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MOVIE LIBRARIANS: NOTABLE LIBRARIANS & LIBRARIES IN FILMS


The label "librarian" evokes a strong mental picture in our culture, and as such provides a handy short-cut for filmmakers who want to get to the point with the minimum of exposition. The label says it all. The most common reason a librarian appears in a film is task-related: the librarian acts as a human interface to information, usually in a brief exchange. Three reasons a film might FEATURE a librarian are: (1) the character's image is confirmed (librarians are really like their stereotype), (2) to evoke irony (betcha didn't expect a librarian to behave this way!); or (3) to expand on the traits and behaviors of the public image, good and bad.

Numerous lists of library/librarian appearances in film are posted on the Internet. Here is another one. These are all films I have personally screened, hence the list is not comprehensive. This list will be expanded as research continues.

I do have one personal caveat -- I believe these movies need to stand alone. If a character is listed as "Librarian" in the credits but does not appear as a true librarian in the film (The Wicker Man, The Rosary Murders, The Dunwich Horror, etc.), then I discount the film for librarian image research, even if the film's literary roots (the book or story on which the script is based) clarify that a character functions as a librarian. Since it is hard to tell film librarians from paraprofessionals from student workers, if it quacks like a librarian it is labeled as such.

YOUR INPUT IS SOLICITED.

Please send responses, suggestions and corrections to:

This site has four sections:

  • Librarian Characters (63): Movies with a major character who is identified or behaving as a librarian or library worker. (This section is below.)
  • Honorable Mentions (93): Click this for movies with at least one speaking (or shushing) character identified or behaving as a librarian or library worker in a minor or supporting role.
  • Library Scenes Without Librarians (and Miscellany) (37). Click this for movies with libraries as settings.
  • Listing Errors (4): Movie titles that appear on other librarian film lists but feature neither library nor librarian.

For related links, click here.


Recent addition(s): Mr. Moto in Danger Island and Liburied (in Honorable Mentions).

Coming soon: The Color of Magic. (Okay, I lie. This has been listed as "coming soon" for more than a year. I confess I haven't figured out that librarian character yet, not even after reading the book. One of these days, though. Maybe.)

Note: Click on any live link of a film or book title to go directly to Amazon.com's listing for that DVD, video or book. A new browser window will open so you don't lose your place. (If you use a pop-up blocker, you may have to enable links from this page. Not to worry -- no pop-up ads here.)

Also: Interested in posters? Click on any of the poster illustrations to find a wide selection to spruce up your home, library, or office. Some are smaller reproductions that fit nicely in tighter spaces.


"You know what I do with books that suck?
Wait for the movies to come out that suck."
 Dave, The War at Home, "High Crimes"

"Movies are important. They tell us about stuff. And other stuff."
 Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show, CBS, Feb. 25, 2008

Tony: "I hate libraries." Tim: "What's to hate about libraries?"
Tony: "The smell gets me every time." Tim: "What does a library
smell like?" Tony: "Lonely, smart people."
 Tony DiNozzo and Timothy McGee, NCIS, "Engaged, Part 2"


INDEX TO MOVIES FEATURING
MAJOR LIBRARIAN CHARACTERS

Agnes and his Brothers
All the Queen's Men
The Attic
Black Mask
The Blot
Bookies
Chainsaw Sally
The Church (La Chiesa)
Desk Set
Dungeons and Dragons
An Extremely Goofy Movie
Foul Play
Good News
Goodbye, Columbus
Grave Misconduct
The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag
The Handmaid's Tale
Idiocracy
Stephen King's It
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Last Life in the Universe
The Librarian: Quest for the Spear
Main, Meri Patni...Aur Woh!
Major League
Maxie
Mindkiller
Miranda
The Mummy
The Music Man
My Side of the Mountain
The Name of the Rose
Navy Blues (1937)
The Neverending Story III
Noëlle
No Man of Her Own
Off Beat
The Off Season (2004)
Only Two Can Play
The Pagemaster
Party Girl
The Pink Chiquitas
Poison Friends
Possession
Public Access
Return to Peyton Place
Rome Adventure
Salmonberries
7 Faces of Dr. Lao
The Shawshank Redemption
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Soylent Green
The Station Agent
Storm Center
Strike Up the Band
The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)
Twisted Nerve
Weird Woman
Wetherby
Where the Heart Is
The Wicker Man
Wilderness
You're a Big Boy Now


In alphabetical order by title.


AGNES AND HIS BROTHERS

Original Title: Agnes und seine Brüder

Roehler, Oskar (Director). Agnes and his Brothers. Germany: X-Filme Creative Pool, 2004. Subtitled.

Starring: Moritz Bleibtreu (Hans-Jörg Tschirner, University Librarian); Martin Weiss (Agnes Tschirner)

This German film is the story of three disparate, damaged brothers, one of whom is an unremarkable man of fading youth named Hans-Jörg (Moritz Bleibtreu) who is a sex maniac and pervert. The film opens with him ogling co-eds in the library, all gorgeous as models and scantily clad. His reference desk has a clear view of legs and midriffs of students at computer terminals. At various times throughout the film he removes books to peep at girls in the stacks, and he's in the habit of following them into the ladies room where he takes the adjoining cubicle and peers through a hole while ... well, we needn't be indelicate here but it's rather disgusting. While he is eager to help pretty girls with reference questions, he rudely spurns an unattractive one. He gets called an asshole more than once, and everyone in the library including his boss recognizes a loser when they see one. Hans-Jörg's mother committed suicide. He was a bed-wetter until at least age 12, went through a punk phase, and had brushes with the law. He keeps a store mannequin in his bedroom to help stimulate self-pleasures. His own father thinks he's a loser. ("He's not normal. He takes after his mother.") Hans-Jörg has been in therapy for years and we see him interact during sex therapy group sessions, but they don't seem to be helping. He's a lonely man sharing an odd dynamic with his brothers and father, but then there isn't a healthy relationship in this entire film. Hans-Jörg is of average size and weight, with thinning brown hair and a proclivity for polo shirts with horizontal stripes that broadcast his nerdiness. His pants are too short, his socks too light, and he clutches a brown leather satchel like a baby blankie. He sips in odd moments from a small liquor bottle. Still, he is well spoken and wants love like everybody else. He is capable of kindness when it's self-serving, but the only genuine love he has is for Agnes, his transsexual half-brother. [Spoilers ahead ...] As desperation and loss of control build, Hans-Jörg commits murder to destroy the root of his family's degeneration. Three brothers look for love in their own way but none truly succeeds. One finds peace in death, one clings to the best he deserves, and our librarian finds himself swept into new adventures that can't possibly end well. Hans-Jörg is one of the least likeable librarian characters ever filmed, and Agnes and her Brothers offers rich fodder for character analysis in librarian studies either independently or comparatively across the growing number of films that include librarians lost to mental illness.


ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN

Ruzowitzky, Stefan (Director). All the Queen's Men. United States: Warner Bros., 2001.

Starring: Nicolette Krebitz (Romy, Head Librarian); Heinrich Herki (Assistant Librarian); Matt LeBlanc (Capt. O'Rouke)

Along the same lines as Evie Carnahan in The Mummy, the head librarian (Romy) of this World War II German library is strong, fearless and intelligent (not to mention slender and pretty). Book-learning, however, is not as important as how clever and quick-thinking Romy is in her role as resistance fighter. What is interesting is that the undercover Allied forces, in attempting to make contact with the "head librarian," immediately address the male behind the counter, who turns out to be Romy's assistant, and who immediately telephones the Gestapo. Of note is how Romy uses book titles to warn the good guys that they are in danger, and to show them an escape route.


THE ATTIC

Edwards, George (Director). The Attic. United States: Atlantic Releasing Corp., 1980.

Starring: Carrie Snodgrass (Louise Elmore, Librarian); Frances Bay (Emily, Assistant Librarian); Ray Milland (Wendell, Louise's father)

NOTE: The characters of Louise and her father are first introduced in the film The Killing Kind, listed on the Honorable Mentions page.

You know right off this is no comedy when you see the librarian's wrists are bandaged after a botched suicide attempt. Louise (Carrie Snodgrass) wears her hair up but no glasses, dressed in a Victorian blouse and a cardigan. Her young assistant and friend, Emily (Frances Bay), sports large reading glasses when needed, and wears her hair in a page boy. When Emily is asked if she likes working at a public library she replies, "It beats being a college librarian." We learn that Emily will be replacing Louise, who is leaving after 19 years. "I guess they do need new blood," she tells Emily, who responds, "Being a head librarian is not exactly my idea of a lifetime career choice." We suspect it wasn't Louise's lifetime career choice, either. Louise is clearly younger than her appearance allows, yet she acts old. She is dressed in shades of tan. If she wore makeup, she might even be pretty. All this tells us a lot about poor and desperate librarian Louise, including the implied fact that her leaving isn't by her own volition. The library is large and nice, with the requisite card catalog, and at the end of the workday Louise shelves a final book before leaving (a cinematic cliché). She is in no hurry to get home to her crippled, manipulative father who demands her time and attention although she's around 40 years old. Louise is still lonely years after her fiancé disappeared on their wedding day. She smokes and she likes margaritas -- too much, it appears, as alcohol is blamed for her destructive behavior at work. At a Mexican restaurant she explains to Emily, "I don't know what happened that day in the library. Suddenly I felt this anger creeping up from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, surrounded by all those books that I've fingered a hundred times before. They all seemed to have eyes, staring at me, watching me, following me all around. They started to come at me like huge, swooping hawks. The books were my enemy. 'Destroy them before they destroy you,' a voice whispered to me. It felt so wonderful seeing all those books going up in flames. I'd won the battle!" In a flashback scene we see her pile books on the library floor and set them ablaze. "I think that's how it happened. It's a little mixed up in my mind." But she says she'd do it all over again, so the nervous breakdown didn't teach her anything (and we're left to wonder why she was allowed to keep working at all). Minor spoilers ahead ... Louise acts out by picking up a young man at the movies and taking care of her physical needs, after which she dresses in blue and applies lipstick. This fix doesn't last, however. We can see by the juvenile toys and stuffed animals decorating her bedroom that she's really into monkeys (in actuality most are chimpanzees). Emily buys her a real chimp (the pet shop sign reads "Special Sale Monkey" – grrrr) which Louise keeps despite her father's demands that she get rid of it. When dining with her friend's mother and little brother, Louise confirms that she has worked as a librarian for 19 years. "It sounds so dreadfully long," Emily's domineering mother adds, then ironically, "I wish Emily would settle down to a job like that." Emily reminds Louise of herself when young, and she does not want her to end up with a dead-end life under the thumb of an abusive parent. Louise admits, "I wish I had had the good sense to try some other jobs when I was young. I mean, I may not have been a librarian." Emily's mother protests that it's a perfectly respectable job. "Respectable, yes," Louise answers, "and awfully boring." Emily's mother closes, "A job is what you make of it." Louise's goodbye party at the library introduces her very odd coworkers, one of whom tells her, "You're free as a bird." Louise can travel now (maybe after she stops crying). Wearing a silly party hat, Louise tearfully waves at the books. "Goodbye all you bastards. If I never see you again it'll be too soon." This is considered a "terror" film, but most of the terror is psychological. Louise can feel better about her own sorry life because she helps Emily avoid a similar fate. It's all too depressing, especially the chimp (named Dickey after Richard, her one-night-stand) that serves as a surrogate child in his cute little sailor suit. This film is rich in librarian public image themes, by the way, and Louise is generous, full of love to give, but too weak to save herself.


BLACK MASK

Lee, Daniel (Director). Black Mask. Hong Kong: Film Workshop Ltd., 1996.

Starring: Jet Li (The Black Mask, Michael/Simon/Tsui Chik, Librarian); Ching Wan Lau (Inspector Rock Shek); Karen Mok (Tracy Lee)

Original title: Hak Hap

Library as refuge ("peace at last") for a chemically-altered assassin who escapes into the real world. As he explains in the opening, "I live in Hong Kong with a new name and a job in a library, something as far removed from my violent past as I could find." "Simon" enjoys library work because his boss leaves him alone. "I like it here. It's quiet. Nobody ever bothers a librarian." (Obviously he doesn't work in the children's department.) He's a pacifist (one of his co-workers thinks he likes boys). But Simon benefits from all those books: "You'd be surprised what you learn on this job." As love-interest Tracy says (with her chalk-on-a-blackboard voice), "He's a little quiet and weird, but cute." Simon says, "It's always the quiet guys that get the most done. They don't waste talking." Of course his real identity is discovered and he's off to one wire-fu action sequence after another (yawn). One nice feature is that this film was made in a real library -- none of those phony sets with books shoved on shelves every which way. Of course that means when the library is shot to pieces with automatic weapons the audience only hears the action. We're spared the agony of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other films where books are pulverized with great glee. And don't bother with the sequel (Black Mask 2: City of Masks) as it's wall-to-wall bloody mayhem with no library anything.


