Rare Footage of Bela Lugosi Leaving Rehab

A glimpse at a pivotal, sad moment in the horror icon's life.

Bela Lugosi's story is a tragedy. He worked hard to secure the lead role in Dracula, and then found it like a shackle around his neck. Even though he only played the Count in two Universal films - Dracula and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankensteinhe was identified with the character to the grave. Literally, as he was buried in his Dracula cape.

Tim Burton's Ed Wood gives a good, and I believe fair, look at Lugosi's declining years. Wracked with drug addiction, Lugosi fell to the very bottom of the Hollywood ladder, forced to work with the one of the worst filmmakers to ever stride Sunset Boulevard. Lugosi's time in the Universal Monster movies affords him a place in cinema history, but so, sadly, does his addiction: Lugosi publicly entered rehab at a time when such things simply did not happen. 

It must have required a heroic amount of bravery for Lugosi to admit he had a problem. In the 50s people simply went away for rests or vacations, quite unlike the very public rehab visits that happen today. Of course there was also an element of attention seeking - Lugosi figured that having his name in the papers could only help. And while he was in rehab the attention did garner him a new wife, a fan who wrote him a letter every day he was in the hospital.

The video above was shot the day before Lugosi was released from rehab after a three month stint. In it he boasts of being cured, and feeling like a million dollars. He says that he's going to star in a movie called The Ghoul Goes West - which was to be an Ed Wood movie. The film never happened, but test footage from it, featuring Lugosi prancing around in a Dracula cape, would make it into Plan 9 From Outer Space.

It didn't take long for Lugosi to relapse as it became clear his comeback wasn't happening. He began drinking heavily. Almost exactly one year later, Bela Lugosi was dead of a heart attack.

Thanks to Mark Pilvinsky for the link.