Dracula (1924 play)

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1920s Grosset & Dunlap stage play edition
of Bram Stoker's Dracula
Written by
Date premiered 5 August 1924 (1924-08-05)
Place premiered Grand Theatre, Derby, England
Original language English
Setting Purley, England, in the 1920s

Dracula is a 1924 stage play by Hamilton Deane, substantially revised in 1927 by John L. Balderston. 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.

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. Lugosi reprised his role in the popular 1931 film adaptation of the play. A 1977 Broadway revival, designed by Edward Gorey and starring Frank Langella, won the Tony Award for Best Revival and led to another movie version, also starring Langella.

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 story was adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker.

John Harker is visiting his fiancée, Lucy Seward, at the sanatorium run by her father, Doctor Seward.[note 1] Abraham Van Helsing arrives to help with Lucy's case. Van Helsing asks Seward about Mina Weston, a friend of Lucy's who died after experiencing similar symptoms. She 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 in order to save his soul. Van Helsing waves wofsbane under Renfield's nose, causing him to jump back and become enraged. An attendant drags Renfield back to his room. Harker brings Lucy, who tells Van Helsing about dreams in which a heavy mist comes into her room, and a frightening face with red eyes appears in the mist. Van Helsing removes Lucy's scarf and 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 momentarily 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 this is how Dracula is able to stay in England, by sleeping in boxes of his native soil. 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. He starts to say more, but he stops 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, an exhausted Van Helsing looks at himself in a mirror. Dracula enters and casts no reflection in the mirror, which he smashes. Van Helsing cuts his own finger to provoke Dracula, then waves wolfsbane at him. Dracula attacks, but Van Helsing repels him with a bag of sacramental bread. Dracula flees through the window. When Seward and Harker return, Van Helsing tells them he has proof that Dracula is a vampire. Lucy enters with a newspaper article about a woman who has been attacking children at night. She says this is Mina, now a vampire serving Dracula. Van Helsing promises to save Lucy; he places wolfsbane and a crucifix in her 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. Lucy asks what happened to Mina. Van Helsing says he drove a stake through her heart. Lucy says they must destroy Dracula, and her also if necessary. 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 after 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 gives a final speech to the audience, warning them 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 1897. 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. Over two decades later, 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.[1]

Original production[edit]

Deane's Dracula premiered 5 August 1924, at the Grand Theatre in Derby, England. Deane had originally intended to play the title 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.[2] It later transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre and then the Prince of Wales Theatre to accommodate larger audiences.[3]

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.[4] It closed on 19 May 1928 after 265 performances, followed by a national tour.[5][6] The Broadway production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role, with Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing; both actors reprised their roles in the 1931 film version, which drew on the Deane-Balderston play.

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.[7]

1977 revival[edit]

Poster for the 1977 revival, with art by Edward Gorey

A 1977 Broadway revival was directed by Dennis Rosa, with sets and costumes by the renowned Edward Gorey. The play opened on 20 October 1977 at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City, and closed on 6 January 1980 after 925 performances.[8] The play was produced by Jujamcyn Theaters (under the direction of Richard G. Wolff, President), Elizabeth Ireland McCann, John Wulp, Victor Lurie, Nellie Nugent and Max Weitzenhoffer.[9] Dracula was originally conceived and produced by the Nantucket Stage Company by John Wulp.

The original cast of the revival included Frank Langella as Count Dracula (later replaced by Raul Julia), 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.[9] 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 that toured the U.S. in 1978 and 1979.[10] 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.[11]

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:[2][12][13]

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]

As Lucy Seward, Dorothy Peterson was described by Theatre Magazine as "the lightmotif of Dracula ... [whose] fair comeliness shines through every scene like a flood of sunlight in a chamber of horrors."[14]

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:[15]

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


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. Performing on the 30-minute program were Bela Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan, Dorothy Peterson, Terence Neill and Bernard Jukes.[16]


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.[17] 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.[17][18]

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

Deviations from the novel[edit]

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.[19]

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 primarily based on the 1927 revision by John L. Balderston.


  1. ^ Steinmeyer, Jim (2013). Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood. New York: Penguin. p. 284. ISBN 978-1-101-60277-5. OCLC 858947406. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Leonard, William Torbert (1981). Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television: Volume I: A-L. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. p. 508. ISBN 0-8108-1374-2. OCLC 938249384. 
  4. ^ "Dracula". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "Dracula Ends Run". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 16 May 1928. p. 14A – via Newspapers.com. 
  6. ^ "Liveright Buys Raphaelson Play". The New York Times. 25 September 1929. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "Raymond Huntley in 'Dracula' Tour". Syracuse Herald. 29 July 1928. 
  8. ^ Botto, Louis. At This Theatre: 100 Years of Broadway Shows, Stories and Stars Playbill, Inc., 2002
  9. ^ a b Eder, Richard (21 October 1977). "Theater: An Elegant, Bloodless Dracula". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Leonard, William Torbert (1981). Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television: Volume I: A-L. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. p. 514. ISBN 0-8108-1374-2. OCLC 938249384. 
  11. ^ Leonard, William Torbert (1981). Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television: Volume I: A-L. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. pp. 509, 514. ISBN 0-8108-1374-2. OCLC 938249384. 
  12. ^ Leonard, William Torbert (1981). Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television: Volume I: A-L. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. pp. 511–512. ISBN 0-8108-1374-2. OCLC 938249384. 
  13. ^ Skal, David J. (2004). "Chapter 3". Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen (Google Books). Macmillan. ISBN 9780571211586. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  14. ^ "Pretty, Blonde, Dorothy Peterson". Theatre Magazine. July 1928. p. 13. 
  15. ^ Leonard, William Torbert (1981). Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television: Volume I: A-L. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. pp. 512–514. ISBN 0-8108-1374-2. OCLC 938249384. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ Vieira, Mark A. (1999). Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-8109-4475-8. 
  19. ^ Stuart, Roxana (1994). "Dracula: Stage Adaptations, 1897–1985". Stage Blood: vampires of the 19th-century stage (Google Books). p. 195. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Scivally, Bruce (2015). Dracula FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Count from Transylvania. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-61713-636-8. OCLC 946707995. 
  • 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]