After the death of the silent star, Lon Chaney, The King of Horror crown was up for grabs. It was Universal Studios contract actor Boris Karloff who inherited Chaney’s mantle, and reigned supreme as horror’s newly crowned King.
Karloff was not the studio’s first pretender to Chaney’s throne. Bela Lugosi starred as the screen’s greatest vampire in Tod Browning‘s Dracula, released at the beginning of 1931, nearly a year before Karloff’s star-making performance in James Whale‘s Frankenstein (also 1931). With the premiere of Karloff’s monster, Lugosi and his vampire alter-ego were usurped. Lugosi liked to tell the tale of how he turned down the role of Frankenstein’s monster, thus “giving” Karloff his career-making role. It is merely a story. Lugosi was not wanted by either the new director (James Whale, replacing Robert Florey) or producer (Carl Laemmle, Jr.). Lugosi’s career and life quickly deteriorated, catapulting the Hungarian actor into parody, abject poverty, drug addiction, and pathos. In 1956 Lugosi was buried in his vampire’s cloak, forever merging actor and role.
In sharp contrast, Karloff celebrated unabated success until his death in 1969. Since Karloff’s passing, Lugosi has exacted revenge (from beyond the grave) on the thespian who stole his crown. Lugosi’s cult status has risen considerably, far surpassing that of Karloff. This turnabout is, in part, due to the increasing faddish (and increasingly dull) obsession with Continue reading KARLOFF