The protagonist or other major characters are librarians, and the librarian’s occupation serves as catalyst or is otherwise integral to the plot.
*Spoiler Alert* The following annotations may contain important plot details.
Details: Dir. Victor Fleming. Perf. Greer Garson, Clark Gable. MGM, 1945. Based on the novel by Clyde Brion Davis.
Synopsis: A sea-going adventurer (Clark Gable) falls for a librarian (Greer Garson), but their relationship is no smooth sailing. Gable first meets Garson in the San Francisco Public Library.
Role Call: Greer Garson as Emily Sears—Liberated Librarian (female)
The Attic (1980):
Details: Dir. George Edwards & Gary Graver. Perf. Carrie Snodgress, Ray Milland, Ruth Cox. MGM/UA, 1980.
Synopsis: A spinster librarian, Louise (Carrie Snodgress), spends her life taking care of her wheelchair-bound, overbearing father. While facing being forced into retirement, Louise fantasizes about ways to kill her father.
Role Call: Carrie Snodgress as Louise Elmore — Liberated Librarian (female) ; Ruth Cox as Emily — Spirited Young Girl ; Terry Troutt as Donald — Anti-Social Librarian ; Frances Bay as Librarian — Spinster Librarian
A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery (TV, 2015):
Details: Dir. Martin Wood. Perf. Candace Cameron Bure, Marilu Henner, Lexa Doig, Bruce Dawson. Hallmark, 2015. Based on the mystery series by Charlaine Harris.
Synopsis: Premiere movie of the Aurora Teagarden Mystery movie series. Aurora Teagarden, or “Roe” for short, is a white, female librarian and amateur sleuth. A retired librarian, an older white woman, leaves Roe her estate… and a mystery to solve! There are several small scenes in the local public library.
Role Call: Candace Cameron Bure as Aurora “Roe” Teagarden — Atypical librarian; Uncredited female as Jane, retired librarian — Information Provider; Uncredited female as Lillian — Spinster Librarian
Details: Dir. Mark Illsley. Perf. Nick Stahl, Lukas Haas, Johnny Galecki, Rachael Leigh Cook. International West, 2003.
Synopsis: Three young white males and college roommates anger local mobsters after setting up a bookmaking business in their dorm room. Jude (Johnny Galecki) works as a student library employee and uses the library as the drop-off spot in their bookmaking scheme. Jude smokes, drinks, curses, plays video games, and has an addiction problem with gambling and drugs (in one scene, he takes drugs on the library copier!). His friends and even a mild-mannered, African-American woman librarian call him an “asshole.”
Role Call: Johnny Galecki as Jude—Librarian as Failure; Two uncredited females—Information Providers (female)
Details: Dir. Terry Gilliam. Perf. Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Ian Holm. Universal, 1985.
Synopsis: In a futuristic society, a young white man, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), works in the Information Storage department who fantasizes of rescuing a damsel in distress. Sam gets promoted to Information Retrieval (equivalent to Librarian in this Orwellian future?), meets the girl of his dreams, and puts his life in danger after discovering a bureaucratic paperwork error.
Role Call: Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry—Librarian as Failure
Chainsaw Sally (2004):
Details: Dir. Jimmyo Burril. Perf. April Monique Burril, Mark Redfield, Alec Joseph. Shock-O-Rama Cinema, 2004.
Synopsis: A librarian by day, a serial killer by night. ‘Nuff said.
Roll Call: April Monique Burril as Sally Diamon — Naughty Librarian (female) ; Kit Bateman as Library Assistant — Information Provider (male)
Details: Dir. Kogonada. Perf. Haley Lu Richardson, John Cho, Parker Posey. Nonetheless Productions, 2017.
Synopsis: The film stars Haley Lu Richardson as a young, white, female library worker living in Columbus, Indiana, who also loves architecture. She meets Jin (John Cho) and starts to show him her favorite buildings around the city. Rory Culkin plays Haley Lu Richardson’s co-worker, the library director, and he enjoys a fair amount of screen time.
Roll Call: Haley Lu Richardson as Casey ; Rory Culkin as Gabriel
Desk Set (1957):
Details: Dir. Walter Lang. Perf. Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill. 20th Century Fox, 1957. Based on the play by William Marchant.
Synopsis: A white, male efficiency expert (Spencer Tracy) clashes with the librarians, all white women, in a TV network’s research department, headed by Katharine Hepburn. In the play, Hepburn’s qualifications include a library science degree; in the film, this is watered down to a few college courses.
Roll Call: Katharine Hepburn as Bunny Watson; Joan Blondell as Peg Costello; Dina Merrill as Sylvia Blair; Sue Randall as Ruthie Saylor—all Atypical Portrayals
Dungeons and Dragons (2000):
Details: Dir. Courtney Solomon. Perf. Justin Whalin, Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch. New Line Cinema, 2000. Based on the game by E. Gary Gygax.
Synopsis: In this fantasy film, a young, white queen (Thord Birch) is threatened by the villainous Profion (Jeremy Irons), who plots to turn the dragons into his personal weapons. In an early scene, an older professor of the Magic School instructs a young apprentice mage to get a book down from the library shelves. A young, white, female mage, Marina Pretensa (who works in the library of the Magic School), goes on the run with two thieves after the old mage is murdered.
Role Call: Zoe McLellan as Marina Pretensa—Liberated Librarian (female); Tomas Havrlik as Vilder, Mage—Information Provider (male)
An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000):
Details: Dir. Ian Harrowell & Douglas McCarthy. Voices of Bill Farmer, Jason Marsden, Bebe Neuwirth. Walt Disney, 2000.
Synopsis: Goofy’s son, Max, goes to college, only to find that Goofy loses his job and joins his son on campus. Max tries to ditch his dad in the library by introducing him to the head librarian, Sylvia. Goofy and Sylvia fall in love! Several funny scenes in the library, including one in which another librarian shushes Goofy.
Role Call: Bebe Neuwirth as voice of Sylvia Marpole, Head College Librarian—Liberated Librarian (female); Uncredited female—Comic Relief (female)
Fast and Loose (1939):
Details: Dir. Edwin L. Marin. Perf. Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Morgan, Anthony Allan, Ian Wolfe. MGM, 1939.
Synopsis: A comedic mystery involving a stolen manuscript. Joel Sloane (Robert Montgomery), a white man and rare books dealer, takes a commission to buy a Shakespeare manuscript from a personal collection and private library. Joel meets up with his protégé, another white man, Phil Seargent (Allan), who is working as private librarian and secretary, and the plot quickly spirals into murder. As Joel says early on, “something funny is going on at that library.” Sloane meets another librarian of Torrent’s private collection, Mr. Wilkes (Wolfe), an older white man, who overreacts to Sloane’s inquiry about the manuscript: “My manuscript. Well, you can’t have it. You’re not going to take it away. It belongs here!” Torrent says Wilkes has “been librarian here so long, he probably imagines all this as his property. Poor chap, I think he’s beginning to lose his mind.”
Role Call: Anthony Allan as Phil Sergeant—Liberated Librarian (male); Ian Wolfe as Mr. Wilkes—Anti-Social Librarian/Librarian as Failure
Details: Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Bellamy. Columbia, 1932.
Synopsis: Lulu (Barbara Stanwyck), a lonely and idealistic young librarian and white woman, quits her library job and sets sail for Havana, where she becomes romantically involved with an older, white man (Adolphe Menjou). Romantic melodrama ensues: the plot includes an illegitimate child, a lifelong adulterous affair, murder, and a deathbed pardon! The opening shots of this film, the first sound picture to feature a librarian, depict Lulu as a frumpy, young “old maid” who endures young boys’ tauntings of “Old lady four-eyes!” Lulu’s boss and a female patron even joke about her marital status, that the only wedding Lulu’s missed in years was her own. Lulu gets so frustrated that she yells, “I wish I owned this library, because I’d get an axe and smash it into a million pieces!” A relatively rare portrayal of a Liberated Librarian in which the “liberation” is not seen as positive and a thoroughly dispiriting depiction of reel librarians.
