Van Sloan, Edward

Van Sloan, Edward (1882–1964)

(pop culture)

Edward Van Sloan, the first American to play vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing on the stage and screen, abandoned a middle-class profession for life on the stage. He began in comedy and toured with several stock companies. In 1927, he accepted the part of Van Helsing in the American stage version of Dracula that opened in New York the week of Halloween. He was then one of the few actors from the stage who carried his role over into the 1931 Universal Pictures film. The scenes in which he confronts Dracula with his hypothesis that he is a vampire (in a voice that is a sharp contrast to that of Bela Lugosi) remain among the strongest in the movie. Van Sloan would, on the one hand, set the image of Van Helsing for a generation, until Peter Cushing took it over in the Hammer Films movies. On the other hand, Van Sloan found that his work in Dracula, like fellow actor Bela Lugosi, tended to typecast him. From that time on he played scholarly and fatherly authority figures. He would go on to make some 50 movies, and to revive his role as Van Helsing for the sequel, Dracula’s Daughter (1936). He retired in 1947.

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