Saturday, February 5, 2005

Photoplay Edition (a review)

Recently, I wrote and posted online this review of Photoplay Edition, by Emil Petaja. My review follows.

"A pioneering guidebook for lovers of old movies and books"
by thomas gladysz

Throughout his life, the acclaimed fantasy & science fiction author Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) was an avid film buff and collector of movie memorabilia. As a writer, he was especially interested in the literature of film. Petaja had a large collection of books about the movies, as well as an even larger collection of so-called photoplay books - movie tie-in editions dating from the silent film and early sound era. (Then, like now, novels that served as the basis for a film were republished with a scene or film star on the cover. Many also had stills from the film interspersed within the book. Film buffs, collectors, and bibliophiles have long sought out these variant editions - especially if they involved a particular actor, like Rudolph Valentino or Louise Brooks.)

Published in 1975, Photoplay Edition was the first ever book on the subject. Petaja based the book on his personal collection of photoplays, which at the time of publication, numbered more than eight hundred! (Petaja owned many rare examples, including a few autographed by film stars.) Photoplay Edition is composed of a checklist of books, with each entry detailing the book's movie title (which sometimes differed from the title of the novel), as well as it's author, publisher, date of release, the motion picture company which produced the film, it's leading actors, and the number of illustrations included within the book. Illustrating Petaja's guide are dozens of dustjackets and scene stills, each of which graced the original editions. Petaja also offers a short prologue, as well as a longer history of photoplay books. Another delightful, anecdotal chapter tells the story of the author's involvement in collecting these books.

Photoplay Edition has been surpassed by later guides. Nevertheless, this pioneering bibliographical study is a valuable testament to a by-gone era. Anyone interested in old movies or old books will want to own a copy.

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