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.


The Quotable Librarian

It’s time for another “Quotable Librarian” post! This time, in honor of the Academy Awards this past weekend, it’s an Oscars special. These quotes are from films with reel librarian roles that have been nominated for Oscars.

Oscars statuettes

Photo from Flickr – Prayitno – click image for source


The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Sam Jaffe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Doc Erwin Riedenschneider, an ex-con who was a prison librarian. How did he become a prison librarian?

I cause no trouble. The prison authorities appreciate that. They made me assistant librarian.
~ Doc Erwin Riedenschneider in The Asphalt Jungle


Love Story (1970)

Ali MacGraw was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Jennifer Cavalleri.

A Harvard law student and jock (O’Neal) falls in love with a Radcliffe music major (MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant.

This is their “meet cute” moment:

You have your own library, preppy.
~ Jennifer Cavalleri in Love Story


The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Richard Burton was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Alec Leamas in the film adaptation of John le Carré’s novel. The story focuses on spy Alec Leamus (Richard Burton), who pretends to quit the Secret Service and defect to the Communists. As part of his cover as a failed spy, he starts work as a librarian at the psychical research library.

From the book:

Finally he took the job in the library. The Labour Exchange had put him on to it each Thursday morning as he drew his unemployment benefit, and he’d always turned it down.

“It’s not really your cup of tea,” Mr. Pitt said, “but the pay’s fair and the work’s easy for an educated man.”

And could this following quote about spies also apply to librarians (reel or real)?:

What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong?
~ Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold


For more Oscars fun on the Reel Librarians site, see here for a post on Oscar-nominated reel librarians and here for a post on Best Picture nominees featuring reel librarians.

Oscars: Reel librarian retrospective

In honor of the Academy Awards this past weekend, here’s a round-up of past Oscar-themed posts I’ve written that relate to reel librarians:


Oscar-nominated reel librarians

This post from 2012 highlights four reel librarian roles — three in the Best Actor or Actress categories! — that have garnered Oscar nominations. No wins… yet. 🙂

[click to read full post]


Best Picture nominees featuring librarians

This post from 2013 features 16 Best Picture-nominated films that feature reel librarians, from small to leading roles. Again, no winners… yet.

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

[click to read full post]


Behind every academy is a great library

And, finally, this post on my personal website highlights the Margaret Herrick Library, the library for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

[click to read full post]


Do you enjoy the Oscars? Any surprises this year for you? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Best Picture nominees featuring librarians

Ahh, the Oscars. I am a lifelong Oscar fan, as you can probably tell from my post last year on this site highlighting Oscar-nominated reel librarians, my Oscar wrap-up last year, and my post here about Margaret Herrick Library, the library for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over at my personal blog. So you can bet that I *definitely* enjoyed my Oscar Sunday.

And this year, I am highlighting Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians. No Best Picture winners in the field, but a respectable number of Best Picture nominees. Have you seen any of them? Did I miss one? Please let me know in the comments! 🙂

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 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.

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


Doctor Zhivago (1965)

I 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 (Ryan O’Neal) falls in love with a Radcliffe music major (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.


All the President’s Men (1976)

This 1977 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features not one, but four 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 helps by providing them with the 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 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.


The royal treatment

This past weekend, my husband and I watched My Week with Marilyn (2011), an adaptation of Colin Clark’s chronicled week with Marilyn Monroe as she filmed The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier in 1956. This was by all accounts a tense set.

We were so surprised — and pleased — when a reel librarian showed up. And a royal librarian at that! I can confirm hand-clapping and shouts of glee in the Snoek-Brown household.

So almost an hour into the film, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams, so well-deserving of the Oscar nomination for her channeling of Marilyn) plays hooky with Colin (Eddie Redmayne) for a fun-filled afternoon, romping through parks and the lawns of Eton College. After Marilyn asks what’s next, he suggests Windsor Castle, a formal residence of the Queen. And you KNOW how anything royalty-related is like catnip to us Americans.

Let’s listen in as they attempt to get into Windsor Castle (see above). The British bodyguard starts us off:

Smith:  Detective Chief Superintendent Smith. I’m escorting this lady and gentleman for the day. They’d like to look around the castle.

Security guard [not having any of it]:  I need a contact name for the book.

Smith [to Marilyn]:  You don’t know Her Majesty, by any chance?

Marilyn:  Yes, we met at a movie premiere. She said my dress was pretty.

Security guard:  I don’t think that quite does it, sir.

Colin:  My godfather works here. He’s the royal librarian. Sir Owen Morshead.

And they’re in! Name-dropping a librarian gets them into the Queen’s castle. Let me repeat that, for full effect. Name-dropping. A. LIBRARIAN. Gets. Them. Into. The. QUEEN’S. Castle. I’ve never been prouder.

As the pair humbly walk into the royal library, we get a lovely overhead shot. It’s all red leather and dark wood. (Click here for more info and pics about the Royal Collection.)

Then we meet the Royal Librarian himself, Sir Owen Morshead, as played by Sir Derek Jacobi. Here’s a side-by-side comparison.

Sir Owen Morshead

Sir Derek Jacobi as Sir Owen Morshead

Except for the difference in facial hair, the resemblance is quite decent. Jacobi seems to capture the twinkle in Morshead’s demeanor, and both look quite distinguished and dapper in their suits and ties. The real Morshead (1893-1977) served as Royal Librarian from 1926 through 1958.

Sir Owen is quite pleased to see his godson, greeting him with, “Colin, my boy! Come in! Forgive the dust.” And with only the time it takes for another breath, Sir Owen immediately starts charming Marilyn (see right).

Sir Owen:  Oh, you are very pretty, my dear.

Marilyn:  Oh [obviously pleased]. Gee, I’d sure like to read all these books.

Sir Owen:  Well, luckily, one doesn’t really have to. A lot of them just have pictures in.

Then he shows them some priceless sketches and drawings of famous artists, including Holbein (a sketch of a daughter of one of the king’s courtiers) and Da Vinci (mentioning Mona Lisa, the “lady with the funny smile”). Love the detail of the white gloves for handling archives!

After impressing her with art, Sir Owen smoothly seizes the opportunity to name-drop the Queen. Clever librarian.

Sir Owen:  The Queen’s sorry to have missed you.

Marilyn: Really? [eyes wide]

Sir Owen: Oh yes, why she was only saying to me the other day, ‘What must it be like to be the most famous woman on earth?’

Sir Owen then provides the icing on top of the cake, by showing them into a room with a lovely, intricate dollhouse. Marilyn swoons over it and makes believe the family inside is her family. She seeks Sir Owen’s permission to touch (see below), and he affirms her wishes with a smile, “Yes, of course.” The last shot we get of the Royal Librarian is one of him smiling, obviously pleased at a woman’s girlish delight.

Note:  The dollhouse is known as Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, built by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924. You can explore the dollhouse online here.

Although only a couple of minutes long, this is a lovely scene, due mostly to Jacobi’s reel depiction of a notable real librarian. An Information Provider, certainly, but one with real kindness and heart. Sir Owen says all the right things to make the “most famous woman on earth” feel special and at home in a queen’s palace. He flirts a little, shows her a picture of the daughter of a king’s courtier (this resonates, because we later find out she has never known who her father is), and a doll’s house (so she can imagine a family). He fulfills her need to be admired and loved and listened to, without even knowing it. And looks mighty dapper doing it!

And BONUS:  Perhaps you were wondering what Marilyn Monroe was wearing when she met Queen Elizabeth II? You KNOW that’s the first thing I looked up. 🙂 Enjoy.