Role Call: Barbara Stanwyck as Lulu Smith—Liberated Librarian (female); Thomas Jefferson as Mr. Wilkinson—Information Provider (male)
Foul Play (1978):
Details: Dir. Colin Higgins. Perf. Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Burgess Meredith, Dudley Moore. Paramount, 1978.
Synopsis: A young, white, female librarian (Goldie Hawn) and a young, white, male cop (Chevy Chase) solve a crime together—and fall in love! Several scenes in a San Francisco Public Library branch, including one in which an albino chases her in the library.
Role Call: Goldie Hawn as Gloria Mundy—Liberated Librarian (female); Marilyn Sokol as Stella—Information Provider (female); Irene Tedrow as Mrs. Monk—Spinster Librarian/Information Provider (female)
Good News (1947):
Details: Dir. Charles Walters. Perf. June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Patricia Marshall. MGM, 1947. Based on the play by Lew Brown, Lawrence Schwab, Frank Mandel, B. G. DeSylva & Ray Henderson.
Synopsis: In this musical, college library assistant and student Connie (June Allyson), a young white woman, falls for the football hero Tommy (Peter Lawford), a young white man. He notices her when he goes to the library to look up a French word, and she helps him succeed in college. They sing the song “The French Lesson” while she closes up.
Role Call: June Allyson as Connie Lane—Spirited Young Girl; Uncredited female—Spinster Librarian
Goodbye, Columbus (1969):
Details: Dir. Larry Peerce. Perf. Richard Benjamin, Ali MacGraw, Jack Klugman. Paramount, 1969. Based on the novel by Philip Roth.
Synopsis: A poor Bronx librarian (Richard Benjamin) has a summer romance with a privileged “Jewish-American princess” (Ali MacGraw), and their affair highlights how different their worlds are. At the public library, Benjamin tries to connect with a young African-American kid who likes to look at art books. The other male librarians are depicted as dysfunctional and anti-social.
Role Call: Richard Benjamin as Neil Klugman—Liberated Librarian (male); Delos V. Smith, Jr. as Mr. Scapelle—Anti-Social Librarian; Bill Derringer as John McKee—Anti-Social Librarian; Uncredited female as Gloria—Spinster Librarian; Uncredited female as Natasha—Information Provider (female)
The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992):
Details: Dir. Allan Moyle. Perf. Penelope Ann Miller, Eric Thal, William Forsythe, Alfre Woodard. Touchstone, 1992.
Synopsis: In order to get attention, a small-town public librarian (Penelope Miller), a young white woman, finds a gun and confesses to a murder she did not commit. There are two major scenes in the library: in the beginning when the spinster supervisor shoots down Miller’s ideas for a library fundraiser, and at the end when Miller hosts the library fundraiser party—after having transformed into a more assertive and stylish woman.
Role Call: Penelope Ann Miller as Mrs. Elizabeth Louise “Betty Lou” Perkins—Liberated Librarian (female); Marian Seldes as Head Librarian, Margaret Armstrong—Spinster Librarian/Comic Relief (female)
Horror of Dracula (1958):
Details: Dir. Terence Fisher. Perf. Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Melissa Stribling, John Van Eyssen. Universal, 1958. Based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Synopsis: Jonathan Harker (Jonathan Van Eyssen), a white South African actor, poses as a librarian to catalog Count Dracula’s rare book collection—for an opportunity to kill Dracula (Christopher Lee). Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) finally kills off Dracula in the castle’s library.
