Thursday, August 17, 2006

AUGUST 16, 1956: BELA LUGOSI'S DEAD



Do yourself a favor— visit Tom Sutpen’s If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger… right now for a sublime, eloquent, strange and quite moving visual series on Bela Lugosi, whose death 50 years ago yesterday is commemorated by Tom’s Wednesday posts:

”Fifty years ago today, Hungary's most invaluable export to American culture... surrendered the last measure of his health; passing away after decades of steady dissolution and the rigors of his own rather weighty theatricality. If he was fated to be Hollywood's answer to DeSica's Umberto Domenico Ferrari, then he at least refused to go quietly, thereby instilling a ray of hope into those similarly dispossessed. For that, and much else, we here at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . . wish to remember Bela Lugosi as fondly as America's film industry wanted to forget him.”

UPDATE 8/17/06 2:56 p.m.: Chris Oliver thankfully reminds me and everyone that tomorrow is Bela Lugosi Day on Turner Classic Movies-- 17 films in all, including Tod Browning's Mark of the Vampire and Erle C. Kenton's magnificently unsettling Island of Lost Souls. To find out the entire schedule, click the link above or, if you don't want to move your mouse quite that far, here.

7 comments:

Chris Oliver said...

Tomorrow is Lugosi day on TCM! 18 Lugosi films shown throughout the day!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Chris, again, my bad! Thank you for reminding me and everyone. Be sure to look out for a fairly rare (at least it seems so to me) screening of Lugosi and Charles Laughton in a spectacularly eerie adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau entitled Island of Lost Souls (1933), directed by Erle C. Kenton, who would later direct Lon Chaney in Universal's The Wolfman. This movie is a real treasure, and contains Lugosi's agonizing cry-- "Are we not men?" at its very unsettling conclusion. Island of Lost Souls runs tomorrow on TCM at 9:30 pm EST/6:30 pm PST.

blaaagh said...

Nice 50-years-hence obituary, Dennis! Good ol' Bela...and I appreciate the tip about TCM's Lugosi Day. I probably would have found out anyway, since I'm obsessed with that channel, but still.

Richard Gibson said...

Film Four (British free view/cable channel) last night showed 'The Wolf Man', repeating today at 15.00.

Tom Sutpen said...

I am very glad TCM decided to run Mervyn LeRoy's Broadminded as part of their Lugosi-fest. Not only it is one of those great pieces of lowdown smut Warners/First National turned out so beautifully in those years (and a joy to behold in any season), but it demonstrates that Lugosi had an extraordinary, if baldly theatrical, comedic side to his talent that I don't believe ever got that kind of exposure thereafter. Even though about half the pictures he made were comedies of one kind or another, I maintain that if he'd made more of an impact with that performance and less of an impact in Browning's Dracula, he might have had a very different career (not too different from John Barrymore or Timothy Carey) playing luminous comic madmen, not reatiling Vampires for dispirited Poverty Row chuckles.

Of course, the downside is that he'd never have made pictures like The Return of Chandu, but, as in all things, you have to take the bad with the good.

And . . . on behalf of Messrs. Cooke, Gibson and myself (no less than anyone), I want to thank you for highlighting our Lugosi offering (and, on behalf of me, for plugging my modest contribution to Jim Emerson's Opening Shots project). We thank thee!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

My pleasure, Tom. And thanks for the thoughts on Lugosi's career, and Broadminded in particular. I've been on the lookout for "great pieces of lowdown smut" ever since Brian Darr's wonderful series on the pre-Code festival several months ago at his site, Hell On Frisco Bay, and this sounds like a great one! I hope I haven't missed it today already!

TOR Hershman said...

Thanks for the "Tom Sutpen’s If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger"
heads-up.

Stay on Groovin' Safari,
TOR