Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI?

Shining a spotlight on the “Reel Substance” portion of my Reel Librarians site.

Finishing up my spotlight on the “Reel Substance” part of my site… This week, let’s look at the (current) final category, Class V films. (Last week was Classes III and IV, and the week before that Classes I and II.)

If you’re new to this mini-series, then here’s a quick note about what the “Reel Substance” section is all about. One way I analyze and categorize films is according to the importance of the librarian role to the film overall. The “Reel Substance” section of this site is currently divided into 5 categories, starting with major librarian characters integral to the movie’s plot (Class I), and on down.

Reel Substance section
Reel Substance section

The basics:

Currently this is how I define Class V films:  They have no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries. Some of these films have been mistakenly listed on other sites or lists of reel librarians.

So there are two different kinds of films I currently include in Class V, with examples:

Includes scenes set in libraries or mentions librarians (but doesn’t include any actual librarians):

  • Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
  • Blackmail (1929)
  • The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
  • Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
  • Slightly Dangerous (1943)
  • Urban Legend (1998)
  • Wanted (2008)

Mistakenly listed as including reel librarians:

  • Big (1988)
  • The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
  • The Final Cut (2004)
  • Night at the Museum (2006)
  • Red Dragon (2002)
  • Sitting Pretty (1948)
  • Summertime (1955)

With the latter — films mistakenly listed on other sites or lists as including reel librarians — many times, a bookseller is mistakenly identified as librarian, or a bookstore mistakenly identified as a library. That’s the case with The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), The Final Cut (2004), Night at the Museum (2006), Red Dragon (2002), and Sitting Pretty (1948). In my post analyzing Night at the Museum, I point out some helpful tips on how to spot the difference between a bookstore and a library onscreen. Other times, a mousy or spinster-ish female lead is mistaken for a librarian, like Katharine Hepburn in Summertime (1955) — in that film, she’s actually described as a “fancy secretary”.

Side note:  Katharine Hepburn did play a librarian in Desk Set (1957). Plus, one of her sisters, Peg Hepburn Perry, was a children’s librarian in real life, for over 50 years! She was featured in The Hollywood Librarian documentary, which I reviewed here in this post.

Wherefore art thou, reel librarians?

Films that complicate matters are the ones that mention librarians but don’t include any actual librarians. Here are four interesting examples:

Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941):  In this film, Miss Bishop, a college English professor, reflects back on her life. Miss Bishop advises a female student to take the librarian’s course, but we later find out the student became a “world-famous historian” instead. At one point, Miss Bishop also tells the university president that she is leaving to become an assistant librarian in New York, but he convinces her to stay on at the college. Therefore, there is no actual librarian in this film, but it is interesting that the film mentions a college librarian course.

You can read my full post about Cheers for Miss Bishop here.

Demolition Man (1993):  In this film, Sylvester Stallone plays John Spartan, a cop who is brought out of cryogenics in order to pursue an old enemy (Wesley Snipes) running rampant in a future, nonviolent society. Sandra Bullock also co-stars as Lenina Huxley, a cop in the future. About an hour into the film, Lenina mentions visiting the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library to find archives of John’s past cases.

You can read my full post about Demolition Man here.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970):  The main plot of this film involves the opportunistic Mr. Sloane, who lodges with an eccentric family, consisting of the aging nymphomaniac Kath, her uptight brother Ed, and their doddery Dadda. Kath lies to Ed, saying she met Sloane in the library.

You can read my full post about Entertaining Mr. Sloane here.

Spellbound (1945):  A psychiatrist realizes that the mental hospital’s new director, Dr. Edwardes, is an impostor and suffers from paranoid amnesia. They go on the run to find out what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes. There is no actual librarian in this film, although a character in the film, a hotel detective, guesses that her occupation is that of a librarian.

You can read my full post about Spellbound here.

Should there be a Class VI?

I have been thinking for awhile that the films that have been mistakenly listed as having reel librarians should be their own category, a new Class VI. What do y’all think? Does it overcomplicate matters? Or would it help clarify my “Reel Substance” section and balance out the film categories?

Please leave a comment and let me know!

2019 UPDATE: 

I have added a Class VI category! The official description for this new category is “films with no identifiable librarians and/or archivists, as these films have been mistakenly listed on other sites or lists of reel librarians.”

The Class V category now focuses solely on “films with no identifiable librarians and/or archivists, although they mention librarians and/or have scenes set in libraries.”

Author: Jennifer

Librarian, blogger, movie lover

2 thoughts on “Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI?”

  1. I don’t think Class VI overcomplicates things from a reader’s point of view, but it might mean a lot of work for you! I guess my question would be this: mistakenly listed by whom? If this is intended to act as a corrective to misinformation on imdb or wikipedia, then it might be useful to have a separate category to point to. If it’s just “hey Jennifer, I heard there might be a librarian,” maybe it’s more work than is needed.

    1. It wouldn’t be that much work — but then, I’m also a person who blogs for fun in her “spare time” 😉

      Most of the ones that are a case of “mistaken identity” I have found on other librarian film lists, so yes, it’s to correct misinformation out there.

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