A few of these 11 writers are camera-shy; others just lived before the age of film.
Savoring a book for weeks, months, and sometimes years inspires a natural curiosity about the person behind the words. Several scribes have reached cult celebrity status with voracious audiences, but others remain an enigma—their voices and image seldom captured, often because they reached fame before the age of film.
After spotting a rare video featuring Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell on Open Culture, I realized how many writers have evaded their close-up—by choice and by fate. Watch the rare footage of famous authors that I found below for an intimate glimpse of literature's most amazing minds.
The elusive Nineteen Eighty-Four author was captured here marching across a field at Eton College where he was enrolled under his birth name, Eric Arthur Blair. While at Eton in 1917, the writer studied French with English scribe Aldous Huxley and saw his writing career guided by poetry scholar A. S. F. Gow. Catch a peek of 18-year-old Orwell around the 50-second mark in the above video (fourth from the left).
The Catcher in the Rye writer would despise me for publishing this video, which has a surreal TMZ vibe. It's like spotting a unicorn in the wild. The famously reclusive author lived a simple, quiet life in Cornish, New Hampshire after the publication of his famous novel, but a YouTube commenter points out that the locale in the video actually resembles Windsor, Vermont—a town across the river. "This community saw him as a person, not just the author of The Catcher in the Rye. They respect him. He was an individual who just wanted to live his life," a fellow townsperson said of Salinger. Neighbors also reported that he loved $12 roast beef dinners at the local church and could often be found scribbling in his notebook.
Last summer, the only known footage of Mark Twain, which was captured by Thomas Edison in 1909, surfaced. The mustachioed humorist walks his Connecticut estate grounds, smokes like a chimney, and drinks tea with his daughters, Clara and Jean, in the rare video. The clip was apparently used in part for a 1909 short film, The Prince and the Pauper, based on another Twain tale. Behold Twain's scowl and cloud of enviable white hair, above.
The Anne Frank House shared this brief video of the Holocaust diarist several years ago. This is the only time Frank has been captured on film, and she was recorded leaning out the window of her home in Amsterdam. Frank's neighbor was preparing to be married, and the surrounding residents were happily gawking at the bride and groom on their big day. The video—dated July 22, 1941—was given to the museum by the couple in the 1990s when they recognized Frank in their wedding video.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald