Bat Wings Over London
On April 16th, 1951, in a banquet room above a pub in Pont Street, South Kensington, London, Dracula had come home to roost…
Bela Lugosi was rehearsing his British tour, getting ready to make an appearance across the dying music halls of Bram Stoker’s homeland, from the Golders Green Hippodrome to the Alma Theatre, Luton. He had arrived in Southampton aboard the SS Mauritania, and immediately struck the rather sad pose he was doomed to repeat until the end of his life.
He was 63 now and had been playing in the vampire business on and off for 16 years. “Horror is my business – I find it pays off best,” he told reporters with the air of a company director. In his off-horror moments Mr. Lugosi looked after his stamp collection, took the dogs for a walk and smoked nine cigars a day.
He added that it was his greatest ambition to play Dracula in the West End, and as he fingered a huge copy of the original Count Dracula ring he praised the Brighton production of Bram Stoker’s thriller. “We are playing it perfectly straight and it has been modernised since I played it on the American stage,” he explained.
Sandwiched between ice shows and operettas, Lugosi schlepped around the country with his warhorse giving interviews by the dozen. His tour is outlined in exhaustive detail here. It seems that even now the UK gets the actors on their beam-ends – Mickey Rooney has been starring here in panto for the last few Christmasses.
Thanks to Johnny Mains for the heads up.