THE BLOT

Weber, Lois (Director). The Blot. United States: F.B. Warren Corp., 1921.

Starring: Claire Windsor (Amelia Griggs, Librarian); Philip Hubbard (Andrew Theodore Griggs); Louis Calhern (Phil West); Margaret McWade (Mrs. Griggs)

This vintage silent film (now available on DVD) is interesting on many levels. When we first meet pretty college librarian Amelia Griggs, she is rubber-stamping a book and being sweet-talked by wealthy collegian Phil West (who looks ten years too old for college). He checks out books as an excuse to see her, but he's not fooling anyone -- back then pages had to be cut apart to be read and these books are returned intact. She is the daughter of a professor, and the family is noble but impoverished because they earn so little. (Their minister friend (another love interest for Amelia) likewise suffers from an inadequate livelihood.) They are shabbily dressed and hungry, and Amelia feeds her cat from the neighbors' garbage can. The Olsons, a shoemaker and his family (including a third lothario in the young son), wallow in food and happiness since Mr. Olson earns $100 more each week than the professor. In a fit of desperation Mrs. Griggs even steals their cooked chicken (but returns it). Eventually Amelia's weakened condition leads to illness and painful overacting. The "blot" is on a society that doesn't provide enough for its teachers, but the end of this ponderous morality play promises change. The message is about as subtle as a shovel in the face, but is a rare peek into how ordinary people lived back then. (And notice how the pitiful salaries for the professor and the minister are lamented but the librarian's low wages aren't even mentioned. She gets to pick a husband at the end so all is right with the world. Argh.) (Note: The director was America's first native-born female director of silent films, with a large body of work to her credit.)


BOOKIES

Illsley, Mark (Director). Bookies. Germany/USA: International Arts Entertainment, 2003.

Starring: Johnny Galecki (Jude, Library Assistant)

Jude works the "ass-early" morning shift at the university library, which is fine because some of the books from the night-drop contain betting slips. He and three friends (working from a dorm room) field sports bets but are so successful they become targets of organized crime whose territory has been compromised. Bets are placed and payments exchanged by placing them in certain library books. "We made sure to use books that had never been checked out in the history of the school. Philosophy, the unabridged works of Plato, or anything in a foreign language." He's a genius but has a weakness for drugs and money and is not very appealing. If you've never heard of this film, think "Sundance Film Festival." Or Wal-Mart video bargain bin.


CHAINSAW SALLY

Burril, Jimmyo (Director). Chainsaw Sally. United States: Redfield Arts, 2004.

Starring: April Monique Burril (Sally Diamon, Librarian)

There are shelves and some books so this must be a library. The sign on the wall in the opening scene says, "ssssshhh! Quiet Please." Students sit at tables with the librarian at her desk nearby. She's young but clearly the stereotype, wearing a drab brown suit, hair pulled up, and wire glasses. When one young man -- long hair, fat, rude, a slob -- gets loud and belligerent, he is asked politely to be quiet. He continues to rant, and the librarian steps forward and asks him again to be quiet or she'll have to ask them to leave. Her voice is modulated and calm. "Frigid little freak," he snorts, and heads to the men's room. While he's using the urinal, the librarian strong-arms him from behind, whispers in his ear ("I said, be quiet in the library!"), then slits his throat. This is the ultimate librarian-gone-bad flick. When she's at work, she's prim and proper. Out in the field, however, she's gothy-freaky and vengeful. Granted, she's offing jerks, but still … We see her skimpily dressed, chasing Tina (blond hair, pink streaks) through the woods, brandishing a chainsaw which she rips on now and then for effect. "Teeeeena, come out come out wherever you are!" she calls. Eventually she corners the girl and rips open her shirt. As the blonde lays on her back crying, Sally explains:

Sally: I've been looking for you. Waiting, waiting … you never came back. Why, Tina?
Tina: Why? I don't know what you're talking about.
Sally: Don't pretend you don't know.
Tina: Please! I have no idea what you're talking about!
Sally: No idea? NO IDEA?? Is it not true that in June of last year you checked out a book from the public library? Is it not true that you, Tina Gray, checked out Atkins for Life by the late Robert C. Atkins? (Shouting) And is it not true that since then that book has not been able to be checked out by any other patron of the Porterville Public Library? Is it?
Tina: (sobbing) Yes! I guess so!
Sally: And why is that, Tina? WHY IS THAT, TINA!!!
Tina: Because! I never brought it back!
Sally: That's right. You never did. And now your fine is in the double digits. But, Tina, you only live four blocks away. I sent notices. I sent letters. What the fuck is wrong with you, girly girl? Now there are a bunch of freakin' fat asses waddling around Porterville, and it's all thanks to your complete and utter LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY!!

At which point … well, they don't call her Chainsaw Sally for nothing. We do see Sally help a patron research local history, but she goes to extremes when an ice cream clerk misspells "malt" on the order pad by, later, carving the correct spelling into her stomach. (Thank goodness for fast-forward buttons.) Anyway, the library is obviously a set (actually some of the interiors seem to be the same set), just a few shelves of unlabeled books. Her assistant is a blind man who serves only as background dressing. This film is porn with violence instead of sex, filmed on the cheap, with not a smidgen of acting talent anywhere but, hey -- the main character is a librarian. And she does maintain her own warped standards. This is a gosh-awful movie, but it makes no pretense about being anything else. We can hear the chainsaw but it's obvious the blade isn't moving. The ending is nonsensical. Mercifully, it's a short film.


THE CHURCH

Soavi, Michele (Director). The Church. Italy: ADC Films, 1989. (Dubbed.)

Starring: Tomas Arana (Evan, Librarian, Cataloguer); Barbara Cupisti (Lisa)

Original title: La Chiesa

The production values in this Italian gothic horror film are superior to most found in the genre, and enhanced the careers of those involved, but it's not likely to appeal to people who aren't already horror fans. Demonic possession, torture, rape, blood and guts – not as graphic as some but still enough to make you flinch. The main character (at least for the first half of the film) is Evan, a likeable and boyishly handsome young man hired to catalog the old books in a gothic cathedral. He dresses nicely and carries a manual typewriter to and from work. The library is only an open space with a few odd shelves of disorganized books and some piles on the floor. Evan makes it clear he's not fond of books per se, but he is a student of history and fascinated by the building's rich and mysterious past, and charmed by pretty Lisa who is in charge of restoration (but not charmed enough to remove his wire-rimmed glasses when trying to bed her). Lisa finds an old parchment buried in a wall and to her annoyance Evan embarks on a quest that explains what happened back in the Middle Ages, but in his explorations he accidentally lets loose the horrible evil buried under the cathedral (not unlike Evie Carnahan's inadvertent triggering of catastrophe in The Mummy). He is the first of many to be possessed by a demon, and actually turns into a monster (and in such guise finally gets the girl but I doubt she'll take him home to meet Mom and Dad). You know the librarian in Evan is lost because of the way he handles the books after being possessed, and he no longer sports glasses. That, plus he gets creepy and (unsuccessfully) puts the moves on a 12-year-old child. The setting in this film is magnificent and a nice change from haunted houses.


DESK SET

Desk Set

Lang, Walter. (Director). Desk Set. United States: 20th Century-Fox, 1957.

Starring: Katharine Hepburn (Bunny Watson); Spencer Tracy (Richard Sumner); Joan Blondell (Peg Costello); Dina Merrill (Sylvia Blair); Sue Randall (Ruthie Saylor)

Based on the Play: Marchant, William. The Desk Set. London: Samuel French, 1956.

And Broadway Musical (1955-1956) Starring: Shirley Booth (Bunny Watson); Byron Sanders (Richard Sumner)

Although never referred to as "librarians," Bunny Watson and her three "girls" run the reference department of a television and radio station in Manhattan. Their roles as access managers are critical to the storyline, which pits their information retrieval skills against Emmarac, an "electronic brain." This film, not Hepburn & Tracy's best work, is credited with being the first to put technology into a library environment. And with the ladies dressed so fashionably, it's a favorite among librarians. But read Marchant's play -- it's far superior to the frippy film.


DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS

Solomon, Courtney (Director). Dungeons and Dragons. United States: New Line Cinema, 2000.

Starring: Zoe McLellan (Marina Pretensa, minor Mage & library worker); Justin Whalin (Ridley Freeborn)

Another example of librarian as action hero (see The Mummy and All the Queen's Men), and library as fight setting (see Shanghai Knights and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Marina's introduction is reminiscent of Evie's in The Mummy, and like Evie, Miranda wears her hair in a bun, has glasses, and too much concealing clothing. She expresses dissatisfaction ("It's just that I feel like I should be doing something more than just shelving books") but minutes later she's caught up in adventure and there's no further reference to her job. Librarian attributes have nothing to do with the storyline. The scriptwriter must have been looking for a job that the heroine would find deadly dull. Silly boy. Quote of note: After she magically ties up two intruders in the library, one comments, "It must be the only way she can get guys to come home with her."


AN EXTREMELY GOOFY MOVIE

Harrowell, Ian & Douglas McCarthy (Directors). An Extremely Goofy Movie. United States: Walt Disney Pictures, 2000.

Starring voices of: Bebe Neuwirth (Sylvia Marpole, Head College Librarian); Bill Farmer (Goofy Goof)

Ms. Marpole, Head Librarian for the generic State College Library, is a more lifelike librarian than many found in live-action films. She's multi-dimensional -- loves disco-dancing and collecting 1970s memorabilia -- with glasses and sensible clothing but no bun. She has a big butt, but love-interest Goofy ogles it fondly. Of course she does a lot of rubber-stamping and there's a card catalog evident. And of course she's seen shelving books from a ladder (is that a cinematic RULE somewhere??). Actually she shelves books a LOT and apparently is the only one working there. She mentions the Dewey Decimal System, which isn't commonly used in college libraries but what the hey. Being a Goofy cartoon (long version), there's the requisite scene with the toppling bookcases domino-style. The Rocky parody tutoring sessions are clever (lots of cultural references in this film the kiddies won't get). They dance the Boogie Duck in the library until interrupted by a stodgy Psych professor. Most notable quote: Goofy's friend Pete says, "All that book-learning doesn't prepare you for doodly-squat. It's useless in the real world."


FOUL PLAY

Higgins, Colin (Director). Foul Play. United States: Paramount Pictures, 1978.

Starring: Goldie Hawn (Gloria Mundy, Librarian); Marilyn Sokol (Stella, Librarian); Chevy Chase (Tony Carlson)

In an early library scene, the place is closed and Gloria is preparing to leave, wearing a raincoat and juggling a purse and umbrella -- while continuing to shelve books. (Movie librarians are so dedicated to shelving books.) She's beautiful, dresses for the times (long comfy skirts, remember? and braless) and now and then dons enormous black-framed glasses. Stella, her buddy and fellow librarian, does reference work for her and also teaches her the fine art of brass knuckles and mace. The scriptwriter's intention of showing Gloria as the librarian hiding from life after a painful divorce is reflected more in the never-ending Barry Manilow song than the storyline itself. Watch this one more for great comedy from Dudley Moore in his prime than for library themes. Notable quote: Friend to Gloria: "Ever since the divorce you lock yourself in the library and hide behind those glasses. Look at you! You used to be a cheerleader!" (War of the images ... **sigh**) Oh -- the requisite shelves-that-fall-like-dominoes contain wine instead of books in this film. P.S. This film was adapted for the small screen in a TV series that lasted less than a month (January 26 to February 23, 1981) starring Deborah Raffin (quite popular in her day) and Barry Bostwick (still popular). Gloria's occupation was changed from librarian to TV talk show hostess. One supposes the writers thought this job would provide more interest and comedy fodder, but the plan didn't work.


GOOD NEWS

Walters, Charles (Director). Good News. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1947.

Starring: Allyson, June (Connie Lane, College Student, Assistant Librarian); Peter Lawford (Tommy Marlowe)

Based on the Play: Schwab, Laurence, & B.G. DeSylva. Good News. NY: Samuel French, 1932.

And Broadway Musical (1927) Starring: Mary Lawlor (Connie Lane); John Price Jones (Tommy Marlowe)

Connie Lane is Assistant Librarian of a college library (and also a third year student majoring in languages) in this football rah-rah musical that has been adapted several times on stage and screen. "This is scarcely the favorite hang-out for the football team," Connie states to its captain, Tommy Marlowe. The librarian here is associated with learning. Predictable and dated storyline. Tired exchange: "You sure don't look like a librarian." "I sure don't feel like one." Favorite quote: Beef to Pat: "Gee, why must everyone get literary in my car?" High point of the film: Football uniforms apparently designed by Ronald McDonald. Also features one of the most commonly used scenes: The library at closing time.


GOODBYE, COLUMBUS

Peerce, Larry (Director). Goodbye, Columbus. United States: Willow Tree, 1969.

Starring: Richard Benjamin (Neil Klugman, library worker); Ali McGraw (Brenda Patimkin)

Based on the Novel: Roth, Philip. Goodbye, Columbus. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959.

