Boris Karloff : The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Viewers of Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" instantly took to the Bela Lugosi character portrayed so brilliantly by Martin Landau. The character was shown in a very sympathetic light there, and people took to him. Karloff does not have this luxury, as no major film has been made about him or his life. Most people don't know a thing about the 'real' Karloff. H b68 is reputation rests solely on his film work and word-of-mouth from family/colleagues, while Lugosi has been portrayed as a colorful, eccentric and tragic victim of the Hollywood system in a popular film made by a popular director and starring arguably the world's most popular male movie star of today. Naturally more people are going to take to the Lugosi persona and show more interest; they feel like they know more about him. At least that's my opinion on the matter. Reading various comments from people claiming Lugosi was a far better actor who also end up quoting Burton's film when doing so, just cements that.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Sorry, but I liked Lugosi more than Karloff years before Ed Wood came out and, though I hate to quote that film as well, Lugosi memorabilia was already outselling Karloff's at that point, so I think little credence can be given to that film being 'the obvious reason.'

Greg Mank made a very interesting observation that I think backs up your point a little bit. He compared Karloff and Lugosi to kids in school, Karloff being the scholar who always gets an A, and Lugosi the kid with fewer chops but whom seems to be trying harder. Points can be made for respecting both of those types.

While Karloff was probably a better actor, Lugosi was a superior screen presence, which I think is the obvious reason he is more popular.

Also, Karloff would phone it in when he thought the material was beneath him, while Lugosi always gave 100%. To back this, I specifically site the two films where it's generally agreed that Lugosi upstaged Karloff: The Raven and Son of Frankenstein. Both were scripts Karloff did not like, and he blurs into the background, while Lugosi triumphs.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

So you really don't think Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" has any influence at all on who people prefer nowadays?

By the way, that quote in Ed Wood is incredibly misleading. Lugosi memorabilia outsells Karloff's simply because there's far less of it. Not only did Karloff make around 100 more film/TV appearances than Bela, but he also worked more steadily for major companies. A lot of the "poverty row" companies Bela worked for have been out of business for ages - Monogram, for instance, was defunt by the early 1950s. Also, Lugosi passed away in 1956 and Karloff not until 13 years later, so there's far more Karloff oriented posters, props and various other memorabilia available for him than there is Lugosi.

I think it is obvious Bela was a great actor since he was a huge star in his home country before coming to America. I also agree that he has great presense and also probably way more sex appeal than Karloff. However larger-that-life Lugosi may seem in his American film work (much of which has to do with hi 111c s very loud and theatrical line delivery), he seldom seemed able to instill his characters with realistic human qualities, nor was he able to do as wide variety of roles as Karloff. Often times you get the impression that Lugosi had no idea what he was even saying since his annunciation is so off the mark. Of course, this adds immeasurably to his camp appeal, as well as making him a very memorable performer overall.

But at the end of the day, I honestly think Karloff was the far better actor. I mean, he could be dramatic, tragic, comic, grandoise and even touching at times, as well as playing some of the most evil, creepy and subtly sinister characters from the 30s and 40s.

Also, Karloff would phone it in when he thought the material was beneath him, while Lugosi always gave 100%. To back this, I specifically site the two films where it's generally agreed that Lugosi upstaged Karloff: The Raven and Son of Frankenstein. Both were films Karloff did not respect, and he blurs into the background, while Lugosi triumphs.

Well you know, the same can be said for The Black Cat and The Body Snatcher. Karloff completely overshadowed Lugosi in those two films. I don't think Karloff phoned it in in Son of Frankenstein. I think it was the screenplay, which gave the character little to actually do. But I do agree that Lugosi's Ygor is one of the best things about Son of Frankenstein. That's my favorite performance of his. Lionel Atwill was also pretty great in it. I haven't seen The Raven, so I won't say anything about that until I see it.

I'm just curious. Who do you prefer between Vincent Price and Peter Cushing?

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.


So you really don't think Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" has any influence at all on who people prefer nowadays?


No, no, I said people felt that way before the movie even came out. I won't deny it's been a gateway for many fans, but I believe Lugosi would still be the prefered actor even if that film had never been released.


