Public librarian sighting in ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ (2018)

You know things aren’t going to go well when you’re on the bad side of a librarian.

Each October, I focus on film analysis posts for scary movies, horror films, thrillers and mysteries, etc. It’s Halloween season, and reel librarians pop up in a lot of scary movies! My husband and I recently watched the 2018 movie adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The book, Jackson’s final published work, was originally published in 1962, and this film adaptation had the support of Jackson’s son, Laurence Hyman. The movie was directed by Stacie Passon and stars Taissa Farmiga as younger sister Merricat Blackwood; Alexandra Daddario as older sister Constance Blackwood; Crispin Glover as their Uncle Julian; and Sebastian Stan as their cousin, Charles Blackwood.

Here’s a movie trailer, and it provides a good overview of the basic plot and the tense, modern gothic atmosphere:

WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE (2019) Official Trailer” video, uploaded by Brainstorm Media, Standard YouTube license

Public library scene

Merricat is the family’s sole connection to the outside world, and she goes into town once a week to shop for groceries and check out and return library books. She also witnesses and endures the town’s growing animosity toward her family.

At 5 minutes and 43 seconds into the film, Merricat goes to town to pick up a book at the library. In a literal blink-and-you-will-miss-it cameo, the camera focuses on the public librarian’s face for a few seconds. The White actress who played this role is uncredited in the film’s cast list. It’s interesting to me how glamorous this reel librarian appears, with her carefully prepared hair curls, beauty marks, and red lipstick. Her dressed-to-the-nines attire also reeks of (old-fashioned?) glamour, with cat’s-eye glasses, fur scarf (!), royal purple fabric, and gold brooch and earrings. In her gold and purple attire, she stands out in vivid relief against the dark wood background of file drawers. And THAT LIBRARIAN GLARE, y’all. Magnificent. So chilling.

Reel librarian closeup in 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' (2018)
I still have my librarian glare, y’all. Don’t mess with librarians.

The camera then switches to a closeup of the librarian stamping a library book, entitled The Modern Method: French Cookbook. I had to rotate the image, as seen below, to be able to read the library card, which actually gets the title — or rather, the sub-title –slightly wrong, as it reads: The Modern Method: French Cookery Book.

Closeup of library book and library card for "The Modern Method: French Cookbook"
Closeup of library book and library card for “The Modern Method: French Cookbook”

Is this a real book? Y’all KNOW I had to check it in WorldCat, riiiiiiight?! 😉 Alas, I could not find a record of any book in WorldCat with that exact title. (WorldCat is the online library catalog of libraries worldwide.) It certainly looks like an older, well-used book in the screenshot above, but perhaps the film’s production company made up a fake book jacket? If you know that this book does actually exist, let me know in the comments!

I also want to pause a moment to send some love to the propmaster here for all the extra items in that frame that convey the info that this is a library book, including a couple of library stamps, a stamp ink pad, an additional library check-out card off to the side, a fountain pen, and a book with a leather binding. It’s like a still-life portrait of a library book.

The camera then switches to Merricat leaving the public library, clutching the book close to her chest. Again, minimal but effective props: a library sign and a library cart full of books beside the door.

The exterior of the public library, as seen in the short library scene in 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' (2018)
The exterior of the public library

Public library filming location

This movie’s Filming & Productions page on IMDb.com lists two main filming locations: Bray and Enniskerry in County Wicklow, Ireland. And this online article has several behind-the-scenes photos of the library exterior scene with Taissa Farminga. The article states that this scene was filmed in the Enniskerry Village in early August 2016.

Therefore, I looked up the County Wicklow public library site, which includes exterior photos of all its branch libraries, including the Enniskerry library. But the exterior of the Enniskerry library does not match up with the building exterior seen above. Therefore, most likely another period-appropriate building stood in for the public library scene. Again, if you know the actual location used for this public library scene, let me know in the comments!

There is also a mob scene at the end of the film, and I rewatched this scene several times to see if I could pick out the reel librarian in the crowd. Alas, I could not spot her… but given the disapproving look on that reel librarian’s face, as seen above, I would not be surprised if she had been in the crowd.

Reel librarian’s role

This uncredited reel librarian primarily serves as an Information Provider, as she helps set the library scene. As the librarian is seen onscreen for only a few seconds, this cameo lands the film in the Class IV category of reel librarian movies. This cameo also highlights how EVEN THE PUBLIC LIBRARIAN disapproves of this family, with her mouth pressed into a thin line and her eyes sending a hard look of disapproval. You know things aren’t going to go well when you’re on the bad side of a librarian.

