Reader poll: Choose your next adventure

For all the readers of this website and blog — thank you! — I have a question to ask:  Which film would you like me to analyze next? The overall goal or mission of this website is to explore portrayals of librarians in film and what these reel librarians represent. I do that on a weekly basis through various kinds of posts, including film analysis and reviews; first impressions of films I see in the theater; film round-ups focusing on different themes relating to reel librarians; quotable librarian posts; in-depth explorations of relevant topics/themes/character types; and more.

I have a large stack of reel librarian films to review and analyze — this is a lifelong research quest, y’all, as you can see from my Master List — and I have selected 5 films for you to vote on. Choose your next adventure!

Reel Librarians  |  Reader poll:  Choose your next adventure

The following titles are from my personal collection, and I’ve tried to select a wide range of genres for you to choose from. All of the choices have major reel librarian characters and/or minor characters who have a significant role or scene(s) in the film.

  • An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000) — animated film
  • Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008) — family drama
  • The Music Man (TV, 2003) — note that this is the TV remake version
  • Soylent Green (1973) — science fiction cult classic
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) — romantic drama

What should I watch next? You decide!

The poll will stay open through this week, and I will reveal the winner next week. And if you like this idea of you choosing what film I watch next, please leave a comment and let me know! (And if you’d like an insider’s look at what goes into a film analysis post, click here.)

Reel Librarians  |  Reader poll:  Choose your next adventure

Checking in

Reel Librarians  |  What y'all are readingAs we are fully ensconced in spring and start looking toward summer, I was thinking lately about what y’all have been reading on the blog this past quarter. And it turns out that the same five posts have been the most popular this past year (counting since last May) as well as this past quarter.

Thank goodness I have this handy dandy list of what y’all are reading on the right side of this blog. It’s called “What Y’all are Reading.” So clever. ;)

But I also looked into the statistical archives to see how these top posts have fared over time.

So let’s break it down:

Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away)

This post, first published in March 2012, is a perennial favorite. (Not for nothing that phrases like “naughty librarians” continue to be some of the most popular keywords that lead to this blog.)

  • Views this quarter:  306
  • Views this year:  1,003
  • Views all time:  3,146

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 4.05.31 PM

The Jedi librarian

One my personal faves, first published in March 2013. And I need to do a follow-up on Jedi librarian Jocasta Nu, as she seems to have quite an interesting backstory!

  • Views this quarter:  189
  • Views this year:  478
  • Views all time:  555

Marian or Marion?

I recently got a bump in stats for this May 2012 post about the origin of the “Marian the Librarian” character in The Music Man, thanks to my post last week about Shirley Jones’s memoir.

  • Views this quarter:  136
  • Views this year:  463
  • Views all time:  559

Google search for 'Marian the Librarian'

Monster librarian?

I published this post, a preview of a monster librarian sighting in the Monsters University trailers, last June. So it makes sense that its total view for this past year and all time are the same.

  • Views this quarter:  121
  • Views this year:  520
  • Views all time:  520

Reel Librarians

First impressions:  Monsters University

The same goes for my review of Monsters University after I finally caught it in theaters. Favorite quote from the movie:  “What are you afraid of? You just angered a 40-foot librarian!”

  • Views this quarter:  112
  • Views this year:  362
  • Views all time:  362

And what has been the most popular post actually published tin 2014? That would be my post about the Vancouver Public Library and how we stumbled upon film crews filming scenes outside the library for a TV pilot called “Proof,” starring Jennifer Beals.

Are any of these posts your personal faves on this blog? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Marian and Ms. Jones

Shirley Jones: A MemoirI recently finished reading Shirley Jones’s autobiography, Shirley Jones: A Memoir, which was published last year by Gallery Books. Wendy Leigh has co-author credit, and it does read like Shirley Jones is having a conversation. The tone is quite informal — and boy, does Shirley Jones pack a punch with her stories! There are definitely some shocker moments in this book, as her on-screen image was quite goody two-shoes. But Ms. Jones is quite clear that she was a spitfire from the beginning! (And it’s even caused some controversy, as one particular scene apparently angered Joan Collins.)

One of my favorite stories was one she revealed about the making of The Music Man, in which she played “Marian the Librarian” in the classic 1962 film. Shirley refers to the character of Marian as a “truly liberated woman,” although I would argue that liberation is the arc of Marian’s character; it’s where she ends up, but not where the starts out. “Marian the Librarian” is the classic Liberated Librarian character type. While filming, Shirley Jones discovered that she was pregnant (with her son Patrick), and she eventually had to be shot from the waist up. By the time the big romantic scene in the film came along, Shirley Jones was heavily pregnant. Here’s how she describes the scene:

Robert Preston and I were standing on the footbridge, shooting the most romantic scene in The Music Man, in which he sand “Till There Was You” to me, and he was holding me extremely tight against his chest. As he kissed me passionately — the only kiss that took place between us during the movie — his eyes were closed. All of a sudden, the baby in my stomach gave an almighty kick!

