Béla Lugosi was a Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for playing Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version. In the last years of his career he was featured in several of Ed Wood’s low budget films.
Lugosi, the youngest of four children, was born as Béla Ferenc Dezs? Blaskó in Lugos, to Paula de Vojnich and István Blasko, a banker. He later based his last name on his hometown. He and his sister Vilma were raised in a Roman Catholic family. At the age of 12, Lugosi dropped out of school. He began his acting career probably in 1901 or 1902. His earliest known performances are from provincial theaters in the 1903?1904 season, playing small roles in several plays and operettas. He went on to Shakespeare plays and other major roles. Moving to Budapest in 1911, he played dozens of roles with the National Theater of Hungary in the period 1913?1919. Although Lugosi would later claim that he “became the leading actor of Hungary’s Royal National Theater”, almost all his roles there were small or supporting parts.
During World War I, he served as an infantry lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Army from 1914 to 1916. There he rose to the rank of captain in the ski patrol and was awarded a medal equivalent to the Purple Heart for being wounded at the Russian front.
In 1917, Lugosi married Ilona Szmick. The couple divorced in 1920, reputedly over political differences with her parents.