Have you seen this movie or read the novel? Is the library or librarian mentioned in the original novel? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

‘Reel Librarians’ blog turns 9!

Number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine…

Reel Librarians celebrated its 9th blog anniversary last week, woot woot! Nine years ago, on September 19, 2011, I published my very first post, “Where do I begin? A love story” on Reel Librarians. This post also explains the background about my interest in reel librarians.

Reel Librarians | Lego Librarian giveaway winner
Lego Librarian celebrates Reel Librarians!

Quick stats

Here is my annual update on how this blog has grown over the years.

2012 (after 1 year)2020 (after 9 years)
Total views:19,000+307,000+
Total visitors:900+201,000+
Total comments:1651,160+
Total posts:153487
Total shares:1215200+

Previous blog anniversary posts

Want to relive past blog-iversary celebrations? Browse below:

Top 10 most popular posts this past year:

  1. Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (originally published May 2017)
  2. The dragon lady librarian in ‘The Golden Child’ (originally published June 2019) — the first time this post has joined the top 10!
  3. First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene (originally published Feb. 2017)
  4. ‘You, Me and Dupree’ — and the Naughty Librarian (originally published Aug. 2015)
  5. Marian or Marion? (originally published May 2012)
  6. First impressions:  Monsters University (originally published July 2013)
  7. Angels in the library in ‘Wings of Desire’ (originally published Jan. 2018)
  8. A closer look at the reel librarians in the original ‘Ghostbusters’ (originally published July 2017)
  9. Librarian t-shirt collection (originally published Aug. 2014) — everyone loves a librarian-themed tee, right? I should think about updating this post, as I’ve added to my librarian t-shirt collection!
  10. Reel archivist in ‘Blade Runner 2049 (originally published Aug 2018) — this marks the first time this post has cracked the top 10!

Thank you all for reading, whether it’s your first or ninth year! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Research and high school library scenes in ‘Dangerous Minds’

“This movie may be called Dangerous Minds, but it seems to me that the librarians have Suspicious Minds!”

Because we’re (still) living in coronavirus times, a lot of us — at least here in the United States — are not going back to school in the usual way (e.g., I’m teaching and working remotely from home again this fall). But we can still experience that back-to-school feeling by proxy, via the medium of film! Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the 1995 movie, Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Louanne Johnson, a retired U.S. Marine and White woman who becomes a teacher in an impoverished, inner-city school and teaches poetry and literature to high schoolers, many of whom are Black and Latino students. The movie is based on Johnson’s real-life teaching experiences, as detailed in her 1992 memoir My Posse Don’t Do Homework.

Below is a trailer for the film, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve seen it… and an opportunity to get Coolio’s hit song, Gangsta’s Paradise, stuck again in your head. You’re welcome. 🙂

“Dangerous Minds 1995 Trailer | Michelle Pfeiffer” video uploaded by Trailer Chan, Standard YouTube License

Teacher research

I like that in introducing Louanne Johnson’s character, the director John N. Smith took time to show us Johnson’s work ethic. Yes, we know she’s a former Marine, but it’s nice to actually see her apply that discipline and work ethic to her new chosen profession. And one way they highlight this in the film is to show Johnson researching teaching and classroom management strategies.

The visible titles include:

  • Assertive Discipline for Parents: A Proven, Step-by-Step Approach to Solving Everyday Behavior Problems (Revised edition) by Lee Canter and Marlene Canter
  • “Disciplining the Adolescent” article reprinted from Teacher’s Quarterly

OF COURSE you know I looked both of these titles up, and yep, it looks like they’re both legit! The book was originally published in 1985, and the revised edition was published in 1993. The periodical is most likely the California Teacher’s Quarterly, which has been published since 1907.

High school library setting and scene

Almost an hour into the movie, Johnson introduces a “Dylan Dylan” poetry contest in class. The goal is to find a Dylan Thomas poem that’s like a Bob Dylan poem/song and write about how they connect.

Next stop? You guessed it — the high school library!

This school library scene lasts only one minute long, but we get to see the typical school library setting, with bookcases, wood tables and chairs, and lots and lots of posters. The camera pans around to showcase students in groups at different tables in the school library. According to the filming locations listed on the film’s IMDB.com entry, this scene was filmed at San Mateo High School in San Mateo, California.

Suspicious minds

Although it feels novel — to Johnson and to her fellow teacher mentor, played by George Dzunda — that she got her students to go to the school library, the students already seem pretty comfortable in the space and confident about how to start researching. (Suspension of disbelief? Discuss.) As you can see in one of the photos above, I like the detail of one student, a young Black man in a grey hoodie, is holding a slip of paper in his hands (on which I assume is a call number) as he walks around the bookcases.

