browning’s film adaptation.
In addition to playing the title role in the 1931 film adaptation, Lugosi wouldn’t portray Count Dracula until 1948, when he made his second (and final) appearance as the count in Universal’s monster farce, “Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein” (in addition to Abbott, Costello and Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr. played Lawrence Talbot/The “Wolf Man” and Glenn Strange played Frankenstein’s monster).
“Drácula:” Universal’s Spanish-Language Version
The studio also filmed a Spanish-language version of “Drácula,” with Carlos Villarías as Count Dracula and Lupita Tovar as Eva Seward. Directed by George Melford with assistant director Enrique Tovar Ávalos (Ávalos was not credited), filming for Universal’s “Drácula” would take place in the evening after scenes for Browning’s version were completed during the day. Universal and other studios would make Spanish-language versions of their key releases before the advent of dubbing.
The same sets from Browning’s version were also utilized in Melford’s Spanish-language version. According to András Lénárt’s essay for the Library of Congress on Melford’s “Drácula,” the film was known to have more gruesome scenes and was 30 minutes longer than Browning’s “Dracula.”
Watch Svengoolie’s showcase of “Dracula” (1931) this Sat. on Me-TV!
If you’ve seen the 1931 version of “Dracula” before, you are in for an absolute treat! To those who have never seen the 1931 version of “Dracula,” I highly recommend watching Svengoolie’s presentation this Sat. of the celebrated Universal Studios horror adaptation. With Karl Freund’s cinematography, Browning’s direction and Lugosi’s role of Count Dracula, you will not want to miss Svengoolie’s showcase of “Dracula” (1931)!
Sat., March 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central on Me-TV
In the Frederick, Maryland/Washington area: WJLA-TV 7.2/Comcast 204
In the Baltimore, Maryland area: WBAL-TV 11.2/Cable 208 (“Svengoolie” is time-delayed due to TV-11’s 10 p.m. newscast on their Me-TV subchannel)
“Dracula” (1931) is also available on DVD, Blu-Ray disc (with the 1931 Spanish-language version and the re-orchestrated Philip Glass/Kronos Quartet soundtrack edition) and Digital HD from Universal Studios. The film is also in Universal’s “Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection” DVD box set.