Bob practically passed out in shock. Then he straightened up and gave me a quizzical look.

“That was Patrick Cassidy,” I said by way of explanation.

Reel Librarians  |  'The Music Man' collage

Years later, Patrick Cassidy then went to visit Robert Preston on Broadway:

After the show, Patrick went backstage and was escorted to Bob’s dressing room. He held his hand out to Bob. “My name is Patrick Cassidy.”

Robert Preston took three steps back. “Oh, no! We’ve already met.”

So funny!

If you’d like more posts about The Music Man, click here, here, and here.

A librarian, don’t ya know?

My husband has started watching the Fargo TV series, which began its first season this past month, and after watching the pilot episode, he declared that I had to start watching it. Why? Because a reel librarian shows up in the first five minutes of the pilot episode!

The series stars Martin Freeman as hapless insurance man Lester Nygaard, and Billy Bob Thornton as drifter Lorne Malvo. (And by the way, most of the action is set in Bemidji, Minnesota, and it is set in 2006, ten years after the events in the Fargo 1996 film.)

In the first episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” we first meet Lester in his house, and his wife is berating him for being a poor salesman. We then see Lester at work, sitting at his desk with a young couple. The man says they came in to get his wife on his health insurance plan, as she’s about to have a baby. Lester, no doubt smarting because of his wife’s earlier comments, tries to push them into purchasing a bigger life insurance plan.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Fargo' pilot episode

Lester:  What happens if you have an accident at your job?

Young man:  I work at the library.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Fargo' pilot episode


I get the joke — it’s hilarious to think that a librarian could get into an accident at the library, bwahahaha! — and I love all the deadpan reaction shots. The wife is giving her husband major side-eye, as seen above, and Lester’s reaction is like a deer in the headlights. He doesn’t recover well, as he then starts ratting off possible deaths (“What happens if you have a car crash and go out the windshield?”)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Fargo' pilot episode

Oooooops. You’re a librarian, eh?

The young couple smile back nervously, grab their jackets, and high-tail it out of there as soon as they can.

Lester’s reaction?  “Aw, heck.”

Andrew McKenzie plays the reel librarian, and his role is simply credited as “Young Man.” I also looked up his name on, and he’s also credited in the 10th episode of the Fargo TV series, so obviously I will have to keep watching the show!

You betcha I’ll be back with a follow-up post with more reel librarian references. Anyone else watching the TV version of Fargo?

Librarian by chance

The movie Chances Are (1989) is a romantic comedy about reincarnation. A woman’s (Cybill Shepherd) husband is killed in the 1960s, and in a brief heaven scene — complete with fluffy clouds and angels with clear tablets shaped like the Ten Commandments — we see the husband head off to get reincarnated. The only problem is, he doesn’t get the all-important forgetfulness inoculation. Through the rest of the film, Corinne (Shepherd) believes her husband’s soul has come back in the body of her daughter’s boyfriend, Alex (Robert Downey, Jr.).

As you can imagine, the creep factor is quite high in this film. If Alex is Corinne’s reincarnated husband, then he’s dating his own daughter. If he’s not her reincarnated husband, then Corinne is stealing her daughter’s boyfriend. Oh, and she’s been cooking her dead husband dinners for over 20 years. And her husband’s best friend (Ryan O’Neal) has been in love with Corinne all this time, and has basically helped raised Corinne’s daughter. Like I said, the creep factor is high.

It’s a strange premise for a romantic comedy, and it requires a good half-hour or so of set-up and character introductions. The first time we meet Alex is about fifteen minutes into the film, as he coasts along on a book cart in the Yale University Library. This introduces his personality as boyish and fun-loving — traits at odds in a serious setting like the library.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Chances Are'

Coming through!

He then coasts into a scene in which Miranda (Masterson) — whom is later revealed to be Corinne’s daughter — is getting schooled by a librarian called Mrs. Handy (Kathleen Freeman). The librarian is middle-aged, dressed in conservative layers and has short hair — but no glasses!

Let’s listen in as Alex does:

Mrs. Handy:  So you just assumed that nobody at Yale University or Yale Law School had any interest in checking out these 6 books in the last 3 months? You are going to make some lawyer. You owe $87.25.

