If you are a fan and reader of this Reel Librarians blog (as always, thank you!), then you will probably also love the I Love Libraries blog, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) that shines the spotlight on fun stories for library lovers. A few weeks ago, I was super excited (and surprised!) to be contacted by a content manager at the I Love Libraries site, who asked me about collaborating on a guest post and exploring some questions about librarians in film and media. It took me about two seconds to say YES. ❤
Last month, in the “Spring training and special collections in ‘Major League’ (1989)” post, we ran the bases delving into the reel librarian character in Major League (1989). In that film, Rene Russo — in her feature film debut! — plays Lynn Wells, the world-class swimmer-turned-special collections librarian. Going through Russo’s film credits, I hadn’t realized she also returned in the sequel, Major League II(1994). It felt fitting, therefore, to continue the spring training. Shall we?
Major League II was available to watch for free via Amazon Prime.
*MILD SPOILERS BELOW*
The sequel, although released 5 years after the original (and far superior!) film, is set just one year later, as radio commentator Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) gets us all caught up. Omar Epps has replaced Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hays, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) has sold out to corporate sponsorship, and Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) has retired and is the new owner of the Cleveland Indians team. Will they make it to the World Series this year? No pennants for correct guesses. 😉 This sequel is strictly by-the-numbers, with no surprises, or originality.
The sequel begins again during spring training, and catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) learns he has been cut from the team. His knees have finally given out, but he’s been mentoring a younger player. Therefore, Dorn and head coach Lou Brown (James Gammon) ask him to join the team as an assistant coach.
At 19 minutes into the film, he finds himself at home with Lynn. They’re seated around the kitchen table, talking about his future.
Jake: Called everywhere, but nobody’s looking for a 41-year-old catcher with bad knees.
Lynn: Well, it’s not like you don’t have other options. Alan Bellows wants you to join his brokerage firm.
Jake: And Jack Pursoff wants me to head up one of his Pepsi distributorships.
Lynn: And you’d be close to home.
Jake: Yeah, and I’d make a hell of a lot more money than I would as a coach. So what if I never made it to a World Series?
Lynn: Well, I think it’s pretty obvious what you ought to do.
Lynn says this last line softly and in close-up. This scene only lasts a minute, and Lynn has three lines total, but she makes them count. It’s clear that they are still committed to each other, and she supports Jake going back to the team. Plus, this scene sets up the World Series plotline. Reel librarians are so efficient! 😉
We NEVER see Lynn again in this film. Russo’s star had risen in-between the original film and the sequel — she had co-starred in Lethal Weapon 3 in 1992 and In the Line of Fire in 1993, and she was gearing up for the one-two punch of Outbreak and Get Shorty in 1995 — so I suppose they were lucky to get her for one day to make this cameo. It’s odd, though, to me that Rene Russo went uncredited for this cameo.
And of course, there’s no mention of any library in this short scene. You would never know from watching this sequel that Lynn is a librarian. But because we know that from the original film, I’m classifying this sequel as a Class IV film, in which reel librarians make a cameo appearance.
Had you forgotten about the Major League IIsequel? Did you ever know that a third outing, Major League: Back to the Minors (1998) even existed?! If you’re tempted to watch the sequels, I would suggest just going back and rewatching the original comedy classic!
Major League II. Dir. David S. Ward. Perf. Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen. Warner Bros., 1994.
Since baseball — and all other sports — have been cancelled or delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, how about reliving all the spring training, Opening Day, and pennant-chasing fun in the 1989 film Major League? This classic comedy also happens to boast a memorable reel librarian character, Lynn (Rene Russo).
I (re)watched this movie from my personal copy of the “Wild Thing Edition” DVD — boasting astroturf, as seen in the image gallery below! — but you can also catch this movie on Amazon Prime. (It is sometimes available on Prime for free, but it’s also always available for a low-cost rental fee.)
Note: All the image galleries below display the images in circles. Just click on any image to view it larger in a new tab/window. (Did I display them in circles so that they would evoke baseballs? OF COURSE. 😉 )
If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen Major League, here’s the basic plot: The new owner of the Cleveland Indians purposefully puts together a team of bad players in order to sell the franchise and move to Florida. When the players find out, they start winning to spite her. Tom Berenger stars as Jake Taylor, the catcher, who also tries to woo back his ex-wife, Lynn (Rene Russo). The film also co-stars Charlie Sheen as “Wild Thing” pitcher Ricky Vaughn, Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn, and Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes. Bob Uecker steals all the bases — and the movie! — as radio commentator Harry Doyle.
