E. L. Konigsburg, 1930-2013, remains one of my favorite authors, with such YA classics as Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth (1967); From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967); A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (1973); The View from Saturday (1996); and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place (2004). Konigsburg is one of only six writers to have won two Newbery Medals, and remains the only writer to be both a Newbery Medal winner and one of the runners-up in the same year. That was 1968, winning for my personal favorite of her books, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and runner-up for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.
I’ve never watched a film adaptation of one of her works, so I taped the 1973 version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, starring Ingrid Bergman as the title character. The film was also released under the title of The Hideaways.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it focuses on two siblings, Claudia and her brother, Jamie, who run away from home to stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They try to solve the mystery of the new angel statue, rumored to be the work of Michelangelo, which leads them to the statue’s donor and famous recluse, Mrs. Basil E. Frankerweiler.
Starting on their quest to solve the mystery (about 40 minutes into the 105-minutes film), guess where Claudia and Jamie begin? In the library, of course!
“Tomorrow, we’ll go to the public library and start our research.”
Claudia is a very smart girl, of course. We know this already, from how she’s thought out how they can live and hide out in the museum without getting caught, but this seals the deal for me. 😉
There’s no librarian that I can see in the background of this shot, so the film ultimately lands in the Class V category (no librarians). However, not all is lost, as Claudia and Jamie talk about the importance of research.
Jamie: Are you sure detectives work in libraries?
Claudia: Yes. Keep looking. Sometimes, the search can be very important to solving a mystery.
They talk about different things they find out about Michelangelo, and then use the information they learn later to… and that’s all I can say for now. You will have to either watch the movie, read the book — or both! There was also a later TV adaptation from 1995 starring Lauren Bacall as the title character.
The climax of the story takes place in Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’s home and personal library of files and research. (No spoilers, as you get that from the story’s title!)
The scene in the film is different from the book, but it’s still fun to see a visual representation of all those “mixed-up files.” Although, of course, they’re not mixed-up at all. They files are quite logically organized, at least according to the logic of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
As she warns Claudia:
“Don’t mix up my files! They are in a special order, that makes sense only to me.”
Spoken like a librarian? 😉