The Army interrupts Neil Klugman's degree in English Literature, and afterward he works at a public library. His girlfriend's mother says, "It must be very interesting, the library business." He replies, "I don't know. Yeah, I guess so. No, not very." Mrs. Patimkin asks her daughter, "What does your friend do at the library?" She answers, "I haven't the slightest idea." Yet it's evident from the few library scenes that Neil is good at his job and cares about his patrons (especially a young black boy fascinated by French artist Gauguin), although his job gets no respect from his Jewish princess girlfriend or her family. He expresses no dedication to the job; in fact, Neil makes it clear that the job is a stop-gap, but as he makes no plans for the future, he could well become one of those library lifers who drifts in and then never leaves. Bless 'em, too. (The book has more library scenes and appearances by the little boy, and warrants a closer look by anyone wanting to examine male librarians from literature.)


GRAVE MISCONDUCT

Mastroianni, Armand (Director). Grave Misconduct. United States: Alpine Medien Production, 2008.

Starring: Crystal Bernard (Julia London, Public Librarian); Fran Bennett (Mrs. Crutch, Library Manager); Dorian Harewood (Police Detective)

Crystal Bernard plays the character of librarian Julia London in this rather shallow made-for-TV thriller about a woman who passes off a best-selling novel as her own work. You might be old enough to remember Bernard as an iconic TV beauty from the 1980-1990s when it was fashionable to have long hair wave around your head like Medusa's snakes. The film opens during the lunchtime meeting of the Mystery Writers Workshop outside a large, modern library. Discouraged by criticism, Julia berates herself for her lack of talent, moaning her excuse that "I'm a librarian." She heads inside where the boss meets her with a sour face. Julia is firmly (albeit quietly) upbraided for her tardiness. Mrs. Crutch (Fran Bennett) looks to be in her mid-fifties, African-American, with short white hair and reading glasses hooked in the V of her blouse. She hisses at Julia, "Librarians read. We do not write, for writing is a fool's folly. We read, we catalog, we shelve." (And we wonder why the general public has a low opinion of our skills?) Later, when a police detective interviews Mrs. Crutch about Julia, he is told, "She was an employee, and not a model one," and calls the writers in the club "dreamers." When he interviews Julia, he tries to calm her. "Look, I'm not the library police. I do homicide, not plagiarism, I couldn't care less about fiction right now." Bernard's costumes for this film are designed to set off the actress, not her character's occupation – classic skirts and blouses, tight and flattering, with high heels. We never see her on-the-job, and the association between her profession and the story is rather thin. She lacks self confidence and seems easily swayed by others' opinions, but that's more in line with the film genre than her employment. As an aside, Julia is such an inept writer that she can't even properly compose her own suicide note, the most interesting scene in the film.


THE GUN IN BETTY LOU'S HANDBAG

Moyle, Allan (Director). The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag. United States: Touchstone Pictures, 1992.

Starring: Penelope Ann Miller (Betty Lou Perkins, Librarian); Marian Seldes (Margaret Armstrong, Head Librarian)

As a small town librarian, Betty Lou is creative, studious, hardworking and meek. Her boss is pure stereotypical Hollywood librarian: stern, by-the-book, overprotective of her charges (the books, not the patrons), closed minded, hair in a bun, glasses on a chain, and sporting a cardigan. She declares, "The effect of any book is that it be returned unmutilated to its shelf." She thinks 20-30 people attending a fundraiser make it a success; the thought of 100 is "terrifying." Betty Lou's husband snores when she states she wants to get people excited about what the library does. Considering her personality, Betty Lou's profession is reasonable; many introverted book-lovers are drawn into library work so the construct doesn't feel artificial at all. Now, finding the gun and confessing to a crime you didn't commit, and cutting off all your hair -- well, that's what makes an interesting character intended to contrast with the image as well as her formerly inhibited personality. (Unlike other movie librarians, she'll continue being a librarian.) Betty Lou is actually one of our better cinematic representatives.


THE HANDMAID'S TALE

Schlondorff, Volker (Director). The Handmaid's Tale. United States/Germany: Bioskop Film, 1990.

Starring: Natasha Richardson (Kate/Offred, Librarian); Robert Duvall (Commander)

Based on the Novel: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1986.

The Commander, Offred's master in this dark vision of American society, expresses no surprise when his Handmaiden beats him at an illicit game of Scrabble: "Because you're a librarian." That's the only mention of her occupation before women were enslaved and their value reduced to their ability to conceive. She is the main character, however -- a strong woman struggling to survive under new and appalling societal sanctions. Note that in the book she is not a librarian but a "discer," one of a team of ladies who digitize library books before shredding them. Libraries get a little more mention in the book, with the theme of Library as Church/Temple/Sanctuary (rich with symbols to tease academics). Her problems start when the discers are suddenly fired and removed from their workplace, and we do see a (former) university library defiled when the women's Salvaging -- a modern-day witch trial -- takes place on its wide lawn. This scene is also in the film but its location unidentified. Neither film nor book have much in the way of library issues, but Offred (her birth name is not revealed in the book) could be examined as a metaphor for repressed knowledge. (And despite this story being largely touted as "feminist," the men have it just as bad as the women; the film isn't as balanced as Atwood's tale.) Book and knowledge access comparable to Fahrenheit 451.


IDIOCRACY

Judge, Mike (Director). Idiocracy. United States: 20th Century Fox, 2006.

Starring: Luke Wilson (Pvt. Joe Bauers, Army Librarian); Maya Rudolph (Rita, Prostitute)

This dark future comedy (well, dark in a silly way) opens with a clever narrative to illustrate the premise that "Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence." We are shown how stupid people breed faster than intelligent people, and five hundred years of "dumbing down" results in a future population that can barely function. "But in the year 2005 in a military base just outside of Washington, D.C., a simple Army librarian was unknowingly about to change the entire course of human history." Intro Pvt. Joe Bauers, overseeing a large room with rows and rows of labeled books all clean, organized, spiffy -- and completely unused by anyone. Ever. He sits alone at his desk -- not lonely, just alone -- when two officers invade his domain. He is introduced to Peterson, his replacement, because Joe has a new assignment. "I don't want a new assignment," he tells the officer. "I'm good at this." "Good at what? Sittin' on your ass? No one ever comes in here." "Yeah, I know. It's perfect for me. No one bothers me, I can't screw up. If I can stay in here another eight years I get my pension, I'm all set." But the officer can't save him from this special assignment as "It's coming from high up." "Why me?" Joe asks. "Every time Metzler says lead, follow or get out of the way, I get out of the way." He's told to report "right now." "Right now? Shouldn't I train this guy?" The officer snorts, "I think he can figure out how to sit on his ass and watch TV all day." Joe has been chosen for the Human Hibernation Project because, as Officer Collins explains when briefing the brass, "Joe here is not one of our best men." He's "remarkably average … extremely average in every category." He is an only child, has no family, is unmarried, with no one to ask questions "if something should go wrong with the experiment." Joe and Rita are put to sleep for one year … except during the year Officer Collins is arrested for pimping, the experiment is forgotten, and our stars don't wake up for five hundred years. The film grows more mindless as it progresses and won't be everyone's cup of tea. Still, one wonders how Mike ("Beavis and Butthead") Judge settled on librarian as a military position perfectly suited for a dull Average Joe. Okay, that was a rhetorical question.


STEPHEN KING'S IT

Wallace, Tommy Lee (Director). Stephen King's It. [Made-for-TV Motion Picture]. United States: Lorimar, 1990.

Starring: Tim Reid (Mike Hanlon, Librarian); Harry Anderson (Richard Tozier)

Based on the Novel: King, Stephen. It. NY: Viking Press, 1986.

Mike Hanlon is the only one of this tight-knit group of childhood friends that stayed in Derry's "Poor Town" while the others went off to more adventuresome lives. A male librarian, a black librarian, a smart librarian, and the first one to put two-and-two together as to what is really going on. He is the group's "answer man" who keeps a journal and whose knowledge is literally life-saving. Scary stuff. Think about this one the next time you book a clown for the summer reading program.


KIT KITTREDGE: An American Girl

Rozema, Patricia (Director). Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. United States: New Line Cinema, 2008.

Starring: Joan Cusack (Miss Lucinda Bond, Mobile Librarian); Abigail Breslin (Kit Kittredge); Stanley Tucci (Jefferson Jackson Berk, Magician)

Based on the Stories by: Valerie Tripp.

When the Kittredge family falls on hard times during the Depression, the father heads off to Chicago to look for work, and the mother turns their lovely home into a boarding house for some very colorful tenants. Among them is Miss Bond (Joan Cusack), who drives (very badly) the Mobile Library "car." The vehicle looks more like a small panel truck, with shelves on the inside and on the outside (like a sandwich cart, with glass panels that lift up like wings). In one scene she takes a corner too fast and the panel lifts and books spew across the road. Miss Bond, who wears her brown hair in sausage curls and is more than a little ditzy, encourages the children to read and tries to place appropriate books in everyone's hands. For one catty boarder she recommends a novelette. She takes part in a magician's trick, where she lies on her back on boards braced up by saw horses, about to be hypnotized and "levitated" He asks her, "Are you comfortable?" "No." "Excellent!" And later she isn't happy when a monkey joins this esoteric family. Because this is a lightweight, quirky children's film (with a message or two or ten, of course), this librarian role doesn't fit into any comfortable stereotype niche -- and actually makes librarians seem approachable and dedicated to reading.


LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

Ratanaruang, Pen-Eka (Director). Last Life in the Universe. Thailand: Bohemian Films, 2003.

Starring: Tadanobu Asano (Kenji, Assistant Librarian); Sinitta Boonyasak (Noi)

Original title: Ruang rak noi nid mahasan

This award-winning Korean indie features Kenji, a young Japanese obsessive-compulsive assistant librarian at the Japan Culture Center in Bangkok who is hell-bent on committing suicide. Fate interrupts at every turn (hanging, shooting, smothering, a leap off a bridge, hara kiri, etc.). His apartment looks like a library, with towering but neat piles of books and metal shelving. Even his shoes and clothes are neatly categorized and labeled. He is quiet, wears glasses, and gets involved with a Thai woman who is his polar opposite (Oscar Madison could take lessons from her). They communicate through broken English. The running theme is lizards, as in the Japanese children's book he carries around (The Last Lizard, who even misses his enemies). The librarian in me asks at the end, "Will that book get returned to the library?" Most ironic quote, said to Kenji: "You can't just read. You'll go crazy." Duh.


THE LIBRARIAN: QUEST FOR THE SPEAR

Winther, Peter (Director). The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. United States: Electric Entertainment, 2004.

Starring: Noah Wyle (Flynn Carson, The Librarian); Bob Newhart (Judson, Librarian); Kyle MacLachlan (Edward Wilde, former Librarian).

This TNT made-for-television movie is ... oh, gosh, where to start. Derivative? Unoriginal? Silly? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it, because I like silly movies. No need to describe the plot if you're familiar with Romancing the Stone or any of the Indiana Jones films -- or any of the 1930s-1940s Saturday matinees they satirized -- and add Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes and a few special effects reminiscent of Pee Wee's Playhouse and your local weather station ... you get the idea. Odd that this enormous, gorgeous, underground, special-effects library is revered for the museum artifacts it houses more than its books. As to library themes: Librarians are smart -- given. Librarians are adventurous -- not. The library profession gets little respect -- given. Librarians come through when everything depends on them (as in love and the fate of the world) -- as Buffy would say, "Duh!" Watch this because you like Newhart and Jane Curtain (every interviewee's H.R. nightmare) and the stars are cute and the bad guys die in the end (oops ... was that a spoiler?), and all the library jokes are fun to hear. (Question for the scriptwriter: How did that book stay dry in a bag full of river water?)

Why the rest of the films in this series aren't included ... In my opinion, librarian issues in the The Librarian series are so ... inorganic ... that I feel no need to treat each film separately. They all exaggerate the Saturday matinee Hollywood adventure style, they all toss around humorous references to librarian stereotypes ("book boy!"), and all have nothing to do with librarianship beyond the occasional platitude or barb based on the stereotype. Noah Wylie has multiple Ph.D.s and spews arcane information like a kid's Science Fair volcano so he's (almost) smart enough to be a librarian. The Librarian films are fun but shallow, constructed for juvenile entertainment and are not the source of serious fodder for librarian issues. ("Your experience may differ" as they say!) Besides, doesn't this "library" (actually an underground museum) violate the very foundation of librarianship -- access??? All that knowledge being captured and hidden away is just wrong. Really, really cool, but wrong!


MAIN, MERI PATNI ... AUR WOH

"A Mismatched Couple"

Arora, Chandan (Director). Main, Meri Patni ... Aur Woh. India: UTV Motion Pictures, 2005. (Subtitled.)

