Updating the list of Best Picture nominees featuring librarians

It’s a wonderful night for Oscar… Oscar, Oscar… who will win?

Billy Crystal’s Opening: 1991 Oscars,” uploaded by Oscars, Nov. 21, 2011, Standard YouTube license.

The Oscars will be airing this Sunday (!!!), and I am a lifelong Oscar fan.

So this year, I am revisiting a post I put together in 2013, rounding up Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians, in roles large and small. I have updated the post, adding a few titles to the list, and I’ve listed the nominated films below in chronological order, oldest to newest.

Oscar nominated librarian films
Oscar nominated librarian films — click image for individual item details & copyright info

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This 1941 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features one scene at the public library and a Quaker librarian (Hilda Plowright). A reporter (Jimmy Stewart) pokes fun by mocking her thee‘s and thou‘s, as seen below. She also gets her shush on later in this short, but memorable, library scene.

I analyzed the film’s library scene in this post, and compared-and-contrasted it to the original play. I also featured this Quaker librarian in my post about Comic Relief librarians,

Citizen Kane (1941)

This 1942 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) is a classic saga about the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). There is quite a memorable scene in which a reporter visits the Thatcher Memorial Library of Philadelphia to research Kane and runs into the steely, no-nonsense presence of the librarian, Miss Anderson (Georgia Backus).

I featured Citizen Kane and Miss Anderson in my Hall of Shame list of negative reel librarian portrayals.

The Human Comedy (1943)

This 1944 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), set in the U.S. homefront during WWII, feature one touching scene at the local public library. Two young boys go to the public library to look at books even though they can’t read yet, and encounter a friendly female librarian (Adeline De Walt Reynolds).

I featured The Human Comedy in my Honorable Mention list of positive reel librarian portrayals.

Spellbound (1945)

This Hitchcock film, a 1946 Best Picture nominee, doesn’t actually feature a librarian, landing itself in the Class V category. So why is it here on this list?! Toward the end of the film, a hotel security guard mistakes a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) for a Spinster Librarian. To her credit, she takes it in good humor.

I expounded on this funny “mistaken identity” scene in Spellbound in an earlier post.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

This 1947 Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) has probably the most memorable — and memorably notorious! — scene featuring the ultimate Spinster Librarian. In the alternate reality/nightmare of the film’s second half, George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) lovely wife, Mary (Donna Reed), becomes an old maid librarian. The short scene in which George sees Mary as a librarian serves as the catalyst for wanting to return to his life.

I also featured It’s a Wonderful Life in one of my very first posts!

The Music Man (1962)

This 1963 Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) also features a memorable reel librarian in a leading role. In this classic musical, con man Harold Hill (Preston) tries to scam a community into buying band uniforms—and ends up falling for “Marian the Librarian” (Shirley Jones). This reel librarian has been immortalized in popular culture, in part due to the namesake song.

featured info about the real Marian behind the “Marian the Librarian” song in this post and what Shirley Jones had to say about the making of the film in her autobiography.

I also included The Music Man in my Honorable Mention list of positive reel librarian portrayals.

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

I still need to rewatch this 1966 Best Picture nominee — it’s on my Master List! — to refresh my memory on this classic epic. Yuri (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie) meet in the local library. Is Lara a librarian? I will have to investigate further.

Love Story (1970)

In this 1971 Best Picture nominee (and Class II film), a Harvard law student and jock, Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), falls in love with a Radcliffe music major, Jenny (Ali MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant. MacGraw was also nominated for Best Actress, the only female to have been nominated for an acting Oscar for a reel librarian role.

You can read about all the rest of the Oscar-nominated reel librarians here. And Jenny from Love Story made my list of stylish female reel librarians!

All the President’s Men (1976)

This 1977 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features not one, but four five reel librarians, albeit in small — but critical! — roles. This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps by providing them with info and records they need.

Awakenings (1990)

I had forgotten this film was nominated for Best Picture in 1991! Based on a true story, Dr. Sayer (Robin Williams) finds a new treatment for a ward of comatose patients. And if you blinked during the short library scene for this Class IV film, you’d miss the second or two of Adam Bryant as a librarian.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

This 1993 Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) is a coming-of-age story about a young prep school boy (Chris O’Donnell), a student library assistant at a private prep school, and a weekend looking after an alcoholic blind man (Al Pacino). Pacino won the Best Actor Oscar for this film.

