Well, here we go again.
By the way, today's bit of mental masturbation was sparked by a MetaFilter post on the growing market for movie props and movie prop reproductions. Blame them for what follows.
Like many kids of the 'Sixties who'd been turned monster-mad by Shock!, Universal's attempt to squeeze just a little more profit from their horror films of the '30s and '40s, I was a devoted reader of Famous Monsters of Filmland and a slavish fan to editor/writer/memorabilia collector/occasional schlockmeister Forrest J Ackerman. Issue No. 30 was of particular interest because of a fun little article on (well, a list of) the powers of Dracula, Bela Lugosi just happening to be my man-crush at the time.
A few pictures from Uncle Forry's vast collection of movie stills and fan photos accompanied the article including this close-up of Dracula's ring (uh, don't go searching your DVD of Dracula frame-by-frame quite yet; you won't find it. More on this in a minute):
To my little 8-yr.-old mind this was the Coolest. Thing. EVER! And Forry owned it. In fact, he'd been given it by Bela Lugosi himself!
So Forry died in December, 2008 after a long illness and soon thereafter what was left of his massive collection of movie memorabilia (he'd sold much of it earlier to pay his medical bills) was auctioned off in April, 2009, including the Dracula ring.
Anyway, in farting around the web chasing down this information I noticed something odd--many of the newspaper accounts (the LA Times, for example, who should have done a little more fact-checking) referred to the ring as having been worn by Lugosi in the 1931 version of Dracula, the same thing I had assumed lo those many years ago. It wasn't. The auction house description got it right:
This “Dracula” ring was originally created in 1944 for Universal’s House of Frankenstein and worn by John Carradine in the role of the Count. Carradine again wore the ring in House of Dracula (1945). Three years later Universal signed Lugosi to reprise his role as Dracula (for his second and last time on film) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Lugosi, who was a very close friend of Forry, wore the ring in this classic comedy and kept it for several years thereafter. Late in life he gave it to a young fan and friend who gave the ring to FJA, along with other Lugosi-owned wardrobe. Likely to be Forry’s most prized artifact, this ring is depicted in numerous photographs, portraits and artistic renderings of FJA and became intertwined with his persona. Its significance cannot be overstated. $20000 – $30000.Maybe.
Apparently there was (and is) a huge controversy (at least, "huge" as reckoned by those who care about such things) concerning the ring's provenance--is it the original or a replica?--see "Debate and Analysis: Forry Ackerman's 'Dracula' Ring" for an interesting in-depth discussion, but the upshot is, yes, this is Forry's ring, so there! Neener, neener, neener!
I have no idea who bought it or what he/she paid for it; my only hope is that the ring is now owned by someone who will treasure and cherish it.
Addendum: Covet this item? Want to pick up hot Goth Girls or Boys in sleazy Goth bars? Several replicas have been produced over the years, most recently by Dimensional Designs (sold out), Monsters in Motion ($285) and Factory Entertainment (forthcoming--August, 2010, $200, but I saw it somewhere online for $180).