Starring: Rajpal Yadav (Mithilesh Shukla, University Librarian); Rituparna Senqupta (Veena)

Mithilesh Shukla (Rajpal Yadav) is 34, single, and content. He is a perfectionist, well suited for his job running the Tagore Library at Lucknow University. He has friends, a zippy scooter, and a daily routine you could set a clock to. His large extended family lives together in happy chaos while he prefers his solitary apartment. Marriage holds no appeal for him, and he only goes along with his family's matchmaking simply to appease his forceful uncle and to stop his mother's constant crying. No one is more surprised than he is when Veena turns out to be lovely, well educated – and several inches taller than Mithilesh. They marry, very much in love. Because Veena is friendly and charming, Mithlilesh's friends, co-workers and vendors fawn all over her. Filled with jealousy and self-doubt, he raises the seat on his scooter so she won't loom over him when they ride, even though it impairs his balance. He puts lifts in his shoes, buys powder guaranteed to make him grow but only makes him sick, mimics the behaviors of his perceived competition, and reads a stack of self-help books. Eventually he convinces himself that she is having an affair with their new neighbor, a very tall and gregarious man she knew years earlier who is installing a computer system at the library. As hard as Mithilesh tries to stabilize his life, emotions overpower him. When he finally confesses his fears in the form of an invitation for Veena to leave and be happy with her new love, she walks out on him. As for library themes, we see the iconic male librarian set in his ways, meticulous with details, and respectable – but an outsider, awkward around females, and easily humiliated. He habitually capitulates to others' wishes even when he truly doesn't want to. When he finally asserts himself, he makes a deplorable error in judgment that could cost him his marriage. There is little expectation that Mithilesh has changed by film's end, but he learns that good fortune is best not analyzed.


MAJOR LEAGUE

Ward, David S. (Director). Major League. United States: Mirage, 1989.

Starring: Rene Russo (Lynn Wells, Librarian); Tom Berenger (Jake Taylor)

Normally I hate sports films, but this formula misfits-make-good movie is endearing and inspiring and the uniforms are nice and tight. Lynn Wells is the former fiancée of one of these misfits (Jake, the catcher with the bad knees) and he goes the distance to win her back. She has a master's degree, and we'll assume it's in library science since she works in a huge and lovely building (someone tell me where this is; most of the filming was done in Wisconsin standing in for Ohio, but no credit was given to the library). She suffers from the 1980's unfortunate wardrobe and hair styles (her beautician apparently lacked opposable thumbs). Can't fault her for big glasses -- we ALL wore big glasses back then. The character used to be an Olympic-alternate swimmer, now engaged to a wealthy and classy businessman. Jake reads Moby Dick to impress her ("Hey," she asks, "Did you ever read Moby Dick?" "Cover to cover, babe.") -- never mentioning that it was the Classic Comics version. (I love the scene where the team is traveling on their broken down bus, passing different Classic Comics back and forth, palming off Crime and Punishment to one fellow by telling him it's a detective novel.) So of course (spoiler alert!) she ends up in the arms of the sweaty ballplayer. Look out for Charlie Sheen as Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn. Oh, he has nothing to do with libraries, he's just nice to look out for.


MAXIE

Aaron, Paul (Director). Maxie. United States: Orion Pictures, 1985.

Starring: Mandy Patinkin (Nick, Rare Book Librarian); Valerie Curtin (Ophelia Sheffer, Head Librarian); Glenn Close (Jan / Maxie); Harry Wong (Mr. Chu, Library Patron)

Based on the Novel: Finney, Jack. Marion's Wall. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1973.

A very young and handsome Mandy Patinkin plays Nick, the Rare Book Librarian at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. We first meet him on the job, closing up for the day (a librarian film convention) and giving a lift to a long-time patron, the elderly Mr. Chu (Harry Wong). Nick's wife, Jan (Glenn Close) is the personal assistant to the Catholic bishop. They have a comfortable marriage with promise, as they move into a charming (and haunted) new home. How much trouble could one little ghost be? Plenty. When Maxine Malone takes over Jan's body, Nick cannot help but be fascinated by the charming actress whose untimely death decades before prevented her from being a Hollywood star. The subplot involves Nick's new boss, Miss Sheffer, a she-devil (beautifully played by Valerie Curtin) who reinvents the stale library ladder scene by nearly making this rom-com X-rated. She dresses primly enough (long print skirt, wide belt, white blouse, glasses on a cord, shoulder-length brown hair, dangly earrings), but subtle she ain't. She purrs, "You have wonderful eyes, Nick. You should open them." He emphasizes that he's married. She doesn't care. "Most women avoid married men. I improve them." That night at a library companion's fundraiser she meets the wife (under Maxie's control) and they literally have a tug-of-war with poor Nick in the middle. Maxie snarls, "Go pedal it elsewhere, lady, the goods look damaged, my man ain't buyin'." Miss Sheffer purrs, "Why, Nick, your wife is charming! In a very primitive way." Jan/Maxie hates to waste a good drink but pours it down the head librarian's décolleté. In a later scene when Nick has to rush home to tend to his wife, Miss Sheffer declares, "If you walk out that door now, you're fired." For the first time he acknowledges her harassment. "I'm not a towel boy in a country club, I'm an expert in rare books. I'm a professional; I'm paid to service the public's needs … not yours." As she recovers from this affront she snaps at Mr. Chu, who calls her a bitch under his breath. This film is light entertainment and worth the price of admission if only to see the breathtaking library.


MINDKILLER

Krueger, Michael (Director). Mindkiller. United States: Prism Entertainment Corp., 1987.

Starring: Joe McDonald (Warren McDaniels, Librarian); Christopher Wade (Larry Bicket (sp?), Librarian); George Flynn (Mr. Townsend, Library Director)

It's bad enough that Warren and Larry are always rejected by ladies at a nightclub, they are also librarians working in the subbasement archives, underscoring their status as losers. Warren takes it particularly hard. Even with two shelves of overdue self-help library books in his apartment, he still can't attract women. Nothing works until he finds in the archives a manuscript article that teaches the control of objects and behaviors with one's mind. Soon he masters the power and is eager to use it on the library's sexy new consultant, Sandy. She doesn't like him but can't resist. (Larry meanwhile also reads the manuscript but uses his new power to solve a Rubik's cube, and to help his friend.) Warren turns into a monster behaviorally and physically as he manipulates everyone to do his bidding. [Spoiler alert! As if you'd watch this low budget horror hokum …] His friends try to prevent his self-destruction but in the end, as vicious monsters erupt from his grotesquely mutated brain, they have to kill him themselves. Two different facets of the male librarian stereotype are displayed – Warren the loser and Larry the geek. Ultimately, only the geek librarian succeeds, and even becomes a chick magnet.


MIRANDA

Munden, Marc (Director). Miranda. Great Britain: Feelgood Films, 2002.

Starring: John Simm (Frank, Librarian); Christina Ricci (Miranda)

Frank's character was no doubt made a male librarian so we would instantly accept his mousiness and his need for excitement, which is provided by his mysterious patron. The "library" is a counter and a bookcart (an obvious set) and is otherwise irrelevant as setting.


THE MUMMY

Sommers, Stephen (Director). The Mummy. United States: Universal Pictures, 1999.

Starring: Rachel Weisz (Evelyn Carnahan); Brendan Fraser (Rick O'Connell)

Librarians everywhere applaud Evie's drunken declaration of pride: "I ... am a ... librarian!" Her profession advances the storyline, since her wealth of book-learning gives vital information to the seekers of the lost city and its treasures. (In the sequel where this information is no longer critical, her role as librarian is dropped.) This film features the best of the falling bookcases scenes -- and for once they serve a purpose, establishing character. ("Oops!") And though Evie is not a superhero, she needs to be included on any list of strong and daring female librarians in the cinema. This movie is one of the most relevant librarian movies out there, once you look past all that sand, all those things going boom, all those bugs ...


THE MUSIC MAN

The Music Man DaCosta, Morton (Director). The Music Man. United States: Warner Bros., 1962.

Starring: Shirley Jones (Marian Paroo); Robert Preston (Harold Hill)

Based on the Play: Wilson, Meredith. The Music Man. NY: Music Theatre Inc., 1957.

And Broadway Musical (1969) Starring: Barbara Cook (Marion Paroo); Robert Preston (Harold Hill)

Marian the Librarian is the first librarian character mentioned when librarians in movies are discussed. The profession is chosen because of its implication of spinsterhood and prudishness and being unconquerable by a ne'er-do-well like Harold Hill (she should be intelligent enough to see through him). Also necessary because she's an outsider who tries to bring literature ("Balzac!") to a repressed community -- unsuccessfully until she is humanized by a man and love. Librarian tasks are irrelevant except for one lively dance sequence (rubber stamps and shushing lips, **sigh**).


MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

Clark, James B. (Director). My Side of the Mountain. United States: Paramount Pictures, 1969.

Starring: Tudi Wiggins (Miss Turner, Librarian); Teddy Eccles (Sam)

Based on the Novel: George, John Craighead. My Side of the Mountain. NY: Dutton, 1959.

Young Sam runs away to survive on his own in the wild for one year, playing hermit until he needs information on how to catch and raise a falcon. Miss Turner, forty-ish librarian for the Knowlton (Quebec) Public Library (think rural and creaky), wears her long hair secured by a headband. Her large and heavy glasses are worn indoors only. She provides the books, and warns Sam to wear gloves. She is warm and caring, and the two become friends. Later they spend Christmas together. The librarian in the book has a smaller role. (The film seemed to combine several characters into Miss Turner.) And the book takes place in Delhi, New York in the Catskills, with the librarian described as "sort of young" with brown hair and eyes. The librarian in the book even cuts the boy's hair. How's that for personal service? (The book won a Newbery but I detested the film. Watching it through a parent's eyes, and -- oh, I dunno -- LOGIC kept getting in the way.)


THE NAME OF THE ROSE

Annaud, Jean-Jacques (Director). The Name of the Rose. France: France 3 Cinema, 1986.

Starring: Volker Prechtel (Malachia, Head Librarian); Sean Connery (William of Baskerville); Christian Slater (Adso of Melk)

Original Title: Le nom de la rose

Based on the Novel: Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. NY: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1984. [Note the librarian's name in the book is Malachi; that he is not Italian is an important fact.]

Access to knowledge is obstructed at every turn in this secluded medieval monastery where the library catalog lists books chronologically as acquired over the centuries (the librarians memorize it). Only the librarian and his assistant have access to the Aedificium's forbidden third floor. The library entrances are hidden or guarded, the floorplan is a labyrinth laced with booby traps, the classification system is a mystery, the signage incomprehensible, and death is literally by-the-book. Knowledge is dangerous and a threat to those who would turn their backs on God. Both in concept and setting, the library is the core of this storyline and an excellent metaphor for nearly everything academics choose it to be. But read the book to understand Eco's world of knowledge interruptus (which research shows might be the literary interpretation of Eco's personal frustrations with libraries and librarians).


NAVY BLUES

Staub, Ralph (Director). Navy Blues. United States: Republic Pictures, 1937.

Starring: Mary Brian (Doris Kimbell, Public Librarian); Dick Purcell (Russell “Rusty” Gibbs, Sailor)

Miss Doris Kimbell (Mary Brian) becomes the subject of a bet when three sailors on shore leave wager that their “lady killer” buddy can’t conquer the librarian who dresses like a pilgrim and wears “a pair of glasses as thick as cookies -- you know the type!” Rusty Gibbs (Dick Purcell) will have to wash his friends’ dungarees and shine their shoes for a month if he can’t score a date with her. Rusty assures them he’s been in a library before. “They don’t scare me.” Once inside he tells her, “I’d like something in the way of a book,” and bluffs with “Old books, y’know, are like old friends, y’know.” He randomly selects an advanced algebra book, and admires Miss Kimbell’s ankles when she climbs the requisite library ladder. She’s wooed by his charms but her Aunt Beulah doesn’t approve of the common sailor. Uncle Andrew was a mathematics professor, however, and is delighted to talk him up, although Rusty knows squat about the subject. He leads everyone to believe that he’s in naval intelligence and a candidate for Annapolis, while he’s really a Navy screw-up. Rusty courts the thawing librarian, and with disturbing expediency performs a make-over that (of course) reveals her loveliness and (of course) he falls in love with her for real. Their relationship’s formulaic ups and downs are punctuated by a subplot dealing with espionage and kidnappings and the book’s importance as a codebreaker. For librarian stereotype issues, this film is a must-see. And as an old comedy B movie, it holds up pretty well.


THE NEVERENDING STORY III: Escape from Fantasia

MacDonald, Peter (Director). The Neverending Story III: Escape From Fantasia. Germany: Cinevox, 1994.

Starring: Freddie Jones (Mr. Coreander, Librarian); Jason James Richter (Bastian Bux); Jack Black (Slip, Leader of the Nasties)

Mr. Coreander, former bookshop owner, is now librarian at Bastian's new school, where he's transferred his stock (!), including The Neverending Story (held in Reference and absolutely forbidden to leave the building, right). When chased by the Nasties (Jack Black is sooo young!), Bastian hides in the library ("the" place to find shelter in cinema-land), where he once again escapes into the book. When the Nasties find the book and access all its real-time information, they have dominion over both Fantasia and the real world ... until Bastian enlists help from his new step-sister and a gang of Jim Hensen creations that make H.R. Pufnstuf seem high-tech. An alarmingly bad movie, but with great themes dealing with the importance and power of reading.


