Dracula (1924 play)

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1920s Grosset & Dunlap stage play edition
of Bram Stoker's Dracula
Written by
Date premiered5 August 1924 (1924-08-05)
Place premieredGrand Theatre, Derby, England
Original languageEnglish
SettingPurley, England, in the 1920s

Dracula is a stage play written by Hamilton Deane in 1924, then revised by John L. Balderston in 1927. It was the first authorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. After touring in England, the original version of the play appeared at London's Little Theatre in July 1927, where it was seen by the American producer Horace Liveright. Liveright asked Balderston to revise the play for a Broadway production that opened at the Fulton Theatre in October 1927. This production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role.

In the revised story, Abraham Van Helsing investigates the mysterious illness of a young woman, Lucy Seward, with the help of her father and fiancé. He discovers she is the victim of Count Dracula, a powerful vampire who is feeding on her blood. The men follow one of Dracula's servants to the vampire's hiding place, where they kill him with a stake to the heart.

The revised version of the play went on a national tour of the United States and replaced the original version in London. It influenced many subsequent adaptations, including the popular 1931 film adaptation starring Lugosi. A 1977 Broadway revival featured art designs by Edward Gorey and starred Frank Langella. It won the Tony Award for Best Revival and led to another movie version, also starring Langella.


The story was adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker.

John Harker visits his fiancée, Lucy Seward, at the sanatorium run by her father, Doctor Seward.[a] Abraham Van Helsing arrives to help with Lucy's case. Seward tells Van Helsing about Mina Weston, a friend of Lucy's who complained about bad dreams and had two small marks on her throat, then wasted away and died. R. M. Renfield, a lunatic patient who has been eating insects, enters and asks to be sent away to save his soul. Van Helsing waves wolfsbane at Renfield, who jumps back and becomes enraged. An attendant drags Renfield away. Lucy tells Van Helsing about her bad dreams, and he finds two small marks on her neck. Count Dracula, a visitor from Transylvania who stays nearby, arrives to offer help with Lucy. When Dracula leaves, Van Helsing tells Seward and Harker that Lucy has been attacked by a vampire, an undead creature that feeds on the blood of the living. They can exist for centuries, have supernatural powers, and hate the smell of wolfsbane. Van Helsing considers whether Dracula might be the vampire, but dismisses the idea because vampires must sleep in the soil where they were buried, and Dracula is not from England. He decides to watch Lucy in her sleep to catch the vampire. After Van Helsing turns off the lights, Dracula appears in the dark near Lucy, causing her to scream. When Van Helsing switches on the lights, they see a bat fly out the window. Moments later Dracula comes back through the door and asks if Lucy is better.

The next evening, Dracula hypnotizes Lucy's maid, saying he will send her orders. Van Helsing, Harker, and Seward gather to discuss what they have learned during the day. Harker reveals that Dracula arrived three days before Mina became ill, and he had six large boxes of Transylvanian dirt with him. Van Helsing realizes Dracula is able to stay in England by sleeping in these boxes. He says they must purify the boxes with holy water so they will no longer be usable by a vampire. They hear Renfield laugh and realize he has been spying on them. Renfield says Van Helsing's plan is the only way to save his soul and Lucy's. Renfield is interrupted when a bat flies in the room. He calls the bat "Master" and swears he is loyal. The bat flies away, and the attendant takes Renfield back to his room. After the others leave, Dracula returns and attacks Van Helsing, who repels him with a bag of sacramental bread. Van Helsing tells Seward and Harker he has proof that Dracula is a vampire. He places wolfsbane and a crucifix in Lucy's room, but the hypnotized maid removes them so Dracula can enter.

The next night just before sunrise, Seward and Van Helsing have purified five of Dracula's boxes of earth, but did not find the sixth. Lucy attempts to seduce Harker and bite him, but Van Helsing stops her with a crucifix. Van Helsing plans to lure Dracula into the house and trap him there until sunrise. Dracula arrives and says he will return to his box for a century, but will then rise and claim Lucy from her grave. As the sun rises, Dracula escapes up the chimney. Renfield follows him using a hidden passage behind a bookcase. The men follow Renfield into an underground vault, where they find Dracula asleep in his box and drive a stake through his heart. After the theatre's curtain falls, Van Helsing addresses the audience with a warning that "there are such things".