Miranda:  Can I put that on a credit card?

Mrs. Handy:  This isn’t a boutique. Cash only, or we’re have to hold up your grades.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Chances Are'

Alex then swoops into action, coming to the rescue of the damsel in distress.

Alex:  Mrs. Handy. The rare books room. The Shakespeare folios.

Mrs. Handy:  Fooling with the folios?

Alex:  Yes and they’re fiddling, too. Go!

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Chances Are'

Miranda’s reaction as the librarian rushes off?

God. Is she always that awful?

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Chances Are'

Interesting to realize that the librarian replaces Miranda as the “damsel in distress.” And she is so worried about people “fiddling” with the folios — and her character name is Mrs. Handy. Such clever screenwriters. ;)

This “meet cute” scene continues as Alex jokes that the librarian is his mother — we are rewarded with a priceless reaction on Miranda’s face! — and then he magically wipes away the fines in the computer:

Uh-oh. This is bad. Worse than I thought. According to this, these books were never legally checked out. So that means I can’t charge you for them. You beat the system.

Alex then introduces himself, and we learn that he’s about to graduate. Miranda rushes off — she’s got a ride waiting, because she just had NO IDEA that it would take very long to return books that were 3 months overdue — but doublechecks that the “awful” librarian isn’t his mother.

This is definitely a scene played for laughs, and the university librarian fulfills the Comic Librarian character type. We laugh at her distress over the folios, which OF COURSE is what she gets for being mean to the pretty young girl with a credit card in one hand and overdue library books in the other. Oh, wait … am I showing my real librarian bias at this reel librarian portrayal? ;)

Another side note:  After rewinding this scene to make sure I had gotten the quotes right, my husband piped up with the information that the library fines turned out to be 15 cents a day. Doesn’t it sound like one of those word problems you had in school:

Your library fines total $87.25. You checked out 6 books, which are 3 months overdue. What then is the daily rate for library fines?

This “meet cute” introductory scene also recalls the “meet cute” scene in the 1970 film Love Story, co-starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, one of the four leads in Chances Are. In Love Story, Ali MacGraw plays a library assistant and is the one who schools Ryan O’Neal.

Reel Librarians  |  Library scenes in 'Chances Are' and 'Love Story'

And in yet another coincidence, Robert Downey, Jr. starred in another reincarnation comedy a few years later, in the 1993 comedy Heart and Souls. That film also included a reel librarian character, a supporting character named Harrison Winslow, played by Charles Grodin. Harrison in  Heart and Souls turns out to be a Liberated Librarian — as does Alex in Chances Are. The librarian, Mrs. Handy, definitely fulfills the Comic Relief role in this Class II film.

For more examples of Comic Relief portrayals, click here.

And for more about Liberated Librarians, click here and here.

‘The Librarians’ come to Portland

Last week, friends forwarded on exciting news to me:

Reel Librarians  |  Passport for The Librarian

Promotional passport for Flynn Carsen, ‘The Librarian’

  • A spin-off TV series inspired by the Noah Wyle “The Librarian” TV movies has been greenlit by TNT
  • The TV series will start filming this spring in Portland, Oregon

Woo-hoo, this is soooooo exciting! It’s also encouraging that Wyle is executive-producing as well as reprising his role as Flynn Carsen; Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin are also set to reprise their roles.

And how cool would it be if real librarians were cast as extras?! Then real librarians would become reel librarians. ;)

You can read more about the TV series here and here, for starters.

I’ve also featured “The Librarian” TV movies several times before on this blog, including:

Anatomy of a law library

I recently rewatched the courtroom classic Anatomy of a Murder (1959), as it was on my Master List. I didn’t remember a librarian being in the film, but I did remember a pivotal scene set in a law library. And my memory was correct, there is no actual reel librarian in the movie — landing it in Class V territory — but there is indeed a law library scene in the film that is key to the trial, and therefore the plot of the film itself.

In the early scenes setting up the tone of the film and the main character Paul Biegler, played by James Stewart, we also get treated to Paul’s personal law library. His love of the old law books helps the audience trust him and his actions, as he is shown to be a careful and thoughtful person. Paul and his lawyer friend, Parnell, are settling down for a night in. Let’s listen in:

Paul:  In the evening, I sit around and drink bourbon whisky and read law with Parnell Emmitt McCarthy, one of the world’s great men.

Parnell: That was a kind word, Paulie. You know, I might have been. I look at you and see myself years ago, with the same love for the smell of the old brown books and the dusty office. [Pointing to the bookcase of law books] … The United States Supreme Court reports. Well, what should we read this evening, counselor? How about a little Chief Justice Holmes?

