Bela and Boris Episode 1: Where the Monsters Came From / by Karina Longworth

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Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff were two middle-aged, foreign, struggling actors who became huge stars thanks to Dracula and Frankenstein, the first two of a trend of monster movie hits released by Universal Studios during the 1930s. This season, we’ll discuss their parallel but very different lives and careers. Today, we’ll start by exploring where each man came from, what they were doing before they got to Universal, and why Universal began making monster movies in the first place.

Universal City, c. 1915

Universal City, c. 1915

Carl Laemmle (center) Carl Laemmle Jr. and his sister Rosabelle, c. 1930

Carl Laemmle (center) Carl Laemmle Jr. and his sister Rosabelle, c. 1930



The Moguls: Hollywood's Merchants of Myth by Norman J. Zierold

The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi by Arthur Lennig

Silent Stars by Jeanine Basinger

A History of Horror by Wheeler Winston Dixon

Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931–1946, 2nd Ed. By Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas and Tom Brunas

Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the 1930s by Christopher Workman and Troy Howarth

City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures by Bernard F. Dick

Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror by Michael Mallory

Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp

“Scare ‘Em To Death -- and Cash In” by Richard G. Hubler. Saturday Evening Post, May 23, 1942


All of the music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, is from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. Outro song: “Everyday is like Halloween” by Ministry. Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode: "Waltz for Cello 1" by Jonatan Järpehag, "Russian Dance Off " by Håkan Eriksson, "Reflectif" (Artist Unknown), "Kingdom of Baghk" by Vusal Zeinalov, Audio from the film King of Jazz (1930), "Gagool" by Kevin MacLeod, "At the Riviera" by Peter Sandberg, "Some Autumn Waltz 1" by Jonatan Järpehag.


This episode is sponsored by the Great Courses Plus and Blue Apron.


This episode was edited by Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Bela Lugosi, c. 1920's

Bela Lugosi, c. 1920's

Boris Karloff, c. 1920's

Boris Karloff, c. 1920's