Cast & Crew
Edward Van Sloan
English businessman Renfield has a harrowing journey to Transylvania, where he is to arrange a lease of the Carfax Abbey in England for Count Dracula. Unknown to Renfield, Dracula is a centuries-old vampire, who lives off the blood of humans and cannot withstand the light of day. Renfield is greeted at Dracula's castle by Dracula himself, but after he passes out from drinking drugged wine, his host descends upon him to feed on his blood. Renfield, weakened by the attack, and Dracula board an England-bound ship which also carries the coffin in which Dracula sleeps during the day and several coffins filled with his native soil, which is required for his survival. When the ship docks in Whitby Harbor, the entire crew is found dead. Only Dracula and Renfield, who appears to have gone insane, survive. Renfield is installed in Dr. Seward's sanitarium, where the physician studies his strange habit of consuming the blood of small animals. Meanwhile, Dracula drains the blood of the female population of London. One night at the opera, Dracula introduces himself to Dr. Seward and meets his daughter Mina, her fiancé, John Harker, and friend Lucy. Lucy is enchanted by Dracula's romantic manner, and later, Dracula attacks and kills her. German scientist Van Helsing arrives in London to assist Dr. Seward, and correctly assesses the situation. As Carfax Abbey is next to Seward's estate, Dracula has easy access to its occupants, and he takes advantage of his ability to transform himself into a bat to attack his next victim, Mina. However, she does not die immediately, but undergoes a change over several nights. Van Helsing confirms for Seward and Harker that Dracula truly is a vampire when Dracula's reflection does not appear in the mirror of a cigarette box. Meanwhile, Renfield constantly escapes from the hospital as ordered by his master, Dracula. Despite the precautions of Van Helsing to prevent Dracula's entry into Mina's room, he hypnotizes her maid to open the windows to admit him. Mina succumbs to a final bonding with Dracula and becomes a vampire. She confesses to Van Helsing that she has seen Lucy since she was buried, which confirms his suspicions that the "woman in white" who has been attacking young children is Lucy. Dracula tries to hypnotize Van Helsing to force him to do his will, but Van Helsing resists and is saved by his crucifix, upon which Dracula cannot look. Dracula, followed by Renfield, takes Mina to Carfax Abbey, where he plans to make her final transition to vampirism. Van Helsing and John follow Renfield there, but when Dracula discovers their presence, he kills Renfield. Dawn approaches, and when Van Helsing finds Dracula in his coffin, he drives a stake through his heart, killing him for eternity. At the same time that Dracula is killed, Mina is released from her spell. With the horror ended, John and Mina reunite.
Edward Van Sloan
E. M. Asher
Charles D. Hall
C. Roy Hunter
Carl Laemmle Jr.
Jack P. Pierce
Dracula (1931) - Dracula
It would be a mistake to write Lugosi off as merely eccentric or deranged (and thankfully we have Martin Landau's Oscar®-winning role as the actor in Ed Wood (1994), to provide us with a richer, more human portrayal). Born in Budapest, Hungary, Lugosi was a classically trained actor who took on a variety of roles in his native country and Germany. After World War I, he migrated to the U.S., where he played a number of romantic leads on stage and film. In 1927, he was cast in the title role in the stage version of Bram Stoker's classic vampire tale. The play was a tremendous hit and ran for three years. But even after that success, Lugosi was not the first choice for the film version. When studios first started clamoring for the screen rights, a number of actors, including Paul Muni, were considered. Universal first intended to make the picture with Lon Chaney, under the guidance of Chaney's frequent director, Tod Browning. Chaney's death put an end to that possibility, and after much pleading and lobbying by Lugosi (in which he sought the aid of Stoker's widow) and offers to do the role for a mere pittance, the studio decided to give him the part.
Universal had considered doing the story years earlier, but many script readers found it too repulsive and disturbing for general audiences. They were proved wrong on its release; Dracula became a huge hit, rescuing the financially troubled studio and ushering in its string of 1930s horror classics, a trend solidified by the release the same year of Frankenstein (1931). Besides Lugosi's memorable performance, the film's success can be attributed largely to the work of its director and cinematographer. Browning had distinguished himself as a director of complex, atmospheric silent thrillers at MGM, particularly the 11 collaborations with Chaney, among them The Unholy Three (1925), The Unknown (1927), and London After Midnight (1927). Dracula became his most successful and lasting film, matched in film history only by what many consider his masterpiece, the unique and astonishing Freaks (1932). But he, too, became more or less typecast as "the Edgar Allan Poe" of cinema, and when the Universal horror cycle ran its course by the end of the decade, he was no longer considered an A-list director (this was a fate shared by his rival, James Whale, a director of great taste and eclectic vision who never escaped the trap of his successful Frankenstein films). Browning retired after his last movie, Miracles for Sale (1939) and did not work in motion pictures for the remaining 23 years of his life.