In the Name of the Father (1993)

In this 1994 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is coerced into confessing to an IRA bombing and spends 14 years in prison trying to prove his innocence. His lawyer (Emma Thompson) tries to locate police records, but the chief archivist is not cooperative. She does get records when another archivist is on duty — and the information she gathers eventually leads to Conlon’s release.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Ahhh, a supremely rewatchable classic — one I just rewatched a couple of weeks ago! This 1995 Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) features two memorable reel librarian roles, including star Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Andy works as an assistant in the prison library — building it up to one of the best prison libraries in the state! — and becomes friends with the old prison librarian, Brooks (James Whitmore).

I included The Shawshank Redemption in my list of best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s.

Quiz Show (1994)

It is on my Master List to rewatch this 1995 Best Picture nominee, which is based on the controversial true story behind the Twenty One quiz show scandals of the 1950s and contestant Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). Research is a major theme throughout the film, and the credits list Anthony Fusco as a librarian.

A real-life librarian vents a little about the film, and library props, here.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

This 2002 Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film), and the first in a film trilogy of the well-known saga of Middle Earth, involving a hobbit’s quest to destroy a powerful ring. There is a short scene early in the film in which the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) needs some info about the ring, so he visits the archives in Gondor. There is a quick flash of the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leading Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives.

I expand on this short scene, and its significance, here in this post.

The Reader (2008)

I also still need to rewatch this 2009 Best Picture nominee, which features Kate Winslet in a Best Actress-winning turn as Hanna Schmitz, a woman convicted for WWII war crimes. Hanna teaches herself to read while in prison, and there are a few scenes highlighting the prison library.

Spotlight (2015)

The lone winner in this field of Best Picture-nominated films to feature a reel librarian! Spotlight won the Best Picture Academy Award for 2015. The film focuses on the Spotlight team of reporters at the Boston Globe who published a series of stories in 2002 about Catholic priests who, for decades, had been sexually abusing children in their parishes. A few scenes and montages feature the Boston Globe news librarians and research methods of using church directories to track down priests.

I analyzed Spotlight in this post, which also made my personal list of year-end faves for 2016!

Hidden Figures (2016)

I wrote about my first impressions of this Oscar-nominated film just last week. Hidden Figures is a biographical film highlighting the personal and professional struggles and contributions of three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. Taraji P. Henson plays brilliant mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; Octavia Spencer, in an Oscar-nominated performance, plays mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe plays firecracker engineer Mary Jackson.

There is a brief, but pivotal, library scene in which Vaughan enters the “whites” section of the library because the “colored” section doesn’t have what she needs.

Revisiting my round-up of reel librarian love

As Valentine’s Day approaches next week, I am revisiting and updating a post I put together a couple of Valentine’s Days ago: a round-up of romance-themed posts from my blog archives. Enjoy the love! ♥

Reel librarians in love

round-up of films featuring reel librarians in love, including the appropriately named Love Story (1970).

A love song for a librarian

This post explores a few love songs inspired by librarians, including “Heaven Sent” by INXS (1992).

Romance and the reel librarian

A post lookin’ for love — or rather, romance films featuring reel librarians.

Casanova, the lover and the librarian

In this post about “the world’s greatest lover,” I explore the 2005 film Casanova, starring the late Heath Ledger as the title character. I also delve into how the real-life Casanova spent the last dozen or so years of his life as a private librarian (!).

Love story analysis posts

I’ve also analyzed in-depth several love stories featuring reel librarians, in parts both major and minor, including:


Reel librarians in political-themed films

As politics is a subject we’ve probably all been talking about in our daily lives — and/or reading about in our social media feeds — especially this week, I thought it would be good timing to round up reel librarian portrayals in films set in the world of politics and/or have political themes.

All the President’s Men (1976)

This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk helps by giving them circulation records.

There are actually four minor reel librarian roles in this film, one of which we only hear over the phone, plus the reporters visit the Library of Congress.

It feels like a good time to revisit this film soon…

Before Night Falls (2000)

This film highlights the life of Cuban writer and poet Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem, in an Oscar-nominated role), who struggles against the Cuban revolution and government censorship of his writings. As a young man, he enters and wins a contest for young writers sponsored by the National Library, the prize being a job at the Library.

It feels like a good time to revisit this film soon…

Borstal Boy (2000)

Based upon the autobiography of (in)famous Irish writer and activist Brendan Behan, this film focuses on his time in a borstal — a kind of youth prison/labor camp in the UK — during World War II. A prison librarian shows up periodically throughout the film, and introduces him to the works of Oscar Wilde, a “fellow Irishman, a fellow jailbird, and rebel.”