Role Call: John Van Eyssen as Jonathan Harker—Information Provider (male)
It, aka Stephen King’s It (TV, 1990):
Details: Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace. Perf. John Ritter, Harry Anderson, Annette O’Toole, Tim Reid, Tim Curry. Warner Bros., 1990. Based on the novel by Stephen King.
Synopsis: A group of friends in the 1960s defeat a demonic creature, Pennywise (Curry), who dresses as a clown. Thirty years later, they have to face “It” once more. Mike Hanlon (Reid), the town librarian (who’s called “the answer man”) and sole African-American friend in the otherwise white group, contacts the friends to return to the town. A few scenes are in the library.
Role Call: Tim Reid as Michael Hanlon—Liberated Librarian (male); Megan Leitch as Sally, Library Aide—Information Provider (female)
Related post: Scary clowns + reel librarians
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):
Details: Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers. RKO, 1946. Based on the story by Philip Van Doren Stern.
Synopsis: Young white man George Bailey (James Stewart) falls on hard times and is granted the wish to experience life as if he’d never been born. In this alternate reality/nightmare, his wife, Mary (Donna Reed), a young white woman, 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.
Role Call: Donna Reed as Mary—Spinster Librarian
Related post: ‘It’s a wonderful’… stereotype?
Joe Versus the Volcano (1990):
Details: Dir. John Patrick Shanley. Perf. Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack. Warner Bros., 1990.
Synopsis: Young white man Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) is stuck in a thankless job as an advertising librarian for a medical supply company. After learning he has only weeks to live, he embarks on an adventure to sacrifice himself in an island volcano.
Role Call: Tom Hanks as Joe Banks—Liberated Librarian (male)
Related post: A Liberated Librarian ‘versus the volcano’
The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (TV, 2004):
Details: Dir. Peter Winther. Perf. Noah Wyle, Sonya Walger, Bob Newhart, Kyle MacLachlan, Kelly Hu. TNT, 2004.
Synopsis: The Librarian for the Metropolitan Public Library’s archives (Noah Wyle), a young white man, sets off in an adventure to return a stolen artifact. At the end, his mother (Olympia Dukakis) tells a group of women that her son is a librarian but “he’s capable of so much more.” Wyle replies, “Mom, you don’t understand. Being a librarian is actually a pretty cool job.”
Role Call: Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen; Kyle MacLachlan as Edward Wilde; Bob Newhart as Judson—all Liberated Librarians (male)
Related post: ‘Quest for the’ Liberated Librarian
The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines (TV, 2006):
Details: Dir. Jonathan Frakes. Perf. Noah Wyle, Gabrielle Anwar, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin. TNT, 2006.
Synopsis: The Librarian (Noah Wyle) is back, this time searching for King Solomon’s mines. He also finds time for romance with an archaeologist (Gabrielle Anwar).
Role Call: Noah Wyle as Flynn Carson; Bob Newhart as Judson—both Liberated Librarians (male)
The Mummy (1999):
Details: Dir. Stephen Sommers. Perf. Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo. Universal, 1999.
Synopsis: In this adventure, Egyptian priest Imhotep is accidentally brought back to life. Egyptology librarian Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), her brother (John Hannah), and a white American soldier (Brendan Fraser) join forces to stop Imhotep.
Role Call: Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan—Liberated Librarian (female) ; Erick Avari as Dr. Terrence Bey — Information Provider / Liberated Librarian (male)
Related post: Revisiting the reel librarian hero in 1999’s ‘The Mummy’
The Mummy Returns (2001):
Details: Dir. Stephen Sommers. Perf. Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo. Universal, 2001.
Synopsis: In this sequel, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and Rick (Brendan Fraser), now married with a son, once again save the world from the mummy. Weisz has more fight scenes in this film—and finds out she is the reincarnation of Princess Nefertiti. As you do.
Role Call: Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan—Liberated Librarian (female)
The Music Man (1962):
Details: Dir. Morton DaCosta. Perf. Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Ron Howard. Warner Bros., 1962. Based on the play by Meredith Willson (story co-written by Franklin Lacey).
