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Carlos Villarías was an actor from Córdoba that left a golden mark in Hollywood right when the first sound films were being introduced. He played the leading role of a Spanish version of Dracula at the height of his career. He played the same role of Bela Lugosi in the English version.

The film was thought to be lost for many years until a copy was recently found in the city of La Habana. When examining the tape, critics said that Villarías elegant portrayal of Dracula exceeded by far that of the very same Bela Lugosi. “Drácula” was premiered in Córdoba the 7th of November of 1931 at the Duque de Rivas Theater.

Right from the very beginning of cinema vampires have been a fertile theme for human imagination. Especially in Mexico where Death has such a singular presence in every day life; this is easily noticeable during their Day of the Dead.

Mexico was then one the most important and biggest markets for Hollywood. However, the early sound films could not be dubbed as the industry lacked the technical tools for it. Therefore, in order to reach foreign markets, it was common to make a second version in the language of the targeted country. In this case, a Spanish speaking cast was hired and the film was shot using the same sets of the original version. Usually foreign versions were shot at night.

So the film was shot in 1930 at the Universal Studios and Carlos Villarías and Lupita Tovar played the leading roles. The success of the version, directed by George Melford, made Villarías a popular actor in Mexico, who would then be called to work in this country’s thriving industry.

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Carlos Villarías was born in Córdoba the 7th of July of 1892 and died the 27th of April of 1976 in Los Angeles. He starred in 83 films. He was the son of a Spanish Army General. He studied in San Sebastián and graduated in Law from the University of Valladolid. He then opened a firm but soon after that he quit law to fully dedicate himself to theater. For a while he worked in modest companies but then decided to try his luck in Paris, where he successfully sung “La Gaité Lyirique”. He was acclaimed by the Italian critics in his debut at the Victor Manuel Theater of Torino, and toured around Italy up until World War broke out in Europe.

Having sailed from Genoa, he arrived to the United States of America the 13th of May of the year 1915. His outstanding command of English caught the eye of actor and businessman Lou Tellegen, who suggested he joined his theater company. He was also part of the group that created the Spanish Theater in New York; he even played a main role in the inauguration play “Tierra baja” (Lowland) by Ángel Guimerá. By 1921 he was starring “The Wildcat” in many New York theaters.

In 1923 Villarías arrived to California and, after a few minor roles in mute films alongside with Rodolfo Valentino or Pauline Frederick, the 19th of July, he signed a contract with Fox for a year. During the next two decades he worked unceasingly in Hollywood and Mexico. In 1949 he returned to Spain and ended his outstanding yet unknown acting career. He sometimes went by the name Carlos or Charles Villar.


 

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