The student has clearly been successful at finding the book he was looking for — yay! — but the librarians at the high school library do not seem so impressed, however.

Rather, they are giving MAJOR side-eye to this student as he passes them seated side-by-side at the front desk. He doesn’t so much as glance at the school librarians, but the camera focuses, albeit briefly, on the two librarians, one Black woman and one White woman. This movie may be called Dangerous Minds, but it seems to me that the librarians have Suspicious Minds! Perhaps you could argue that they seem surprised, rather than suspicious? I looked up my past notes, and I initially wrote down the word “surprised,” but after this second viewing, I think the more apt descriptor is “suspicious.” Either way, it’s clear these two school librarians have no interest in getting up and helping any of the students. 😦

A librarian by any other name?

I also thought it interesting that although there are two school librarians, there is only ONE nameplate on the desk, which reads “Toni Devereaux, Librarian.” You can see this nameplate more clearly in the image below.

But which one is Toni Devereaux? There is no such name included in the cast list. Jeff Feringa is listed as Librarian #1 (she is seated on the right in the photo above, dressed in the floral dress and lace collar), and Sarah Marshall is listed as Librarian #2 (she is seated on the left in the photo above, in a green cardigan). Is Toni supposed to be Librarian #1, as Feringa is listed first in the credits? It remains unclear. Also, why are there two librarians at this school, when it seems clear that neither one is interested in helping the students?

What role do these reel librarians serve in this movie? Although neither librarian actually helps any of the students, I would argue they still both fulfill the role of Information Provider. They do help establish the setting of the high school library; in fact, you could argue they function more like props! But more than that, I would argue their suspicious glances are also reflective of a larger issue, a societal under-appreciation and distrust of these students and their abilities. While I appreciate the racial diversity of these school librarians — please also see this post highlighting 5 movies that feature Black reel librarians — their suspicious attitudes and seemingly purposeful inaction leave me disappointed. Ultimately, their cameo appearances land this movie in the Class IV category.

Sources used

10 teen comedies with reel librarians

In my previous post, I highlighted the reel librarian’s cameo scenes in the 1999 teen comedy — a pitch-dark comedy! — Drop Dead Gorgeous. That got me to thinking about how many teen comedies feature scenes with school libraries and reel librarians. Let’s round up 10 examples, shall we? The movies below are listed in chronological order by year of release, starting in the 1980s.

The Last American Virgin (1982)

This Class III movie is a quintessential ’80s flick, about teenage boys seeking every opportunity to have sex. When we first watched this movie, my husband cheekily asked, “Is the librarian the title character?” No, she is not, y’all! The movie includes a brief — but memorable — fight in the school library. The school librarian, an older White woman with glasses, is shocked, I tell you, SHOCKED that fisticuffs fly in the school library! Her facial reactions are priceless.

Reel librarian facial expression in The Last American Virgin
Reel librarian’s facial expression in The Last American Virgin

Related post: ‘The Last American Virgin’ librarian

My Science Project (1985)

In this Class II film and action/adventure comedy, young student Michael (John Stockwell) is in search of a science project. He then breaks into a military base and finds a strange glowing orb, as you do. The orb wreaks havoc when it turns the school into a battlefield of the past, present, and future — because OF COURSE — and Michael and his friends must find a way to stop it. Michael goes to the library to find out information on time travel, and he gets help from Sherman (Raphael Sbarge), the school nerd and know-it-all who works in the school library.

“My Science Project (1985) Original Trailer” video, uploaded by Jason Hawk, Standard YouTube License

Pretty in Pink (1986)

This teen classic is part comedy, part drama, and part love triangle. Another classic ’80s movie — and fashion! Andie (Molly Ringwald) likes Blane (Andrew McCarthy) while her best friend, Duckie (Jon Cryer), pines for Andie. There is a brief scene in the school library, in which Blane flirts with Andie via the school library’s computers. You can catch a brief glimpse of a school librarian in the scene, landing this teen comedy in the Class IV category of reel librarian films.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of a school librarian in Pretty in Pink

Related post: The school library in ‘Pretty in Pink’

Summer School (1987) 

This Class IV film features Mark Harmon as gym teacher Freddy Shoop, who gets stuck teaching remedial English in summer school. On the second day of summer school, he takes the students to the library to work on book reports. You can juuuuuuust spy the back of the school librarian in the scene. It’s easy to miss her and her hair bow amidst all the hand-lettered signs in the library! 😉

The back of the school librarian can be seen right below a "Please Return Books Here" sign in the school library
The back of the school librarian can be seen right below a “Please Return Books Here” sign in the school library

Related post‘Summer school’ in the library

Pump Up the Volume (1992)

In this high school dramedy, and Class II film, new high school student Mark (Christian Slater) uses a short-wave radio to broadcast as pirate DJ Hard Harry, incurring the wrath of the principal. Student library assistant Nora (Samantha Mathis) investigates the DJ’s identity and finds out about Mark via the book he checks out at the school library. She impresses Mark, who calls her “fearless.” They have a super cute “Meet Cute” moment in the school library.