So what does a movie about major league baseball have to do reel librarians? Let’s play ball and see, shall we?! 😉
First base: Off and running with a reel librarian reunion
Twenty-eight minutes into the film, Jake Taylor has made it to the final team with teammates Willie and Wild Thing, and they are celebrating at a fancy restaurant. He spies his ex-wife, Lynn, at the same restaurant with another man. She’s all dressed up and sexy, in an off-the-shoulder black dress and ’80s-tastic hair bow.
He calls her on the restaurant’s concierage phone, and here’s an excerpt from their “Meet Cute” phone conversation:
Jake: Hello, Lynn. It’s Jake.
Lynn: Jake? Jake Taylor? How’d you know I was here?
Jake: Just a hunch. I took you there when you got your master’s degree, remember? I figured you’re wearing that black dress with the red sash.
Lynn: How’d you know that? I didn’t even have this dress when — [she spies him across the room on another phone]
Jake: You’re still a stunner.
We don’t actually learn yet that she’s a librarian, but here’s what we do learn about Lynn, evident even from this short exchange:
She has a master’s degree
She is intelligent
She has a modern fashion sense (remember, it’s the ’80s!)
She exhibits a more traditional sense of femininity (long hair, off-the-shoulder and body-skimming dress, makeup)
She still has mad chemistry with her ex-husband
Lynn also says to Jake that her “life is different from when you knew me” and finally gives a phone number to Jake in order to end the conversation. This introductory scene lasts a total of 3 minutes.
Second base: A curveball and visit to a special collections library
At 39 minutes into the film, Jake calls Lynn’s number… which goes to a sheet metal company! Curveball alert — she gave him a fake number!
But that doesn’t deter Jake, because we next see him arriving at the library Lynn works at. He walks up to a counter, where Lynn is leaning and talking to another librarian, a snow-haired older white woman. We also get a glimpse of an older black man behind the desk, who looks to be filing. Later, at another counter in the library, we also encounter three more library staff workers: An older white man, an older white woman in a pussy bow blouse, and a younger white man with suspenders and glasses. None of these additional reel librarian workers get credits in the cast list. Also, please note that this library scene is the only time we see Lynn wearing glasses.
They then embark on a long-and-winding conversation, as they also weave in and about different parts of the library on their way to her office. I will not record every part of their conversation, but I will highlight excerpts with major bits of information we learn about Lynn, her work, and their relationship.
Lynn’s past and present:
In this exchange, we learn about Lynn’s past as a world-class athlete, and how successful she is in her chosen career as a special collections librarian.
Lynn: [W]e don’t have anything in common. Sometimes I wonder if we ever did.
Jake: What are you talking about? We were both athletes, world-class, hot for each other. What more could we have in common?
Lynn: I stopped being an athlete three years ago, Jake. Books are my life now. Don’t you dare laugh. In two years I put together one of the best special collection departments in the country.
Lynn’s reading recommendations:
Note: This scrap of conversation will prove important in later scenes!
Jake: What is this? You’re still sore I never read Moby Dick?
Lynn: You never read anything I asked you to.
Jake: All right, I’ll check it out now. Is this the Whales section?
Lynn stands up for herself:
In this exchange, we learn more about their past relationship, and the kind of behavior that Lynn is not going to tolerate anymore from Jake.
Lynn: I haven’t seen you in three years. You never even wrote me a letter.
Jake: I’m sorry about that. I wasn’t exactly proud of my situation. Come on now, you never thought about me at all while I was gone?
Lynn: Yeah, Jake, not so loud.
Jake: What about the three nights we spent on the beach in Veracruz? You ever have nights like that with Mr. Briefcase?
Lynn: What about the night you had in Detroit with Miss Fuel Injection?
Jake: Well, what was I supposed to do? She bet me 50 bucks she had a better body than you, and I had to defend your honor.
Lynn: Oh, what a bunch of bullshit. I have a much better body than she does!
Jake: She’s right.
This last outburst — when Lynn reaches her limit and yells at Jake in the library — causes a strong reaction from patrons in the library. Amusing that a librarian would have a good body, or rather, be proud of her own body…? Hmmm… 😦
Embarrassed, Lynn smiles ruefully and crosses her chest with the stack of folders in her hands. Lynn then ends the conversation, firmly closing the door to her office. Unwittingly, she also sets up a personal challenge for Jake, to finally stop being “the little boy who wouldn’t grow up.”
