Bela Lugosi Discusses His Drug Habit as He Leaves the Hospital in 1955

In 1955 Bela Lugosi was in a sad state. The once-handsome, Hungarian-born star of Dracula had seen his career degenerate over the previous two decades until at last he was reduced to playing a cruel parody of himself in some of the tackiest B horror films ever made. Along the way he picked up a drug habit. In late April of 1955 the 72-year-old actor, destitute and recently divorced from his fourth wife, checked himself into the psychopathic ward at Los Angeles General Hospital. A few days later, in a hearing held at the ward, Lugosi pleaded with a judge to commit him to a state hospital. A United Press article from April 23, 1955 describes the scene:

Although weighing only 125 pounds and only a shadow of his former self, Lugosi’s voice was clear and resonant as he told the court how shooting pains in his legs led him to start taking morphine injections in 1935. Without morphine, he couldn’t work, Lugosi said.

“I started using it under a doctor’s care,” he said. “I knew after a time it was getting out of control.”

“Seventeen years ago, on a trip to England, I heard of Methodone, a new drug. I brought a big box of it back home. I guess I brought a pound,” Lugosi said.

“Ever since I’ve used that, or demerol. I just took the drugs. I didn’t eat. I got sicker and sicker.”

The judge commended Lugosi for taking action to fight his addiction, and committed him to the Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, a suburb of Los Angeles, for a minimum of three months and a maximum of two years. During his time in the hospital, the old man plotted his comeback. In The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi, Arthur Lennig writes:

While at the hospital, Lugosi had been given the script of his next Ed Wood picture, The Ghoul Goes West, a strange concoction in which a mad doctor goes out west to carry out his scheme to make super-creatures out of cowboys and rule the world. The actor looked forward to this forthcoming production, which he believed would begin about ten days after leaving the hospital, and brandished the script as proof that he would start work. “It’s very cute,” he said to the reporters. It probably wasn’t, but Lugosi no doubt believed that all the front page publicity, however notorious, would aid in his comeback, a comeback that would eventually raise him above the lowly ranks of Ed Wood’s shoestring productions. Bela posed for a photograph with the script in one hand while his other hand was dramatically raised in an assertive fist.

The interview above was filmed on August 4, 1955, one day before the actor’s release from the hospital. In the clip, Lugosi smiles and declares himself “a new man.” Less than three weeks later he married his fifth wife, an obsessed fan who reportedly sent him a letter every day he was in the hospital. The Ghoul Goes West never materialized, but Lugosi collaborated with Ed Wood on a couple of other projects, including a movie that some critics would eventually call “the worst film ever made,” Plan 9 From Outer Space. As his hope of a genuine comeback crumbled, Lugosi drank heavily. On August 16, 1956–barely over a year after his release from Metropolitan State Hospital–Lugosi died of a heart attack. He was buried in his Dracula costume.

Several Lugosi films appear on our big list of Free Movies Online.

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  • Alex says:

    Drug addiction is the kills..

  • Linda says:

    Really wish things had worked out better for him, that he’d had again the career success he wanted; he deserved more. :(

  • shamrock gamble says:

    Bela was the best at what he do. Nobody plays Dracula better than Bela!!!!!

  • Larry Talbot says:

    It is a shame that society dramatized Lagosi. We should let junkies be junkies, booze is what killed the Count , not dope.

  • Bela lugosi says:

    I love Bu00e9la no matter what anyone says Bu00e9la was the best Dracula ever I’m 12 and I’m literally addicted to Dracula I keep on getting it out at the library I’m still reading the book on my iPad (it’s free on iBooks) every one thinks I’m weird just because I know a lot about Vlad Tepesh but I can’t help myself Dracula is the best and so is the actor who played

  • Williek says:

    Willie when I was youngster and a Dracula movie came on TV and the star was Bella Lugosi we would all ways say look the real Dracula in on.

  • Justin Swartz says:

    Be’la Lugosi was a few generations ahead of his time.nToday him and Charlie Sheen would be Winning

  • William Davidson says:

    When we think of the count we picture Bela Lugosi and the fact that this one character has made him immortal in the eyes of his fans, he deserved better being one of the greatest actors of his genre, he lives forever in the minds of his fans.

  • James ayers says:

    He was the best at what he did people should not judge him for his drug habit drug use is a sickness

  • James ayers says:

    I’m just saying I know first hand I watched my best friend destroy his life by using strong pain killers and smack and methadone and in the end he died all alone in a empty house all alone of a overdose he lost every thing his wife his cars its not just a habit it’s a sick ness and there is no know care

  • Sandra Pinnel says:

    Bela Lugosi was an extraordinary stage actor prior to his Count Dracula role in 1931 – he was largely unrecognized and unappreciated for the depth and range that he truly possessed. He was grateful for, and appreciated, his American citizenship and valued America’s liberties. Still, he shined in any role and brought dignity and class to the screen anytime he appeared. Women swooned over his Count Dracula role on stage and in movies, as he evoked a kind of sensual charm & savoir faire along with an aristocratic air of dignity. May he rest in peace.