“Classic Girl – Samantha Mathis – Jane’s Addiction – Pump Up The Volume – 1990 – Allan Moyle” video, uploaded by Fred Fromberg, Standard YouTube License

High School High (1996)

In this Class IV film — a parody of films like Dangerous Minds — a naïve teacher (Jon Lovitz) gets a job at an urban high school. After he makes a would-be inspirational speech at the school assembly, the school librarian in the crowd yells out, “You suck!” A proud, inspiring moment for all librarians. 😉

“High School High 1996 Trailer | Jon Lovitz | Tia Carrere” video, uploaded by Trailer Chan, Standard YouTube License

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

This Class IV comedy focuses on teen girls (and their mothers) competing in a local beauty pageant. The plot includes murder, a huge swan float engulfed in flames, beauty pageant contestants upchucking contaminated seafood, and more! There are a couple of memorable closeups with an older librarian, who recalls her past as the beauty pageant winner in 1945.

The beauty pageant winner... turned local librarian.
The beauty pageant winner… turned local librarian.

Related post: ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ librarian

The New Guy (2002)

In this Class III film, Dizzy (DJ Qualls) tries to restart the year at another school as the cool “new guy.” Why? Because he was humiliated at his old high school when a group of jocks pulled his underpants over his head and pushed him toward the school librarian. It is certainly a, uh, memorable opening scene!

The school librarian in The New Guy reaches out... but not in a good way!
The school librarian in The New Guy reaches out… but not in a good way!

Related posts:  The hand that rocks the school in ‘The New Guy’ ; Behind the blog: What goes into a film analysis post

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

In this Netflix teen comedy and romance, teen Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has to deal with the romantic complications that ensue after her secret love letters are exposed. There is a brief school library scene early in the film, in which Lara Jean breaks the silence rule (she eats a carrot). However, it’s not the reel librarian who enforces the silence rule — her fellow students take care of that! We do see a glimpse of the school librarian as Lara Jean enters the school library, placing this sweet teen flick in the Class IV category of reel librarian films.

Screenshot from 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' (2018)
Lara Jean greets the school librarian at her high school

Related post: School library scene in ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’

Booksmart (2019)

In this whip-smart teen comedy directed by Olivia Wilde, two high school seniors and best friends (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) put down their books and let loose en route to graduation parties. OF COURSE they use a library to try and track down one party’s location. And OF COURSE they enjoy a fist-bump greeting with the librarian. This movie is so much fun!

“BOOKSMART Trailer (2019) Lisa Kudrow, Olivia Wild, Teen Movie” video, uploaded by Movie Trailers Source, Standard YouTube License

Sources used

  • Booksmart. Dir. Olivia Wilde. Perf. Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams. Annapurna Pictures, 2019.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous. Dir. Michael Patrick Jann. Perf. Kirsten Dunst, Kirstie Alley, Denise Richards, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney. New Line Cinema, 1999.
  • High School High. Dir. Hart Bochner. Perf. Jon Lovitz, Tia Carrere, Louise Fletcher, Mekhi Phifer. TriStar, 1996.
  • The Last American Virgin. Dir. Boaz Davidson. Perf. Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin. Golan-Globus Productions, 1982.
  • My Science Project. Dir. Jonathan R. Betuel. Perf. John Stockwell, Danielle von Zerneck, Fisher Stevens, and Raphael Sbarge. Touchstone, 1985.
  • The New Guy. Dir. Peter MacDonald. Perf. DJ Qualls, Eliza Dushku, Zooey Deschanel. Bedlam Pictures, 2002.
  • Pretty in Pink. Dir. Howard Deutch. Written by John Hughes. Perf. Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer, Harry Dean Stanton, Annie Potts. Paramount, 1986.
  • Pump Up the Volume. Dir. Allan Moyle. Perf. Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Jeff Chamberlain. New Line Cinema, 1990.
  • Summer School. Dir. Carl Reiner. Perf. Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Courtney Thorne-Smith. Paramount, 1987.
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Dir. Susan Johnson. Perf. Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, John Corbett. Netflix, 2018.

‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ librarian

“Didn’t even get to keep my damn tiara.”

A couple of weeks ago, I read a post on the Go Fug Yourself site about how the film Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) was now old enough to buy booze. In other words, happy 21st anniversary of the premiere of this cult classic! I first saw this movie years ago, and I remembered three main things about it: (1) it is a teen comedy, but it goes a LOT darker then you would expect, (2) this film is super quotable, and (3) it features a reel librarian! This last reason is why you’re here, right? 😉 So let’s get to it!

If you haven’t seen Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) in a while, the film’s tagline will get you up to speed: “A small-town beauty pageant turns deadly as it becomes clear that someone will go to any lengths to win.” The plot includes murder, a huge swan float engulfed in flames, beauty pageant contestants upchucking contaminated seafood, and so much more!

The film is very well-cast, starring: Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Brittany Murphy (RIP), Amy Adams (I had totally forgotten she was in this movie!), Allison Janney, Kirstie Alley (I had *not* forgotten about her scene-stealing her way through this film!), and Ellen Barkin, among many others. Here’s a trailer:

“Drop Dead Gorgeous Trailer” video uploaded by pbiasizzo, Standard YouTube License

The reel librarian shows up in two short cameos, but each time, she is very memorable.

Librarian scene #1: “Didn’t even get to keep my damn tiara.”

Claudia Wilkens plays Iona Hildebrandt, who gets introduced as the local pageant winner in 1945, the first year of the Sarah Rose Miss Teenage Princess pageant. And that first beauty pageant winner grew up to be… the local public librarian! Does it blow the audience’s mind that the movie’s title could also include the librarian?!

Below is a side-by-side comparison of Iona in ’45 versus 54 years later. It’s interesting to note that however else she has changed physically, Iona still wears her hair in a similar style, with rolls of hair on either side of a middle part.

The pageant winner becomes the town librarian
The pageant winner becomes the town librarian

She reveals that she had to give up her crown for scrap because of World War II. And she utters one of my favorite lines in the film:

“Didn’t even get to keep my damn tiara.”

You can tell she is STILL upset about this, 54 years later. Which is even funnier as the actress says all this in the driest, most deadpan voice and intonation.

The reel librarian with all her reel library props
The reel librarian with all her reel library props

The words “library” or “librarian” are never uttered, so we only know that this character is a reel librarian because of the physical props and setting. The library background behind her includes a desk, stacks of books, old lamps, bookcases, files, and tall windows. All those stacks of books give the library a fairly messy look, and the setting is all about the inanimate objects. There are no other people in this library.

The reel librarian’s personal props include a book and a due date stamp. She is dressed very plainly and conservatively, in a brown dress with long sleeves and a high neck. I am rather shocked that they did NOT add glasses on a chain to her look!

Here’s a clip of this brief scene, which lasts 15 seconds:

“Mount Rose American Teen Princess 1945” video, uploaded by Cam Williams, Standard YouTube License

Librarian scene #2: “It’s best with lots of butter.

Librarian shows up again briefly, this time to explain lutefisk, a culinary detail that immediately reinforces the film’s setting in the Upper Midwest, where many Nordic immigrants settled in the U.S.

What is lutefisk, you may wonder? The librarian is back to explain:

“Lutefisk is codfish that’s been salted and soaked in lye for a week or so.”

She pauses, and then states:

“It’s best with lots of butter.”

Yeah, lutefisk is… an acquired taste. (My mom, a real-life librarian, once had a shirt that read: “Just say no to lutefisk!“)

The reel librarian explains about lutefisk and how it's best with lots of butter.
Truer words were never spoken. See this gif, and others from the film, online here.

Almost everything in this scene looks the same as the first library scene. The librarian still has a library stamp in her hands — although this time, she’s sitting at her desk instead of standing in front of it — and she’s wearing the same dress and hairstyle.

This final scene with the reel librarian lasts less than 10 seconds total.

The reel librarian’s role

What is the purpose of this reel librarian’s role in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)? Although she is quite informative — first embodying the origins of the beauty pageant and then explaining what lutefisk is, with devastating efficiency — she primarily serves the role of Comic Relief in this Class IV film. This reel librarian is like the straight (wo)man in a comedy routine.

The comedy in these librarian cameos are all about juxtapositions, including hearing a librarian cuss and seeing how this beautiful young woman, the first winner of the local beauty pageant, turns into a sour-faced librarian.

Ahhhhhhh, the comedic irony! The upending of expectations! Or wait… is this really a cautionary tale of what awaits beauty pageant winners?! Discuss. 😉

Sources used