Were Bela Lugosi And Boris Karloff Rivals? The Truth About Dracula Vs. Frankenstein

By | February 7, 2019

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Boris Karloff as Edmond Bateman and Bela Lugosi as Dr Richard Vallin in a scene from the 1935 film, The Raven directed by Lew Landers for United Pictures. Source: (John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

The Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi rivalry is well known to fans of classic horror movies, particularly the Frankenstein and Dracula franchises in the early "talkie" era. Karloff, seen frequently as Frankenstein's Monster, and Lugosi, ever the vampire, both had designs on being the premiere horror film star, filling the void left by the death of Lon Chaney in 1930. Bela and Boris played fearsome monsters on the screen, and like any actors, they wanted to have the best box-office receipts, but whether they truly feuded has been a matter of debate.

Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff's feud would have been awkward, to say the least -- as horror actors under the Universal Studios banner, they appeared in films together and were family, in a way. With Lon Chaney, Jr. and, later, John Carradine ready to step in and take roles from either of them, a serious rivalry could have been more trouble than the studio needed. So what was the deal -- did famous scary actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff really hate each others' guts?

Bela Lugosi Was Born To Play Dracula

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Bela Lugosi. Source: (thevintagenews.com)

Of the two actors, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, Lugosi brought more authenticity to his portrayal of Dracula. No, he wasn't from the Transylvania region of Romania, but he was at least from Hungary, which borders Romania. Lugosi was a stage star in his native country, but due to political unrest, he traveled to the United States in 1920. He took a job as a day laborer to make ends meet but continued to act. One of the biggest obstacles to his acting career was that he did not know English, but he didn’t let this minor detail stop him. Within two years, he landed a role in the Broadway play, "The Red Poppy." Lugosi could barely speak English, let alone read it. He worked with a tutor to memorize the phonetic pronunciation of each of his lines. He had no idea what he was saying, but he delivered a believable performance. A few years later, he was cast in a Broadway production as Count Dracula, a character he would reprise again and again, on stage and in film.