The Irish author Bram Stoker wrote the novel Dracula while working as a manager for Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre in London; he continued to work for Irving after it was published in May 1897. Stoker secured his theatrical rights to the story that same month by holding a staged reading at the Lyceum; this hasty adaptation was never performed again.[1] In 1899, Hamilton Deane, a young Irish actor whose family owned an estate next to one belonging to Stoker's father, joined Irving's company. In the early 1920s, after both Irving and Stoker had died, Deane founded his own theatrical troupe, the Hamilton Deane Company. He began working on a theatrical version of Dracula in 1923, and in 1924 he secured the permission of Stoker's widow Florence to stage an authorized adaptation.[2][3] At the time, Florence Stoker was engaged in a copyright dispute with the German film studio Prana Film over the movie Nosferatu, which adapted the plot of Dracula without authorization, and she needed the money from the play royalties.[4][5] Deane's play was the first dramatization authorized by Stoker's estate.[6][b]

Original production[edit]

To stage the production, Deane was required to submit the completed script to the Lord Chamberlain for a license under the Theatres Act of 1843. The play was censored to limit violence – for example, the count's death could not be shown to the audience – but was approved on 15 May 1924.[8]

Deane's Dracula premiered 5 August 1924 at the Grand Theatre in Derby, England. Deane had originally intended to play the title role himself, but opted for the role of Van Helsing. This production toured England for three years before settling in London, where it opened at the Little Theatre in the Adelphi on 14 February 1927.[9] It later transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre and then the Prince of Wales Theatre to accommodate larger audiences.[10]

Broadway production[edit]

In 1927 the play was brought to Broadway by producer Horace Liveright, who hired John L. Balderston to revise the script for American audiences. In addition to radically compressing the plot, Balderston reduced the number of significant characters. Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray were combined into a single character, making John Seward Lucy's father and disposing of Quincey Morris and Arthur Holmwood. In Dean's original version Quincey was changed to a female to provide work in the play for more actresses.

Directed by Ira Hards with scenic design by Joseph A. Physioc, Dracula opened 5 October 1927 at the Fulton Theatre in New York City. It closed on 19 May 1928 after 261 performances. The Broadway production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role, with Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing.[11]

Raymond Huntley, who had performed the role of Dracula for four years in England, was engaged by Liveright to star in the U.S. touring production. The national tour began 17 September 1928 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[12]

1951 UK tour[edit]

By the late 1940s, Lugosi's movie career had stalled, and he hoped to revive it by successfully bringing Dracula back to the West End. Producers John C. Mather and William H. Williams staged a touring production across the UK. It premiered at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 30 April 1951. Lugosi's involvement got considerable press coverage, but the production received little interest from London theatres and never appeared on the West End. The tour ended at the Theatre Royal, Portsmouth on 13 October 1951. It was Lugosi's last performance as Count Dracula.[13][14]

1977 revival[edit]

Poster for the 1977 revival, with art by Edward Gorey

In 1973, the producer John Wulp staged the play with the Nantucket Stage Company in Nantucket, Massachusetts. He asked Edward Gorey, an illustrator known for his macabre, surrealist imagery, to design the sets and costumes. Gorey, who had never worked in theatre before, created a mostly black-and-white design accented with red. Dennis Rosa directed and Lloyd Battista starred as Dracula. Wulp subsequently moved the production to the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in New York.[15]

In 1976, the producer Eugene Wolsk decided to revive Dracula on Broadway, using the Gorey designs. He worked with Wulp and several co-producers, including Jujamcyn Theaters, to stage the revival.[16] The revival opened on 20 October 1977 at Jujamcyn's Martin Beck Theatre, with Rosa directing. It closed on 6 January 1980 after 925 performances.[17]

The original cast of the revival included Frank Langella as Count Dracula (later replaced by Raúl Juliá), Alan Coates as Jonathan Harker, Jerome Dempsey as Abraham Van Helsing, Dillon Evans as Dr. Seward, Baxter Harris as Butterworth, Richard Kavanaugh as R. M. Renfield, Gretchen Oehler as Miss Wells, and Ann Sachs as Lucy Seward.[18] The show won two Tony Awards for Most Innovative Production of a Revival and Best Costume Design (Edward Gorey).

