Here’s a nice little bit of historical film trivia: Which film has the most expensive poster ever sold? As of yesterday, the new answer is 1931’s Dracula. The vintage one-sheet, depicting Bela Lugosi’s iconic, debonair vampire count, just sold at Heritage Auctions’ Movie Posters Auction in Dallas, TX, for an astounding $525,800, making it the most expensive poster ever purchased. It was previously owned by Lt. Col. George J. Mitchell, Jr., an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers.
Tod Browning’s Dracula is of course a film of great impact and enduring popular appeal. It kick-started Universal’s original run of monster movies in the early ‘30s, making Lugosi into a household name as he took on the role he had already played to great acclaim on the stage. It was followed by other iconic monster movies, from James Whale’s Frankenstein the same year, to the likes of The Mummy and The Invisible Man shortly thereafter. Lugosi’s performance as Dracula, meanwhile, became an indelible part of vampire lore in the cultural consciousness—nearly every vampire impersonation for the next 85 years has in some way, shape or form evoked Lugosi’s demeanor or Hungarian accent. Ironically, although he was so intrinsically associated with the character, Lugosi only played Dracula one more time, in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, although he did play a similar vampire in The Return of the Vampire.
“The Dracula poster is a rare, important poster that sparked intense bidding among some of our elite collectors,” said Heritage Auctions Vintage Posters Director Grey Smith in a press release. “Considering the sheer beauty of the poster and the timeless popularity of the film, it’s not a surprise that the demand was so high.”
“It is a matter of opinion, but this poster probably is the most beautiful of all of the styles,” Smith added. “And one of only two styles that pictures Bela Lugosi in realistic terms or a faithful rendering – the other is a photographic image.”
Other Universal horror items at the same auction also fetched high prices, including a lobby card from 1932’s The Mummy, which went for $26,290, and a poster from The Phantom of the Opera, which earned $95,600. The half-million Dracula poster, meanwhile, can be viewed below. It’s a thing of beauty, is it not?