‘She’s Working Her Way through College’ — without a library!

There are closeups of classrooms, the gymnasium and football rallies, but alas, no library

This 1952 Technicolor film, She’s Working Her Way Through College, stars Virginia Mayo as “Hot Garters Gertie,” a former burlesque dancer who has saved up to go to college. The write-up for this movie on the TCM schedule started out with this eyebrow-raising tagline:

Let other coeds wait tables or shelve library books. Burlesque queen Hot-Garters Gertie is working her way through college one article of clothing at a time!

Hoping for a glimpse of the college library, I watched this musical comedy (which, bizarrely, features a song about inflation), which also co-stars Ronald Reagan as Professor (!) John Palmer. There are closeups of classrooms, the gymnasium and football rallies, but alas, no library — or librarian — to be seen, thereby landing this film into the Class VI category.

Still from She's Working Her Way Through College, 1952, is in the public domain
Still from She’s Working Her Way Through College, 1952, is in the public domain

Interestingly, this film is a loose adaptation of the 1942 film The Male Animal, starring Olivia de Havilland and Henry Fonda as the professor (much more believable, eh?). As the plotline is centered around a college campus, I had also recently watched The Male Animal in hopes of spying a library, but a no-go on that score, as well.

If you would like to see some coeds who do work their way through college by shelving books, etc., in the library (something that I did, as well, during both my undergrad and grad school years!), I would recommend checking out:

Sources used:

‘Sitting pretty’ in the book shoppe

The Book Shoppe Proprietress does exhibit some librarian-like behavior

In Sitting Pretty (1948), eccentric Lynn Belvedere (Best Actor nominee Clifton Webb) answers a family’s ad for a live-in babysitter and shakes up the family, as well as the neighborhood, with his particular manner and methods. This film spawned a couple of sequels, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951), as well as the 1980s (and personally much-beloved!) TV series Mr. Belvedere, starring Christopher Hewett in the title role.

About an hour into the film, nosy neighbor Mr. Appleton (Richard Haydn) visits the “Hummingbird Hill Book Shoppe” — there’s a closeup shot of this sign as he walks by — in order to engage in a local gossip session with Della (Mary Field, in an uncredited role), the Book Shoppe Proprietress. Although she’s listed on some other film sites as a librarian, it’s quite clear she is the owner of the local bookstore. Therefore, this film belongs in the Class VI category of films with no reel librarians.

However, this Book Shoppe Proprietress does exhibit some librarian-like behavior, as showcased in her introductory scene.

Della:  Here you are, Mrs. Gibbs. I know you’ll enjoy it. [handing over a book]

Mrs. Gibbs:  Thank you, Della. I certainly liked the last book you recommended.

Della:  Good. Do come in again.

Mrs. Gibbs:  Oh, I will.

Mrs. Gibbs, Della the Book Shoppe Proprietress, and gossipy Mr. Appleton in a scene from Sitting Pretty
Mrs. Gibbs, Della the Book Shoppe Proprietress, and gossipy Mr. Appleton in a scene from Sitting Pretty

But after this pleasant exchange of reader’s advisory, Della engages in some decidedly UN-librarian-like behavior (I would hope) in gossiping with Mr. Appleton and helping to cause a local scandal. As seen below, even in profile, it’s obvious how much she she delights in this conversation, clasping her hands in anticipation.

Gossip, delicious gossip in Sitting Pretty
Gossip, delicious gossip

A couple of following scenes also feature the bookseller, including a quick montage of Della handing out copies of Belvedere’s “sensational new novel” to a cluster of customers. Also, as secrets of the community come out through Belvedere’s book, later we see a Mr. McPherson walking into the bookshop, seen below, and asking for a copy of the book as he’s heard a rumor that he’s been mentioned in it.

Book Shoppe Proprietress at work in Sitting Pretty
Book Shoppe Proprietress at work

Again, exhibiting librarian-like skills of organizational practicality, she quickly runs her finger down a “who’s who” list of those mentioned in the book, complete with corresponding page numbers. Essentially, she’s made her own index!

