You know that old saying, “Children should be seen but not heard“? With reel librarians, that is also often literally the case — librarians seen but not heard. There are several examples in my Class IV category, including films like The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Baby Boom (1987), Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Killer Movie (2008), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), WarGames (1983), and more.
I’ve also been thinking about the opposite of that saying in relation to reel librarians — heard (or heard about) but not seen. Why? Two reasons:
- A recent email from a colleague and reader — the one I mentioned recently in this post — who passed on a movie title where a librarian was mentioned (but never seen).
- The movie You, Me, and Dupree (2006) that I analyzed in last week’s post, in which a reel librarian is a supporting character — but never actually seen onscreen. (We see parts of her, including her bare leg and back of her hair, but never her face or full body.)
Are there other reel librarians I’ve come across who are “heard but not seen”? I was intrigued, so I started doing a little research back through my Master List and archives — and an idea for a blog post was born! 😉
Son of Rusty (1947):
Michael from the Century Film Project blog emailed me recently to let me know that he had been watching the 1947 movie Son of Rusty, and his ears perked up when a librarian was mentioned. The “Rusty” series was similar to the “Lassie” series, a 1940s film series starring Rusty the dog. In Son of Rusty, Rusty’s owner, Ted, learns a lesson about respecting other people’s privacy. It’s during a related conversation that the town librarian comes up, who is known for being a snoop and busybody.
You, Me and Dupree (2006):
Molly and Carl are newlyweds, and best man Dupree crashes on their couch after he loses his job (due to attending their wedding). In an effort to get him out of the house, Molly sets Dupree up with Mandy, the “very nice librarian” at her school. Dupree and Mandy “get busy” on the first date, but Mandy ends up breaking Dupree’s heart. We never fully see her onscreen, although she is mentioned throughout the latter half of the film.
All the President’s Men (1976):
This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk helps by giving them circulation records. There are four reel librarians credited in this film. In one earlier scene, Bernstein calls the White House Library for information, and we hear a female librarian’s voice on the phone, sounding nervous and evasive.
The Avengers (1998):
In this big-screen adaptation of the famed TV series, British agents John Steed and Emma Peel unite against Sir August De Wynter, a villain who attempts to control the world by a weather machine. In an interesting — and quite literal! — take on this “heard but not seen” theme, Patrick Macnee has a brief scene as the Ministry Archives librarian, Colonel Jones, otherwise known as “Invisible Jones.” We see an outline of him and a pair of floating glasses! As he states, “Don’t worry about me being invisible. Other than that, I’m perfectly normal.”
There is also a few interesting variations on this “heard but not seen” theme:
- Libraries — not librarians — mentioned onscreen but never seen, such as in Demolition Man (1993) and Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970).
- Characters we see (and hear) onscreen who are librarians, but who are never seen inside a library setting, which I wrote about in this post. Several of these characters are in the Class II category, in which major characters are librarians but their librarian profession is not important to the plot.
- When librarianship is mentioned/discussed — or when a character is described or mistaken for a librarian! — but there are no reel librarians actually onscreen, like in Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941), My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006) and Spellbound (1945). These titles are all included in my Class V category of films.
Are there any other films you can think of that mention librarians we never get to see onscreen? Please leave a comment and let me know!
- All the President’s Men. Dir. Alan J. Pakula. Perf. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander. Warner Bros., 1976.
- The Avengers. Dir. Jeremiah S. Chechik. Perf. Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Shaw. Warner Bros., 1998.
- “Rusty (film series)” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.
- You, Me and Dupree. Dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Perf. Kate Hudson, Matt Dillon, Owen Wilson. Universal, 2006.
3 thoughts on “Heard but not seen”
Thanks for the mention – I was on vacation when this post first came out and hadn’t had the chance to acknowledge. Maybe you’ve covered this in another post, but another interesting case is the movie that features a library without librarians. In “The Breakfast Club,” almost the whole movie is spent inside a very well-appointed school library, but we never see a librarian. The library is itself almost a character, if you pay attention to it, and in some sense reflect the personalities of the absent librarians who presumably run it.
You’re welcome! And yes, I totally agree about the library being its own character in ‘The Breakfast Club’ – very well-stated! I admit, I still grimace every time they rip out pages of library books!!