Yes he was Dracula. Personifying The Count and representing the standard for which every subsequent vampire would be judged by. His accent, his eyes, his exotic looks, he exuded an air of the exotic. A virile attractiveness bound by a power and potency he would wield time and again in role after role. People throw around the term x-factor and Lugosi definitely had it. The poise, the presence, the manner in which he presented himself. Bela is pure movie star with one fatal flaw. The inability to expand beyond his initial impression. Since Count Dracula is how the world came to know him, the part became his rules of engagement evermore. Dracula till the end of time or variants thereof was what he could play. He fought to be more petitioning casting directors and later lamenting being “the boogie man” in the 50s though the flicker of his first success stayed with him.
What stood him apart also binded him, the otherworldly voice and his broken English locked him out of conventional roles and along with the typecasting proved too much to escape. Once he starred as Dracula on Broadway then Dracula on the West Coast then Dracula (1931) for Universal, the die is cast. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), White Zombie (1932), Chandu the Magician (1932), Island of Lost Souls (1932), The Black Cat (1934), The Return of Chandu (1934), The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Raven (1935), The Invisible Ray (1936), The Phantom Creeps (1939), Son of Frankenstein (1939), Ninotchka (1939), Black Friday (1940), The Devil Bat (1940), Invisible Ghost (1941), The Black Cat (1941), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Corpse Vanishes (1942), The Ape Man (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), The Return of the Vampire (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
The roles dried up not long after. His age, substance abuse, and the business writing him off were significant factors that greased the rails for Ed Wood to ride in for the rescue. Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952), Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955), The Black Sleep (1956), Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Dying in 1956, he was buried in one of the Dracula capes in full costume including the ring. An appropriate close to a life defined by one break which then consumed everything. He persists even today and isn’t a ghost we’ll soon forget. His work populated 5 MST3Ks. The Corpse Vanishes, 3 chapters of the horror serial The Phantom Creeps, and Bride of the Monster. Force of Nature or The Ghoul Goes West?