Lugosi was a victim of his own ego, arrogance, selfishness, pride, and need for attention as he was of the whims of Hollywood and society.
And in Koren Shadmi’s Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula you see it fangs and all. This graphic novel shows the highs and lows (lots of lows, most of his own making) of Lugosi’s life. Done mostly chronologically, the highlights of the past and present are show in rotation. The past starts as a child, the fights he got into with classmates, and the ones with his father. His middle-class upbringing, his political leanings, and the world of the theater (both in Hungary and the US) come alive. The modern day (a few years before his death) we see Lugosi in various hospitals to try and kick his addictions. Yet, demons follow him everywhere.
These demons of the past and present are illustrated with a manic care. The color and style change show this move through time. Shadmi captures the feeling of the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Perhaps my favorite section was when we are on the set of Dracula. I have only come to the movie within the last year or so, and the representation on paper did justice to the movie. I knew what was being portrayed. I also liked how fact and myth sometimes are blurred, and Shadmi did their best to sort it all out. The tone of everything is slightly romantic, but then again, what do you expect a story about Dracula to really be like?
The good, the bad, and the batty are given to the reader easily, without bogging down with too much information, but allowing you to see what happened to a man that was a legend in his own mind, in his own time, and immortal as his most famous character.
The story of Lugosi is a story of history, politics, society, stage, and film. It is a glimpse into the beauty and ugly of Hollywood. And it shows and tells how a man became a monster for eternity.