Comparing “best of” reel librarians lists

I love “best of” lists — reminds me of watching and loving Family Feud game-show episodes! — and I was very pleased when my colleague Colin Higgins, of the Libraries at the Movies blog, brought the “National Libraries Day: the 10 best librarians on screen” list to my attention. This list of 10 awesome reel librarians was compiled by staff at London’s BFI Reuben Library, who nominated their top 10 librarians in film and television.

And a belated Happy National Libraries Day to my colleagues in the UK! This annual event in the UK, which began in 2012, is dedicated to the celebration of libraries and librarians. February is also Library Lovers’ Month in the US, so there is a lot to be celebrate!

Back to the list… I thought it would be fun to compare the BFI list to my own “Hall of Fame” and “Honorable Mention” lists of favorite reel librarians, which are also linked off my Best & Worst page. Do any of the reel librarians on the BFI list show up on my own? Let’s see!

BFI Top 10

Reel Librarian faves

Alicia Hull (Bette Davis) – Storm Center (1956)


Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) – Desk Set (1957)

Yes — “Hall of Fame”

Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones) – The Music Man (1962) Yes — “Honorable Mention”
Barbara Gordon (Yvonne Craig) – Batman TV series (1966-68)

No (I focused on film, not TV)

Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) – Foul Play (1978) Yes — “Hall of Fame”
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

No — but this is a good choice, and I also have a soft spot for Brooks (sob). I really should add Andy to my “Hall of Fame” list — he is very resourceful!

Mary (Parker Posey) – Party Girl (1995) Yes — “Hall of Fame”
Rupert Giles (Anthony Head) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1997-2003

No — but Giles did make my recent list of stylish male reel librarians!

Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) – The Mummy (1999) Yes — “Hall of Fame”
Vox (Orlando Jones) – The Time Machine (2002)

Yes — “Hall of Fame”

That makes 6 out of 10 reel librarians that appear on both lists — not bad! There are plenty of awesome reel librarians to go around! ;) And you can see more of my personal reel librarian favorites on my “Hall of Fame” and “Honorable Mention” lists.

Any favorite reel librarians of yours on the list? Or NOT on these lists? Please leave a comment and share your reel librarian faves! :)

Stylish male reel librarians

Last week, I highlighted stylish female reel librarians… this week I shine the spotlight on stylish male reel librarians!

Note:  I compiled this list in a totally unscientific way. I first jotted down a list of stylish reel librarians — from nothing more than my memory — and then narrowed the list down to 5 female and 5 male reel librarians.

Flynn Carsen in The Librarians

All of the librarians in The Librarians spinoff TV series are stylish in their own ways, as seen in the screenshot directly below, but Flynn Carsen’s style has really come into its own. It is rare to get to see a reel librarian’s style evolve, which is only possible with a lead role for a reel librarian. It has been a pleasure to witness Flynn’s style evolution from oversized and ill-fitting trousers and unevenly buttoned shirts, as seen in 2004’s The Librarian: Quest for the Spear TV movie, to sharply tailored and layered in the spinoff TV series.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

The librarians’ style in the Season 2 premiere of ‘The Librarians’ TV show

Vox in The Time Machine (2002)

Vox in the 2002 remake of The Time Machine is one of my favorite reel librarian characters. He is the heart and soul of that movie — and of knowledge itself — as well as the epitome of the Information Provider character type. His style is as timeless as he is.

Vox's style in 'The Time Machine' (2002)

Vox’s style in ‘The Time Machine’ (2002)

Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV, 1996-2003)

Ah, Giles the school librarian at Sunnydale High, as played by British actor Anthony Head. A TV librarian who has reached iconic status — and I would venture to say, that status has been aided by his classic wardrobe. His wardrobe (and manner) of an English gentleman serve up a perfect contrast to modern California culture. That means lots of tweed, ties, striped button-downs, waistcoats, and three-piece suits. Well suited, indeed, Giles.

