Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

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Lot 191W
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

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Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Universal International Pictures, 1948. Black satin cape with rose gold satin lining, with a 10.5 in. back collar and two 10.5 in. armhole slits, two hook closures sewn to the lining, with "bat wing" scalloped edges to both sides of the front bottom. The cape is truly visually appealing with it's huge 28-foot circumference and "wet" sheen, purposely made to enhance Walter Lantz Studios' animation for the transformation sequences of Bela Lugosi into a bat and vice versa. Unlike other films where multiple costume pieces of the same item were made, there was only one Count Dracula cape made for Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula character in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The cape's history of appearances does not end with this film; it was also in screenwriter and director Ed Wood's film, Orgy of the Dead (1965), worn by the actor and psychic known as Criswell (best known for appearing in Wood's most famous film, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), and Life Magazine featured the cape in its October 1981 issue, in which the museum of Clark Wilkinson, the previous owner, was featured.

Though Bela Lugosi's name is synonymous with Dracula, the actor appeared in only two feature films playing the character of Count Dracula: the original 1931 Dracula directed by Tod Browning and the film from which this cape originates, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Lugosi's performances are so ingrained in popular culture that no other actor's portrayal of the classic vampire has ever transcended Lugosi's. As early as 1927, he played Bram Stoker's Dracula character on the Broadway stage, never conceiving that it would be the role for which he would be forever associated. As fellow horror actress Carroll Borland once remarked, "Dracula is Bela Lugosi, and Bela Lugosi is Dracula." Hungarian-born, Lugosi was almost 40 years old when he moved to New York in 1921 to pursue his acting career; he could barely speak English. His thick accent and commanding presence made him a natural for horrific characters such as vampires and counts, but he also laid the groundwork for every future player of such roles. Lugosi took Stoker's characterization of Dracula and made the role his own: a provocative and irresistible artist of seduction whose persona is much more appealing than that written by Stoker, and thus, the one that has remained the most popular. In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and along with his fellow Universal horror colleagues, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster, Lugosi kept the dignity of Dracula intact while involving himself in the antics of Abbott and Costello. Audiences loved the concept and several more Abbott and Costello comedies in the same vein were made; however, this was the only one which featured Lugosi. He wears the iconic Count Dracula cape throughout the film and also appeared in dozens of publicity portraits donning the cloak dramatically, as only Lugosi could. Though Lugosi was typecast for the rest of his life, Lugosi's request to be buried wearing his original 1931 Dracula cape attests to his complete identification with the role and both the triumphs and sorrows it brought to his life. As for the past and the future, there isn't an actor alive whose performance of a count, a vampire, Ygor, or Dracula himself, doesn't owe a debt to Bela Lugosi.

Universal's most popular entities during the 1930s and 1940s were its classic monsters and the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. An unlikely combination, the two joined together for the first time in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The film was released on August 20, 1948 and became an immediate success. It was Abbott and Costello's biggest hit since their first starring role in Buck Privates (1941). The film appealed not only to Abbott and Costello fans but to classic monster fans as well. Variety praised the pairing of the two genres, noting, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a happy combination both for chills and laughs. The comedy team battles it out with the studio's roster of bogeymen in a rambunctious fracas that is funny and, at the same time, spine-tingling." The hefty budget on this film afforded animated sequences, special effects, and first-rate sets that set the horror tone, all of which paid off when the film became one of the top grossing pictures of 1948 and Universal's second highest grossing film of the year. Though the concept of a comedic horror film was not a completely novel approach, it subsequently became one of the top horror comedy films of all time and one of the most beloved, leading to a cult status with major fans such as Quentin Tarantino, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Garcia. Its success paved the way for an entire series that would pair the boys with other classic monsters including Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953), and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein remains the favorite of the series, growing only more popular with time. In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It is number 56 on the list of the "American Film Institute's 100 Funniest American Movies," and this year marks its 70th anniversary.
Provenance: the collection of Todd Feiertag.

Saleroom notices

  • This lot is accompanied by a a custom-built, one-of-a-kind Bela Lugosi mannequin in a classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein pose. The head is cast in translucent silicone, fitted with prosthetic-grade glass eyes, and features hand-punched human hair (including the eyelashes and eyebrows). Likeness of Bela Lugosi used with permission of Lugosi Enterprises.
Contacts
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula cape from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
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