As I watched and otherwise enjoyed the classical 1931 “Dracula” film starring Bela Lugosi, one scene repeated several times, disturbed me. I’m not sure of the meaning of what I saw. In the beginning of the film, when Dracula is first introduced to viewers, we see him wearing an oversized necklace with the star of David, the Jewish star, hanging at the end of the necklace. He does not wear this necklace in latter scenes. The unusually large size of the star of David seems to be the film’s desire to call attention to it. It seems to equate Jews to Dracula and imply that both need to drink blood. It seems to recall the many blood libels brought against Jews claiming that Jews need to drink blood for ritual purposes. This 1931 film was produced at a time when anti-Semitism was widespread, especially in Germany.
There were about 150 recorded cases of blood libel, not counting cases that were not reported, where Jews were arrested, often tortured, and often killed following these false charges. Among many, in 1928, less than three years before the “Dracula” production, Jews in Massena, New York, where falsely accused of killing a young girl for her blood.
One may want to suggest that the star of David was used also by magicians, occultists, as some kind of powerful tool to aid in accomplishing what the magician wanted to produce. However, this is not relevant here. Dracula had no need for any extra-powerful object and never used one, not in this film, any other Dracula film based on the book or on the play which was loosely based on the book. Speaking of the book, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is fully described, and there is nothing in Stoker’s book about a star of David, or any similar item. The star is an addition of the film makers.
Although Bram Stoker’s (1847-1912) 1897 fictional “Dracula” does not explicitly identify Dracula as a Jew, many scholars see it implicit in the book as it is in the film. The notion exists that “Dracula” is based on Vlad Tepes, a Christian, but there are many scholars, including Barbara Belford in her 1996 book “Bram Stoker,” that Stoker’s book is based on the 1894 novel “Trilby” about a Jew who seduces, dominates, and exploits nubile European girls. Scholars, such as William Hughes in his 2000 book “Beyond Dracula,” give evidence that Bram Stoker was an anti-Semite. H. L. Malchow in “Gothic Images of Race in Nineteenth Century Britain” wrote in 1996 that Stoker’s novel has several deplorable characterizations of Jews. For example, Dracula is described as having a “beaky nose” in one place and similarly an “aquiline” nose in another. The word “aquiline” means a beak, like and eagle’s beak, the kind of nose that anti-Semites ascribe to Jews.
Did the producers of the 1931 Dracula movie want us to see Dracula as a Jew and did Stoker do so as well?