Lugosi memorabilia outsells Karloff's simply because 5b4 there's far less of it


I think the movie quote is open to interpretation. To me, 'outsells' implies that more of his items are sold, not that they've made more money. If that were the case, Lugosi's lead would be even more impressive if he had less available.


nor was he able to do as wide variety of roles as Karloff....he could be dramatic, tragic, comic, grandoise and even touching at times


I blame that on the studios, not Lugosi. I think it shows that when offered something outside his repetoire (Ygor, Ninotchka, his few comedies), he could rise to the task and be, at the very least, as good an actor as Karloff.

Also, I think that the reason Karloff is generally considered a better actor is because people think that being able to invoke sympathy is somehow the ultimate in acting. Lugosi brought great strength to his performances, which is not easy to convey.

When Karloff was cast in Lugosi-esque roles, he either came across blandly (Black Friday) or just played the sympathy card more (The Invisible Ray).


Often times you get the impression that Lugosi had no idea what he was even saying since his annunciation is so off the mark.


Sometimes that's true, but it's part of his appeal, kind of like Christopher Walken today. Just because an actor follows the book doesn't b68 automatically make him better.

And please, I just hate when people call Lugosi's acting 'campy', it's not. Camp is when you deliberately perform with your tongue in your cheek. Lugosi never did that, he always took his roles very seriously.


Who do you prefer between Vincent Price and Peter Cushing?


Price. Same principal, I enjoy horror actors who give flair to their performances, it's a style of acting which is almost nonexistant today.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.


So you really don't think Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" has any influence at all on who people prefer nowadays?


No, none what so ever.

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Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

I had no idea Lugosi was more popular than Karloff. Not on my planet. I certainly have a great regard for Bela, but never placed him above Boris Karloff.





"It's as red as The Daily Worker and just as sore."

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Fritz, old boy, you undermine your arguments in favour of Lugosi by stating that you prefer Vincent Price, undoubtedly one of the hammiest actors who ever graced the silver screen, to Peter Cushing. You may be right in saying that Lugosi never deliberately camped it up, but Price certainly did, and Cushing never. One reason why the great Hammer movies are so good is that Cushing always played his roles absolutely straight. Price took the piss when the material was beneath him. Don't get me wrong, I like Price's stuff, but he was a ham, no doubt about it.

If they move, kill em!

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Price was hammy but he was also a larger than life personality, as Lugosi was. I dig that in horror films; it's one of the few genres where that operatic style of acting can flourish.

I don't think that undermines my argument at all. Lugosi always gave his best no matter how bad the film, while Karloff would, quite frankly, phone it in sometimes. Just compare his performances in The Body Snatcher and The Black Cat to stuff like Black Friday and The Climax to see how much better he is when he respects the material.

Check out my Lugosi tribute film on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ2ObnoXLpY&search=lugosi

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Fair comment. Even though personally I prefer Boris to Bela, I do accept that Boris did phone it in sometimes. In fact I watched Grip of the Stranger the other day and he was pretty rubbish in it.

If they move, kill em!

Re: The obvious reas 111c on Lugosi is more popular.

You are always a delight to debate, johnnyparker.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

"Fritz, old boy, you undermine your arguments in favour of Lugosi by stating that you prefer Vincent Price, undoubtedly one of the hammiest actors who ever graced the silver screen, to Peter Cushing. You may be right in saying that Lugosi never deliberately camped it up, but Price certainly did, and Cushing never. One reason why the great Hammer movies are so good is that Cushing always played his roles absolutely straight. Price took the piss when the material was beneath him. Don't get me wrong, I like Price's stuff, but he was a ham, no doubt about it." - johnnyparker

He was also a respected theatrical actor who gave great performances in a number of stage plays and movies. You are undermining your arguments with your ridiculous views on Vincent Price. Price, usually, didn't "take the piss" when the m 1c84 aterial was beneath him (and it usually was, as is the case with most of the greats). You are probably confusing "tongue in cheek" theatrical acting for "taking the piss". Many of Price's films were black comedies and his performances were given in accordance to the mood of the film. Compare his performances in 'The Raven' (with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorré) and then 'The Witchfinder General' and then 'Doctor Phibes' or 'Theatre of Blood'. I know it is "cool" to mock Vincent Price but that doesn't make it correct.

