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New Bela Lugosi book reveals 'The Man Behind the Cape'

31 Days of Halloween

New Bela Lugosi book reveals ‘The Man Behind the Cape’

We spoke with the writer as well as the actor’s granddaughter about this revealing new tome.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

At this point, Bela Lugosi has transcended the role of mere actor. Instead, he’s become just as mysterious and mystical as the Dracula character that he portrayed in iconic horror films like Son of Frankenstein (among countless others). But the man behind the perpetually piercing gaze is just as interesting, and a new book that’s currently crowdfunding via Kickstarter seeks to introduce us to the real and true Bela Lugosi.

Written by seasoned reporter Robert Cremer, Bela Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape is a definitive biography based on “700 rare photographs, letters, documents, and artifacts from the Lugosi Family Archives, many of which have never before been published.” In it, we see across all aspects of the Bela Lugosi story, from his army enlistment in 1914 to his efforts as a union organizer and his work on the iconic film The Raven and even some poignant family memories and anecdotes. Whether you’re a long-time fan or a newbie, it’s a definitive version of Bela Lugosi like never before.

The Kickstarter campaign for Bela Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape is live now and runs through November 16. (It’s already raised some $6,660 of its original $10,000 goal.) Ahead of the campaign’s start earlier this week, we got to speak with both Cremer and Lynne Lugosi Sparks (Lugosi’s granddaughter and the CEO of Lugosi Enterprises). The pair discussed the book’s portrayal of Bela Lugosi’s dynamic life, his value to modern-day Hollywood, and much more.

If you’d like to contribute to the campaign, head here.

New Bela Lugosi book reveals 'The Man Behind the Cape'

AIPT: Why does Bela Lugosi remain such a deeply compelling figure? Is there anyone even like him in the modern pantheon of Hollywood?

Robert Cremer: Bela’s performances were compelling for reasons most theatergoers never knew. His life story was the negative from which he developed many of his unforgettable characterizations on stage and in film. His exile from Hungary for political activism, his being hunted down on a ship on his way to the U.S. and his determination born of many tragedies in his life were the basis for many of his most compelling roles as an actor. This role of personal experience is unparalleled in my estimation in film history. No actor comes close!

Lynne Lugosi Sparks: The answer depends on who you ask. For some it is because they respect him as the original Count Dracula. For others, his distinction as the King of Horror, discovered while watching late night television horror programs, shaped their childhood and instilled a love for the classic monsters and horror films in general. Many are captivated and inspired by the man himself – his charm and magnetism, his successes, and struggles. I believe that the one thread that connects them all is the sense that Bela Lugosi was destined to be Dracula. This, combined with his masterful portrayal of the character, Bela Lugosi became Dracula in the mind of the public, and remains a cultural icon 96 years after he first brought his characterization to the Broadway stage. I do not believe there is anyone like him in modern Hollywood, although there are many outstanding actors with whom I know my grandfather would be proud to be in their company.

New Bela Lugosi book reveals 'The Man Behind the Cape'

AIPT: What kind of depiction or portrayal did you go for or attempt here? How does Lugosi come off in this book?

RC: My focus was to highlight the personal side of Lugosi as the basis for his professional career to explain how an icon in the film industry could be reduced to appearances in B-movies and a dependence on drugs. Bela comes across in a very realistic light in the book, highlighting both the positive and negative, because the information upon which his story is based came from those relatives and close friends who knew him intimately and were never interviewed by other persons.

AIPT: What was one (or two) facts or tidbits that surprised you about Lugosi’s life while putting together the book?

RC: First, the true story of his drug dependence was an eye-opener. Bela himself exaggerated his dependence on drugs as being 25 years for personal reasons related to his divorce from his 4th wife Lillian. The press repeated these accounts, which led to gross misinformation in other books and articles written about Bela. His drug dependence only lasted 3 years, beginning in 1953 with the divorce. A second surprising tidbit concerned his crossing to the U.S. during which he was hunted down by the crew for being a Bolshevist, because he was active in forming the National Trade Union of Actors in Budapest to protect the interests of actors.

New Bela Lugosi book reveals 'The Man Behind the Cape'

LLS: I didn’t know my grandfather in person (he passed before I was born). Working with Bob Cremer and studying his revealing interviews with my Grandmother Lillian and those of close friends and family, I learned so much about the man my grandfather was. I can now recognize similar traits of his in my own family, but more importantly, I better understand the life experiences that shaped him, the reasons he made certain choices in his career or why they were made for him. Revealed in the book are the characteristics of the man behind the cape — his work ethic, tenacity, perfectionism, passion, generosity, and humor.

AIPT: Is there something about his story that seems extra relevant to today?

RC: I think Bela’s striving for perfection at all costs is an admirable story, even to the point of taking drugs to dull pains, so that he would not disappoint his audiences during a performance. His work ethic is inspiring, and certainly this is a message for younger audiences today. The path to success is not easy.

AIPT: Why should anyone want to read this book and/or support the Kickstarter campaign?

RC: Anyone who enjoys reading riveting biographies of persons about whom unique stories can be told will want to read this biography. No other film star can boast such an exciting and dramatic life, which is now available in this no-holds-barred biography. You get to know the real man behind the cape.

New Bela Lugosi book reveals 'The Man Behind the Cape'

The Kickstarter offers readers a unique opportunity to acquire items that are unique and never before seen. The icon of film becomes a living, breathing human being whose failures as well as his triumphs are presented in an honest and straightforward manner. Who could pass this offer up?

LLS: Béla Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape is a must have book, not only for collectors of all things Bela Lugosi, but also for the bookshelves of those who enjoy biographies of celebrities, are fans of classic Hollywood, pop culture, and of course, of Dracula. The Kickstarter campaign makes available deluxe editions and special items that will not be offered anywhere else. To all of the wonderful fans of Bela Lugosi, we hope you enjoy this book and the many treasures offered in the Kickstarter campaign.

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