The opening sequence of Dracula, with its Transylvania setting, is among the finest work Browning ever did on screen, and it owes much to the cinematography of German-born Karl Freund, an Academy Award-winner for The Good Earth (1937) who completed his career lensing various television shows, most notably I Love Lucy. These first 20 minutes are predominantly silent - in fact, beyond a few snatches of Tchaikovsky and Wagner, there is no background music in the film at all. A rising sense of dread is accomplished by the creaking sounds of coffin lids and by Freund and Browning's floating camera creating an atmosphere of mystical terror reminiscent of the German silent fantasies. After that, when Dracula has migrated to England in search of new blood, the movie betrays its stage bound roots (Browning chose to stick rather closely to the stage version instead of going back to Stoker's richer novel). At this point, the focus shifts to Lugosi's performance.
Prior to the film's actual production, an article in the Motion Picture Herald announced that Lew Ayres had been cast opposite Helen Chandler and that the film would be both a thriller and a romance. But by the time the cameras began rolling, Ayres had been replaced with David Manners and Browning dropped the romantic angle. According to David J. Skal and Elias Savada in their biography, Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Dracula was filmed between September 29 and November 15, 1930, with additional scenes and retakes on December 13, 1930, and January 2, 1931. According to David Manners, the production was "extremely disorganized." Asked about the experience of working with Tod Browning, Manners laughed and said, "It's funny you should ask. Someone asked me the other day who directed [Dracula] and I had to say, I hadn't the faintest idea!" Manners stated that, "the only directing I saw was done by Karl Freund, the cinematographer."
In his definitive biography on Lugosi, The Count, writer Arthur Lennig wrote that Universal "spent a considerable sum on the giant sets for Dracula's Transylvanian castle and British abbey. After the film was completed, the castle set remained standing and was still being used more than ten years later: At the end of Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) some scenes take place among its "broken battlements." The propmen searched around for exotic old furniture, the technicians spun an eighteen-foot spider web made out of rubber cement that was shot out from a rotary gun, and masons built a giant fireplace big enough for a man to stand in and placed a real fire in it. Unfortunately the fire created some difficulties. The crackling of the wood made so much noise that it was picked up by the rather unselective microphones then in use, and the dialogue scenes had to be postponed until the fire died down."
Since the release of Dracula, there have been countless other vampire movies and remakes of Stoker's original novel. Yet for most people, the look and sound of a true blood-drinking Transylvanian noble will always be Bela Lugosi. His thick Hungarian accent and lack of fluency in English forced the actor to learn his stage lines phonetically. As a result, the character's halting, over-deliberate words seem to be not the result of an actor's verbal difficulties but the guarded mystery of an exotic character carefully concealing deadly secrets. Lugosi once said he made a deliberate choice not to lose his accent (because his fiancee liked it). That may have been as big a mistake as his refusal of the role of Frankenstein's monster, a part that may have further locked him into the horror cycle. At least it would have provided a radically different view of him in the minds of the public and film executives. But it was Boris Karloff who got his break in Frankenstein after Lugosi turned it down and quickly became the bigger star. Although typecast in horror and thrillers himself, Karloff was offered more and better roles, and earned greater money while Lugosi filed for bankruptcy only a year after Dracula was released (the picture made a fortune, but the actor's take was only $3,500). Lugosi often appeared second-billed to Karloff, and eventually (and unmemorably) played the monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). He died penniless and addicted to drugs in 1956.
An interesting side note about the Dracula production: after Browning completed each day's work, directors George Melford and Enrique Tovar Avalos came onto the same sets and filmed a Spanish-language version at night.
