On this day in 1847, Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel “Dracula,” is born in Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland. Stoker’s villainous, blood-sucking creation, the vampire Count Dracula, became a pop-culture icon and has been featured in hundreds of movies, books, plays and other forms of entertainment. After overcoming a childhood filled with health problems that frequently left him bedridden, Stoker graduated from Trinity College in Dublin. He then worked for the Irish Civil Service while writing theater reviews for a Dublin newspaper on the side. His drama reviews brought him to the attention of Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905), a tall, dark and well-regarded actor of the Victorian era who was said to have served as an influence for Stoker’s Count Dracula. Stoker eventually became Irving’s manager and also worked as a manager for the Lyceum Theater in London. He published several horror novels in the 1890s before the debut of his most famous work, “Dracula,” in 1897.
Set in Victorian England, “Dracula” is the story of a centuries-old vampire and Transylvania nobleman, Count Dracula, who roams around at night biting the throats of human victims, whose blood he needs to survive. The concept of vampires didn’t originate with Stoker: These mythical creatures, who cast no shadows, have no reflections in mirrors and can be killed with a stake through their hearts, actually first appeared in ancient folklore. English writer John William Polidori’s 1819 short story “The Vampyre” is credited with kick-starting modern literature’s vampire genre. Stoker’s novel has been adapted for the big screen several times. An unauthorized version of the book was made into a 1922 German film, “Nosferatu.” In 1931, Universal Pictures released the well-received “Dracula,” which starred Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) in the title role. (The Library of Congress later labeled the movie culturally significant and added it to the National Film Registry.) Universal went on to release such related films as “Dracula’s Daughter” (1936), “Son of Dracula” (1943) and “House of Dracula” (1945). In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, English actor Christopher Lee (1922-) starred in a series of Dracula productions from Hammer Films, including “Horror of Dracula” (1958), “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” (1966) and “Scars of Dracula” (1970). In 1992, director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now”) had a blockbuster hit with “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” which featured English actor Gary Oldman (1958-) in the lead. The Dracula oeuvre also includes such productions as the 1972 blaxploitation film “Blacula” and director Mel Brooks’ 1995 parody, “Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” starring Leslie Nielsen (1926-). The vampire genre as a whole has proved to be box-office gold in Hollywood.
In 1994, Anne Rice’s 1976 novel “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” was made into a hit movie starring Tom Cruise (1962-) as the vampire Lestat. In 2008, the big-screen adaptation of “Twilight,” author Stephenie Meyer’s 2005 best-selling vampire novel for young adults, scored big at the box office. Bram Stoker died at the age of 64 on April 20, 1912, in London. He published other novels after “Dracula,” but none achieved the same level of success.