Florence Balcombe

Last updated

Florence Balcombe
Florence Stoker.jpg
Balcombe in November 1880
Florence Anne Lemon Balcombe [1]

(1858-07-17)17 July 1858
Died25 May 1937(1937-05-25) (aged 78)
Knightsbridge, London
(m. 1878;died 1912)
ChildrenIrving Noel Thornley Stoker
Parent(s)James Balcombe (father)
Phillippa Anne Marshall (mother)

Florence Balcombe (17 July 1858 – 25 May 1937) was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She is remembered for her legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu , an unauthorized film based on her husband's novel Dracula .



The daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Balcombe of 1 Marino Crescent, Clontarf, and of Phillippa Anne Marshall, [2] she was a celebrated beauty whose former suitor was Oscar Wilde. [3] She married Stoker in Dublin in 1878. He had known Wilde from their student days, and had proposed Wilde for membership of the university's Philosophical Society while he was president. Wilde was upset at Florence's decision, but Stoker later resumed the acquaintanceship and after Wilde's fall visited him on the Continent. [4]

The Stokers moved to London, where he became acting-manager and then business manager of Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre, London, a post he held for 27 years. Their only child was born on 31 December 1879 and christened Irving Noel Thornley Stoker.

In Golders Green Crematorium Golders Green crematorium (pictures) 002.jpg
In Golders Green Crematorium

Florence Balcombe outlived her husband by 25 years and died in 1937 at the age of 78. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, and her ashes scattered at the Gardens of Rest there. The original plan had been to keep her ashes and those of her husband together in a display urn. After Irving Noel Stoker's death in 1961, his ashes were added to those of his father's in that urn.


Balcombe is remembered for her legal dispute with the makers of the 1922 German horror film Nosferatu , which was based without attribution or permission on Stoker's novel Dracula . She was unaware of the existence of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's Nosferatu until she received an anonymous letter from Berlin. [5] The document included the program of a lavish cinematic event held in 1922, complete with full orchestral accompaniment, that had taken place in the Marble Garden at Berlin Zoological Garden. The film was described in the handbill as "freely adapted from Bram Stoker's Dracula." (Nosferatu screenwriter Henrik Galeen had changed the names of the main characters and made some liberal changes to certain key points. However, the resemblance to Stoker's novel is unmistakable.)

Balcombe was struggling financially and, as Stoker's literary executor, had never given permission for the adaptation, nor received payment for it. Her furious response to this copyright infringement was prompt and uncompromising; not only did she want the financial reparation she felt was due to the estate, she demanded that the negative and all prints of the film (which she would never actually see) be immediately destroyed.

Balcombe launched a lawsuit in which she was represented by the lawyers of the British Incorporated Society of Authors. The suit took some time to resolve; at one point, the German production company Prana Film declared bankruptcy to avoid paying for the adaptation. Finally, she won the case, with the final ruling in July 1925 stating that the negatives and all prints of the film should be handed over to her to be destroyed.

Despite this ruling, prints of the film slowly began to resurface in the late 1920s, with the first American screenings taking place in New York City and Detroit in 1929.

Balcombe did grant the rights to the stage adaptation of Dracula to Hamilton Deane, who had been a neighbour of hers in Dublin. Deane's play, Dracula , premiered in Derby in 1924. In 1927 Horace Liveright bought the American dramatic rights from Florence and hired John L. Balderston to edit it for the New York stage. The show ran for a year on Broadway and for two more years on tour, breaking all previous records for any show put on tour in the United States. [6] However, Liveright failed to pay Florence all her entitlements for the show – he died shortly afterwards.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bram Stoker</span> Irish novelist and short story writer (1847–1912)

Abraham Stoker was an Irish author who is celebrated for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned. In his early years, Stoker worked as a theatre critic for an Irish newspaper, and wrote stories as well as commentaries. He also enjoyed travelling, particularly to Cruden Bay where he set two of his novels. During another visit to the English coastal town of Whitby, Stoker drew inspiration for writing Dracula. He died on 20 April 1912 due to locomotor ataxia and was cremated in north London. Since his death, his magnum opus Dracula has become one of the most well-known works in English literature, and the novel has been adapted for numerous films, short stories, and plays.

<i>Dracula</i> 1897 novel by Bram Stoker

Dracula is a novel by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. As an epistolary novel, the narrative is related through letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles. It has no single protagonist, but opens with solicitor Jonathan Harker taking a business trip to stay at the castle of a Transylvanian noble, Count Dracula. Harker escapes the castle after discovering that Dracula is a vampire, and the Count moves to England and plagues the seaside town of Whitby. A small group, led by Abraham Van Helsing, hunt Dracula and, in the end, kill him.

<i>Nosferatu</i> 1922 silent German horror film by F. W. Murnau

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror is a 1922 silent German Expressionist horror film directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, a vampire who preys on the wife of his estate agent and brings the plague to their town.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abraham Van Helsing</span> Fictional character created by Bram Stoker

Professor Abraham Van Helsing, a fictional character from the 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula, is an aged Dutch polymath doctor with a wide range of interests and accomplishments, partly attested by the string of letters that follows his name: "MD, D.Ph., D.Litt., etc.", indicating a wealth of experience, education and expertise. He is a Doctor, Professor, Lawyer, Philosopher, Scientist and Metaphysic. The character is best known through many adaptations of the story as a vampire slayer, monster hunter and the archnemesis of Count Dracula, and the prototypical and the archetypical parapsychologist in subsequent works of paranormal fiction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Renfield</span> Fictional character

R. M. Renfield is a fictional character who appears in Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. He is Count Dracula's deranged, fanatically devoted servant and familiar, helping him in his plan to turn Mina Harker into a vampire in return for a continuous supply of insects to consume and the promise of immortality. Throughout the novel, he resides in an asylum, where he is treated by Dr. John Seward.