Synopsis: A white con man Harold Hill (Robert Preston) tries to scam a community into buying band uniforms—and ends up falling for the librarian. Shirley Jones’s portrayal of Marian has been immortalized in popular culture, in part due to the song “Marian the Librarian.”
Role Call: Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo—Liberated Librarian (female)
My Side of the Mountain (1969):
Details: Dir. James B. Clark. Perf. Ted Eccles, Theodore Bikel, Tudi Wiggins. Paramount, 1969.
Synospis: A young white boy, Sam (Ted Eccles), leaves home to spend a year in nature, like Thoreau. He goes to the public library in one scene, and young white female librarian Miss Turner (Tudi Wiggins) helps him find information about peregrine falcons. Miss Turner also helps save him after a snow storm.
Role Call: Tudi Wiggins as Miss Turner—Atypical Portrayal
Related posts: Christmas with a reel librarian in ‘My Side of the Mountain’
The Name of the Rose (1986):
Details: Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud. Perf. Sean Connery, Christian Slater, F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman. 20th Century Fox, 1986. Based on the novel by Umberto Eco.
Synopsis: In this medieval mystery set in a Benedictine Abbey, William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) investigates a series of deaths. Several scenes involve a restricted book, the abbey’s “forbidden library,” and its librarians who hold the key to the mystery.
Role Call: Volker Prechtel as Malachia—Anti-Social Librarian; Michael Habeck as Berengar—Naughty Librarian (male)
National Treasure (2004):
Details: Dir. Jon Turteltaub. Perf. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Sean Bean. Buena Vista, 2004.
Synopsis: In this action adventure, white male adventurer Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) sets off to steal the Declaration of Independence in order to save it. He ensnares a head archivist at the National Archives, Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), a white German-born American, in his adventures. There are several scenes in archives buildings, as well as discussions about the proper handling of archival documents.
Role Call: Diana Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase — Atypical Portrayal
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007):
Details: Dir. Jon Turteltaub. Perf. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris. Walt Disney, 2007.
Synopsis: In this action adventure sequel, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) sets off to kidnap the POTUS in order to find the “Book of Secrets.” Once again, Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), an archivist at the Library of Congress, joins him in his adventures. There is a brief early scene in a lab using modern archival equipment, as well as a major scene later on in the Library of Congress.
Role Call: Diana Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase — Atypical Portrayal ; Ty Burrell as Connor, White House curator — Information Provider and Comic Relief (male) ; Two uncredited female librarians and one uncredited male librarian at the Library of Congress — all Information Providers
Navy Blues (1937):
Details: Dir. Ralph Staub. Perf. Dick Purcell, Mary Brian, Warren Hymer. Republic Studios, 1937.
Synopsis: The film stars Dick Purcell as Russell J. ‘Rusty’ Gibbs, a white sailor whose friends bet that he can’t get a woman of their choosing to go out on a date with him. The woman they choose is a young white librarian, Doris, played by Mary Brian. There are a couple of scenes set in the public library. This film includes multiple insults and derogatory comments about librarians.
Role Call: Mary Brian as Doris Kimbell — Liberated Librarian (female)
Related post: Reader poll write-up, Spring 2016: ‘Navy Blues’
No Man of Her Own (1932):
Details: Dir. Wesley Ruggles. Perf. Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Dorothy Mackaill, Grant Mitchell. Paramount, 1932.
Synopsis: A white con artist and gambler (Clark Gable) goes to small town Glendale to escape prosecution and falls in love with the young white librarian (Carole Lombard). A few scenes are set in the library, including one in which Gable looks up Lombard’s skirt while she shelves books!
Role Call: Carole Lombard as Connie Randall—Liberated Librarian (female); Lillian Harmer as Mattie—Information Provider (female)
Off Beat (1986):
Details: Dir. Michael Dinner. Perf. Judge Reinhold, Meg Tilly, Joe Mantegna, John Turturro, Amy Wright. Touchstone, 1986.