Peter Cushing (also one of the greatest actors in film history to my mind) did, usually, play it straight and very dry as that was what his characters generally called for. However see his performances in more comedic films and he could play it for laughs as much as the material needed (in comedies such as 'Top Secret!'). It is about degrees as to how much you can play a role with tongue in cheek.

As for Karloff and Lugosi; why can't you like both of them equally? Why does there have to be "only one" all the time, as if we are in some strange tournament with Christopher Lambert and Clancy Brown! The same goes for Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Or Christopher Lee and John Carradine. Or Lon Chaney and Oliver Reed... et cetera ad infinitum.

I respect all those in the great pantheon, and though I may personally like some more than others I wouldn't belittle any of them.

"Nothings gonna change my world!"

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

I am late in coming here to this arguement, but I will add, as past member of the long defunct Count Dracula Society in Los Angeles, that yes, indeed, like it or not, Lugosi is more popular than Karloff and it has absolutely nothing to do with talent. What it has to do with is so much of what Lugosi seldom got a chance to do -- make a decent picture. His personal story is so drenched in misery and pathos that this has brought him greater notoriety. Personal articles of his that come up for auction are usually sold at a higher price. Many more books have been written about him than Karloff as well and chances are many more will be written in the future. If he were alive today he would have greater influence over scripts than he ever had while with us. Such is the way with fandom. It is the love for those who didn't get a decent chance while alive. The down and thought out are not so when dead. Long may his mythos reign!

A hydrocephalic takes pleasure in milking his cranial harp.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

I don't know. I've never read anything to indicate one was more popular than the other. Both names crop up in horror books frequently, and there are many biographies written on Karloff.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.



I think Karloff was more of a superior actor ,and had more of a career before "Frankenstein" and after. Lugosi was stuck doing lackluster roles ,"Plan 9 From Outer Space"?

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

I agree that the "Ed Wood" portrayal certainly helped boost Lugosi's popularity in recent years, but I think that his Dracula image is so iconic that Lugosi would still be a hint more popular even without Martin Landau and Tim Burton's influence. There are also a lot of people coming out of the woodwork whose interests are in the goofier/awful spectrum of horror movies, and since Lugosi was in more outright awful movies than Karloff, those people are going to say that they prefer him. I never saw it as a fair co 5b4 mparison since the two were very different actors, Lugosi being a lot more theatrically oriented with his projections and exaggerations and Karloff being more filmic with his restraint and very human emotional subtleties, but I guess the question of which of the two actors a person prefers speaks instantly of what kind of horror fan that person is.

As an aside, that little blurb at the end of "Ed Wood" about Lugosi's memorabilia outselling Karloff's seemed a bit too nebulous to accept as a fact. This is where I think the Dracula iconography is used as a crutch, as I imagine that statement includes any memorabilia that's derivative of Lugosi's Dracula. For instance, does a CD of Phillip Glass' recent film score for "Dracula" count as Lugosi memorabilia?

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Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Bela Lugosi had a more interesting life story and was certainly a larger than life figure, even off the screen. But the claim of him being "more popular" than Karloff is hard to accept since there are different criteria for what is popular. Karloff made more money in his acting career but Lugosi made more in merchandising. Both are beloved today by horror fans. It's hard to say that one is more popular than the other.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

Some debates about the superiority of one performer over another can include some personal attacks.

I like both Karloff and Lugosi. I think each had their own style that worked for them. Karloff was quiet and intense and Lugosi was dynamic and intense. The horror film would never have been the same without them.

But some [like Arthur Lennig] have tried to push some of Lugosi's flaws onto Karloff and it simply does not work. Lennig makes it clear that he prefers Lugosi over Karloff, but there is still that feeling of him trying to put Karloff in his place.

On page 409 of his biography 'The Immortal Count', Lennig questions Karloff's gentlemanly personality and wonders about his five wives. But what about them?