NOËLLE

Wall, David (Director). Noëlle. United States: Volo Films, 2007.

Starring: Kerry Wall (Marjorie Worthington, Librarian); David Wall (Father Jonathan Keene); Curt Dewitz (Seth Herrod)

What we have here is a mash-up of stereotypes. Small town librarian Marjorie Worthington (Kerry Wall) doesn't have a lot of patience for Catholic priests because they have a problem with women. Marjorie, on the other hand, is not fit to play Mary in a living nativity scene planned by the local church because, according to her engaged-to-someone-else boyfriend Seth (Curt Dewitz), "I just never pictured Mary as the librarian type at all." She and the priest both challenge the heel as to what a librarian looks like? Two-timing rat Seth responds, "Mary's supposed to be beautiful, right?" Father Jon (David Wall) declares, "Marjorie is beautiful." "Okay," Mr. Scumbag admits, "but not like 'Mary' beautiful." After a scuffle, weasel Seth shouts, "Everybody knows she's not the Mary type!" We learn soon enough that's because she's carrying the asshat's baby. In truth one must look past scruffy hair and no makeup to see Marjorie's beauty. (The priest is actually prettier than the librarian.) Father Jon certainly notices her appeal when she's reading A Christmas Carol to children at the library, and dancing at the big Christmas party. He wonders why she stays with Seth. "My theory is, she's either very bored – which is possible in a place like this – or he's very rich." But he understands that neither is correct. Father Jon does not like people while Marjorie clearly does, and his kneejerk judgments make him insufferable, but these two misfits are drawn to each other. The priest stereotype is trounced in this film, but that's for a different website to describe. Noëlle is a feel-good holiday film that lacks originality (being yet another homage to Dickens' Scrooge) but makes up for it with warmth and humor and quality cinematography.


NO MAN OF HER OWN

Ruggles, Wesley (Director). No Man of Her Own. United States: Paramount Pictures, 1932.

Starring: Carole Lombard (Connie Randall, Librarian); Clark Gable (Babe Stewart)

Based on the Short Story by Edmund Goulding & Benjamin Glazer.

Poor Connie -- small town librarian with the dull, dull small town life ... until she's picked up (all too easily, methinks) by a slimy card shark dodging the law. (What does she see in this creep?) In brief, she runs to the big city and marries the man and eventually he learns his lesson and finally reforms thanks to the love of a pure woman. Gag me with a ... Anyway, the library scenes are clearly Hollywood sets, and the books (old and ratty, without labels) look like they were shelved by the Tasmanian Devil. (With all the sitting around she does, I find myself screaming at the TV, "Get off your arse and straighten up those shelves!" Sorry, but this is an abysmal movie. I usually love Lombard's work but this character shows such poor judgment.) Connie acts as a reader's advisor, and we learn that Babe Stewart is not interested in poetry, drama or Shakespeare. Mostly he's interested in Connie's legs, and he asks her to retrieve a book on the uppermost shelf so she has to climb a ladder. She catches on and sparks, "Are you showing me a grand time, mister, or are you showing me a grand time?" (I don't know what she means, either.) THAT little scene is credited with the spawning of the League of Decency although all we see is a flash of ankle and for sure Mr. Slimebucket doesn't really get to see any of the good parts. This film can be mined for library themes (the library as prison rather than refuge, see The Pagemaster) and it's an example of a beautiful librarian who defies the stereotype. And though Babe refers to her as clever, her taste in men leaves much to be desired. IMHO, always IMHO.


OFF BEAT

Dinner, Michael (Director). Off Beat. United States: Touchstone Pictures, 1986.

Starring: Judge Reinhold (Joe Gower, library worker); Penn Jillette (Norman, library worker), Cleavant Derricks (Abe Washington); Meg Tilly (Rachel Wareham)

Okay, I publicly admit it, I've harbored a movie-crush on Judge Reinhold for decades and he can do no wrong in my (admittedly skewed) book. Now star him in a comedy where he works in a library and my warped little world becomes Nirvana. Reinhold plays Joe Gower, a young, energetic New Yorker who can't seem to get ahead in the world, "a 28-year old guy," he realizes, "who has never done anything with his life." (Compare him to Neil Klugman in Love Story.) Gower is having a bad day. He is once again passed over for promotion, his girlfriend is moving in with an uptight library manager, and Joey accidentally interferes with his policeman-buddy's undercover drug sting. Joe Gower works in the stacks of the New York Public Library, filling book requests dropped through a tube (a setting you'll recognize from You're a Big Boy Now). He skates between the shelves, fast and efficient, listening to tapes of salsa music or Japanese language lessons. Abe Washington, his cop-friend, is punished for the drug bust gone awry by being sent to participate in a dance event involving officers from all over New York. Washington coerces Gower into taking his place long enough to blow the audition, but of course Gower gets caught between testosterone-driven competition and the dare of a pretty girl. And of course he gets drafted into the show and the rest is funny and formulaic. The undercurrents of this film are more serious, however, as we watch a young man trying to change his own conventional behaviors in order to accomplish his dreams. He's not the stereotypical mousy male librarian, but, as Washington tells him, he "has no left hand" (a basketball reference, identifying his predictability). "When you going to make a move with your life, Joey?" Washington asks, then urges, "Let's make a pact. Y'gonna think right, go left." When his love interest, Rachel, visits his apartment and asks, "Read all these books?" Gower replies, "Me? No. I, ah, sublet from some joker works in a library." (Gower never refers to himself as a librarian.) His father wanted him to be an accountant, his mother wanted him to be a civil engineer, and one of his step-mothers wanted him to run a mortuary business. "I remember wanting to write books for kids, all full of useful wisdom about how not to grow up to be like the adults I knew, but I never got around to that." Gower's basketball coach figured he wouldn't amount to anything, the one goal he feels he fulfilled. (His real dream is to run a toystore.) When Washington gets demoted to cleaning up after police horses, he laments, "You know what happens if my sergeant figures out what's going on? I got no place to get busted to but out! What am I supposed to do with the last thirty or forty years of my life? Work in a library?" When Gower practices with his gun in the library (he offers to pass it around but the idea is not warmly received), he shoots a clock off the wall. By the end of the film as his life crumbles at his feet, Gower's work suffers; the buzzers and book requests are ignored. He gets into a confrontation with the manager and threatens to blow his pecker off in front of the circulation desk. Things go from bad to worse as we know they will, but eventually fate steps in and Gower gets his act together. I really like this film and find it inspiring. A delightful scene near the beginning features a conversation between Gower and his socially-conscious co-worker Norman (a young and curly Penn Jillette). Norm (pushing a loaded bookcart) declares: "There are two things in this world that I love, Joey -- the Dewey Decimal System and demolition pyrotechnics, and I will use them together, and I will start sending books to the networks, good things, y'know, Ken Kesey, Dr. Seuss, Norman Mailer, and when they open the book there's a little landmine inside triggered to the title page, like, BOOM! Three or four of these literary experiences, they'll learn ... not to cancel Family Feud!" Notable quote, Washington to Gower: "You look like a guy who works in a library." (Also of interest is that the uptight manager also harbors nonlibrary dreams of becoming a lawyer. Does everyone think of libraries as an employment stop-gap?) If you haven't seen this cinematic chestnut, go rent the the video. It has aged very well. And there's always the kick of seeing Cleavant Derricks naked in a shower. And all those men in tights.


THE OFF SEASON

McKenney, James Felix (Director). The Off Season. United States: MonsterPants Movies, 2004.

Starring: Christina Campenella (Kathryn Bennett, Library Assistant); Francine Pado (Claudette, Librarian); Noah deFillippis (Librarian); Ruth Kulerman (Mrs. Farthing)

Three library workers appear in this film (although the male's role is fleeting and irrelevant). The female protagonist in this remarkably inept horror flick finds a library assistant job at a seaside town's public library in order to support herself and her live-in wannabe playwright boyfriend. Kathryn and Rick have rented a haunted room (#13, surprise!) in a crummy little motel during the off season. They are in their 30s, attractive, and she has a college degree, but her boyfriend throws it in her face during one of their many arguments: "Look where it got you – you're an assistant at a library right in the middle of nowhere." At work Kathryn assists a plain and dumpy librarian named Claudette (horn-rimmed glasses, hatchet hair) who hails from Maine and wears the same hideous houndstooth dress throughout the film. Claudette praises her work ("Wish we had ten more like you"), but when Kathryn falls ill and misses too much work, the (unseen female) Director lets her go. The primary motif in this film is books – writing them, reading them, selling them, borrowing them, signing them. Even a malicious ghost in a dream whacks Kathryn with a book, inflicting a wicked black eye. A rare compliment I can give to this atrocious production is that the writer had a familiarity with libraries. Granted, there are no service encounters (a couple patrons are seen browsing the stacks in the background), and we never actually see anybody do a lick of work except shelve a book or two, but they talk a good game. Kathryn is asked for help with barcodes in the AV department, and later Claudette suggests she assist with new acquisitions. "It's really a great way to get first dibs on new materials." (The term "materials" is a clue to the writer's library knowledge, maybe in tech services.) Be forewarned that numerous IMDB commentors agree that this is one of the worst (or "by far the worst") horror films ever made. (To be fair, I thought the two library ladies did a credible acting job.) Notable quote: Mrs. Farthing, motel manager, describes the murder of a previous tenant: "It was terrible. They never caught the buggers. Bikers, I bet, or maybe even Canadians."


ONLY TWO CAN PLAY

Gilliat, Sidney (Director). Only Two Can Play. United Kingdom: RCA/Columbia Pictures, 1962.

Starring: Peter Sellers (John Lewis, Librarian); Mai Zetterling (Liz); Virginia Maskell (Jean)

Based on the Novel: Kingsley, Amis. That Uncertain Feeling. London: Victor Gollancz, 1955.

The opening scene of this b&w 1962 male-librarian classic is the exterior of the Aberdarcy (Wales) Public Library. We see librarian John Lewis (Sellers), dressed in an ill-fitting suit, peering through a bookcase at a classy lady striding toward him -- starched shirtwaist dress, high heels, and lacquered helmet hair. Her voice purrs and she smiles coquettishly.

Lady: Good morning. Have you Conditioned Reflexes? It's by Pavlov.
Lewis: (awkwardly) Yes, yes, it's out at the moment, but if you'd like to leave your name I could reserve it for you.
Lady: (writing on card) I'll come back then.
Lewis: (hopefully) Do. Oh, ah ... would you like to leave your phone number?
Lady: I did.
Lewis: (looking at card) Oh! So you did, dear.

A moment later he's appreciating the fine legs of another lovely patron. This guy's got it bad. He realizes he's holding the James Thurber/E.B. White book Is Sex Necessary?, which he unceremoniously tosses onto a shelf. A quotation then overlays the screen as we see poor Lewis rest his face in his hands: "It is not observed that Librarians are wiser men than others" -- Ralph Waldo Emerson. We learn that Lewis needs "more than the normal outlet" for his "creative urges." He is married with children in a crowded and noisy three-room upstairs flat, and is suffering the seven-year itch. His very pretty wife, Jean, urges him to apply for a promotion because they need the money. He doesn't think he'd get the job. "I am not sufficiently up in Welsh literature," he tells her. When Liz, the flirtatious society wife of the Chairman of the Library Committee, comes to the library in need of special research materials, she begins a campaign to get him that job in exchange for ... favors. Later, when he's getting ready to have an intimate moment with Liz, he sees on the table a book by John Marquand called Point of No Return. He covers it with a magazine. He knows it's not the right way to land the promotion, but laments to his wife, "Why did I bother to cram to pass exams, to take degrees, where did it get me? I would be much better off as a road sweeper." Despite the foreign location and mid-20th century timeframe, male librarian stereotypes are apparent, especially during the interviews by the Committee of candidates (all male) for the promotion. Today's male librarian stereotype is effeminate, geeky, and socially inept, but back then men in the profession were thought to be nerdy in a scholarly sense, internally high strung, and socially clumsy. Okay, maybe things haven't changed all that much. This film, as the book on which it is based makes clear, concerns one librarian's "uncertain feeling." And speaking of Amis' book, the film is true to the tone and humor of the book and much of the storyline, although the librarian issues aren't quite as pointed but still central to who the character is.


THE PAGEMASTER

Hunt, Maurice & Joe Johnston (Directors). The Pagemaster. United States: 20th Century Fox, 1994.