Giles the school librarian at Sunnydale High

Giles, the school librarian at Sunnydale High, looking sharp in a suit and waistcoat

You can enjoy more of Giles’s style here on Pinterest and as part of the “Geek Chic: Fashion Inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Part I” post on the College Fashion site. You can read more about my analysis of the first episode of the series in my “Welcome to Sunnydale, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love Buffy” post.

Frank in Miranda (2002)

In Miranda, John Simm plays Frank, a reel librarian in charge of a library scheduled for demolition. His opening narration also reveals his retro-inspired style choices:

Frank. Barracloff. Rock star. Astronaut. Secret agent. Sex god. That was me, wishing my life away, listening to Elvis, munching on nuts.

His suits and wide-lapel shirts are a specific style — one not suitable for everyone — but I have to admire the way his character commits to that look!

Reel Librarians | 'Miranda' screenshot

Frank’s retro-inspired style in ‘Miranda’

Reel Librarians | 'Miranda' screenshot

Frank’s retro-inspired style in ‘Miranda’

Edgar Marsh in The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)

This final choice might prove a controversial or unusual choice, but stick with me. In this 1960 adaptation of the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, Laurence Payne plays Edgar Marsh, described on the back of the DVD case as “a mentally unstable librarian.” Payne commits 110% to this film, going over-the-top in his acting and facial expressions (which you can see more of in my post about the film). To counter this, Edgar dresses quite conservatively and formally, all buttoned up in jackets, silk vests, ties, and top hats to reflect the 19th-century time period.

Edgar's style in 'The Tell-Tale Heart'

Edgar’s style in ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’

For me, though, it’s all about the poet shirt — white and billowing and ruffled and pleated. ;) I like to think that particular sartorial choice reflects Edgar’s inner turmoil and frustrated heart beating and yearning to break free underneath all those layers of jackets and vests and ties. And when it does break free…. watch out! I love when costume choices add an extra layer to character development.

So there you have it, five stylish male reel librarians, along with five stylish female reel librarians last week.

This is not an exhaustive list, and my opinions expressed here on the stylishness of the librarians are based on personal and biased opinions.

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have more stylish reel librarians to add to the list? Please share and leave a comment!

Stylish female reel librarians

Librarians, in reel or real life, have not historically been lauded for their style; or, rather, so-called “librarian style” has entered the realm of stereotype. This is mostly due, I would argue, to the prevailing “Spinster Librarian” character type, wrapped up in frumpy, ill-fitting, and buttoned-up cardigans, midi skirts, sensible shoes, and glasses on a chain. This kind of stereotypical clothing, which could even be seen as a kind of uniform, serves a purpose for the “Spinster Librarian” character type, visually demonstrating the conservative and rule-abiding nature of that role.

But we are more stylish than people might think — in real and reel life!

Real librarians’ personal style is as diverse as the field of librarianship, as evidenced in websites like Librarian Wardrobe, whose tagline is “Not always buns and sensible shoes, librarians at various types of libraries have different styles (and dress codes).” A closer look at reel librarians reveals a wide range of stylish choices captured on cinema, as well, for both male and female reel librarian characters. Let’s take a closer look at stylish reel librarians, shall we?

A quick note:  Compiling this initial list was quite unscientific. I first jotted down a list of stylish reel librarians — from nothing more than my memory — and found the list to be quite extensive! I then narrowed the list down to 5 female and 5 male reel librarians to highlight on the blog.

This week, I’ll focus on stylish female reel librarians; next week is for the boys!

All the librarians in Desk Set (1957)

I have written before about the reel librarian style in the classic comedy Desk Set, as seen here and here, and it deserves another mention — and a spot on this list! Here’s a quote from my prior post on the stylish ladies of Desk Set:

They are smart, sassy, and feminine, which their wardrobes reflect. Favoring timeless ’50s silhouettes of full skirts and cinched waistlines, they wear dresses as well as separates (cardigans, twinsets, sweaters). Although their clothing is quite simplistic in shape, the color choices are quite bold and striking. Bottom line, their collective style is both classic and comfortable. Perfect for the modern librarian!