Synopsis: A socially inept young white man (Judge Reinhold) works as a clerk at the New York Public Library and gets roped into performing in a dancing cop show—and eventually quits his job and saves the day during a bank heist. At the library, Joe roller skates around the stacks and works under a smug, tyrannical supervisor (John Turturro). Joe’s ex-girlfriend (Amy Wright) appears to be a meek librarian while at work but later turns up naked at his apartment, wanting him back. Every worker at the library seems dysfunctional and socially inept in some way.
Role Call: Judge Reinhold as Joe Gower—Liberated Librarian (male); John Turturro as Neil Pepper—Anti-Social Librarian; Amy Wright as Mary Ellen Gruenwald—Naughty Librarian (female); Jack Fletcher as Alvin—Librarian as Failure
Only Two Can Play (1962):
Details: Dir. Sidney Gilliat. Perf. Peter Sellers, Mai Zetterling, Virginia Maskell, Richard Attenborough. Kingsley International, 1962. Based on the novel by Kingsley Amis.
Synopsis: In hopes of a promotion to Sub-Librarian, sexually frustrated John Lewis (Peter Sellers), a white male librarian, attempts an affair with Liz (Mai Zetterling), the white wife of a Library Committee member. The opening scene depicts John looking out from a bookshelf, as if through prison bars, and he groans after dropping the book Is Sex Necessary?
Role Call: Peter Sellers as John Lewis—Naughty Librarian (male); Kenneth Griffith as Ieuan Jenkins—Information Provider (male); David Davies as Mr. Beynon—Librarian as Failure; Uncredited as Kennedy—Librarian as Failure
The Pagemaster (1994):
Details: Dir. Joe Johnston, Maurice Hunt & Pixote Hunt. Perf. Macaulay Culkin, Christopher Lloyd, Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg. 20th Century Fox, 1994.
Synopsis: Richie (Macaulay Culkin) enters a library to escape a storm—and literally ends up in another world. This half-animated, half-live action film features Christopher Lloyd as both the librarian, Mr. Dewey, and the Pagemaster (“the keeper of the books, the guardian of the written word”). Mr. Dewey, looking quite like a mad scientist with his cardigan, tie and messy hair, gives Richie a library card and tells him, “Consider this your passport to the wonderful, quite unpredictable, world of books.”
Role Call: Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Dewey/Pagemaster—Information Provider (male)
Party Girl (1995):
Details: Dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer. Perf. Parker Posey, Sasha von Scherler, Guillermo Diaz, Liev Schreiber. First Look, 1995.
Synopsis: New York party girl Mary (Parker Posey), a young white woman, repays a loan to her white godmother by working as a library clerk. She discovers her career choice (“I want to be a librarian!”) after learning the Dewey Decimal system one night at the library. There are several scenes set in the library, including one in which Mary gets library school advice from the ethnically diverse library staff.
Role Call: Parker Posey as Mary—Atypical Portrayal; Sasha von Scherler as Judy Lindendorf—Atypical Portrayal; C. Francis Blackchild as Wanda—Spinster Librarian/Information Provider (female); L. B. Williams as Howard—Information Provider (male); Becky Mode as Ann—Information Provider (female)
Personals (TV, 1990):
Details: Dir. Steven Hilliard Stern. Perf. Jennifer O’Neill, Stephanie Zimbalist, Robin Thomas. Paramount, 1990.
Synopsis: A meek librarian by day, a killer by night! Jennifer O’Neill plays a white female librarian who finds men through newspaper personal ads and kills them on the first date.
Role Call: Jennifer O’Neill as Heather Moore—Naughty Librarian (female); Terence Slater as Library Receptionist—Information Provider (male)
Rome Adventure (1962):
Details: Dir. Delmer Daves. Perf. Suzanne Pleshette, Troy Donahue, Angie Dickinson, Rossano Brazzi. Warner Bros., 1962. Based on the novel by Irving Fineman.