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

At that point, the phone rings. It’s a call from Laura Manion (Lee Remick), and her call for Biegler’s legal aid propels the story forward. Her husband, Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) is in jail for murdering a local man, Barney Quill; his stated reason for doing so is that he believed Quill had raped his wife. Is this killing legally justified?

By the way, this film was a landmark movie in being open about the issue of rape, at least in a legal setting. It also caused controversy — and bannings in some states — because of its inclusion of such words as “bitch,” “contraceptive,” “panties,” “penetration,” “rape,” “slut,” and “sperm.”

Later, Lt. Manion meets with the army psychologist, Dr. Matthew Smith (Orson Bean), and brings back notes that he’s suffering from “dissociative reaction,” also known as “irresistible impulse.” This is their ticket to a temporary insanity defense.

Paul:  And what did he say about your knowing the difference between right and wrong when you shot Quill?

Manion:  I don’t think he said anything. Why, is that important?

Lt. Manion goes back to jail, and Parnell and Paul strategize:

Parnell:  You ever heard of a Michigan court accepting ‘irresistible impulse’ as insanity? .. Well, tomorrow’s Saturday. We just have the weekend before the trial. When do you want to start working?

Paul:  Tomorrow morning, early.

And, of course, “start working” means … going to the library! :D

Apparently, they research in the law library all weekend, as the next scene dawns on a new day with the judge walking to the courthouse. Judge Weaver, played by legendary real-life lawyer Joseph N. Welch — he went up against and brought down Joseph McCarthy! — introduces himself to the court by saying, “And while I might appear to doze occasionally, you’ll find that I’m easily awakened, particularly if shaken gently by a good lawyer with a nice point of law.” ♥

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

Judge Weaver walks up past the door marked “Library” and stops after hearing a book thud. He quietly opens up the door and peeks in on the two lawyers drowning in law books. Judge Weaver smiles and backs out again, unnoticed by Paul and Parnell.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

By the way, the movie’s entry on reveals a fun trivia tidbit about the library set:

Reel Librarians  | trivia of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

In this double-decker law library, the two lawyers find the precedent they need — at the same time!

Parnell:  Paulie.

PaulHey listen to this, Parn.

Parnell: Never mind that. Just find People v. Durfee, 62, Michigan, 486, Year 1886.

Paul: That’s it. I have it right here in the A.L.R. Listen. “The right and wrong test, though deemed unscientific, is adhered to by most states but the fact that one accused of committing a crime may have been able to comprehend the nature and consequences of this act and to know that it was wrong. Nevertheless … if he was forced to its execution by an impulse — by an impulse which he was powerless to control, he will be excused from punishment.” The Michigan Supreme Court did accept irresistible impulse. This is precedent.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

Note:  The A.L.R. stands for American Law Reports, published since 1919, which remain a key resource for legal research. And I looked the case in the LexisNexis library database, and it’s a real case! Here’s a related screenshot of that case and its appeal:

Reel Librarians  |  A snapshot from the LexisNexis database

That piece of precedent does get its day in court — or rather, its day in chambers. About 2 hrs and 15 mins into the film, the prosecution lawyers ask for a recess after the testimony of the army psychologist. Paul is ready and brings his law book to the conference in chambers, as seen in the screenshot below.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

The Assistant State Attorney Dancer (George C. Scott) and District Attorney Lodwick (Brooks West) ask if the defense wants to change its plea:

Lodwick:  You know a guy’s not considered legally nuts in Michigan unless he didn’t know right from wrong. Why don’t you get this over with?

Paul:  Your Honor, will you turn to page 486?

Lodwick:  What’s that?

Judge:  Appears to be a law book, Mr. Lodwick.

And, of course, Paul just happens to have left a fishing line hook in the book to mark its place. He and Judge Weaver enjoy a brief conversation about catching frogs, which frustrates the two prosecuting attorneys!

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

Lodwick:  What case is he citing, Judge? What is it, your honor?

Judge:  People vs. Durfee, 1886. Looks like a precedent. Would you like to read it Mr. Dancer?

Dancer:  No, thank you, Your Honor. I think I recall the case. We’re hooked … like the frog.

It’s a relatively subtle moment, but I like that it echoes back to Judge Weaver’s personal introduction that he appreciates being “shaken gently by a good lawyer with a nice point of law.” :)

And if you’d like to see more of a law library — as well as a reel law librarian — click here for my post on the 1988 Gary Oldman legal drama Criminal Law.