This library scene — the only scene actually set in an actual library — lasts 3 minutes. We get lots of info, and we follow Lynn on a whirlwind tour of the library, which seems to boast Gothic architectural details. Every space looks to be filled with patrons! And bonus, when Lynn passes through an open doorway (in the third screenshot below), we get a quick glimpse of a sign that reads “Special Collections.” Love that they included that detail!
Lynn’s lasting influence:
Remember when I mentioned how Lynn’s reading recommendations — as well as her parting shot at Jake to grow up — would be important? We get our first payoff a few minutes after this library scene, when Jake is reading the “Classic Comics” version of Moby Dick. He also turns down the opportunity to go to a club because “I got some reading to do.”
Continuing in this aside, a little over an hour into the film, Jake has gotten the entire team interested in reading the Classic Comics series! They highlight the graphic novel versions of Crime and Punishment, Song of Hiawatha, and The Deerslayer. Bless. ❤
Third base: A reel librarian at play
Desperate to reconnect with Lynn, Jake follows her home one night from the library. While I do NOT condone this kind of stalking behavior, we do get treated to a glimpse of Lynn’s specialty license plate, which reads… wait for it…
Isn’t that the best?!!!
However, when Jake finally musters up the courage to talk to Lynn on what he assumes is her home turf, he finds out… she’s at her fiance’s apartment, and they’re in the middle of a dinner party.
Jake then makes small talk with the guests, and we get to find out more about their backstory and relationship, including that:
Jake “wanted to discuss a couple of books with Lynn.”
Lynn reveals that Jake “was one of the best in baseball before he had problems with his knees.”
Jake wants to eventually move to Hawaii and “have a couple of kids who grow up to be Olympic champions,” particularly in “swimming, the 200-meter individual medley.”
Lynn was an “alternate on the ’80 Olympic team” in the 200-meter individual medley.
This informative scene lasts 6 minutes.
Going beyond third base with a reel librarian
By this time, we’re rooting for Jake and Lynn to get back together… and the movie does not disappoint! At 1 hour into the film, Jake spies Lynn at a baseball game… and you probably guessed it… follows her back home. Again, I do NOT support this kind of stalking behavior, but we do get to see this reel librarian’s apartment! Admittedly, it’s in a state of packing, as Lynn reveals she’s getting married soon. They have an in-depth conversation, going back over old wounds and feelings — including more instances of Jake’s cheating.
Although they have hurt each other in the past, their chemistry is undeniable, and they find themselves back in each other’s arms. (I laughed out loud when Lynn admits “We were always good at this,” as they head off to her bedroom. A reel librarian who enjoys sex… AMAZING!)
I also enjoyed that Lynn’s preferred foreplay involves BOOKS. Behold:
Jake: I guess this is our last hurrah, then.
Lynn: Yeah, I guess so. Hey, did you ever read Moby Dick?
Jake: Cover to cover, babe. When’s the wedding?
Lynn: You know, you could have read Plot Outlines of 101 Great Novels.
Lynn: At any library. [They kiss.] Who saved Ishmael at the end?
Jake: Huh? Uh, nobody… It was Queequoc’s, Queequeg’s coffin.
We also get to see Lynn’s bedroom set (flowery, pastel, and wicker), as Jake wakes up the next morning alone in her bed. This sexy scene lasts a total of 5 minutes.
Librarian’s note: Y’all knew that I was going to look up the very specific book title she mentioned in this scene, Plot Outlines of 101 Great Novels, right?! This is the work she says would be available in any library, except… there is no work with that exact title in WorldCat (an online card catalog of library collections around the world). There are some reference works with similar titles, including Plot Outlines of 100 Famous Novels, published by Barnes & Noble. My guess, however, is that the writers were thinking of a reference series like Masterplots, published by Salem Press for over 60 years, which IS a very well-known reference book series that summarizes the plots of significant works of literature and films. You’re welcome for this aside. 😉
Home run with a reel librarian
As the Cleveland Indians chase a pennant, we finish the film with a nail-biting game against their longtime nemesis, the New York Yankees. After an amazing game — no matter how many times I watch this film, I’m still at the edge of my seat rooting for the ragtag Cleveland team to win! — Jake spies Lynn in the stands.
She raises up her left hand, to show that she wears no wedding ring. They kiss, and Jake carries her to the field to celebrate with the rest of his teammates. I love that a reel librarian is featured in the final shot of this classic baseball comedy! Home run for the Cleveland Indians AND the reel librarian!