Synopsis: A young, white librarian, Prudence Bell (Suzanne Pleshette), quits her job at Briarcroft College for Women after the board reprimands her for recommending a “too adult” book to a student. She sets sail to Italy in search of adventure and love.
Role Call: Suzanne Pleshette as Prudence Bell—Liberated Librarian (female)
Related post: It’s an ‘adventure’!
Salmonberries, aka Percy Adlon’s Salmonberries (1991):
Details: Dir. Percy Adlon. Perf. Rosel Zech, k. d. lang, Oscar Kawagley. Roxie Releasing, 1991.
Synopsis: In a small town in Alaska, Kotzebue (k. d. lang) goes to the local library to find out more about her past and befriends Roswitha, the librarian (Rosel Zech). Kotzebue and Roswitha end up helping each other find out each other’s past. Roswitha is one of the more complicated librarian portrayals on film; she is at turns both friendly and exasperated as a librarian, and the film reveals many details about her personal life, family, and sexuality.
Role Call: Rosel Zech as Roswitha—Atypical Portrayal; Jane Lind as Noayak—Liberated Librarian/Information Provider (female)
Shooting the Past (TV, 1999):
Details: Dir. Stephen Poliakoff. Perf. Lindsay Duncan, Timothy Spall, Liam Cunningham, Emilia Fox. BBC, 1999.
Synopsis: A white American developer (Liam Cunningham) buys a London mansion, home of the Fallon Photo Library and Collection, with over 10 million historical photographs. He wants to convert the library into a business school, but the librarians will do anything to save the library. The film features a special library, one definitely worth fighting for.
Role Call: Lindsay Duncan as Marilyn Truman—Liberated Librarian (female); Timothy Spall as Oswald Bates—Librarian as Failure/Anti-Social Librarian; Emilia Fox as Spig—Spirited Young Girl; Billie Whitelaw as Veronica—Spinster Librarian; Blake Ritson as Nick—Librarian as Failure
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983):
Details: Dir. Jack Clayton. Perf. Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, Vidal Peterson, Pam Grier. Walt Disney, 1983. Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury.
Synopsis: Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his circus come to a small town and begin granting sinister wishes to the townsfolk. A young white boy (Vidal Peterson) and his father (Jason Robards), the town librarian, figure out what’s going on and challenge Mr. Dark.
Role Call: Jason Robards as Charles Halloway—Liberated Librarian (male)
Soylent Green (1973):
Details: Dir. Richard Fleischer. Perf. Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G. Robinson, Brock Peters, Joseph Cotten. MGM, 1973. Based on the novel by Harry Harrison.
Synopsis: In the year 2022, food is scarce and the world’s population relies on a food product called “soylent green.” A young white male 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 future, all older white men and women, are known as “Books.”
Role Call: Edward G. Robinson as Sol Roth; Celia Lovsky as Exchange Leader; Morgan Farley as Book #1; John Barclay as Book #2; Belle Mitchell as Book #3; Cyril Delevanti as Book #4—all Information Providers
Storm Center (1956):
Details: Dir. Daniel Taradash. Perf. Bette Davis, Kim Hunter, Kevin Coughlin, Brian Keith. Columbia, 1956.
Synopsis: A melodramatic film with the unique message of library censorship at its center. Alicia Hull (Bette Davis), an older white woman and director of the public library, is well-liked and respected in the town, by 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. A local political up-and-comer (Brian Keith) manages to trash Alicia’s reputation by hinting at the “red” connections, and he is engaged to assistant librarian Martha (Kim Hunter), a younger white woman. Contrary to most films that feature female librarian colleagues, Martha and Alicia do not have a particularly warm or friendly relationship. Alicia displays a slightly hard attitude throughout the film and declares (rather ominously) at the end, “If anyone ever again tries to remove a book from it, he’ll have to do it over my dead body.” On the positive side, the movie is stocked full of inspirational speeches about preserving intellectual freedom in the library and the slippery-slope dangers of censorship.