Starring: Christopher Lloyd (Mr. Dewey/Pagemaster); Macaulay Culkin (Richard Tyler)

Colorful entertainment about a boy who, seeking shelter from a storm, enters the library and meets the helpful Mr. Dewey. A gorgeous rotunda, a slip-and-fall, a journey on a runaway bookcart, and the real-boy-turned-animation finds himself in a land of adventure, fantasy and horror. Books are characters. Pirate book: "This is a library, mate. Not everything is as it seems." (Of course the boy gets shushed. I think there's a cinematic law about that.) The books dream of escaping the library. Mr. Dewey is also the Pagemaster: "Keeper of the books, guardian of the written word." Strong parallels to The Wizard of Oz.


PARTY GIRL

Mayer, Daisy von Scherler (Director). Party Girl. United States: Party Productions, 1995.

Starring: Parker Posey (Mary, Library Clerk); Sasha von Scherler (Judy Lindendorf, Librarian)

This film is an important member of the librarian film oeuvre, but I have a problem with a storyline that appears to heartily support librarianship but still maintains that gawdawful stereotype that has crippled the profession for a hundred years. We have a young urban woman (Mary) who uses her organizational skills to throw lavish (and illegal) parties. Her librarian godmother (Judy) helps, albeit reluctantly, to redirect her energies into library work. Mary takes to it like the proverbial fish to water, and overcomes her frustrations at being forced to do clerk work rather than true librarian work by determining at the end to go to library school. Hooray. Of course, the journey to self-discovery means she sacrifices her Cyndi Lauper wardrobe for a costume that looks like a librarian in heavy mourning, from the bun and glasses down to black stockings and sensible shoes. Grrrr... Anyway, here are some particulars: We are shown with the subtlety of a fire hose that this party animal has innate organizational skills -- her clothing hangs in color order. Library material, obviously. Her godmother works at what appears to be a branch of the NYC public library, and lots and lots of rubber stamping takes place. They have unreasonable patrons (arrogant young man: "Do you have a problem with political thought, or is it a particular vendetta against Hannah Arendt? ... Every single book of hers was out of sequence." Mary to Judy: "What a dick." Judy: "He's not a dick, he's a patron.") and budget problems and a hierarchy you'll recognize too intimately. There's a shortage of library clerks (Judy: "They make more money at McDonald's.") and against her better judgment, Judy hires Mary. At first the girl is overwhelmed by the Dewey Decimal System, but she forces herself to learn after sneaking into the library one night. It finally clicks. Instead of "By George, I think I've got it!" or "wa-wa" there's the moment of "Yes, Mama, I know what's going on. Yes, I do!" It's not Music Man, but she shelves while dancing around the library. She expends a lot of energy on table tops and rolling around on a chair, and of course she accomplishes as much work in one night as your whole staff could finish in a week, but that's the movies. And I'm wondering how Mary was so soon put in charge of the place and closes up alone, but it allows for a love scene in the Romance Language section. There's one scene we can relate to where she spots a fellow returning a book to the shelves. "I guess you didn't know we have a system for putting books away here. No, I'm curious. You were just randomly putting that book on the shelf, is that it? You've just given us a great idea. I mean, why are we wasting our time with the Dewey Decimal System when your system is so much easier? Much easier! [shouting now] We'll just put the books anywhere. Hear that, everybody? Our friend here has given us a great idea! We'll just put the books any damn place we choose! We don't care, right?! Isn't that right?" Male librarian: "You didn't take a break today...." At first Mary hides her job from her party cronies, but eventually she's proud of it (organizing her DJ-roommate's collection of 2,000 albums, including color coding and cross-referencing) and them of her. This is an uneven film and I admit to not particularly liking it. The acting is weak, many characters unlikable, and the music jarring. (The best lines come from a friend believing Mary's an alcoholic struggling to recover.) That said, it must be included in any media librarian discussion for good reasons and bad. And it's fun to see Dewey messing with Mary's mind. Point of interest: According to Internet Movie Database, this is the first feature film shown in its entirety on the Internet (June 3, 1995 by POPCO).


THE PINK CHIQUITAS

Currie, Anthony (Director). The Pink Chiquitas. Canada: Mount Pleasant, 1987.

Starring: Elizabeth Edwards (Mary Ann Kowalski, Librarian); Frank Stallone (Tony Mareda, Jr.); Bruce Pirrie (Clip Bacardi, TV Meteorologist)

When the opening credits announce that you're about to see a film "featuring Eartha Kitt as the voice of 'Betty' the Meteor" with "original songs by Frank Stallone," and one of the first lines in the movie, from a car radio broadcast, is "In other news, scientists are picking up startling data about the rings around Uranus" – you just know this is going to be one helluva classy production. Or maybe not … Librarian Mary Ann Kowalski (Elizabeth Edwards) is first seen in her date's car at a drive-in movie. She's dressed like a 1950s church lady with black-rimmed glasses, big clip-on pearl earrings, tied back hair, close-fitting hat, shirtwaist dress with cardigan, and a handbag. Her boyfriend, the über-geeky TV meteorologist Clip Barcardi (Bruce Pirrie) (don’t call him a weatherman or he'll spill popcorn on your shoes), becomes distraught when she announces that she's going to run for town mayor. His dismay is interrupted by the crash of a meteorite in the nearby woods, and most everyone at the drive-in takes off to find it. The ladies who venture too near, however, are turned into nymphomaniacs who lustily attack and stupefy their satisfied boyfriends. Clip finds a piece of the meteorite and inadvertently infects the entire female population over the airwaves ("Did this come from Uranus" he asks viewers), and all the ladies are soon wearing skimpy costumes that look like someone went nuts with a BeDazzler, and Mary Ann is the big-haired, half-nekkid and very shiny leader of the nymphos. Frank Stallone (yes, Sly's brother, and wearing a series of white ice cream suits) plays Tony Mareda, Jr., who helps the folks in the small town of Beamsville figure out what happened to their women folk, while at the same time battling inner demons (the high expectations of his late great ghost-father) and mobsters trying to gun him down. Meanwhile Clip consults a book in the library to learn about meteors, and witnesses the ladies organizing Mary Ann's mayoral campaign. As for Clip's own fate, he hears "the wimp must be eliminated." The "library" looks like someone's garage, with just a desk and a some racks of black metal shelving sloppily covered with old encyclopedias and flea market volumes. Mary Ann finds herself in jail but zaps the deputy with her eyes and escapes. Out in the dark woods, Clip and Mareda follow clues in an attempt to clear her and explain the odd behavior. With the men all zombies, Mary Ann is sure to win the election, so the mayor (who looks like an escapee from the Munsters set) tries to rig the ballot box until Mary Ann catches him. Somehow the ladies commandeer a pink tank (!) and use it to blow up the jail. I won't give away the dramatic climax, assuming you ever make it that far. This film tries to be a silly spoof but from the first Uranus you know you can file it under "comedy for stoners." Notable quote: Mary Ann: "Clipper, there's a ringing inside my head!" Clip: "Trust me, Mary Ann, there's nothing in there."


POISON FRIENDS

Bourdieu, Emmanuel (Director). Poison Friends. France: Fondation Beaumarchais, (2006).

Starring: Natacha Régnier (Marguerite Cassin, Library Clerk); Malik Zidi (Eloi Duhaut); Thibault Vinçon (André Morney)

Original title: Les amitiés maléfiques (in French, English subtitles)

Take The Paper Chase except the intelligent, ambitious college students are French and they're studying comparative literature in Paris. Add one compulsive, egotistical, jealous, manipulative liar who does his damndest to sabotage their successes while his own academic career sinks, and you have Les amitiés maléfiques. André Morney fools his friends for a long time, but they manage to reach their dreams despite his interfering. The female lead is a supporting character, Marguerite, a fellow student who works in the Paris III library (Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle) and becomes involved first with Morney and then with Eloi Duhaut (the film's "good guy"). She appears throughout the film but there is only one library scene, when she discovers a love letter from Duhaut tucked in a book and realizes his feelings for her. The library is cramped, inadequately lit, with a maze of stacks -- not atypical for an academic library. There are no obvious library issues here, but the film's meat does deal with books and authors and literary criticism and the very motivations for creative writing. NOTE: The credits show an actress named Cécile Bouillot cast as "Librairie," but this word means "bookseller" in French. FYI.


POSSESSION

LaBute, Neil (Director). Possession. United States: Baltimore Spring Creek Productions, 2002.

Starring: Hugh Simon (Roland Michell, Librarian); Gwyneth Paltrow (Maud Bailey); Aaron Eckhart (Roland Michell)

Based on the Novel: Byatt, A.S. (Antonia Susan). Possession. NY: Random House, 1990.

A brusque male librarian is as much as we see within the first few minutes of the film, but there are lots of library, archive, research department and museum settings to sustain you to the end (assuming you like that better than smooching -- this IS a serious romance after all). Beautiful juxtaposition of Victorian period piece with modern-day academic research and rivalry. If you're a purist you'll cringe whenever Michell handles old books and letters (no gloves, too much creasing, not to mention the occasional letter pocketed in his quest for answers). As an American and lowly research assistant, Michell gets no respect, hence the dirty tactics. Notable quote re working as a researcher: "This is not a job for grown-ups." But he DOES get to zip around the stacks on a rolling chair. Pretty film with beautiful people. (As usual, the book is better but the film offers great atmosphere.)


PUBLIC ACCESS

Singer, Bryan (Director). Public Access. United States: Cinemabeam, 1993.

Starring: Dina Brooks (Rachel, Library Clerk); Ron Marquette (Whiley Pritcher)

This award-winning independent film was likely pitched as an updated version of The Music Man except the Harold Hill character is a sociopath. "Whiley" (get it? wily?) is young, clean cut, pleasant looking, wearing wire-rimmed spectacles. He hitchhikes into the quaint and peaceful all-American small town of Brewster, sets up in a boarding house, and heads to the Brewster Public Library where he asks the pretty lass at the desk for information on local history and current events. Rachel wears a soft cloth hat perched atop a mop of long, curly hair. Her clothes are light but businesslike, including a large gold broach. She looks up from her paperback and directs him to the "microfilm machine" (actually a microfiche reader). He industriously researches all day, ignoring her. She watches him, and except for one brief shot of her pushing a mostly empty squeaky bookcart she spends the day reading behind the desk. At eight o'clock she taps him on the shoulder and tells him he'll have to finish up tomorrow. He says he's finished. She asks what he is working on, perhaps a speech? He dodges her questions but admits to doing research because "I have this hobby." Then he asks if she has cable television and invites her to watch Channel 8 on Sunday night at seven o'clock, with this parting comment: "Oh, by the way, it's a bit violent." The library (not a set!) is lovely, with lots of wood and atmosphere, but here's another Hollywood movie library that is all darkness and shadows. The librarian must have owl-eyes to read, and apparently has no other job duties. Stacks of books clutter the counter and nobody else seems to work there. Later she tunes into his public access show ("Our Town"), which she watches from bed (at seven o'clock at night) wearing an old-fashioned off-white nightgown with narrow cotton ruffles. The two eventually meet and form a relationship of sorts. She can't wait to flee Brewster and attend New York University. He's busy stirring up trouble in this small town, setting its residents against each other like pit bulls. The viewer catches on quickly to the film's message, and is soon wallowing waist-deep in it. Stereotypes run slow and thick here. Although professionally produced and with good acting from unfamiliar players, the unrelenting moodiness, manipulated musical score, cuts to the full moon and orange sunset, pans of quiet streets with down-home people doing down-home chores, the occasional glimpses of ugliness, are so forced that by the time you reach the end and see a little boy ("Tray") riding a bicycle with training wheels while singing The Star Spangled Banner heading home to Mom and Dad, you want to find the screenwriters and very subtly toss them under a moving train. Still, the librarian character has enough of a presence to add this work to the list of librarian films to compare and contrast. At least Whiley doesn't burst into song.


RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE

Ferrer, José (Director). Return to Peyton Place. United States: Associated Producers, Inc., 1961.

Starring: Robert Sterling (High School Principal); Carol Lynley (Allison MacKenzie); Mary Astor (Mrs. Roberta Carter).

Based on the Novel: Matalious, Grace. Return to Peyton Place. NY: Dell, 1959.

When Allison MacKenzie's novel of small-town New England life scandalizes the residents of Peyton Place on which it is based, Mrs. Roberta Carter, town matron and head of the School Board, arranges a meeting with Mike Rossi, Principal of Peyton Place High School. He acknowledges that he put a copy of Samuel's Castle in the library's collection (not surprising, as he's the author's step-father, although he says later that he would have defended any book). The Board tells him they've taken the liberty of removing the book from the shelves. He tells them that he'll replace it. They threaten to discharge him if he does. He refuses to accept them as his censors. The School Board fires him. When Rossi files a warrant for a special town meeting, everyone has his or her say-so. Rossi's fear is that if he allows the Board to censor the library's books, then they'll start telling him how to teach his classes. Eventually the younger, forward-thinking residents hold sway and Mrs. Carter stands alone. As she gathers her fur coat and prepares to leave the hall, she delivers a parting shot: "By this vote, which only appeals to you emotionally, you are renouncing all the traditions and the safeguards of the past that have made Peyton Place a decent and respectable town in which to live. You are permitting influences from the outside to change known values which we have lived by all these years. And I warn you, you will all live to regret this action you have taken today." The town gives Rossi his job back and the book will be replaced. Of note: The Principal's office features two card catalog cabinets among its furnishings. Who needs a librarian when a school principal can do collection development? (Mrs. Carter's own copy of the novel was pointedly dropped into her waste basket.)


