King Kong by Delos W. Lovelace (1932)
King Kong
by Delos W. Lovelace (1932)
Rare to find it with a dust jacket. Illustrated endpapers with photos from the Fay Wray movie.

You are all familiar with movie tie-in editions released to coincide with a major film, but photoplay editions were the forerunners of these books. Photoplay editions were editions produced to accompany silent films and the early motion pictures of the sound era when movies were known as photoplays.

Popular with many book collectors, these books were published mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. Grosset & Dunlap or A.L. Burt were particularly prolific in publishing photoplays and the most collectible of all photoplay editions is probably King Kong from 1932.

The US and British photoplay editions usually had different cover designs and price is usually dependent on the presence and condition of the dust jacket. The early photoplay editions are particularly fascinating. It’s quite common for obscure or forgotten movies to be ‘lost’ and the photoplay books to take on a little historical significance (for movie buffs anyway).

Photoplays were often reprints of original novels with new dust jacket designs featuring the stars with stills from the movie found inside. However, some – such as King Kong and The Iron Horse – were novelized from the screenplay.

A few books about photoplays exist – Emil Petaja’s Photoplay Edition (Petaja had a huge collection of photoplays) and Rick Miller’s Photoplay Editions: A Collector's Guide are very useful.

A Selection of Photoplay Editions

The Rescue by Joseph Conrad (1921)
The Rescue
by Joseph Conrad (1921)

Movie starred Ronald Coleman. Illustrated with photos from the film.
The Mark of Zorro by Johnson (1920)
The Mark of Zorro
by Johnson (1920)

Various editions to accompany the 1920 movie starring Douglas Fairbanks & Marguerita De La Motte.
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1931)
Dracula
by Bram Stoker (1931)

Contains 4 stills from the Bela Lugosi movie. Jacket design taken from the movie poster.
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1931)
Frankenstein
by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1931)

US & British photoplay editions. UK has Boris Karloff photo on cover. Illustrated with stills.
Tarzan and the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1924/1927)
Tarzan and the Golden Lion
by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1924/1927)

Photoplay editions state 1924 but they were published in 1927 to accompany the James Pierce movie.
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1925)
The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux (1925)

Accompanied Lon Chaney film with color illustrations by Andre Castaigne
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1925 & 1934)
Moby Dick
by Herman Melville (1925 & 1934)

John Barrymore twice starred as Ahab – once silent, once talking. Jacket of 1934 edition is stunning.
Red-Headed Woman by Katharine Brush (1931)
Red-Headed Woman
by Katharine Brush (1931)

Accompanied Jean Harlow & Chester Morris movie. Harlow’s character uses sex to get on in life.
The Lodger by Mrs Belloc Lowndes (1927)
The Lodger
by Mrs Belloc Lowndes (1927)

Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film starred Ivor Novello and was Hitch’s first major success.
Cobra by Martin Brown & Russell Holman (1925)
Cobra
by Martin Brown & Russell Holman (1925)

US and UK editions. Paramount movie starred Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi.
The Man Who Laughs: A Romance of English History by Victor Hugo (1928)
The Man Who Laughs: A Romance of English History
by Victor Hugo (1928)

1928 movie starred Conrad Veidt & Mary Philbin. Illustrated with 8 full page plates.
King of the Jungle by C.T. Stoneham (1932)
King of the Jungle
by C.T. Stoneham (1932)

Novelized from Stoneham’s The Lion's Way. Buster Crabbe starred as Tarzan-like Kaspa the Lion Man.
Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum (1939)
Wizard of Oz
by Frank L Baum (1939)

Color plates by W.W. Denslow. Endpapers show scenes & characters from Judy Garland movie.
The General by Joseph Warren (1927)
The General
by Joseph Warren (1927)

Buster Keaton starred in this Civil War movie. Jacket features various paintings of the star.
The Iron Horse by Edwin C Hill (1924)
The Iron Horse
by Edwin C Hill (1924)

Novelized from the screenplay of John Ford’s silent film about the transcontinental railroad.
The Single Standard by Adela Rogers St. Johns (1928)
The Single Standard
by Adela Rogers St. Johns (1928)

Greta Garbo tries to find Mr Right. Illustrated with eight stills from the movie.
The Little Colonel by Annie Johnston (1935)
The Little Colonel
by Annie Johnston (1935)

Issued in conjunction with the Fox film starring Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore.
Call Her Savage by Tiffany Thayer (1931)
Call Her Savage
by Tiffany Thayer (1931)

Cover is a painting of Clara Bow in 1932 film – a racy tale of prostitution and Native Americans.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1932 & 1941)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson (1932 & 1941)

Two separate editions. 1941 movie starred Spencer Tracy. 1932 movie starred Fredric March.
Speedy by Russell Holman (1928)
Speedy
by Russell Holman (1928)

British & US editions of a Harold Lloyd silent movie filmed in New York with Babe Ruth cameo.
Say It With Songs by Arline de Haas (1929)
Say It With Songs
by Arline de Haas (1929)

Novelized by De Haas from Al Jolson’s movie - his first talking film.
Hawk of the Wilderness by Chester L Williams (1936)
Hawk of the Wilderness
by Chester L Williams (1936)

Republic serial starred Herman Brix. Tale of an English boy raised by natives in Siberia.
The Black Pirate by MacBurney Gates (1926)
The Black Pirate
by MacBurney Gates (1926)

British and US photoplay editions. Illustrated with color scenes from the Douglas Fairbanks film.
The Little Minister by J.M. Barrie (1934)
The Little Minister
by J.M. Barrie (1934)

British & US photoplay editions. Photographs from film starring Katharine Hepburn & John Beal.
Jungle Menace by Charles Lawton (1937)
Jungle Menace
by Charles Lawton (1937)

Novelized from the movie starring Frank Buck. Illustrated with stills, collage on endpapers.
Little Caesar by W.R. Burnett (1929)
Little Caesar
by W.R. Burnett (1929)

Four photos of Edward G. Robinson. Burnett’s first book.
The Marriage Playground by Edith Wharton (1928)
The Marriage Playground
by Edith Wharton (1928)

Jacket painting depicts Fredric March & Mary Brian. Movie of Wharton’s novel The Children.
4 Devils by Herman Bang (1928)
4 Devils
by Herman Bang (1928)

A photoplay edition of a movie about a trapeze act called the 4 Devils starring Janet Gaynor.
Charlie Chan Carries On (1930)
Charlie Chan Carries On (1930)

Four photos from the movie that starred Warner Oland.
Camille by Alexander Dumas (1927)
Camille
by Alexander Dumas (1927)

Jacket features Norma Talmadge as Camille. Photos from the film are tinted blue.

What's your favorite movie from the 1920s and 1930s? Leave a comment:

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