Role Call: Bette Davis as Alicia Hull—Atypical Portrayal; Kim Hunter as Martha Lockridge—Liberated Librarian (female); Alice Smith as Susie—Spirited Young Girl
Tale of a Vampire (1992):
Details: Dir. Shimako Sato. Perf. Julian Sands, Suzanna Hamilton, Kenneth Cranham. Vidmark Entertainment, 1992. Based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Synopsis: Anne (Suzanna Hamilton), a young white woman still recovering from her fiancé’s mysterious death, lands a job at a library specializing in the occult. One of the library’s regulars is Alex (Julian Sands), a white male vampire who believes Anne to be the reincarnation of his lost love. There’s also another mysterious man (there is no other kind in this movie) in a big hat, named Edgar (Kenneth Cranham), making up the third in a very bizarre love triangle. There are many scenes set in the library.
Role Call: Suzanna Hamilton as Anne/Virginia—Spirited Young Girl; Marian Diamond as Denise—Information Provider (female)
Related post: ‘Tale of a’ gothic library
The Twelve Trees of Christmas (TV, 2013):
Details: Dir. Michael DeCarlo. Perf. Lindy Booth, Robin Dunne, Shauna MacDonald, Melanie Brown, Casper Van Dien. Chesler/Perlmutter Productions, 2013.
Synopsis: Cheri, a children’s librarian (Lindy Booth) and young white woman, tries to save her beloved library from being demolished for a condo building. To generate community support and media attention, she thinks up a contest for library users to decorate Christmas trees. Most of the movie takes place in and around the library, and there are also a few scenes in Cheri’s apartment.
Role Call: Lindy Booth as Cheri Jameson — Atypical Portrayal; Shauna MacDonald as Bette Greven — Information Provider (female)
Weird Woman (1944):
Details: Dir. Reginald Le Borg. Perf. Lon Chaney, Jr., Anne Gwynne, Evelyn Ankers. Universal, 1944. Based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber, Jr.
Synopsis: While on an expedition in the South Seas, college professor Norman Reed (Lon Chaney, Jr.) marries a native woman (Anne Gwynne) who continues her superstitious beliefs when they return to the U.S. His unexpected marriage angers his ex-girlfriend, college librarian Ilona (Evelyn Ankers), who embarks on revenge. She does not seem like a dedicated librarian because she is never in the library; rather, she is always in her office (which appears as large as or even bigger than the actual library). Her student assistant, Margaret, shelves books, and students always have to open Ilona’s door to talk to her. She does, however, use her library’s resources to create more mischief.
Note: In the film’s 1962 remake, Burn, Witch Burn! (aka The Night of the Eagle), the librarian character is changed to a female professor.
Role Call: Evelyn Ankers as Ilona Carr—Naughty Librarian (female); Lois Collier as Margaret Mercer—Spirited Young Girl/Information Provider (female)
Related post: A ‘weird’ librarian
You’re a Big Boy Now (1966):
Details: Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Peter Kastner, Elizabeth Hartman, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Julie Harris, Karen Black. Seven Arts, 1966. Based on the novel by David Benedictus.
Synopsis: A coming-of-age story about a young man (Kastner) who works as a page at the New York Public Library and lusts after a go-go dancer (Hartman). His father (Torn), the Curator of Incunabula at the library, is so involved with his beloved Gutenberg Bible that he ignores his family and harasses his pretty young assistants.
Role Call: Peter Kastner as Bernard Chanticleer—Liberated Librarian (male); Rip Torn as I. H. Chanticleer—Naughty Librarian (male); Tony Bill as Raef del Grado—Information Provider (male); Karen Black as Amy Partlett—Liberated Librarian (female); Uncredited female—Information Provider (female)