  • Vivian McAlexander says:

    Oh my! What an extremely sad and unfortunate ending for one of the greatest actors ever to step on stage or infront of the camera. Bela Lugosi was a beautiful, charming, kind, highly intelligent, hard-working, brave, talented, and ethical man. I grew up watching his movies, and as an adult he is like a dear old friend to me. I too suffer as Bela did with chronic pain as well as addiction to opiate pain meds. The opiates damaged my liver and breathing. Even under a doctor’s care pain meds are very seductive and ease the pain. Later they lose their effectiveness so you want more. I’ve always been against drug abuse, and never intended to be a drug addict. Obviously Bela was no strung-out junkie, and neither was I. It can happen to anyone. I will forever love Bela Lugosi. He was a great man. May Bela be in Heaven with God’s warm and gentle love surrounding him. -Vivian McAlexander

  • charlie says:

    Dear Mr Lugosi, I grew up watching your Dracula character-No one has & no one will hold that candle to your seductive hypnotic interpretation. That sleek hair combed back and that voice/priceless. Hollywood forgot to “thank you” for your entertainment But we the people in America will always see you as the one that hypnotized us.. I have never seen a more fantasy driven moment than when you starred in Abbott & Costello meets Frankenstein.. The scene at the door of the castle when you turn from a bat to human form in my words was undeniable amazing considering the year it was produced and the special effect tech that must’ve been used for that little number..And so you were on drugs and so what.. You had pain killers to correct a personal matter and you became addicted.. you had the instinct to go for help and at 74 you tried your best.. thanks for the memories Mr Lugosi.. I didn’t know that you were buried in your Dracula cape.. You are the Count…

  • Amanda Marsh says:

    I am a huge fan of Bela Lugosi especially as Dracula. He still is the Best Dracula to me. No offence against Christopher Lee. But to me Bela is and Always be Dracula. “To be dead, to be truly dead why that must be glorious” & “There are far worse things awaiting man than death my friend” & many more. My fave line. “I have chartered a ship to take us to England, we will be leaving, tomorrow evening”.

  • Amanda Marsh says:

    “Excellent Mr R Enfield Excellent!!”

  • Michael T. Cassidy says:

    Bella was the man !!!
    When it comes to scaring you out of your boots he could do it !!!
    I’m sad to hear the end of such a brilliant life !
    His movies will live on forever !

  • Cindy Legorreta says:

    In a documentary I watched a few years ago on Lugosi, they interviewed his son. One of the things I clearly remember: Lugosi Jr. mentioning was, HE always thought his father showed extraordinary courage for candidly speaking about his addiction, originally because of escalating pain meds given for an injury. Then he sought treatment. (remember this was in…what, the 1950’s, right? Long years would pass before “Celebrity Rehab”) Drugs and getting clean from them are not viewed today as they were then. In fact, we who have been through the struggle to get clean/sober can well appreciate just how difficult that can be. And the stigma is nowhere what it was back then. So, my heart goes out to Bela Lugosi. A unique, fine actor who never did resume his career as he should have. For that, all of us are the poorer!

  • Jam says:

    why dont you pitty yourselves instead? This men had it all. What did you gain so far out of your coward miserable lives? ask yourselves before you pitty a men for being an addict.

  • Numbers says:

    Great comment Jam! I concur.

  • bela blah blah says:

    He was a junkie and a drunk and deserved what he got. Boris was king!

  • Michael Harris says:

    I met Lugosi in 1955 at a theater in San Bernardino Ca. He was charming and polite while signing autographs! He played that great role of Dracula right down to the end. What a professional.

  • cwoods says:

    I cant believe so many people liked those old boring movies.

  • H. Schlitz says:

    To clarify some misinformation and negative comments above, regarding Béla Lugosi’s addiction and the presumption that there was wealth to be squandered.