Karloff never spoke about his wives and they never spoke of him. He kept his private life private. There is no way we can know what went wrong there. To even hint that it might be all his fault is not going to help us because we don't know.

The reason Karloff is remembered as a gentleman is because apparently he was one. There are hundreds and hundreds of anecdotes that portray him as a funny, kind and generous human being.

Lugosi is said to have labeled him a "cold fish", and Lennig even suggests that this may have been Karloff's essential personality.

But that description applies to Lugosi and not Karloff. During his career, Lugosi was often described as aloof and distant. In his personal life he was domineering, possessive, imperious, temperamental and jealous. That's not ignoring the fact that he was also a warm, sentimental and generous man. The hundreds of stories about Karloff's warm and funny personality hardly qualify him to be a cold fish.

Lennig mentions Karloff's wives, but what about Lugosi's wives? He treated them like they were possessions. Hope Lugosi had a backbone, but that didn't stop him from trying to enforce his personality on to her. Reading about Lillian Arch and her life with Lugosi was a frustrating experience. I cheered when she found herself a new life outside him and his needs. It's not that I didn't feel sorry about Lugosi, but he did bring some of his problems on himself.

There is also that moment [on pages 206-7] where we get another defense of Lugosi and another dig at Karloff.

The truth was that Lugosi didn't really understand English. He isolated himself and never learned the nuances of the language. That was his fault. Other foreign actors like Peter Lorre, Rudolph Valentino, Paul Muni, Charles Boyer, Maurice Chevalier and Conrad Veidt understood English better than Lugosi. This is what hampered his career. If he came across as "inept" it's because in some ways he was.

Lugosi was also a victim of the studios. Universal cannot escape judgment in their treatment of him, but a lot of Lugosi's problems were his own doing. He was naive about contracts and money. He refused to learn the language properly. He isolated himself from Hollywood. He took on every job he was offered. Karloff softened his image. Lugosi didn't.

If Lugosi was jealous of Karloff he had every right to be.

Karloff was the closest any actor came to being the next Lon Chaney. Karloff didn't just play horror roles or roles that called for sympathy. In the 1940s and 50s, Karloff was "the Actors Actor." He was admired on film, radio, television and Broadway in a wide range of roles that Lugosi would never have been able to play.

There are some diverse viewpoints about the "feud" between Karloff and Lugosi. I'm not sure what their true feelings were, but it is clear that there was no overt hostility. I don't really care one way or the other what their feelings were for each other.

The point is that I like Lugosi the way he was. This is not meant as an attack on him, but merely a reminder of the ways in which some people can put down one performer to boost another. Arthur Lennig was reaching when he decided to bring Karloff down to his level. Facts are facts, Lugosi was a great performer, but his flaws were his flaws.

And Boris Karloff was not responsible for them.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

I understand that Karloff and Lugosi are two different actors, but here the comparisons are apt unlike the need to compare Deanna Durbin with Judy Garland.

With Karloff and Lugosi it makes sense. Both men worked at the same studio and worked together often and appeared in the same genre. The comparisons are interesting and I would prefer Karloff as a human being over Lugosi, but as actors they were both excellent.

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Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

That's debatable, but I think both Karloff and Lugosi were great performers.

Re: The obvious reason Lugosi is more popular.

I question the premise.

And agree to some extent that the movie Ed Wood has helped Lugosi's popularity,

but who is really more popular probably depends on definition. Lugosi was more of an off screen character, a more interesting because more eccentric man.

It boils down to a question like who is the more popular writer, Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Now I don't really know whose memorabilia sells best, and I don't think I even care. What would matter is whose books sell best.

Here is the number of votes here on IMDB for the top five movies of Karloff and Lugosi.

Karloff

Frankenstein-----50,181

How the Grinch Stole X-mas-----34,381

Bride of Frankenstein-----33,130

Scarface-----20,180

The Mummy-----16,792


Lugosi

Dracula-----34,481

The Wolf Man-----17.193

Ninotchka-----14,802

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein-----11,293

White Zombie-----6,994



*This hardly points to Lugosi's movies being more popular than Karloff's.
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