Silent Movie Bookshelf: The Bad Guys, A Pictorial History of the Movie Villain by William K. Everson

Cover of my copy
Cover of my copy

A book after my own heart!

This book covers movie villains from the silent era through the 1960’s. Best of all, it is written by William K. Everson, a respected film historian and one of the most assertive defenders of silent movies.

This 1964 book is an oversized hardcover (though paperback versions are available). It is completely out of print and the prices are all over the place. I paid $14 for my copy, purchased from a Cinecon vendor. The dust jacket is battered but the contents are in perfect shape. I have seen other copies priced as low as $2 and as high as $120.

I think you can probably get a pretty good copy if you aim for the $8-15 price range. I highly recommend seeking out hardcover as oversized paperbacks tend to pull themselves apart.

What is it?: A book dedicated to movie villains. Rather than organizing it by era or by star, Everson chose to sort it by villain type. So we have a chapter on Master Criminals, one for Psychos, another for Western Outlaws, etc. It is a clever way of sorting the information and makes it easy to read about the type of villain you are interested in.

Sample page
Sample chapter header

Unlike many books of this type, the silent era villains are given equal attention. Everson even goes one better by explaining why some villains were more popular in sound and others reigned in silence.

My to-watch list is bursting at the seams thanks to this book!

Sample page
Sample page

Pictures: Tons of movie stills included, from both silent films and talkies. Each picture is carefully captioned with both the film title and the actors pictured.

Sample page
Sample page

Writing Style: Everson’s opinionated, persnickety prose is another selling point for this book. He takes occasional swipes at 1960’s whippersnappers and their aggressive, unladylike heroines. It’s grand fun to read, especially since his opinions are backed up by an enormous amount of film knowledge.

This book is perfect for reading or browsing. I consider it an essential title on any movie fan’s bookshelf.

7 Replies to “Silent Movie Bookshelf: The Bad Guys, A Pictorial History of the Movie Villain by William K. Everson”

  1. Oh my god I need this book! I love William K Everson’s books I already have a few!!! Makes me want to read it tonight- The photos in his books are always stellar- I love this post kiddoe… you just get cooler all the time… cheers your partner in crime which will include several of these Bad Guys… for our Chaneython… Yay us…

  2. Great book, Fritzi. I got a copy when I was a kid and I loved it. I’m sure it’s still in the closet. I would mentally check off each movie when I got to see it.

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