Reel Librarians | Librarian style in 'Desk Set'

Librarian style in ‘Desk Set’

Reel Librarians | Librarian style in 'Desk Set'

Librarian style in ‘Desk Set’

Mary in Party Girl (1995)

Parker Posey as the title character in the 1995 independent film Party Girl is a reel librarian revelation, complete with striped tights and thick-soled ankle boots. As Mary, she starts out as an irresponsible, irreverent party girl clad in vintage threads and club gear. She has to sell most of her vintage clothing and starts working at a local public library to pay off the money her godmother paid to get her out of jail, eventually (spoiler alert!) realizing she is meant to be a librarian. (The signs were already there. After all, she did organize her friend’s jeans — and another friend’s record collection!)

The film serves almost as a backdrop for Mary’s glorious wardrobe and style choices, full of thrifted and vintage combinations. Mary is definitely not afraid of color or pattern-mixing! A thoroughly modern and fun-loving reel librarian with a wardrobe to match.

Her memorable outfits are also showcased on the film’s posters and DVD covers!

Collage and screenshot of Mary's style in 'Party Girl'

Collage and screenshot of Mary’s style in ‘Party Girl’

Susan Harper in Twisted Nerve (1968)

In the 1968 thriller Twisted NerveHayley Mills plays Susan Harper, a lovely young librarian studying for a teaching degree. As I said in my analysis post about the film:

Susan is a classic Spirited Young Girl character type:  a young, physically attractive, intelligent, and modern girl who is working temporarily at the library. […] And along with Ali McGraw in Love Story (1970), she’s one of the best-dressed reel librarians ever! Behold the blonde-haired cuteness:

Susan's style in 'Twisted Nerve'

Susan’s style in ‘Twisted Nerve’

Jenny in Love Story (1970)

In the classic weepy Love Story, Ali MacGraw stars as Jenny Cavalleri, who is working as a library assistant at Radcliffe when she meets Harvard law student and jock Oliver (Ryan O’Neal). She is a music major — fulfilling the Spirited Young Girl character type in this film — and her style is a mixture of classic and bohemian. We get to see a range of outfits and style choices, from casual tees to winter layers to her wedding dress!

Screenshots of Jenny's style in 'Love Story'

Screenshots of Jenny’s style in ‘Love Story’

Roe in the Aurora Teagarden Mystery Movies (TV, 2015- )

In this series of mystery TV movies, Candace Cameron Bure plays Aurora ‘Roe’ Teagarden, a young librarian with a skill for sleuthing. Roe’s fashion sense is subjected to many negative comments throughout the TV film, but I didn’t agree with this style criticism, as I also stated in my review post of the series premiere. Roe’s style of cardigans, coats, and layers looks cute, relatable, and modern to me.

Roe's blazer and braid in an Aurora Teagarden TV mystery movie

Roe’s blazer and braid

Reel Librarians | Collage of Roe's style in 'A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Collage of Roe’s style in ‘A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery’ (2015)

These are not exhaustive lists, and my opinions expressed here on the stylishness of the librarians are based on personal and biased opinions.

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have more stylish reel librarians to add to the list? Please share and leave a comment!

Next week, check back for stylish male reel librarians!

Comparing the Philadelphia stories

After I published my analysis post this past December, “‘What is thee wish?’ To analyze the librarian in ‘The Philadelphia Story’” about the “shushing Quaker librarian” character in that classic 1940 film, I mused in a comment that:

Perhaps requesting a copy of the play would prove illuminating? I sense an upcoming post…

OF COURSE I then requested a copy of the original play by Philip Barry, via a regional library consortium system. The play was included in the 1975 compilation States of Grace: Eight Plays by Philip Barry, the penultimate title in the table of contents and Barry’s greatest success on Broadway.

