NO TRAVELER RETURNS: THE LOST YEARS OF BELA LUGOSI by Gary D. Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger

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“Gary Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger have added the final chapter to Bela Lugosi’s career, combining fascinating unknown details of his film and stage activities with post-WWII film history. Superbly researched and written as an engrossing story of an actor’s struggle against professional decline. A must-read!”

– Robert Cremer, author of Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape
(Henry Regnery, 1976).

“Gary Rhodes represents that elusive Gold Standard in narrative research into the full depth and breadth of Bela Lugosi’s complicated career. Rhodes’ devotion to the banishment of myth, and to its replacement with frank and humanizing truth, has provided a wealth of historical storytelling that, in turn, renders the actor’s known body of work all the more fascinating and comprehensible. Just when I catch myself believing I know all there is to be known about Lugosi — along comes Gary Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger with a fresh brace of revelations. The process advances immeasurably in No Traveler Returns: The Lost Years of Bela Lugosi.”

– Michael H. Price, coauthor of the Forgotten Horrors series.

In No Traveler Returns, Bela Lugosi scholar extraordinaire Gary D. Rhodes and Bill
Kaffenberger provide a fascinating time travel journey back to the late 1940s/early 1950s, when Lugosi – largely out of favor in Hollywood – embarked on a Gypsy-like existence of vaudeville, summer stock, and magic shows. While many historians have considered this era a limbo in Lugosi’s career, with precious few facts unearthed, Rhodes and Kaffenberger take the reader along for a wide-eyed ride as Bela performs in a nightclub so notorious that armed guards keep watch on the roof, dresses as Dracula in a magic show where he and a gorilla (a man in a suit) play football with the guillotined head of a woman (a dummy), and races from one stock engagement to another without ever missing a cue. Never in his American career was Bela so busy, and never did his light shine so brightly as he valiantly troupes to support his family, dominate age and illness, and please his audiences. It’s a fastidiously researched education in the show business world of the time – and a stirring tribute to the charm, brilliance and inexhaustible professionalism of the star who was Dracula.

– Gregory William Mank, author of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The
Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration (McFarland, 2009).

    “With preeminent Bela Lugosi scholar Rhodes as co-author, and a foreword by 90-something Schnitzer, who worked with Lugosi at Monogram Studios during the 1940s, No Traveler Returns is a valuable history lesson. For decades it’s been said that Bela was unemployable for most of the late 1940s until his death in 1956. This book sets the record straight.
    “While Hollywood may have tossed the actor aside, live theater remained an open door for him. Authors Rhodes and Kaffenberger trace Bela’s path through those postwar years up until 1951, when Lugosi was still able to earn a living, appearing not only in revivals of Dracula but in original plays performed in big-city houses. The book in fact derives its title from a same-named play which starred Lugosi in the immediate aftermath of his collapsed Hollywood career. The play was not well received at the time, but it now sounds like the kind of fun thriller that makes Lugosi fans drool.
    “With admirable meticulousness, the authors trace every step Bela took during those years. Just about every theater he appeared in, from major venues like the Curran in San Francisco to summer stock productions, is fully documented, complete with original publicity photographs, newspaper clippings, and a wealth of jaw-dropping behind-the-scenes information. Rhodes and Kaffenberger have done their homework. Through it all, an impressive portrait of Bela Lugosi is painted.
    “He was an actor who loved his craft and took his work very seriously. Whether he was appearing in a B-grade melodrama, another revival of Dracula, or in a classical theater piece, he gave his all. As the authors point out, this was a man in his mid-to-late 60s, maintaining a hectic tour schedule that would have exhausted most people, including those much younger than himself. Your respect for Lugosi, both as an actor and a man, can only grow after reading how hard he worked.
    “Most movingly, the book concludes with a few words from Bela Lugosi, Jr., the actor’s son, who spent those years in a military academy. It’s quite touching to read his newfound understanding as to why his parents left him behind during that period of his young life. They went where they had to go in order to provide for him.
    “One can only hope that, wherever in the universe his spirit might be, Bela Sr. knows how well remembered, loved and respected he is.”

--David-Elijah Nahmod for VideoScope

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