    Lugosi became interested in theatre while a teenager and in 1913, at the age of 31, was accepted into The Hungarian National Theatre in Budapest. WWI began in 1914, and although members of the National Theatre were exempt from military service, Lugosi, politically active and patriotic to the extreme, enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army as an infantryman. He was promoted to captain in the ski patrol, and one night, while guarding the Russian front, had a violent fall, and injured his lower back. The pain from his lumbar injury was treated with morphine. Lugosi was discharged in 1916, decorated with a Wounded Medal, but his lumbar pain and co-occurring addiction to opiates would plague him for the rest of his life. (Incidentally, Frank Sinatra helped cover Lugosi’s rehab expenses, and visited while he was in treatment, much to Lugosi’s amazement, as they didn’t know each other; Sinatra anonymously paid for Lugosi’s funeral costs).

    Addiction/alcoholism is a progressive mental illness, a disease just as serious and life-threatening as having cancer. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it would be ludicrous to say that something that person chose to have or do caused the cancer. An addict doesn’t choose to be an addict; it’s not a moral consideration. Addiction is hereditary and once triggered, the addict is powerless. In the past 15 years, the topics of addiction and recovery have appeared as never before, frequently part of feature films, scripted TV series, reality programs, talkshows, celebrity tabloid shows, newsmedia, and the infinite amount of information found on the internet. We’ve seen the consequences: the loss of relationships, employment, belongings, and finances; the risk of homelessness, institutionalization, and imprisonment; the final destination point due to the body’s inability to physically compensate or recover, or due to an accident or overdose or alcohol poisoning or suicide, when addiction kills the addict. However, if lucky, an addict can have just enough connection to reality to ask for help and to choose the pursuit of ongoing recovery (no such thing as “recovered” because when you’re a pickle, you can’t go back to being a cucumber).

    Furthermore, Béla never “had it all” even from his start in the USA. Although Lugosi’s seductive, refined, authentically Transylvanian portrayal in the Broadway production & U.S. tour of Dracula from 1927 through 1929 created the buzz for the property, when Carl Laemmle Jr. optioned the rights from Bram Stoker’s widow, he intended to make it a vehicle for Lon Chaney, who died during negotiations. Despite Lugosi’s diligence in campaigning, using his influence to persuade Widow Stoker to give the rights to Laemmle, and his willingness to provide time and talent gratis, for other Universal-related projects, Laemmle didn’t offer Lugosi a contract until the film was already in production. AND, to add insult to insult, the contract offered Lugosi $500 per week for seven weeks. He didn’t try to negotiate, even though the offer was less than that being made by actors in the film’s minor roles. He eventually made some money in the mid to late 1930’s, but success as an actor eluded Lugosi, due to being typecast as Dracula or as villain from Eastern Europe, the change in public taste, the banning of horror films in the UK, and the gossip about his addiction. With intermittently few offers of film roles in the 40’s and early 50’s, and with the responsibility of being the provider for his wife and their only child, Béla Jr., he diversified, often spending months away from home, doing summer stock or regional theatre on the east coast, or appearing as Dracula at screenings or promotional events. But as hard as he worked, he lived the majority of his adult life deeply mired in debt, due to Universal’s typecasting and ruthless compensation system and his own careless spending.

    Without consideration of taxes withheld, Lugosi grossed $3500 for Dracula, the equivalent of $54,672 in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars. Meanwhile, Béla’s image and voice earned Universal untold millions, from the film’s initial release in 1931, through the ensuing decades of domestic re-releases, televised airings, 16mm rentals, foreign distribution, merchandizing, and as a prominent feature luring SoCal visitors to The Universal Studios Tour. Béla Jr. grew up to be an attorney, and in 1966, brought Lugosi v. Universal Pictures to the California Supreme Court, suing Universal for using personality rights without the heirs’ permission (and without compensation). In 1979, after ELEVEN YEARS of litigation, Jr. won the case. The court awarded him a small settlement of $70,000, ordered Universal to cease any merchandizing or promotional materials in Lugosi’s likeness, and set a precedent for other families. Universal’s legal cabal appealed and within months, the court overturned the decision, ruling that personality rights did not pass to heirs as a copyright would, and that any rights of publicity, including the right to his image, terminated with Lugosi’s death: “the right to exploit one’s name and likeness is personal to the artist and must be exercised, if at all, by him during his lifetime.” Amazingly, there IS a happy ending and Team Lugosi’s ethic ultimately prevailed. Because of Béla Jr.’s efforts, the Lugosi v. Universal Pictures case provided the foundation for the California Celebrities Rights Act of 1986, a civil code that makes a person’s name or likeness an inheritable right, up to 70 years after death.

    Béla Lugosi kicked ass as the underpaid-yet-ultimately-iconic Count Dracula. But maybe even more ass was kicked with the transparency, honesty, courage, and enormous degree of humility he had, in discussing addiction and recovery with the media in 1955, moving that skeleton from the closet to the spotlight. Béla left a legacy of Dracula, of addiction and recovery, and with his son, of respect and financial compensation given to a celebrity’s family when the celebrity is used for corporate profit.