Reel Librarians | Title page and table of contents for a compilation of Philip Barry's plays

Title page and table of contents for a compilation of Philip Barry’s plays

The introduction, written by Brendan Gill, reveals that The Philadelphia Story play not only served as a comeback for Katharine Hepburn, but was a comeback for Philip Barry, as well.

“Phil and I were both box-office poison at the time,” Miss Hepburn has said. “Moreover, our producer, the Theatre Guild, was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was very pleasant indeed for the three of us to make our comebacks together.” (p. 45)

The play made its Broadway debut on March 28, 1939, and ran for over 400 performances. The screenplay was adapted by Donald Ogden Stewart, who was a friend of both Barry and Hepburn. Stewart won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and upon winning, stated, “I have no one to thank but myself!” (as quoted in Melear). Ummm…. no one to thank, huh? Not even Philip Barry?!

A quick glance at the lists of the cast and scenes of the three-act play reveals that there is no corresponding librarian character in the play. The play takes place over a 24-hour period and set entirely on the Lords’ estate near Philadelphia.

Reel Librarians | Cast and scenes lists for 'The Philadelphia Story' play

Cast and scenes lists for ‘The Philadelphia Story’ play

Obviously, screenwriter Stewart had to flesh out the play when adapting it for film and added a few scenes outside the Lords’ home. This included the famous intro, an early scene in an office building with reporter characters Macaulay Connor and Elizabeth Imbrie, as well as the scene set in the public library, described in detail in my earlier post about The Philadelphia Story film.

There is mention of a private library at the Lords’ home in Act I. Macaulay, or “Mike,” asks about the family and is told, “The histories of both are in the library.” In Act I, when Mike meets Tracy Lord, she asks if he’s a writer and informs him that she’s “sent for his books.” A bit later, she states condescendingly, “Two books isn’t much for a man of thirty.”

Act II takes place later that night, on the garden porch outside the library.

Reel Librarians | Act II description of 'The Philadelphia Story' play

Act II description of ‘The Philadelphia Story’ play

During Act II, Tracy comes out of the library and walks over to Mike, who is sitting at a table on the porch. In the film, Mike happens upon Tracy reading his book of stories in the public library, where he has gone to research on the Lord family history. Their conversation in the play mirrors much of the dialogue in the library scene in the film.

Tracy: I’ve been reading these stories. They’re so damned beautiful.

Mike: You like? Thanks —

Tracy: Why, Connor, they’re almost poetry.

Mike: Don’t fool yourself; they are!

Tracy:  I can’t make you out all, now.

Mike:  Really? I thought I was easy.

Tracy:  So did I, but you’re not. You talk so big and tough — and then you write like this. Which is which?

About this point in the film, the Quaker librarian comes to shush them… and the rest is reel librarian history. (Or infamy? It’s up to you. ;) )

Reel Librarians | The shushing librarian in 'The Philadelphia Story' (1940)

The shushing librarian in ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940)

It makes sense in the play to incorporate the family research and conversation about Mike’s writing in and around the family’s private library, and it makes equal sense in the film to move those two plot points to an external location and public library. The shushing Quaker librarian was seemingly an invention of screenwriter Stewart’s imagination — perhaps to add another comedic element to the story? She does primarily serve the role of Comic Relief in The Philadelphia Story.

I always find it an interesting exercise to compare play and film versions of a work involving a reel librarian. Almost exactly four years ago, in my “Comparing two desk sets (and I don’t mean furniture)” post, I compared the play and film versions of Desk Set, another dramatic comedy, one starring Katharine Hepburn as reel librarian Bunny Watson.

Works Cited:

Barry, Philip. “The Philadelphia Story.” States of Grace: Eight Plays by Philip Barry. Ed. Brendan Gill. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975. 489-570. Print.