Index closeup in Sitting Pretty
Index closeup

Alas, this index ultimately belies her non-librarian status, as this list is in neither alphabetical nor numerical order. Tsk, tsk. So close. 😉

Sources used:

  • Sitting Pretty. Dir. Walter Lang. Perf. Robert Young, Maureen O’Hara, Clifton Webb, Ed Begley. 20th Century Fox, 1948.

Identity crisis in ‘Red Dragon’

She’s working in a bookstore — remember those? — not a library.

The 2002 film Red Dragon has been on my Master List for awhile, but I just hadn’t gotten around to watching it. Maybe it was my high regard for Manhunter (1986), which I found a far superior film to this version. Red Dragon seems to stuff in too many big-name actors, and the pace drags.

If you’re not familiar with either film, the story serves as a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). FBI Agent Will Graham goes into early retirement because of an encounter with “Hannibal the Cannibal” — sending Hannibal Lecter to prison — but then gets called back in to catch a brutal serial killer. Of course, Graham ends up consulting Hannibal on the case.

About 50 minutes in, Graham (Edward Norton) needs to look up a quotation. He’s shown looking up at a thin white female in her early 20s (Azura Skye), who’s standing behind a wooden counter and holding a thick book of quotations.

Bookseller looking up a quotation in Red Dragon
Bookseller looking up a quotation

“Ta da! Red breast in a cage!” she says, looking through the book’s index. She then finds the full quotation, “A robin red breast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage,” by poet William Blake. She confirms they have the book the quote’s from, and offers additional resources: “We have some books of Blake’s paintings, too. Wanna see ’em?”

She seems quite friendly — very smiley and slightly flirty — and quite knowledgeable about resources. The film seems to be set the 1980s (I think), which explains her early-Maddona look:  crimped, dyed blond hair, plastic hair clip, skinny tie over a denim vest and black dress, piled-on makeup, and lots of silver and black jewelry.

We also spot her — or rather, her crimped hair — in the background a couple of minutes later, as Graham looks through the book of paintings by William Blake. He comes across a biblical watercolor, “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun” (below), which provides a clue to the killer’s identity crisis.

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun (Rev. 12: 1-4), ca. 1803-1805, is in the public domain
William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun (Rev. 12: 1-4), ca. 1803-1805, is in the public domain

Martin Raish described the helpful young lady as “a gum cracking young blonde” on his Librarians in the Movies web site, and she seems to serve the same basic function as an Information Provider. Only problem is, she’s not technically a librarian. She’s working in a bookstore — remember those? — not a library.

What are the clues?

  • First, she seems to be standing above him, like she would if she were behind a shop counter.
  • We see lots of wood shelving, but the books are crammed in everywhere, with little breathing space. Quite unlike a library (hopefully).
  • In the couple of shots, you can glimpse a book display in the lower left-hand corner (see below). Multiple copies of several titles are facing outward, like in displays at a bookstore’s front counter.
  • And finally… the actress is listed as “Bookseller” in the credits.
Bookseller, not librarian in Red Dragon
Bookseller, not librarian

So why the choice of a bookseller, rather than a librarian? It might have simply been a visual opportunity to solidify the time period, and a librarian at that time might not be as believable if dressed as a Madonna wannabe. Most of the film seems to be set at nighttime (because it’s spookier?), so maybe the public library would have been closed already. But I’m probably overthinking it.

A few minutes after the quotations scene, my ears perked up when a fellow detective (Ken Leung) runs off for another clue and shouts for the others to meet him “at the library.” The resulting short scene shows him at the Library of Congress, but alas, no librarian in sight. There is yet another teaser, with a Museum Secretary (Hillary Straney) and an uncredited Museum Curator (Mary Beth Hurt), who both appear for a few seconds late in the film.

The bookseller in this film serves the same function as an Information Provider librarian, but, technically, this films joins others in the Class VI category — films with no identifiable librarians and are a result of a listing error.

Sources used:

  • Raish, Martin. “The A Group.” Librarians in the Movies: An Annotated Filmography, 5 August 2011.
  • Red Dragon. Dir. Brett Ratner. Perf. Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson. Universal, 2002.
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