A lasting impression of the Borstal librarian

A lasting impression of the Borstal librarian

Cal (1984)

A young man (John Lynch) struggles to find himself in war-torn Northern Ireland during “The Troubles,” and he falls in love with the widow (Helen Mirren) of a man killed by the IRA. Lynch first notices Mirren at the public library, where she works, and he visits the library a few more times during the course of the film.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990)

This dystopian tale is set in a world under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship, in which fertility has become rare, and fertile young women, trained as Handmaids, are treated as slaves in the households they are assigned to. The late Natasha Richardson plays a Handmaid named Offred, and we learn in one scene that she used to be a librarian.

It’s also a good time to revisit and analyze this film, as a TV series version will be coming out later this year, in April. The new series stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred.

Idiocracy (2006)

I still have not yet seen this film, but it’s definitely on my list to see this year! Here’s how the film’s plot is described on IMDb.com:

Private Joe Bauers, the definition of “average American”, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes five centuries in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive.

Primary Colors (1998)

This film is a fictionalized account of Bill Clinton’s first presidential candidacy. The film begins with Jack Stanton (John Travolta) visiting an urban school that provides adult literacy classes, and he introduces the “very special librarian,” Miss Walsh (Allison Janney), a klutzy but dedicated teacher and librarian. She is featured in the film clip below.

Soylent Green (1973)

Although ostensibly a mystery thriller, the undercurrent of this dystopian film is socially and environmentally political. In the year 2022, food is scarce and the world’s population relies on a food product called “soylent green.” A detective (Charlton Heston) investigates a murder of a Soylent official and his “Police Book,” Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson, in his final film role), visits a former public library, now known as the “Supreme Exchange—Authorized Books Only.”

The librarians in this dystopian, disturbing future are known as “Books.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Soylent Green' (1973)

Screenshot from ‘Soylent Green’ (1973)

Storm Center (1956)

Any film that focuses on censorship is bound to be political.

Storm Center is a melodramatic film with the rare theme of library censorship at its center. Alicia Hull (Bette Davis), the director of the public library, is well-liked and respected in the town, by both children and adults alike. Alicia is asked to remove a book about communism, but she ultimately refuses (“I couldn’t take out a book whose ideas we don’t like”) and is fired—setting off an explosive chain of events.

WarGames (1983)

David, a computer whiz (Matthew Broderick), hacks into a computer game system, accidentally starting World War III and riling up international relations between the United States and Russia. (Sound familiar?!) Is it a simulation, or a real-life crisis?

A pivotal library research scene reveals how David discovers the secret password into the computer system. A reel librarian is seen very briefly in this montage scene.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

Screenshot from ‘WarGames’ (1983)

Do you have any political-themed films to add to the list? Please leave a comment and share!

Browsing the Paramount Vault YouTube channel

At the end of 2015, my husband alerted me, via Facebook, to the Paramount Vault YouTube channel:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of Paramount Vault Facebook feed

The official description states that the project “showcases a collection of Paramount full-length films and clips including selections that range from black-and-white to color, comedy to horror, and everything in between. Viewers are invited to explore the vast landscape of cinema’s history, share their favorite films, and discover new ones through this official channel created by Paramount Pictures.”

That’s right, Paramount is uploading select full-length films and short clips to “The Paramount Vault” YouTube channel, here at http://youtube.com/c/paramountvault. At the start of 2016, there were 175 films available for viewing. (One caveat: it appears you can only watch them in the United States.)

Paramount Vault YouTube header

Paramount Vault YouTube header

So OF COURSE I set about browsing through the list for any reel librarian titles, and I have discovered at least two titles that I can now watch online, including:

A Girl Named Tamiko (1962):

Movie poster for 'A Girl Named Tamiko'

Movie poster for ‘A Girl Named Tamiko,’ The Paramount Vault

I am VERY excited about finally being able to see this film. I had written about A Girl Named Tamiko back in Sept. 2012, in my “Have you seen this movie?” post, highlighting films I hadn’t yet been able to track down copies of.

The title character of Tamiko (played by France Nuyen), who is from a wealthy Japanese family, works as a librarian for the Foreign Press Club in Tokyo. Apparently, her occupation is not that important to the film, but there are a couple of scenes set in the Foreign Press Club library.

It’s based on a book of the same name by Ronald Kirkbride. A used copy of the book is available from Amazon.com, but the DVD was out-of-print.