ROME ADVENTURE

Daves, Delmer (Director). Rome Adventure. United States: Warner Bros., 1962.

Starring: Suzanne Pleshette (Prudence Bell, College Assistant Librarian); Troy Donahue (Don Porter)

This drippy romantic travelogue of Rome opens with the 21-year-old assistant librarian of the Briarcroft College for Women being grilled by a committee of uptight school matrons alarmed that she lent a scandalous book (Lovers Must Learn, her personal copy) to one of the students, as it had previously been deemed too adult because "the book has some obscene passages in it." Pretty Prudence is angry not about censorship but that this particular book could help the disturbed senior who needs a healthier viewpoint about relationships. She talks about the inborn need for love, that it is not obscene. She says the woman in the book is fearful of becoming like her teachers, unloved and alone. The women get the point but want her to answer for breaking the rules. She ends the confrontation by quitting on the spot, declaring that she is taking the book's advice and learning about love. "This is Independence Day. I'd like my book back, please – I'm going to need it because I'm going to where they really know what love's about, to Italy." Prudence Bell, the role that introduces Suzanne Pleshette before she developed her trademark gravely voice, has no other library-related scenes, but the profession and her unfortunate name were obviously assigned by a filmmaker intent on hammering home her virginal innocence, and that she's eager to find love even if uncertain how to do it. (Apparently you kiss a lot of men.) She finds a job in Rome working at an American bookstore where the mascot is an enormous English sheepdog. Notable quote: "I've analyzed myself and I find I have absolutely no talent for being a spinster."


SALMONBERRIES

Adlon, Percy (Director). Salmonberries. Germany: Pelemele Films, 1991.

Starring: Rosel Zech (Roswitha, Librarian); k.d. lang (Kotzebue)

This film opens with an old Eskimo in winter gear presenting a heartfelt recitation in a dark, moody library. The middle-aged librarian is going about her business getting ready to close up. (You notice that when movie librarians are not shelving books or dancing on tables or fighting off bad guys, they're closing up the library.) She gets impatient with him, identifying his subject as the classic Madam Bovary. He wants something to read but has read all the books there, and decides to go back to the A shelf and start over. She demands that he be quick about it, that he knows where the A shelf is, and "there are no new books." He doesn't mind rereading the old ones, stating, "The good books, they get better and better ... the bad ones don't get worse. They just stay put." Out of patience, she barks, "Take them out and then buzz off!!" "You're an angel, Roswitha," he serenely replies, books in hand as she shoves him out the door. Roswitha (mid-40's) is erect and no nonsense yet feminine, with thick straw hair. Her accent is German and she is reserved and withdrawn. The story is how two isolated people with troubled pasts find each other and develop a relationship. Kotzebue (k.d. lang), usually taken to be a boy, was abandoned as a baby and wants the librarian to find out who she is, which Roswitha simply cannot do. Instead Kotzebue helps Roswitha come to grips with the horrors of her own past in East Berlin, where her brother's betrayal got Roswitha's husband shot while they escaped under the wall. Librarian themes are relevant in this film, with the familiar scenario of the library as refuge. In this case the dogged determination of another loner serves to help the librarian cast out her demons. This stylish film is strange and moody, with haunting vistas and no exteriors that aren't choking in snow. Not everyone's cup of cocoa, but you do get to see the young and frustrated lang throw books around the library.


7 FACES OF DR. LAO

Pal, George (Director). 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1964.

Starring: Barbara Eden (Angela Benedict, Librarian); Tony Randall (just about every other character)

Based on the Novel: Finney, Charles G. The Circus of Dr. Lao. NY: Viking, 1935.

It's hard to imagine the Jeannie you dreamed of playing a repressed librarian in an olde west town, but there she is, drawn into Dr. Lao's circus along with all her neighbors. There are shades of Something Wicked This Way Comes the way perception and interpretation are customized by and for each character. Widow Benedict, librarian, attending a sideshow at a circus that is much larger on the inside than it appears on the outside, becomes mesmerized by the Pan-like goat creature that dances her emotions into a frenzy. The shell of the story in the film (a small town deciding whether to sell out to an investor or hold together as a community) is invented for the film -- as was the job of librarian. In Finney's book, this character (Miss Agnes Birdsong) is an English teacher. (See The Wicker Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes for similar metamorphoses.) One can suppose that for the film it was easier to portray the more visually definitive librarian stereotype, not to mention that the library made a natural place to hold town meetings. Finney describes her this way in his Catalogue: "Miss Agnes Birdsong: The boys all said she was damned good company after she learned to smoke and drink. Doctor Lao's circus broadened her outlook, gave her things to think about when sleepless she tossed on her couch of nights, when bored she listened to her pupils botch syntax of days." This is Tony Randall's film and the librarian part is minor but relevant. I highly recommend the book although it is not a novel so much as a collection of dark and cynical character studies, and it differs much from the film. You'll see the heavy influence of The Music Man (released two years earlier) on the Angela Benedict character: Unlike the spinster Birdsong in the book but much like the Paroo family of The Music Man film, Mrs. Benedict is a widow with a young son, living with her mother-in-law. Coincidence? I think not.


THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

Darabont, Frank (Director). The Shawshank Redemption. United States: Columbia Pictures, 1994.

Starring: James Whitmore (Brooks Hatlen, Paroled Librarian); Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne, Librarian); Morgan Freeman (Red Redding)

Based on the Novella: King, Stephen. "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." In Different Seasons. NY: Viking Press, 1982.

I think Stephen King's works are critically underrated, and this novella is a fine example of his storytelling skill. A small but crucial part of this storyline: The Shawshank Prison "library" is a former janitor's closet that offers only National Geographic, condensed books, Look magazines and Louis L'Amour. Brooks Hatlen is the old librarian, a prisoner for 50 years when he is paroled and Andy Dufresne inherits the sorry collection. He begins a relentless writing campaign to government officials and eventually his diligence pays off. Over the next 23 years, Andy expands space and services (using entrepreneurial bargaining with prison staff) to include educational programs and music. You can just hear warm and fuzzy sighs from librarians in the audience. King (unlike Eco) has a soft spot for libraries and librarians. Most memorable quote: Hatlen believes his job is "Easy, peasy, Japanese-y."


SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

Clayton, Jack (Director). Something Wicked This Way Comes. United States: Walt Disney Pictures, 1983.

Starring: Jason Robards (Charles Halloway); Vidal Peterson (Will Halloway)

Based on the Novel: Bradbury, Ray. Something Wicked This Way Comes. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1962.

The film presents Charles Halloway as a librarian. We meet him well dressed, cradling an armful of books (he even shelves one, in case we have any doubts), and recommending adventure books to the boys. Later he does reference work to learn about the "traveling people." Bradbury's novel, however, makes it clear he's the library janitor (there are two lady librarians). In either case his character provides an exercise in contrasts, an old, meek man who must act the hero to save his son. Guess when Bradbury authored the script, he decided an old, meek librarian was easier to credit than an old, meek janitor. (By the way, the library is gorgeous.) The quiet pursuit of the boys in the stacks after hours is much spookier than the normal frantic chase scenes in other films. Most painful scene: Mr. Dark ripping the pages out of an old book one by one.


SOYLENT GREEN

Fleischer, Richard (Director). Soylent Green. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1973.

Starring: Celia Lovsky (Exchange Leader); Edward G. Robinson (Sol Roth, Police Book); Charlton Heston (Detective Robert Thorn)

Based on the Novel: Harrison, Harry. Make Room! Make Room! NY: Doubleday, 1966.

The year is 2022, and people are so dehumanized that some job titles completely objectify them. Female companions are "furniture." The librarian is now a "book" (no working computers in this film; civilization has degenerated) and the library is now the Supreme Exchange ("Authorized Books Only"). It is headed by a mature woman who is credited as the Exchange Leader and called "Your Honor." (I like that. Let's start calling our library directors "Your Honor.") Sol Roth works with (and lives with in intensely overpopulated New York City) a detective, doing research on criminal cases, hence his title of Police Book. Paper and pencils are in short supply, books are a rarity, and even the books found at the Exchange are 20 years out of date. Roth used to be a teacher and full professor, and when he gets discouraged he declares, "What do you want from me? I'm just an ordinary police book, not the Library of Congress. I don't know why I bother." To which Thorn replies, "Because it's your job." Perhaps some things never change. As for themes, this is another one to go with The Name of the Rose and others where the truth found in books threatens to destroy the characters. As to the book that inspired the film, Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!: The storylines are completely different (no soylent green in the book, no suicide service, no eating people -- and no libraries or librarians of any ilk), but the setting (NYC, 1999) and the characters are pretty true. Read it if you enjoy doomsday fiction that pounds home the message of the dangers of unchecked population growth. A similar book I like even better is John Hersey's My Petition for More Space (1974).


THE STATION AGENT

The Station Agent McCarthy, Thomas (Director). The Station Agent. United States: SenArt Films, 2003.

Starring: Michelle Williams (Emily, library worker); Peter Dinklage (Finbar McBride); Bobby Cannavale (Joe Oramas); Patricia Clarkson (Olivia Harris)

Fin McBride, dwarf by birth and loner by nature, only thinks he's found peace and quiet in his inherited train depot home in rural New Jersey, but instead is forcibly drawn into a community of characters so real and colorful you'll want to add them to your Christmas card list. One is the pretty young girl (Emily), single and pregnant, who works in the library. We have no reason to believe she is schooled in librarianship, but she is the only face seen there. She won't issue a library card until he can confirm his address with a piece of mail, which is laughable when you know the mailbox next to his front door is more decorative than functional. At the end of the film, the three special friends (Fin, Joe and Olivia) are relaxing together when Fin wonders out loud when the blimp was invented. Joe: "You can go down to the library and ask that little hottie." Olivia: "She is cute." Joe: "It's the librarian fantasy, man. Glasses off, hair down, books flying ..." Fin: "She doesn't wear glasses." Olivia: "Buy her some; it's worth it." The library/librarian connections are thin in this film, but do yourself a favor and chase it down anyway. Wonderful, warm and funny. Not surprising, a multiple-award Sundance Film Festival winner.


STORM CENTER

Taradash, Daniel (Director). Storm Center. United States: Phoenix Productions, 1956.

Starring: Bette Davis (Alicia Hull, Librarian)

Storm Center is always in the top five of any librarian movie film list, and for good reason since the central character is head librarian in the town of "Kentport," one of those ageless pillars of the community everybody knows and loves. Miss Hull is too fully fleshed to be a stereotype, and in fact admirably avoids cliché pitfalls. Her repression has more to do with self-control as she behaves primly while one affront after another is flung in her face, until she finally cracks. While reprehensible, her behavior is completely understandable. The story takes place during the dark days of McCarthyism and has less to do with censorship than it does the dangers of ignorant group-think. Side characters invite a closer look, and subtextual themes of human ambition and frailty are disturbing. The film's message is a lesson in "woulda-coulda-shoulda" but the style is not the stuff of enduring cinema and likely only of interest to librarians and Bette Davis collector completists.


STRIKE UP THE BAND

Berkeley, Busby (Director). Strike Up the Band. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1940.

Starring: Judy Garland (Mary Holden, Library Worker); Mickey Rooney (Jimmy Connors)

Mary Holden is a library assistant in the town of Riverwood, pushing a bookcart while seemingly shelving and removing books at random (they don't have spine labels, so what the hey). Her boyfriend, Jimmy, drops by and comments about the many books, asking if she's read them all. "Only up to here," she says, cutting the air about shoulder height. He tells her he can't take her to the fair, and she stoically hides her disappointment. Patrons keep asking her for books about couples (Romeo & Juliet, Anthony & Cleopatra, love poems) and she's delighted when one geeky-looking fellow asks for The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (note the stereotype). Then a sad woman returns a book called Live Alone and Like It. Depressed now, our Mary breaks into a tuneful lament ("Nobody"). Mid-song she finds a young lady emoting in the stacks, "Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" Mary barks, "Scram, Juliet!" and goes back to her song ("I ain't got nobody, and nobody's got me"). This is the only library scene, and her job has no relevancy to the storyline. Note that she stands at her desk while directing patrons, pointing to the various sections without moving an inch. My first library-boss would have boiled me in book glue if I did that!


THE TELL-TALE HEART

Morris, Ernest (Director). The Tell-Tale Heart. United Kingdom: Danziger Productions Ltd., 1960.

Starring: Laurence Payne (Edgar Marsh, Reference Librarian); Adrienne Corri (Betty Clare); Dermot Walsh (Carl Loomis)

Based on the Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe (1843).