Director: Tod Browning
Producer: Carl Laemmle, Jr., Tod Browning
Screenplay: Garrett Fort, based on the play by John L. Balderston (from the novel by Bram Stoker)
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Editing: Milton Carruth
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Cast: Bela Lugosi (Count Dracula), Helen Chandler (Mina Seward), David Manners (Jonathan Harker), Dwight Frye (Renfield), Edward Van Sloan (Professor Van Helsing).
by Rob Nixon
Dracula (1931) - Dracula
For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you're a wise man, Van Helsing.- Count Dracula
"Among the rugged peaks that crown down upon the Borgo Pass are found crumbling castles of a bygone age."- Young Girl Passenger
No, no, master. I wasn't going to say anything, I told them nothing. I am loyal to you master.- Renfield
I am Dracula.- Count Dracula
Oh. It's really good to see you. I don't know what happened to the driver and my luggage,and... well, and with all this, I thought I was in the wrong place.- Renfield
I bid you welcome.- Count Dracula
Aren't you ashamed now. Aren't you? Spiders now is it? Flies ain't good enough.- Martin
Flies? Flies? Poor puny things. Who wants to eat flies?- Renfield
You do, you loony.- Martin
Not when I can get nice fat spiders.- Renfield
All right, have it your own way.- Martin
Universal Studios commissioned a new musical score from composer Philip Glass. It premiered at The Brooklyn Academy of Music on 26 October 1999.
The role of Dracula was originally meant for Lon Chaney.
A Spanish-language version, Dracula (1931/II), was filmed at night on the same set at the same time, with Spanish-speaking actors.
The original plan was to make a big-budget adaptation of "Dracula" that would adhere strictly to Bram Stoker's novel. However, with the Great Depression, Universal didn't have the money to make such a sprawling film. Instead, they opted to adapt the much less expensive Hamilton Deane stage play.
When this film was re-released after the Production Code, several deletions were ordered made to the soundtrack. The deletions include Renfield's scream as he is being killed and Dracula's moan as the stake is driven through his heart. These deletions have been restored.
Bela Lugosi created the role of Dracula onstage in the October 5, 1927 American premiere of Hamilton Deane's adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. Lon Chaney was originally cast for the title role in this film, but died in 1930 before production began. According to modern sources, Conrad Veidt, William Courtenay, Paul Muni, Ian Keith and John Carradine were also considered for the role of Dracula. Film Daily news items note that Lew Ayres was originally cast in the film, but was taken out to appear in another Universal feature, and was to be replaced by Robert Ames. Ames was later replaced by David Manners. A studio shooting schedule indicates the picture was completed for a total cost of $341,191.20, which was under the original estimate of $355,050.
Universal simultaneously produced a Spanish-language version, Drácula, which was directed by George Melford and starred Carlos Villarías and Lupita Tovar. Some sources erroneously credit Karl Freund, who photographed the English-language version, with shooting the Spanish version also. A Motion Picture Herald review notes that when first released, the English-language version included an afterword performed by Edward Van Sloan, in which he warned audiences that vampires do indeed exist. According to modern sources, this ending was deleted in 1936, at the same time that the soundtrack was cut in the scenes in which Renfield and Dracula are killed.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: Universal bought the rights to the play and novel for $40,000, from which Frederick Stephani wrote a treatment. Louis Stevens, Louis Bromfield and Dudley Murphy were also contributing writers to early scripts. Herman Rosse and John Hoffman contributed artwork for the sets. The opening scene of the horse-drawn carriage was photographed by Frank Booth, and other scenes were filmed at Vasquez Rocks, Chatsworth, CA. Other modern crew credits for Dracula include Scen supv, Charles A. Logue; Mus cond, Heinz Roemheld; Set Decoration, R. A. Gausman; Costumes, Ed Ware and Vera West; Casting, Phil M. Friedman; Research, Nan Grant; Art titles, Max Cohen. Modern source cast includes Michael Visaroff (Innkeeper); Daisy Belmore (English passenger); Nicholas Bela (Transylvanian passenger); Carla Laemmle (Girl); and Donald Murphy (Passenger).
Many films have been based on the Dracula legend. A partial listing includes the following: The 1921 German production Nosferatu-Eine Symphonie des Grauens, which was unofficially based on Bram Stoker's novel, directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and starring Max Schreck; the 1932 German-French film Vampyr, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and starring Julian West and Henriette Gérard; the 1956 Italian film I Vampiri, directed by Riccardo Freda and starring Gianna Maria Canale and Antoine Balpêtré; the 1958 British film Dracula, directed by Terence Fisher and starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; the 1973 British television production of Dracula, directed by Dan Curtis and starring Jack Palance; the 1979 American Dracula, directed by John Badham and starring Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasance and Kate Nelligan; the 1979 German film Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani; and the 2004 Universal production Van Helsing, directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Hugh Jackman and Richard Roxburgh.