An unconventional reel librarian portrayal
Lynn in Major League (1989) is the only example I’ve been able to find so far of a reel librarian who is also an athlete. Although winding up with 6th billing, she makes a big impact on the overall motivations and (off-field) actions of the characters. Essentially, Rene Russo plays the main romantic lead in the film, and, like I mentioned above, Lynn also gets to be in the film’s final shot, as Jake includes her in the team’s celebration on the field.
Therefore, I have classified Lynn Wells in the Class II category of reel librarian films, in which the protagonist or other major characters are librarians, but the librarian’s occupation does not directly affect the plot.
Lynn Wells is also an atypical portrayal of a librarian and doesn’t fall easily into established character types. Hallmarks of atypical portrayals include:
portrayals go beyond stereotypical constraints
satisfied in their chosen profession
modern clothing and fashion sense
well-rounded characters with scenes and backstory that reveal their homes, personal spaces, and personal history
We get to witness all those points in Rene Russo’s turn as special collections librarian Lynn Wells, and I have always personally enjoyed this reel librarian character and portrayal. She’s smart, sassy, and proud of both her past life as an athlete as well as her current life as a professional librarian. A winning combo!
Can’t get enough of this memorable reel librarian? Although this is the first in-depth analysis post for Major League (1989), I have spotlighted this film in prior posts, including:
As many of us are still self-isolating and sheltering in place because of the coronavirus — we’re all still washing our hands and practicing social distancing, yes?! — and most likely still seeking out things to watch via various streaming services, I thought it appropriate to only write about movies that are available via a streaming service (at least at the time of my publishing the post). This week, I’m analyzing the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate, which is available via Amazon Prime’s HBO channel.
The original The Manchurian Candidate film, released in 1962 and starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and Angela Lansbury, is a classic. The remake? Not so much. Not even great actors like Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Wright, and Meryl Streep can lift this remake into anything more than a competent thriller. But there is one thing the 2004 remake has that the original film does not… a reel librarian! 😉
Denzel Washington plays the role that Frank Sinatra played in the original, Major Ben Marco, who knows something is rotten in the state of Denmark the United States.
Getting into the public library
At 1 hour and 20 minutes into the 130-minute film, Marco goes to a public library to investigate the Manchurian Global corporation. At first, it looks like he has wandered into a science museum, as the lobby is filled with scientific posters and genome models. Turns out, it’s the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SBIL) branch!
Marco then poses for a picture for a library visitor pass. We then get treated to a closeup of the library employee, a younger black woman, handling the visitor passes.
Duana Butler plays the “Library Clerk” role, and she gets two lines in this cameo role:
Smile if you like. This will just take a minute.
As we see in the closeup of Marco’s library visitor pass below, he did NOT feel like smiling on this trip to the library. (You can just make out “The New York Public Library” text above his photograph on the visitor pass.)
It turns out that this is the only reel librarian we will see in this library scene… before Marco even sets foot into the library!
I thought it interesting to highlight a reel librarian outside the actual library. Is this an interesting, albeit brief, take on the “librarian as gatekeeper” role? Is the director purposely mirroring the expressionless face of the Library Clerk with the equally expressionless face of Marco on his visitor badge? Is it possible I’m overthinking this reel librarian cameo role? 😉
Cue the research montage
Although we never again see a librarian, we do get treated to Marco conducting research via several different library resources and services, including:
a microfilm machine
a copy machine
headphones to listen to Rosie’s tapes
a computer to conduct a Google search on the internet
We also get a closeup of the mousepad, which officially reveals that Marco is at the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) branch.
I also visited SIBL’s website, which highlights their amenities, including computers for public use, photocopiers, and scanners/reading machines. Marco definitely got the most out of this library!
Although libraries are generally seen as safe spaces — in real AND reel life — I thought it interesting to note that the director, Jonathan Demme, chose to highlight the library’s security cameras. The black-and-white shot below is mimicking the security camera’s feed. The message seems to be that no place is safe, NOT EVEN the public library!
Purpose of library scene
This library scene lasts 4 minutes total, and the primary purpose of the scene is to propel the plot forward, as Marco then acts on the clues and information he discovered during his research.
Although the only thing the reel librarian did was issue a library visitor pass, she did help establish the library setting. Therefore, she fulfilled the basic Information Provider role in this Class IV film.
About 10 minutes later, Marco confronts Rosie with what he found out at the library.
I got my library card, and I got your tapes. I do my research, too.
