Law books and research in ‘Marshall’ (2017)

“You’d better start reading then.”

Today is the premiere date for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the final film role of Chadwick Boseman’s brilliant and all-too-short career. Boseman, who plays trumpet player Levee, and his co-star Viola Davis, who plays the title role of Ma Rainey, are getting rave reviews. I still get emotional whenever I think of Boseman’s passing. He died of colon cancer on August 28, 2020, at the young age of 43. By all accounts, he was a wonderful, caring, and dedicated man who was always giving back and paying it forward. Even though Boseman’s career was short — his first television role was in 2003 and his first film role was in 2008 — his list of film credits (only 15 total movies!) includes stellar turns playing iconic and inspiring Black men, including Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), James Brown in Get On Up (2014), and of course, T’Challa, King of Wakanda, in Black Panther (2018). Boseman’s role as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017) also joins this list.

Here’s a trailer for the movie:

“Marshall Trailer #1 (2017)” by Movieclips Trailers, Standard YouTube License

Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice, serving on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1967 through 1991. Before that, he was a lawyer for the NAACP, criss-crossing the United States to defend people of color and work on cases focusing on racial prejudice. As NAACP chief counsel for Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood successfully argued that case in 1954 before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall, directed by Reginald Hudlin, does not delve into Marshall’s more well-known cases or his tenure as a Supreme Court Justice. Rather, we get to know the measure of the man during his early career and how Marshall also helped inspire others to join the fight for racial and social justice. The film is set in 1941 and focuses on an early case in Marshall’s career, State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, a case in which a Black chauffeur (played by Sterling K. Brown) was accused of raping Eleanor Strubing (played by Kate Hudson), a wealthy White woman. Josh Gad co-stars as real-life attorney Sam Friedman, who worked as local counsel alongside Marshall. Friedman, a Jewish lawyer, had been working in insurance cases, and this trial marked his first experience as a criminal defender. Friedman had to serve as the case’s lead counsel because the Connecticut judge had forbidden Marshall from speaking during the trial.

These screenshots below depict the scene in which Marshall introduces Friedman to the press.

NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) introuces Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) to the press, in a scene from Marshall (2017)
NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) introuces Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) to the press, in a scene from Marshall (2017)
A birds-eye view of Marshall and Friedman in front of reporters
A birds-eye view of Marshall and Friedman in front of reporters

Almost 30 minutes into the movie, Marshall tells Friedman he has to start preparing for the criminal case.

Marshall: You say you’ve never tried a criminal case before, right?

Friedman nods.

Marshall then takes out a stack of law books out of his case and puts them on the desk. The camera focuses on the stack of books, and their titles are plainly visible, as seen in the screenshot below.

Marshall: You’d better start reading then. You’ve got one month.

Law books from Marshall's bag.
“You’d better start reading then.”

Although short, this scene is impressive because it shows how prepared and professional Marshall is — he’s got a stack of law books in his case! — and how he is also prepared to help mentor a colleague. The scene also reinforces how research is the backbone of legal justice. And those law books do look realistically worn and used.

But let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Here are the titles of the legal tomes that Marshall pulls out, the ones he wants Friedman to study for their upcoming criminal case:

  • A Concise Restatement of Torts, Second Edition, is about civil law, and it wasn’t published until 1965.
  • There are two volumes of Wigmore on Evidence from the McNaughton Revision series, which were not published until 1961. As the film’s Goofs page states: “Evidentiary law discussed in Wigmore applies in both criminal and civil cases, so Friedman, a trial lawyer, would already be familiar with it.
  • The tan volume on top is Volume 308 of the United States Reports, which contains all the U.S. Supreme Court opinions from October 1939.

None of these titles are exclusively about criminal law. Three of the four volumes that Marshall pulls out of his case in 1941 had not been published yet. And the other volume is about the U.S. Supreme Court, which would have no bearing on a criminal case in a state court. Propmaster FAIL.

I appreciate the focus on research in this scene from Marshall, but it’s best to get the details right, especially for a cinematic close-up. Maybe next time, consult with a law librarian?

