Monday, March 3, 2008

Bela Lugosi --- My Very First Autograph Request

My very first request for an autographed photo was from Bela Lugosi, star of "Dracula" (1931) and several other Universal Pictures 'horror' and 'suspense' movies. In early 1963, when I was a few months away from 11 years of age, I'd seen "Dracula" on television, and was enthralled by it. I especially liked Lugosi's portrayal, with his sinister facial expressions and heavily accented tone of voice.

I'd heard about movie stars sending autographed pictures to their fans, and after asking a few adults how to get such pictures, I wrote a letter to Mr. Lugosi, told him how much I liked "Dracula", and asked for an autographed photo. I addressed the envelope to "Bela Lugosi, Hollywood, California" (ZIP Codes were not required at that time, and as for sending the letter to Hollywood, I'd been told "that's where all the movie stars live").

A week or so later, the envelope was returned to me, with the rubber-stamped postal markings "Unknown at Hollywood Station" and "Insufficient Address". I was confused about this, and showed it to my Mother. She told me Bela Lugosi had been dead for many years. I remember being shocked upon hearing it! If only I'd told her a few weeks earlier that I was writing a letter to him, she could have told me the "bad news" and stopped me from wasting a 5-cents postage stamp! She felt sorry for me, though, and bought the photo below, from a magazine ad.

I was a regular reader of the 'Famous Monsters of Filmland' magazine, and Movie Star News, a NYC photo dealer, advertised monthly. Here is one of their ads, from the April 1963 issue. Note the price for a glossy 8x10 photo - 50 cents! Plus only 25 cents for postage! (Movie Star News is still in business, and they have an internet site too, but their prices are somewhat higher).

Many years later, in 1995, I had the opportunity to meet Lugosi's son, Bela Jr., at a Three Stooges Fan Club Convention in Pennsylvania. He was attending to scope out the event, as he was an attorney/associate of Comedy III Productions, which maintained licensing rights to The Three Stooges.

I brought along a couple of movie stills of his father, and after explaining to him the aforementioned disappointment of my youth, asked him to sign the photos. Here's one of his dad in a standard pose as "Dracula" , and here's a scene from "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein".

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