    “The bats have left the bell tower, the victims have been bled. Red velvet lines the black box. The virginal brides file past his tomb, strewn with time’s dead flowers, bereft in deathly bloom, alone in a darkened room, The Count. Béla Lugosi’s dead. Undead undead undead.”

  • Sh3p says:

    Sir. Bela Lagosi is Dracula and always will be. He has that on lock down. Off hand I can’t think of any other actor that has played good ole Vlad… even though theres been tons…. ok thats a lie, I guess I remember Gary Oldman. Mr. Lagosi was a phenomenal actor who could play a variety of roles that never were taken advantage enough.
    Anyway, I hate how much the article tears down Eddie Wood (Ed. Wood Jr.). Ed wood was the only director giving Mr. Lagosi work. After hollywood milks Mr. Lagosi and kicks him to the curb Ed took care of him and played a big part in convincing him to get commited. He even had a carrot at the end of the stick being a script ensuring that Mr. Lagosi had something to look forward to as well purpose to defeating his addiction to opiates. I have been clean for years now, so I know how tough it can be, and couldn’t even imagine how it would be in the fifties and I commend him beating the narcs…

  • Don Richter says:

    his best line spoken to Jonathon at the Bulgar Pass in reference to the howling wolves, listen to them “the children of the night”

  • And says:

    And you’re a bad person. They get worst fates of all. Maybe you should get what you deserve, too, then eh?

  • And says:

    That was in reply to the dude who said “he got what he deserved.” Sheesh.

  • Samuel Mazzini says:

    This is truly sad,burying him in his Dracula costume was disrespectful, u pay Homage to the man not the character, they essentially made a mockery of this man

  • Sandra Pinnel says:

    Charlie … your kind words to Bela are well-put; and I agree with everything you said. Bela’s performance as Count Dracula was truly mesmerizing – and I agree that no one will hold a candle to his interpretation and delivery
    of that character quite the way he did. Like I’ve already said in my post above, Bela possessed a depth of character and integrity that few folks are aware of. You can get an insightful feel for that in a rare interview that is still available on YouTube that I’m certain you’d enjoy – here’s the link to it:
    This version contains spanish subtitles – you can find the same video without the subtitles, but for some reason, the resolution in this version is much better.
    Just wanted to let you know I was moved by what you said.

  • Alan Wilde says:

    I don’t know. I was really impressed by Christopher Lee’s straight version

  • c. curzio says:


    Bela was a great actor, I also feel that he was one of a few who came out front with his addiction problem in a time it was shunned. IN those days, there were few places one could go to kick. Fed Hospital Lexington, Forth Worth, or jail mostly. attitudes like ‘ He did it to himself ” or’ own fault ” is one of the reasons why many don’t want to seek treatment. I am glad I am in my mid 60’s and people are starting to change their lame attitudes and thoughts regarding addiction and mental health. Since 1914 [ Harrison Act] this country help create this quicksand of troubles and dealt this thru incarceration . We now have millions locked away from non- violent drug crimes, without making headway in ” war on drugs ‘ thanks Reagan and Bush.

  • trey Rozier says:

    Bela was the best Dracula ever Vivian hru doing now

  • Steven Charles says:

    I know the whole family personally, I took care of there aunt for16yrs. They are the most uncaring,most selfish family I have ever seen. They only care about money and what they can steal from their aunt. They Will not let any of her friends visit her cause they are scared they they will tell aunt jenny the truth. Bela jr is also addicted to painkillers like his father, he has the same physical problems like his father. They live mostly off the lugosi name IN the various products THEY sell IN the lugosi name. The family,they made sure that they we’re IN charge of Jenny’s estate so THEY could milk her money FROM the vast property she owns,the rest of the family are scared of the lugosi ‘s cause they don’t have enough money TO take THEM on. She lives in her house at the top of altadena alone without her friends and alone cause the lugosi are blood sucking vampires

  • James says:


  • Karloff hack says:

    No one compares to Bela Lugosi! Karloff? HAHA! What a joke, the hack couldn’t act. Get your facts straight, pedo-worshipper! Bondage Boris was into BDSM and little kiddies. Some idol! Google The Truth About Boris Karloff or serach Bondage Boris or Frankenpedo You’re welcome LOL!

  • Senmut says:

    Sure does. A sink of evil.

  • Kimberly says:

    Thank you H. Schlitz! Appreciated the few facts I didn’t already know. Bela was awesome. Period.

  • Andyroo says:

    Bela Is and will always be a true LEGEND and I will always love his genuine spirit as it moves us and lives on in our hearts whenever I we see his films.


