Silent Movie Bookshelf: Dark Lady of the Silents by Miriam Cooper

Note: When the site was young, I published quite a few capsule book reviews of silent-related works from my bookshelf so I am dusting them off and reposting them. Enjoy!

I was ferreting through the stacks of a particularly good used bookstore when I found Miriam Cooper’s 1973 autobiography, Dark Lady of the Silents: My Life in Early Hollywood. Hurrah! This is definitely one of those “grain of salt” books. Miss Cooper is a unabashedly out to settle scores but it is definitely entertaining.

Tone: Gossipy

Pictures: Nice selection of personal snapshots and publicity stills

Favorite Tidbit: Cooper had only seen one movie before she made her film debut as an extra in a Biograph short. And she had to sneak off with the janitor’s daughter to see that one. Nice Baltimore girls did not go to the movies. Gracious! She remembered being more interested in the ditsy piano player than the film.

Focus: Miriam Cooper shares memories from her Biograph days with D.W. Griffith, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Mae Marsh and Bobby Harron. She also talks about her marriage with Raoul Walsh and her friendship with film luminaries like Pola Negri and Carole Lombard.

Controversial Opinion: She wrote that she thought Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was guilty and that the vicious rumors about Virginia Rappe’s alleged indiscretions were generated to save the comedian from a murder conviction. (The latter is something I also believe. We can believe that Arbuckle was innocent and also not attack poor Rappe.)

Availability: The book is out of print but is available used.


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  1. Keith S.

    I think Miriam Cooper is one of the great beauties of her era. Did she not go on to have another career after the pictures? I have a vague notion of something to do with golf

  2. detour1945

    Great review, definitely need to read that book! You can’t read enough books, and you definitely can’t read enough books on Old Hollywood!
    Looking forward to more reviews!

  3. Vincent Paterno

    I’ve never heard of this book — but as a Carole Lombard fan (and administrator of the site Carole & Co.), I’d like to learn more about her relationship with Lombard, how it came to be, etc. As usual, you do a superlative job, as I learn more and more about this fascinating era.

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