Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Announces Acquisition of Bela Lugosi’s Iconic Cape from Dracula
LOS ANGELES, CA, October 21, 2019–The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is pleased to announce numerous iconic movie costumes it has acquired over the last year through generous donations, partial gifts, and purchase. Costume design will be one of the many motion-picture arts explored in the Museum’s inaugural exhibitions.
Among these exceptional additions to the fast-growing collection is the cape that Bela Lugosi wore in his legendary performance as the title character in Dracula (1931). A partial gift from the Lugosi Family, the famed Dracula cape was personally owned by Bela Lugosi after filming the classic. Following the runaway success of the 1931 movie, Lugosi continued to wear the cape on stage and in personal appearances. The cape remained in his possession until his death, and then in the possession of his ex-wife, Lillian Lugosi. Lillian later presented it to her and Bela Lugosi’s son, Bela G. Lugosi.
“My father’s screen-worn cape has had a very special place in my life and in the lives of my children and grandchildren. In fact, it has been a part of my mother’s household and then my household since I was born—for over 80 years,” said Bela G. Lugosi. “After several years of discussions with Founding Director Kerry Brougher, who showed such care and appreciation of its important role in film history, it became clear that there is no better home for the cape than the Academy Museum, allowing movie lovers to view a piece of classic horror film history and enjoy Bela Lugosi’s acclaimed performance for years to come.”
“It has been our pleasure to work with Kerry Brougher and Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel as we navigated the emotional journey of transferring my grandfather’s treasured Dracula cape from our family collection to the Academy Museum,” said Lynne Lugosi Sparks, granddaughter of Bela Lugosi and Chief Executive Officer of LUGOSI LLC.
Jessica Niebel said, “This outstanding acquisition simultaneously represents the character of Count Dracula as a cultural icon and the life and career of an extraordinary actor, Bela Lugosi. It is important to us as a museum to be able to restore and safeguard this artifact, especially knowing that much of the material history of the classic horror cycle has been lost forever. We are deeply grateful to the Lugosi family for entrusting us with a treasure that means so much to them.”
Other major gifts include:
• Shirley Temple’s gown, cape, crown, and scepter from The Little Princess (1939), donated by the Family of Shirley Temple Black. Like many of the costumes worn by the child star, whose outfits (unlike those of other actors) could not be easily repurposed for use in other films, they are in near-pristine condition.
• Wedding dress worn by Jennifer Jones in Madame Bovary (1949), donated by the Arnold R. Kunert Collection
• Cloche worn by Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), donated by Lauri Buehler
• Gown worn by Ann Blyth in The King’s Thief (1955), also from the Kunert Collection.
The Museum has also expanded its collection through purchase, acquiring items including:
• Marlene Dietrich’s Helen Faraday evening robe from Blonde Venus (1932)
• Gene Kelly’s sweater and slacks from An American in Paris (1951)
• Sammy Davis, Jr.’s two-piece, black-and-white-patterned Sportin’ Life suit from Porgy and Bess (1959)
• Costumes from The Shining (1980), including the crimson jacket worn by Jack Nicholson
• Black wig with gold trim worn by Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra (1963)
• Diana Ross’s Billie Holiday jacket and skirt ensemble from Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
• Richard Pryor’s baseball uniform from The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)
• Black sequined dress worn by Sonia Braga as the title character in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)
• Denim and flannel ensemble worn by Kathy Bates in Misery (1990)
• Three-piece, poly-cotton waitress uniform worn by Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise (1991)
• Robe and shorts that helped Jeff Bridges transform himself into The Dude in The Big Lebowski (1998)
• Costume worn by Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart in Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
The Academy Museum has actively been acquiring three-dimensional motion picture objects since 2008. Its holdings now number approximately 3,500 items representing costume design, motion picture technology, production design, makeup and hairstyling, promotional materials and memorabilia, and awards. To learn more about the Academy Museum’s collection, click here.