Have you done YOUR research?! 😉
The Manchurian Candidate. Dir. Jonathan Demme. Perf. Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep, Kimberly Elise. Paramount, 2004. Based on the novel by Richard Condon.
And by “all time,” I mean since 2011 when this site began!
As we are all probably feeling anxious and stressed during this global coronavirus pandemic, how about taking a break from binge-watching movies and TV series in order to binge-read about reel librarians? I looked through my site stats to find out the top 10 most-read and popular posts of all time. Below, I have listed them in reverse order, from #10 to #1, along with the first paragraph of each post, to whet your appetite.
#10. ‘You, Me and Dupree’ — and the Naughty Librarian (Aug. 2015)
“You fixed Dupree up with a Mormon librarian?”
The 2006 film You, Me, and Dupree (2006) is an odd one. It stars Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, and Matt Dillon, and it’s directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who also executive-produced the TV comedy, Community. You’d think those are ingredients for a potentially amusing film. But overall, those ingredients never really come together, and the half-baked film ends up feeling much longer than its 108 minutes. …
How the Hogwarts librarian is depicted in the Harry Potter books
I recently reread the Harry Potter series, and this time around, took note of how the librarian, Madam Pince, is depicted. This librarian is never mentioned by name in the films as such, but she does make a physical appearance in the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). As portrayed by Sally Mortemore, the reel Madam Pince — her first name, Irma, is also revealed in that film’s credits — is physically more attractive than her counterpart in print. …
#8. Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (May 2017)
“Is there not freedom in the very choice of which book you want to be?”
I recently rewatched the 1966 film version of Fahrenheit 451, directed by French New Wave director Francois Truffaut and starring Julie Christie in a dual role and Oscar Werner as Montag, the fireman who falls in love with books, the very thing he’s charged with burning. …
#7. First impressions: Monsters University (July 2013)
“What are you afraid of? You just angered a 40-foot librarian!”
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how two members of my family had tipped me off to a reel librarian featured in the recent release, Monsters University (2013). Since that post went live, I have had five additional friends recommend I watch the movie, which I did over the Independence Day long weekend. …
“If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.”
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I watched the fan edit of the Star War prequel trilogy, entitled Star Wars: Rise of the Empire, which was compiled back in 2007. Out of the 7+ hours of the original prequels (Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999; Episode II: Attack of the Clones, 2002; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, 2005), this techie fan managed to whittle the story down to a still-healthy-yet-manageable 4 hours. It seemed like a majority of the second prequel, Attack of the Clones, stayed on the cutting-room floor (no more painful love scenes out on the lake by Naboo, thank goodness!), but guess which scene made the cut in its entirety? …
#5. First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene (Feb. 2017)
The reel librarian character echoes the barriers that were starting to crack, brick by brick and book by book.
I recently watched the Best Picture-nominated film Hidden Figures, which is a biographical film featuring three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. The film sheds lights on their individual and collective struggles to earn personal and professional respect, both as women and as African-Americans in a field dominated with white males. The three female leads all deliver top-notch performances: Taraji P. Henson as brilliant mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; Octavia Spencer in an Oscar-nominated performance as mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe as firecracker engineer Mary Jackson. …
I am a stickler for spelling and punctuation (see my post last week on that anal-retentive trait), so it still bugs me that I can’t ever seem to remember if the librarian in The Music Man is spelled “Marian” or “Marion.” I spelled it BOTH ways in my undergraduate thesis, which still makes me cringe. And that’s probably what inspired this blog post — maybe after writing this, I won’t have to look it up again. 😉 …
#2. Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away) (March 2012)
Exploring the female Naughty Librarian character type
A rose by any other name… the Naughty Librarian. We’re down to the final category of exploring reel librarian character types (see previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). And I know I’m going to get a lot of hits out of this post, as “naughty librarian” — and similar phrases like “sexy librarian” or “tomcats librarian” — are the MOST POPULAR search terms that lead to my blog. It’s a classy joint I’m running here, this Reel Librarians blog. …
#1. ‘The Killing Kind’ vs. ‘The Attic’ (Oct. 2013)
The Attic (1980) serves as a kind of cinematic continuation of two characters featured in The Killing Kind (1973)
As I mentioned in last week’s post, The Attic (1980) serves as a kind of cinematic continuation of two characters featured in The Killing Kind(1973). I have a copy of both films, so I set about watching The Killing Kind this past weekend and comparing the two. There are some eery similarities in both films, but some interesting differences, as well. Enjoy! …