Ultimately, Marshall is a fine example of Boseman’s acting talent, and the film does justice to Marshall’s career and legacy. You can read more about the real-life case here in this Smithsonian Magazine article and here in this article with Friedman’s daughter, Lauren Friedman. The movie itself lands in the Class V category of reel librarian films, the category for movies that include research and/or library scenes but no actual librarians.

Have you seen Marshall? Do you also tear up when thinking about Chadwick Boseman? Are you planning on watching his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

A buffet of must-read articles about libraries, librarians, and pop culture

What I’ve enjoyed reading the past few weeks

It has been an… intense? exhausting? exhilarating? (go ahead and insert your own superlative adjective here)… couple of weeks, to say the least. My energy has been depleted, y’all. But while I have been trying to distract myself from the news and vote-tallying and current political events here in the United States, I have been enjoying some really interesting articles about libraries and reel librarians and pop culture, so I thought it would be a good moment to share them with you all. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

“Step Inside The Museum of Obsolete Library Science” from The Met

This post, published last month, was written by John Lindaman, Manager of Technical Services at Thomas J. Watson Library. The Thomas J. Watson Library is the central research library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (I had to look that up. Cuz I’m a librarian, y’all, and I practice what I preach.) This article made me chuckle all the way through. As a kid, I grew up happily helping out in my mother’s school library, and as a teen, I volunteered to help catalog resources at my local public library when they were converting from the physical card catalog to an online system (I really was meant to become a librarian myself, wasn’t I?!), so I recognized a LOT of the obsolete library technology and supplies featured here in this article. Also, be sure to savor the witty captions on all the photos.

Beyond the chuckles, there is a point to this article:

There’s a popular misconception that librarians as a profession are conservative. Not politically conservative, but literally conservative—wanting to keep old stuff. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth—we are often on the cutting edge of using new technologies, and always looking for the most efficient, up-to-date way to help our patrons. […] We are forward thinking, technology-savvy, and driven to find the most modern way possible to fulfill our patrons’ needs. However, the dirty little secret is that sometimes the old stuff, while no longer useful, is actually cool.

This made me think about the central conflict in the classic reel librarian comedy, 1957’s Desk Set, when an efficiency expert, played by Spencer Tracy, installs a room-sized computer in a TV network’s research library, headed by Katharine Hepburn. Who is more needed: the librarians, or the computer? Spoiler: That’s a logical fallacy. The answer, of course, is the unwritten third option: BOTH. Librarians have always used technology, and we keep learning and investing in new technologies that help us do our job better, and help us connect with our patrons and communities.

Related posts: Comparing two ‘Desk Sets’ (and I don’t mean furniture) ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Comparing two desk sets,’ Jan. 26, 2012

“These Animated Shows Defy Library Stereotypes” from I Love Libraries

This article was published in August 2020 and written by Burkely Hermann, who also writes the blog Libraries in Popular Culture. I agree with Hermann’s opening statement, as it also applies to me and how I often think about librarians and libraries in pop culture:

When people think about librarians and libraries, they may point to films, live-action TV shows, or even novels. However, one area is often missed: animation.

So Hermann remedies that by highlighting stereotype-defying librarian characters in a couple of current animated series, Cleopatra in Space (streaming on Peacock) and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (streaming on Netflix). These are two streaming services that I do not currently subscribe to (there are so many! I had to stop myself after subscribing to Amazon Prime, HBO, and Acorn), but I will definitely keep an eye out for these series! I have also added these series to my TV shows list.

Related posts: Bonus reel librarian love on ALA’s I Love Libraries blog

“Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema” posts from Behind the Couch

I’ve really been enjoying reading the posts from the Behind the Couch movie blog, written by James Gracey, a Library Assistant at the British Film Institute, located in London. (Does that sound like a dream job, or what?! I’ve often daydreamed of being a librarian at the Margaret Herrick Library, the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood.) The two recent “Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema” posts delve into the classic horror movie Carrie (1976), and the lesser-known horror movie Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004).

