Who would have known that the adaptations of Dracula could be connected to such misery for the performers that brought the story to life? In this article, you will encounter a few performers who may have been touched by a suspected ‘Curse of Dracula.’
When she was 20 years old, Helen Chandler signed on to play the female lead Mina Murray in the film version of Dracula (1931). By this time, she was already heading close to the end of her movie career. A bad marriage coupled with an addiction (to sleeping pills and alcohol) placed her in disfavor with the movie community. By the time the mid-1930s rolled around, she was unable to find work in Hollywood, and was committed to a sanitarium in 1940. She suffered a tragic accident involving severe burns after smoking and drinking in bed about ten years later. Some believe this was an attempt to take her own life. Chandler died in 1965.
Horace Liveright was a stage producer who introduced Dracula to the American public. He made a lot of money by sticking with the horror genre. However, he wasn’t very good at being a businessman and spent a great deal of his money frivolously. When Dracula was produced, he made more than $2 million dollars, but dragged his feet when it came time to pay Bram Stoker’s widow, Florence, the royalties she was entitled to. This meant that he lost control of the stage rights because he was behind in a payment of only $678.01. When he died in 1933, he was penniless, drunk and alone.
Florence Stoker may have been married to a great literary mind, but when she sold Universal the movie rights of Dracula, she was close to being flat broke. The sale of the rights (in addition to the royalties that came from the novel and plays in America and London, she was able to live the good life for many years. However, when she died in 1937 ”“ the estate she left behind was valued at Â£6,913.
In the movie ‘Dracula’ (1931), Dwight Frye played the role of Renfield ”“ the man who goes insane after encountering Dracula. For the rest of the movie, Renfield is reduced to being the slave of the vampire. His performance was so highly regarded that he was offered to play a similar character in the movie version of Frankenstein as the hunchback assistant of Dr. Frankenstein ”“ the infamous Ygor. Frye took the role (which would prove detrimental to his career). For the rest of his career, the actor was typecast as the assistant of mad scientists and monsters. It wasn’t until 1944 that he was able to play a different kind of character. He was given the role of the Secretary of War in the film titled, ‘Wilson.’ Unfortunately, Frye suffered a heart attack while riding a bus in Los Angeles and died before he ever had a chance to appear in the film ”“ his memory trapped in his typecast role.