Absolutely Deliciously Ridiculously Melodramatic Free Books (That Were Also Silent Movies)

Greetings! I wanted to try something a little different today so I decided to share some of the over-the-top silent era books I have been reading/have read.

I am a huge fan of kitsch and overblown romances in the 19th and early-20th century style. (As in written in, not just set in.) Fortunately, so were silent movie people. On that note, here are some of the public domain books I have been entertaining myself with.

Obviously, your mileage may vary with these books so please just enjoy them as you choose. And since these are romances very much of their time, most feature a little light kidnapping.

The Eagle’s Mate by Anna Alice Chapin

A 1914 yarn about a wild and sexy mountaineer named Lancer who falls in love with a valley girl (as in “lives in a valley” not “like, totally, as if!”) named, are you ready for this, Anemone. My dream is to one day have a reading to see who can go the longest without tripping over the heroine’s name.

Here’s a digital scan.

The book was made into a film the same year with Mary Pickford in the lead and James Kirkwood both directing and starring. It was thought lost for years but a print surfaced in 2000. Yay!

The Unafraid by Eleanor M. Ingram

A 1913 novel set in Montenegro with a heroine named (groan) Delight and a hero named Stefan. It was adapted into a 1915 film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and stars Rita Jolivet and House Peters. A copy is held by the George Eastman House and DeMille reused the costumes and sets to make the delightfully bonkers The Captive, which gender swapped the kidnapping and starred Blanche Sweet.

Here’s the digital scan of The Unafraid.

The Great Divide by William Vaughn Moody

This popular play was released in book form and then adapted into a 1915 motion picture with… House Peters. (Howdy, House!) I have reviewed it but it’s not yet available on home video. It’s all about the old west and, of course, abduction because Tinder was not yet a thing, I guess.

Here is the digital scan.

The Penalty by Gouverneur Morris

Fans of the Lon Chaney picture will notice major differences between the 1913 novel and the 1920 film. To be honest, I think the screenplay is better than the original and I have all the details in my review.

Here is the scan of the book.

I hope you enjoyed this little whirlwind tour!


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  1. Shari Polikoff

    A delightful surprise – finding the link to your 2013 review of Joe Franklin’s ‘Classics of the Silent Screen.’ That book was indeed a key part of my introduction to silent films, back in the 70s when I purchased it at the wonderful Cinemabilia bookstore in New York City. Now it’s as dog-eared as can be, and the binding is coming apart, but I still turn to it constantly as a reference while expanding my background in classic films.

  2. Keith S.

    In the past I have owned “The Gaucho”,”The Thief of Baghdad” and “Piccadilly”,in book form,based on the films of the same name. Was this common practice?

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yes, tie-in novels were very popular once the whole copyright thing was worked out by the Supreme Court. From that point on, existing books were repackaged to match film releases. Early motion picture magazines often featured prose recaps of films in short story form as well.

  3. Keith S.

    Oh,I’ve just remembered! Whilst researching the history of our local cinemas I found a serial that was appearing in the local paper at the same time a it was on the screen.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I imagine it would have the same value for viewers of the day as recaps of TV shows had for us in the pre-streaming era. It helped if they missed an ep at the theater and refreshed their memory on the latest plot twists.

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