    H. Schlitz
    Too Right! Except one thing..Bela was also wounded three times during the war in addition to his fall. Lugosi was an incredible actor and a man of many talents and strengths. However, sometimes younger generations have no clue of “real sacrifice ” or “the real world and hard work” the founding fathers/mothers of the Stars of the Silver Screen had to accomplish to pave the way for their generation.

  • Bilbo ballbagen says:

    I love Bela Lugosi!! Long live the King!

  • Kevin Connolly says:

    Peter Lorre and Vincent Price attended the wake, and on viewing the body laid out like the Count, Price burst out in uncontrollable paroxysms of laughter. Bela’s widow had him thrown out and never spoke to him again. Later, it was explained that Peter Lorre told Vincent “We should stake him anyway. It’s the only way to be sure.” The laughter is quite understandable.

  • Van Helsing says:

    Its a shame i heard stories that he was a addict but you could walk in any pharmacy and buy morphine, Heroin, methadone,and any narcotic you really cant blame him and today the worst drug of all Alcohol you can get anywhere thers more liquor stores in my city then churches and drugs on any corner… so now they took perfectly good heroin off the streets and replaced it with fentanyl car Fentanyl which can put down an elephant this is the new epidemic I don’t know how it happened it look like just overnight it went from heroin to Fentanyl who has the power to do that you know who the government you know they call it Chinese fentanyl yes I’m sure that the Chinese started making it found the recipe for it but how to get into United States overnight in weird all the heroin go now I am not an advocate for heroin or fentanyl but the lesser of two evils would have been keep the heroin on the streets because fentanyl Narcan does not work on fentanyl at all it’s become a serious problem in my city so the reason why they replaced the heroin with fentanyl is because car Fentanyl will kill you so how do we get rid of millions of addicts we kill them with fentanyl population control just about anything I eat or drink says in the state of California there’s something in whatever a meeting or drinking I should say that in the state of California is considered cancer causing and just about everything I look at or read that is on it so what do you think is going on people wake up only a government could stop the flow of perfectly good heroin and turn it into fentanyl the next day they’re trying to kill every attic this is my belief and I’ll stand by it and stick to it but like I said I will go see could walk in any pharmacy at the time and buy any narcotic he wanted including heroin which Sears and robark sold as new blue morphine and heroin look it up Sears and Roebuck sold two syringes of heroin which actually means stronger hence stronger Morphine it was labeled under White doves powder and they sold you two huge syringes full for a dollar 75 cents and most women were addicted to the heroin or morphine most women at that time of the century were addicted to heroin which they walked into a pharmacy and bought because the women were home doing all sorts of chores cleaning the house tendon to the animals why their husbands were killing themselves at work for five cents a day so if I was born at that time and killing myself for 5 cents a day I be probably spending my money in a pharmacy too and coming home with all the heroin I could purchase when I got my check for probably $5 and they work 7 days a week so it’s not too hard to fall prey to drug addiction when in any pharmacy you walk in you could purchase any class a narcotic including heroin I definitely would have got a job in the pharmacy and robbed every single Class A drug I could get my hands on and if I couldn’t do it that way I’d be robbing every Pharmacy a few Banks and then just go buy it but I really believe that they should bring the old laws back you should be able to walk into any drug store and buy what you want and you would see how fast. The illegal drug trade goes away quickly just like you can buy booze cigarettes and marijuana is legal now in my city it has been for some time so if you’re going to make marijuana legal then you should just make everything else legal as well give it a little time that will happen cuz that’s the only way you’re going to stop the illegal drug trade and at least when you went into the pharmacy you got what you were supposed to get you don’t know what you’re getting off the streets today so the way I look at it legalize everything and we won’t have cartels Coming to America killing people destroying people’s lives you go to a pharmacy can’t what you need that’s it and if that’s your choice that you want to stay home and get high all day while we live in a free country you made marijuana or legal now let’s go for the gusto let everything else be illegal and you’ll see how fast the violence stops illegal aliens coming into the country there will be no reason to send them here those are the mules don’t you get it America they’re not coming here because they like it here they’re coming here to sell drugs and make money so if you stop that you stop the illegal drug trade legalize all class A’s for god sakes booze has killed more people than the combined Wars the United States has fought in and the same thing with cigarettes they kill more people a year then the people on both sides in World War I and World War II what killed well good night ladies and gentlemen The Count Dracula has to go take a shot of morphine blah blah blah

  • Nancy pants says:

    Article states Sinatra paid for treatment costs, but ex wives paid for his funeral.

  • Paul says:

    I am watching the return of chamdu right now
    ….the great Bela Lugosi

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