Ironweed (1987):

Movie poster for Ironweed

Movie poster for ‘Ironweed,’ The Paramount Vault

In 1938, a homeless drifter (Jack Nicholson) returns to his home town and meets a ex-radio singer (Meryl Streep) who is sick and homeless. Both Nicholson and Streep were nominated, for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively, for Ironweed. It is based on a novel by William Kennedy, who also wrote the screenplay.

In one scene, Streep tries to sleep in the library and then gets into an argument with a woman who recognizes her. The librarian, played by Bethel Leslie, shushes her and then ejects her from the library.

I saw this film years ago, and I did take notes about the short library scene at the time. However, I haven’t revisited the film yet for this blog — but that will be forthcoming! 😀

There are many more feature-length films available on The Paramount Vault YouTube channel besides reel librarian films, and I hope Paramount keeps adding new films to the channel. Is The Paramount Vault on your list to check out? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Best of 2015

For this year’s “best of” post, I went back to what I did in 2013 and chose my personal favorite from each month to compile a month-by-month “best of” retrospective.

So here goes, my personal favorites for 2015:

January 2015:   Rating ‘The Librarians’

In this post, I recapped the first season of ‘The Librarians’ TV series, concluding the post by rating the 10 episodes in order of my personal favorites. Rereading this post makes me want to rewatch the first season!

Reel Librarians | First impressions: The Librarians

February 2015:  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

In this film analysis post, I count down the ways how Miss Burton, the reel librarian in Boston Blackie and the Law (1946), checks off all the boxes for what a stereotypical spinster librarian looks like. It’s almost like a Halloween costume checklist!

Reel Librarians | Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

March 2015:  Finding a reel librarian

Another film analysis post, this time about the reel librarians in Finding Forrester (2000), a film directed by Gus Van Sant — who also made a cameo as the library assistant in the main library scene. This might just be the only time a film director has also played a reel librarian!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Finding Forrester'

April 2015:  Guest post: Century Film Project

My favorite post for April was a guest post from Michael, a fellow librarian and film blogger, at the Century Film Project blog.

Century Film Project header

May 2015:  When a librarian reads ‘Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians’…

So what happens when a real librarian reads the book Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians?

Reel Librarians | Book cover of 'The Complete Alcatraz'

June 2015:  Reel Substance: A look at Classes I and II

In June, I kicked off a series of posts to spotlight the “Reel Substance” portion of my Reel Librarians site, starting with this closer look at major reel librarian characters in Classes I and II.

Reel Librarians | Reel Substance screenshot

July 2015:  The bigfoot librarian

I enjoyed everything about rewatching the cult classic ’80s film Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and putting this analysis post together.

Reel Librarians | Comparing the reel librarian and Bigfoot from 'Harry and the Hendersons' (1987)

August 2015:  You, Me, Dupree, and the Naughty Librarian

I did NOT enjoy watching this film, but writing up this analysis post of You, Me, and Dupree (2006) was lots of fun. Why? Four words:  Mandy the Mormon librarian.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

September 2015:  Heard but not seen

In this post, the starting inspiration was the “Seen but not heard” phrase — and thinking about the opposite of that saying in relation to reel librarians — those librarians heard (or heard about) but not seen onscreen.

Seen but not heard illustration

October 2015:  Amityville horrors

Each October, I analyze scary movies that feature reel librarians — and believe me, there are a lot of them! For this analysis post, I compared-and-contrasted the first two movies in the Amityville series. Both movies feature reel librarians!

Reel Librarians | Library research in 'The Amityville Horror' (1979)

November 2015:  Quest for the ‘Liberated Librarian’

After the premiere of the second season of ‘The Librarians‘ TV series, I went back to the original TV movie, 2004’s The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. For this analysis post, I focused on three early scenes that set up Flynn’s Liberated Librarian character type and plot arc — and which also contain some of the most memorable dialogue about lifelong learning and libraries!

Reel Librarians | The perpetual student

December 2015:  Reel librarian conquests

This was a super-sized post, in which I analyzed the three film-length episodes of The Norman Conquests, a 1977 British TV mini-series, with a reel librarian as the title character. Norman provides a memorable self-description:  “Gigolo and assistant librarian.” ‘Nuff said.

Reel Librarians | Norman sulking with his suitcase in 'The Norman Conquests' (1977)

Any personal favorites of yours this past year? Please let me know and leave a comment.

Happy New Year! 🙂