I really enjoy the deep-dive into thoughtful analysis, and not just about what’s onscreen. Here is an example from the Ginger Snaps post:

By providing users a welcoming and peaceful space to spend time – browsing, reading, learning or simply reflecting or sheltering – libraries also act as a safe place, providing a lifeline, especially for the socially isolated and vulnerable within our communities. 

I also find the premise of using libraries as safe spaces within horror movies just a really interesting one, and an idea to explore more here on this blog. In fact, you could argue that my previous film analysis post, featuring the short — but vital! — library research scene in Jennifer’s Body (2009) is included in this vein. It’s also intriguing to think about the flip side, of libraries being used purposely as UNsafe spaces within horror movies… the ultimate betrayal?! 😉

Related posts: Paranormal research in ‘Jennifer’s Body’ (2009)

Have y’all come across some interesting articles and posts about libraries, librarians, and pop culture recently, too? Please share them in the comments!

Sources used

Paranormal research in ‘Jennifer’s Body’ (2009)

“Our library has an occult section?”

Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for Juno (2007), followed up that hit film by writing the screenplay for the horror movie Jennifer’s Body, which starred Megan Fox in the title role and Amanda Seyfried as Jennifer’s best friend, Needy. This movie was not a hit at the time (the marketing was so bad and missed the point of the film!), but since then, it has gained fans as an under-appreciated cult classic and “forgotten feminist classic” (Grady). My husband and I recently watched this movie for the first time via Amazon Prime.

If you’re unfamiliar with the movie, here’s a trailer.

“Jennifer’s Body (2009) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers” video uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license.

School library scene

I was very surprised when a school library and research scene popped up in the film! Disturbed by how her friend is behaving, Needy visits the school library at 1 hour and 10 minutes into the movie.

“So I did some research. Paranormal research.”

Needy does some paranormal research in her school library, in this scene from Jennifer's Body, 2009.
Hurray to all the visible call numbers in this school library scene!

Needy looks up occult books and paranormal research, including how to kill a demon. Here are the glimpses of the book shelves and titles featured in this short library scene:

Closeup of the occult section in this school library.
Closeup of the occult section in this school library.
Closeup of the occult section in this school library.
Closeup of the occult section in this school library.
Needy researches the occult in her school library, Jennifer's Body (2009)
This is my serious research face, y’all.

In the next scene, Needy shares what she found out with her boyfriend, Chip, and she tries to explain her theory about Jennifer:

Needy: Jennifer’s evil. I’ve been through the occult section at the library five times.

Chip: Our library has an occult section?

Needy: Yes, it’s really small. You have to read this.

Needy then pulls out a binder from her backpack, full of stuff she has printed out about demonic transference.

In the end, Chip doesn’t believe her. Which he comes to regret later.

But I do feel Chip and his incredulity about their school library having an occult section! And there looked to be a couple of rows of books in that section, which doesn’t feel that small to me… I guess it’s all about perspective, eh?

Was there a reel librarian?

The first time we watched this scene, I did NOT notice a school librarian. So I was going to chalk this up as a Class V movie, films with library scenes without librarians. However, when I went back to rewatch the scene and take screenshots, lo and behold… there IS a flash of a reel librarian! A blink-and-you-will-miss-it cameo. Literally. Because I literally blinked and missed that school librarian the first time round.

But here is the reel librarian, in her nanoseconds of glory. She looks to be a White woman, with reddish-brown, shoulder-length hair, and she is wearing eyeglasses and is dressed in a suit jacket. She appears to be shelving books, as you can just glimpse the top of a rolling cart beside her.

A reel librarian shelves books in her school library, in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it cameo in Jennifer's Body (2009).
A reel librarian shelves books in her school library.

Alas, this reel librarian goes uncredited in the movie’s cast list. 😦

This school librarian helps establish the setting of the school library, so she fulfills the role of Information Provider. Ultimately, the movie lands in the Class IV category of movies with cameo appearances from reel librarians.

Have you seen Jennifer’s Body lately? Did you remember the paranormal research scene? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

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 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! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