The Broadway producers established a road company starring Jeremy Brett[19] that toured the U.S. in 1978 and 1979.[20] The U.S. revival also sparked a new production in London, where it opened on 13 September 1978 at the Shaftsbury Theatre. Terence Stamp took the title role, with Derek Godfrey as Van Helsing and Rosalind Ayres as Lucy.[21]

Characters and cast[edit]

1924 original[edit]

Deane's 1924 version of the play had several significant productions with different casts, including the debut production at the Grand Theatre in Derby, the initial London production at the Little Theatre, and a continuation in London at the Duke of York's Theatre, with the following casts:[9][22]

Casts for productions of the original 1924 version
Character Grand Theatre Little Theatre Duke of York's Theatre
Count Dracula Edmund Blake Raymond Huntley Raymond Huntley
Abraham van Helsing Hamilton Deane Hamilton Deane Sam Livesey
Doctor Seward Stuart Lomath Stuart Lomath Vincent Holman
Jonathan Harker Bernard Guest Bernard Guest Stringer Davis
Mina Harker Dora Mary Patrick Dora Mary Patrick Dorothy Vernon
Quincey P. Morris Frieda Hearn Frieda Hearn Beatrice de Holthoir
Lord Godalming Peter Jackson Peter Jackson Peter Jackson
R. M. Renfield G. Malcolm Russell Bernard Jukes Bernard Jukes
Warder Jack Howarth Jack Howarth W. Johnson
Parlourmaid Kilda MacLeod Kilda MacLeod Peggy Livesey
Housemaid Betty Murgatroyd Betty Murgatroyd Helen Adam

1927 revision[edit]

Dorothy Peterson played Lucy Seward on Broadway

The 1927 revision by Balderston was first performed at the Fulton Theatre on Broadway, then opened in London at the Windsor Theatre; it was revived in 1977 at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway, then returned to London at the Shaftesbury Theatre, with the following casts:[23]

Casts for productions of the 1927 revision
Character Fulton Theatre Windsor Theatre Martin Beck Theatre Shaftesbury Theatre
Count Dracula Bela Lugosi Raymond Huntley Frank Langella Terence Stamp
Lucy Seward Dorothy Peterson Margot Lester Ann Sachs Rosalind Ayres
Abraham van Helsing Edward Van Sloan Edward Van Sloan Jerome Dempsey Derek Godfrey
John Harker Terence Neill Terence Neill Alan Coates Rupert Frazer
Doctor Seward Herbert Bunston Herbert Bunston Dillon Evans Barrie Cookson
R. M. Renfield Bernard Jukes Bernard Jukes Richard Kavanaugh Nickolas Grace
Butterworth Alfred Frith Carl Reid Baxter Harris Shaun Curry
Miss Wells Nedda Harrigan Julio Brown Gretchen Oehler Marilyn Galsworthy


The Era gave a positive review to the original production in 1924, calling it "very thrilling".[24] The paper also gave a positive review to the Little Theatre production in London, praising its "breathtaking excitements" and comparing it favorably to the Grand Guignol shows in Paris.[25]

Theatre Magazine complimented Peterson's performance as Lucy in the 1927 Broadway production, calling her "the lightmotif of Dracula ... [whose] fair comeliness shines through every scene like a flood of sunlight in a chamber of horrors".[26]


Radio adaptation[edit]

During the original Broadway run, members of the Dracula cast presented an adaptation of the play on 30 March 1928, on the short-lived NBC radio series Stardom of Broadway. Lugosi, Van Sloan, Peterson, Neill, and Jukes performed on the 30-minute program.[27]


Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film adaptation

The 1931 Dracula film directed by Tod Browning was based on the play. Initially, producer Carl Laemmle Jr. was not interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other actors, including Paul Muni, Chester Morris, Ian Keith, John Wray, Joseph Schildkraut, Arthur Edmund Carewe and William Courtenay. Lugosi happened to be in Los Angeles with a touring company of the play when the film was being cast.[28] Lugosi lobbied hard and ultimately won the executives over, thanks in part to him accepting a paltry $500 per week salary for seven weeks of work, amounting to $3,500.[28][29]

Frank Langella reprised the role of Count Dracula in the 1979 film version directed by John Badham.