The screenwriter's challenge was to take a very short, first-person American horror classic and expand it to movie length while maintaining the chills evoked by Edgar Allan Poe. The result is a film that doesn't even pretend to follow the plot of its source, but does duplicate Poe's irrational evil and wrenching guilt (in a b&w, 1960s overacted style). Edgar Marsh is a well-to-do and respected chief reference librarian who owns a large and elegantly furnished home (apparently inherited from his beloved mother) in London of the mid-1800s. He is in desperate need of female companionship but is petrified and terminally awkward around the ladies. His best friend, the outgoing and personable Carl, gives him tips on how to meet the new tenant across the street. Marsh sits in his bedroom with a lapful of pictures of naked ladies while gazing into Betty's room, watching her disrobe (so she's left in only 40 pounds of Victorian undergarments). He finally manages to meet her, he wines and dines her, but in such a suffocating, off-putting manner that her reluctance to continue the relationship is obvious to everyone except Marsh. The film audience -- and Carl -- can tell she is not wife material, but not the naïve librarian. You can guess the rest, where Carl and Betty hit it off, Marsh sees them through the window, Marsh murders Carl, and the body ends up under the floorboards. There is one brief library scene that underscores Marsh's respectability. SPOILER ALERT: That this all ends up being a dream sequence experienced by Edgar Allan Poe adds layers of interest to this tale within a tale, where author Poe imagines himself as librarian Marsh. Mostly the occupational label is used to justify Marsh's solitary nature, his discomfort around women, his love of chess and books, and eventually his immature reaction to jealousy. Note that this personalization is based on modern-day stereotypes. Back then librarians were men obsessed with books, and personality-wise they were grouchy and grim and looked like Uriah Heep (the Dickens character, not the singing group).


TWISTED NERVE

Boulting, Roy (Director). Twisted Nerve. United Kingdom: Charter Film Productions, 1968.

Starring: Hayley Mills (Susan Harper, Library Assistant); Timothy Bateson (Mr. Groom, Librarian); Hywel Bennett (Martin Dumley/Georgie Clifford)

Based on the Short Story by Roger Marshall (a prolific British screenwriter).

Hayley Mills in the bloom of youth plays Susan Harper, who works in a public library while earning a teaching degree. She is bouncy, enthusiastic and polite, and reacts with kindness to a young man she believes to be mentally impaired. "Georgie" is really Martin Dumley (Hywel Bennett), the son of a well-to-do but flawed family, and he finds the deception to be an effective way to get close to Susan. He enacts an elaborate plan to become a boarder in her family's lovely home, and the audience soon recognizes a psychopath when they see one. There are several library scenes where Susan does reader advisory for "Georgie" and some over-sexed little boys. Her supervisor is Mr. Groom (Timothy Bateson), an older man, short, eyeglasses, wearing a suit. He is gruff and indignant when Susan indulges the pretender, and "Georgie" reverts to his real self when Susan isn't around, calling the man Rat Face and telling him to "get stuffed." This is a psychologically creepy film, hard to find in the States where it met with controversy for linking Down's Syndrome with violent behaviors.


WEIRD WOMAN

Le Borg, Reginald (Director). Weird Woman. United States: Universal Studios, 1944.

Starring: Evelyn Ankers (Ilona Carr, College Librarian); Lon Chaney [Jr.] (Prof. Norman Reed); Anne Gwynne (Paula Clayton Reed)

Based on the Novel: Lieber, Fritz. Conjure Wife. New York: Award Books, 1953. (First appearance in Unknown Worlds, 1943.)

"Universal presents An Inner Sanctum Mystery"

Librarian as delusional lover. Librarian as evil manipulator. Librarian as villain. These are not typical roles for librarian film characters. Weird Woman's title overtly refers to the young bride that Professor Reed (Lon Chaney, Jr.) brings back from the South Seas, but better fits the conniving librarian who wants them destroyed. Pretty wife Paula (Anne Gwynne) secretly practices voodoo, purportedly to protect her husband from the evil she feels all around them. As he is an authority on the rational mind, he poopoos her voodoo and the doodoo flies when he destroys her talismans. College librarian Ilona Carr (Evelyn Ankers) is a beautiful woman, statuesque, blond, articulate, fashionable and cultured. Also greedy, intense, and she won't take no for an answer. She works in a sterile office and the "library" consists of a few book cases and a prominent (industrial) wood ladder. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that this character is not a librarian in its source novel or in the later remake, but serves as an excuse for the Professor to have his prime enemy be a female colleague. Also the position gives her knowledge about a plagiarized thesis that she uses for blackmail. Rather than a service provider or obstructionist, this character wields information like a weapon. Carr plays puppet master over Prof. Reed's colleagues and staff, causing him to be blamed for a suicide and an accidental shooting. This character couldn't be more anti-stereotype short of tattoos and a nose ring.


WETHERBY

Hare, David (Director). Wetherby. United Kingtom: Film Four International, 1985.

Starring: Judi Dench (Marcia Pilborough, Deputy Librarian); Tim McInnerny (John Morgan, post-graduate student)

Wetherby is the town where this low-key conversation drama occurs. The meat of the film is the lamenting of seven people at a dinner party, including Marcia (Judi Dench), a middle-aged and sour Deputy Librarian. She obsesses about a new girl at work, "the sort of girl men fall for," who has no personality so she can be whatever a man wants her to be. "Not a person, not a real person." The girl hasn't done anything, "but," Marcia moans, "there's no her, nothing which is her." One of the men suggests that the girl's existence is an offense. Marcia whines about young people in general, and the others decide the root of her problem is merely that the new girl is young. One scene has a university student, John, approach Marcia at the library, wanting to borrow the books on his list. She tells him they do not lend books, and ignores the irony when he points out that this is the "British Library Lending Division." She tells him he can't access books without special permission "from London." He states that he will get authorization and return. The library has long banks of card catalogs and Marcia uses a computer. Notable quote (a theme of the film being "how do you know people?"), is spoken by a teacher (Vanessa Redgrave) to her students: "Do we become the way we look? Or do we look the way we really are?" This film should not be used for recruiting library school students.


WHERE THE HEART IS

Williams, Matt (Director). Where the Heart Is. United States: Wind Dancer Productions, 2000.

Starring: James Frain (Forney Hull, Library Assistant); Margaret Ann Hoard (Mary Elizabeth Hull, Librarian); Natalie Portman (Novalee Nation)

An endearing story of the "Wal-Mart baby" that finds the poor mother befriended by Forney Hull (up close and personal, as he delivers her baby in the store). He's a high school drop-out who works at the library covering up for his drunken librarian-sister. Job validation: Forney to child: "If you spin a cow around real fast, you get whipped cream." "Wow, you know a lot." "Well, I work in a library." Quirky and lovable characters in this film.


THE WICKER MAN

Hardy, Robin (Director). The Wicker Man. United States: Anchor Bay, 1973.

Starring: Ingrid Pitt (Librarian); Edward Woodward (Sgt. Neil Howie)

Novel Based on the Film: Hardy, Robin & Anthony Shaffer. The Wicker Man. NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1978.

It's odd that she is billed as The Librarian when the character works in the office of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and is not seen at all in the one public library scene, but there it is. Ingrid Pitt saw herself as playing a "nymphomaniac librarian." Her nude scene is brief, when Sgt. Howie finds her provocatively lounging in a bathtub. Otherwise her character's behavior is not task-related nor the position of any real significance to the storyline. Howie gets information from a book in the library critical to his (manipulated) understanding of events. The entire community obstructs the flow of truth (more than information since they deliberately feed him disinformation to serve their own ends). The librarian is one of many albeit prettier than most. Now compare all this to the film's novelization (written by the authors of the original script) which has no librarian at all, and we're told the Registrar's office is on the mainland. Howie does visit the island's public library where a male patron shushes him (in the film it's an older woman who just stares at him). We can take wicked satisfaction when the next day this patron shows up dead and mutilated, although it's hard not to read into the authors' reasoning for doing so. The bathtub scene differs, too -- in the book the woman he startles is fat and loud, and launches herself after him with lascivious designs. The beautiful trio of women in the film are only a pair in the book. Once again the librarian is marginalized, upstaged by a school teacher and the innkeeper's daughter. Harrumph.


WILDERNESS

Bolt, Ben (Director). Wilderness. United Kingdom: Fangoria Films (USA Distributor), (1996).

Starring: Amanda Ooms (Alice White, University Librarian); Johanna Benyon (Serena, Librarian); Owen Teale (Dan Sommers)

Based on the Novel: Danvers, Dennis. Wilderness. NY: Poseidon, 1991.

Alice is a typical academic librarian, 31 years old, pixie haircut, huge cow eyes, unmarried, who wears dark colors and clunky shoes and turns into a wolf with every full moon. The film opens in an exquisite three-story library at an unnamed British university, with a huge arched window, each level open to the center, with lots of dark wood. Alice announces the five-minute warning, then chats with coworker Serena, who looks around and observes, "I still think academic libraries are the most erotic places on earth, don't you?" She's a blunt-haired brunette with tinted glasses, loose dark clothing, and a boring husband named Tim. She seems to live vicariously through Alice, but little does she know that the young lady is heading to a hotel bar to pick up any stranger for mindless sex. "I only do it once with each person." Oh, okay. We learn early on that Alice has turned into a wolf monthly since the age of 13, and even killed a man who raped her. She now has two men in her life ... a new love interest (Dan) and her anal retentive psychiatrist who becomes obsessed with her. Alice is pretty and sweet, and tells Dan on their first date, "I love being around books. I like the order inside the library. Every subject, every single author in their place – the illusion of control, I suppose. ... The library is the exact opposite to wilderness. Library–wilderness, order-chaos." He snaps, "No, no, no, not at all. It doesn't work like that. No, the wilderness isn't chaotic just because it doesn't operate on the Dewey system." Later they have a nightcap in the dark library, then make love in the stacks. Inevitable conflicts materialize as the story progresses. Originally a three-part British mini-series, this abridged film version was released in the USA to stand alone. It's not a bad film – the acting is well done with minimal violence and a mature film style. There's a lot of female nudity as Alice morphs back and forth, but it seems natural. Library scenes are abandoned after the first half, but you'll want to watch until the end. There's meat here for school papers related to male-female issues, as well as the wild side of naked librarians. Don't bother with the book version, however, as Alice works in a travel agency, not a library, which is unfortunate because the irony is lost that this poor young woman is prevented from traveling because of her condition.


YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW

Coppola, Francis Ford (Director). You're a Big Boy Now. United States: Seven Arts Pictures, 1966.

Starring: Peter Kastner (Bernard Chanticleer, Library Assistant); Rip Torn (I.H. Chanticleer, Curator of Incunabula); Geraldine Page (Margery Chanticleer)

Coppola's 1966 UCLA Film School Master's thesis is very much a period piece, with a harmonica score reminiscent of Midnight Cowboy. Despite an impressive roster of actors, the film has not aged well and the viewer is usually steeped in cinematic awfulness, but track it down for the many interesting library scenes. The male lead, Bernard, is a 19-year-old library assistant at the New York Public Library. We meet him in the opening scene retrieving books while flying through the stacks on roller skates, then he climbs into the book elevator (think big dumbwaiter) and rides down to the circulation desk where he's promptly scolded. The film is a coming-of-sex comedy-drama, with Bernard trying to find independence from his insufferably overbearing parents. Mother was hoping he would excel at the library, but concludes, "Besides developing unnatural skills on roller skates, you've been a complete failure." Mostly they try to keep him away from girls (although Mom should be watching hubby instead. Did I mention that Daddy works as the Curator of Incunabula? He has a really neat vault off his office that houses the good stuff, most visibly its erotica.). During one of Mom's weepy scenes, Dad indicates her hankie and says, "Margery, your lint is settling on the Gutenberg Bible." Near the end our thoroughly frustrated library assistant grabs that same bible from the vault ("To hell with your Gutenberg Bible! I hate your Gutenberg Bible!") and takes off running, leading a merry chase (picture A Mad Mad Mad (etc) World) out of the library, across a parade, through a department store ... you get the idea. The only thing that saves this film (besides seeing celebrities when they were young, including the introduction of Karen Black) are the luscious library interiors, and fortunately there are lots of them.


Related Links

http://www.hollywoodlibrarian.com
The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians in Film. (Ann Seidl)
Also liw34 to Librarians in the Movies discussion group.

http://iamalibrarian.com
I Am A Librarian! Cynthia Wilson's ambitious project to photograph real librarians as part of a book project.

http://wings.buffalo.edu/publications/mcjrnl/v1n1/image.html
Walker, Stephen & V. Lonnie Lawson. "The Librarian Stereotype and the Movies." MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship. Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 1993, pp. 16-28.

A.G. Graham and Kerouac
Last Updated: June 12, 2014
Copyright 2004-2014 by A.G. Graham.

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A.G. Graham holds an MLIS degree from the University of South Florida, and a doctorate in Library & Information Studies from Florida State University.

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