Gill, Brendan. “The Dark Advantage.” States of Grace: Eight Plays by Philip Barry. Ed. Brendan Gill. New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975. 489-570. Print.

Melear, Mary Anne. “The Philadelphia Story“. Turner Classic Movies. Web. Retrieved 18 Jan. 2016.

Discovering a librarian game character

The primary focus of this website is about analyzing librarian portrayals in film, but I have also enjoyed highlighting librarian portrayals in other kinds of media and popular culture. Once you start looking, it’s amazing where librarians pop up — even when you least expect it!

When I’m working online, I occasionally like to take a break and play an online puzzle or word game. Over the winter break, I happened to play a new online game called “The Book of Treasures,” which is similar to “Text Twist,” where you get 6 letters and see if you can figure out all the possible word combinations within a set time limit. Lo and behold, this game featured a librarian! Here’s “The Book of Treasures” game description from its web page:

Jessica West is a librarian at an ancient library that is rumored to house a lost Egyptian manuscript. One day she finds a secret room and discovers 35 envelopes, each containing six letters. Her curiosity piqued, Jessica is on a mission to discover the secret of where the hidden manuscript resides. If you enjoy TextTwist but are ready for a word game and wraps a compelling mystery around challenging gameplay.

(Please note that I am NOT promoting this game, website, or company. I am focusing on the central character in this particular game, who happens to be a librarian.)

Reel Librarians| Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

The landing page of the online game spolights Jessica the librarian front and center. The angle is from below, so the bookshelves behind her slant up and in. It’s an imposing angle, and Jessica comes across as most definitely no-nonsense, with her piercing stare and eyebrow raised above her half-moon spectacles. She is a mix of contradictions:  Her posture and expression/demeanor are severe and exact, while her bun hairstyle is a bit messy and asymmetrical. Her figure is drawn to be quite feminine while her clothing is modest and practical. The “props” shown on her desk, a clock timer and a cup of coffee, are also practical for the context.

I also found it amusing how the look of the game character of Jessica West seems inspired, at least in part, by the reel librarian character of Evelyn ‘Evy’ Carnahan, a librarian and Egyptologist, from the 1999 film, The Mummy. Below is a side-by-side comparison. There are a LOT of physical similarities, even down to the open-collared, button-down shirt!

Reel Librarians | Comparison of Jessica West vs Evy Carnahan from 'The Mummy' film

Here’s the backstory of the game as you begin playing:

Reel Librarians| Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

I like that Jessica’s librarian vocation is front and center, both with the game description online and in the introductory backstory to set up the game. (HOWEVER, the game description states her name as “Jessica West,” while the game story has her name as “Jessica Bright.” Someone didn’t cross-check references…)

In film, librarian characters in film often provide key plot points, to help keep the action moving, and the librarian character in this game also fulfills that same purpose. In addition to providing motivation for the game’s story and context, Jessica the librarian also keeps the gameplay moving along — and no-nonsense chiding when you miss a word or fail to complete a level. When playing the game, you are ostensibly playing as Jessica, but it also feels like you are playing for Jessica, like a student library worker or someone trying desperately to please the librarian as the timer ticks away. This impression is aided by Jessica’s withering stare when you type in a “word not found.”

Reel Librarians| Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

Reel Librarians| Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

And *SPOILER*, when you complete all the levels to put together the pieces of the puzzle, guess what the ultimate prize is? Recognition and a promotion for the librarian! I approve of this outcome. ;)

Reel Librarians| Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

The final scrolling credits reveal more details:

Jessica’s name shall be remembered at the Archeology Hall of Fame and she’s become world famous for finding a treasure that was lost for centuries. Jessica has also been promoted to Director of the Library! Congratulations! What other secrets does the library hide?

I chuckled at how the game ended on a possible tease, to hold open the door for more possible puzzle adventures with Jessica the librarian. Will you be on the lookout for more adventures with this gamer librarian?