Deviations from the novel[edit]

Characterization of Count Dracula[edit]

Stoker's Count Dracula is old, unattractive and bestial, with pointed ears, hairy palms, and putrid breath. Deane revised the character into a suave aristocrat, who dresses formally and displays the polite manners expected in a Victorian drawing room.[30] Although the Count continues to be a foreign visitor in England, he no longer reflects negative stereotypes of eastern Europeans and Jews as he does in the novel.[31] These changes allowed Deane to have Dracula converse with the other characters on stage, rather than looming in the background as a monstrous threat.[8][32] In addition to evening clothes, Deane had Dracula wear a long cape with a high collar, which served the practical purpose of hiding the actor as he slipped through a trap door when the vampire was supposed to magically disappear.[30]

Original version[edit]

  • When Lucy is mentioned, then her last name is Westera, not Westenra.
  • In Deane's original production, Quincey Morris was a woman, perhaps due to a shortage of male actors.[33]

Revised version[edit]

  • The play begins after the death of Mina (Lucy in the novel)
  • The characters of Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris are omitted.
  • Dr. Seward is now Lucy's father rather than her suitor. He runs a mental institute in the English countryside, rather than adjoining Carfax Abbey, London.
  • Harker's first name is John not Jonathan, and he does not go to Transylvania, Renfield does. Count Dracula is already living in England by the time the play starts.
  • A new character is introduced, Lucy's maid, who survives.
  • Harker and Lucy do not marry as he and Mina did in the novel.
  • Dracula sleeps under Dr Seward's house. It is here that he is staked by Harker, rather than stabbed by Morris, after Van Helsing tricks Renfield into revealing the location of Dracula's coffins.
  • Renfield survives.


  1. ^ Plot details are based on the 1927 revision by John L. Balderston.
  2. ^ While seeking the cinematic rights in 1930, Universal Pictures discovered a previous stage adaptation had been done in 1917, but it was unauthorized.[6] A 1921 Hungarian film, The Death of Drakula, used the character name but not the plot of the novel.[7]


  1. ^ Stuart 1994, p. 193
  2. ^ Steinmeyer 2013, p. 284
  3. ^ Melton 2011, loc 6118
  4. ^ Skal 2004, p. 97
  5. ^ Stuart 1994, p. 194
  6. ^ a b Skal 2004, p. 293
  7. ^ Skal 2004, p. 299
  8. ^ a b Wynne 2018, pp. 169–171
  9. ^ a b Browning, John Edgar; Picart, Caroline Joan (2010). Dracula in visual media: film, television, comic book and electronic game appearances, 1921–2010 (Google Books). McFarland. ISBN 9780786462018. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  10. ^ Leonard 1981, p. 508
  11. ^ Rhodes 2006, pp. 169–171
  12. ^ "Raymond Huntley in 'Dracula' Tour". Syracuse Herald. 29 July 1928. p. 32.
  13. ^ Rhodes 2006, pp. 185–186
  14. ^ Lennig 2010, pp. 377–381
  15. ^ Scivally 2015, loc 1105-1123
  16. ^ Scivally 2015, loc 1124-1153
  17. ^ Botto, Louis. At This Theatre: 100 Years of Broadway Shows, Stories and Stars Playbill, Inc., 2002
  18. ^ Eder 1977, p. C3
  19. ^ Your name here. "Dracula - Jeremy Brett Theatre Program (Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes): Joshua Ellis, Edward Gorey: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  20. ^ Leonard 1981, p. 514
  21. ^ Leonard 1981, pp. 509, 514
  22. ^ Leonard 1981, pp. 511–512
  23. ^ Leonard 1981, pp. 512–514
  24. ^ "Dracula". The Era. 21 May 1924. p. 10 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  25. ^ "Dracula". The Era. 16 February 1927. p. 5 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  26. ^ "Pretty, Blonde, Dorothy Peterson". Theatre Magazine. July 1928. p. 13.
  27. ^ Grams, Martin, Jr. (October 2013). "The Quest for the Unholy Grail" (PDF). Radiogram. Society To Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy. pp. 8–13.
  28. ^ a b DVD Documentary The Road to Dracula (1999) and audio commentary by David J. Skal, Dracula: The Legacy Collection (2004), Universal Home Entertainment catalog # 24455
  29. ^ Vieira, Mark A. (1999). Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-8109-4475-8.
  30. ^ a b Scivally 2015, loc 906-910
  31. ^ Stuart 1994, pp. 185–186
  32. ^ Skal 2004, p. 107
  33. ^ Stuart, Roxana (1994). "Dracula: Stage Adaptations, 1897–1985". Stage Blood: vampires of the 19th-century stage (Google Books). p. 195. Retrieved 18 February 2009.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Waller, Gregory (2010) [1986]. The Living and the Undead: Slaying Vampires, Exterminating Zombies. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07772-2. OCLC 952246731.

External links[edit]