<i>Dracula</i> (1931 English-language film) 1931 film

Dracula is a 1931 American pre-Code supernatural horror film directed and co-produced by Tod Browning from a screenplay written by Garrett Fort and starring Bela Lugosi in the titular role. It is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which in turn is adapted from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Lugosi portrays Count Dracula, a vampire who emigrates from Transylvania to England and preys upon the blood of living victims, including a young man's fiancée.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mina Harker</span> Fictional character

Wilhelmina "Mina" Harker is a fictional character and the main female character in Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vampire film</span> Film genre

Vampire films have been a staple in world cinema since the era of silent films, so much so that the depiction of vampires in popular culture is strongly based upon their depiction in films throughout the years. The most popular cinematic adaptation of vampire fiction has been from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, with over 170 versions to date. Running a distant second are adaptations of the 1872 novel Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. By 2005, the Dracula character had been the subject of more films than any other fictional character except Sherlock Holmes.

<i>Nosferatu the Vampyre</i> 1979 film

Nosferatu the Vampyre is a 1979 horror film written and directed by Werner Herzog. It is set primarily in 19th-century Wismar, Germany and Transylvania, and was conceived as a stylistic remake of F. W. Murnau's 1922 German Dracula adaptation Nosferatu. The picture stars Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula, Isabelle Adjani as Lucy Harker, Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Harker, and French artist-writer Roland Topor as Renfield. There are two different versions of the film, one in which the actors speak English, and one in which they speak German.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lucy Westenra</span> Fictional character from Count Dracula

Lucy Westenra is a fictional character in the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy family, she is Mina Murray's best friend and Count Dracula's first English victim. She subsequently transforms into a vampire and is eventually destroyed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Seward</span> Fictional character appearing in Bram Stokers Dracula

John "Jack" Seward, M.D. is a fictional character appearing in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.

The name "Nosferatu" has been presented as an archaic Romanian word, synonymous with "vampire". However, it was largely popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Western fiction such as Dracula (1897), and the film Nosferatu (1922). One of the suggested etymologies of the term is that it is derived from the Romanian Nesuferit.

<i>Draculas Guest and Other Weird Stories</i>

Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories is a collection of short stories by Bram Stoker, first published in 1914, two years after Stoker's death, at the behest of his widow Florence Balcombe.

Boo! is a 1932 American Pre-Code comedy short film by Universal Pictures, directed and written by Albert DeMond. Boo! contains clips of horror films Nosferatu (1922), The Cat Creeps (1930), and Frankenstein (1931), mocking them thoroughly.

<i>Count Dracula</i> (1977 film) 1977 British film

Count Dracula is a British television adaptation of the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Produced by the BBC, it first aired on BBC 2 on 22 December 1977. It is among the more faithful of the many adaptations of the original book. Directed by Philip Saville from a screenplay by Gerald Savory, it stars Louis Jourdan as Count Dracula and Frank Finlay as Professor Van Helsing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Count Dracula in popular culture</span> Appearances of Count Dracula in popular culture

The character of Count Dracula from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, has remained popular over the years, and many forms of media have adopted the character in various forms. In their book Dracula in Visual Media, authors John Edgar Browning and Caroline Joan S. Picart declared that no other horror character or vampire has been emulated more times than Count Dracula. Most variations of Dracula across film, comics, television, documentaries predominantly explore Dracula as he was portrayed in film with only a few more closely adapting Stoker's original narrative. These including borrowing the look of Count Dracula in both the Universal's series of Dracula and Hammer's series of Dracula, including include the characters clothing, mannerisms, physical features hair style and his motivations such as wanting to be a nearby home away from Europe.

<i>Dracula</i> (1924 play) 1924 stage play

Dracula is a stage play written by the Irish actor and playwright Hamilton Deane in 1924, then revised by the American writer John L. Balderston in 1927. It was the first authorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. After touring in England, the original version of the play appeared at London's Little Theatre in July 1927, where it was seen by the American producer Horace Liveright. Liveright asked Balderston to revise the play for a Broadway production that opened at the Fulton Theatre in October 1927. This production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role.

Horace Brisbin Liveright was an American publisher and stage producer. With Albert Boni, he founded the Modern Library and Boni & Liveright publishers. He published the books of numerous influential American and British authors. Turning to theatre, he produced the successful 1927 Broadway play Dracula, with Béla Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan in the roles they would make famous in the 1931 film by the same name.

Peggy Webling was a British playwright, novelist and poet. Her 1927 play version of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is notable for naming the creature "Frankenstein" after its creator, and for being the inspiration of the classic 1931 film directed by James Whale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hamilton Deane</span> Irish actor (1880–1958)

Hamilton Deane was an Irish actor, playwright and director. He played a key role in popularising Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula as a 1924 stage play and a 1931 film.


  1. "Bram Stoker". IMDB. [ full citation needed ]
  2. "Florence Anne Balcombe". Ancestry. [ full citation needed ]
  3. The Irish Times , 8 March 1882, page 5. [ full citation needed ]
  4. Stephen Dixon (28 March 2009). "Why Dracula never loses his bite". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  5. David J. Skal (1990), Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula From Novel to Stage to Screen. New York: Norton, p. 44.
      Revised ed.: Faber and Faber, 2004, ISBN   9780571211586, LCCN   2004-46959.
  6. Raymond T. McNally; Radu Florescu (1994). In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 157. ISBN   9780395657836.