These are films with no identifiable librarians and/or archivists, although they mention librarians and/or have scenes set in libraries.
*Spoiler Alert* The following annotations may contain important plot details.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959):
Details: Dir. Otto Preminger. Perf. James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, George C. Scott. Columbia Pictures, 1959. Based on the novel by John D. Voelker, under the pen name of Robert Traver.
Synopsis: A film based on a real-life 1952 case in which the novel’s author, John D. Voelker, was the defense attorney. Lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) defends Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), who is charged with murder of a local man. Biegler argues temporary insanity and pulls an all-nighter in a law library to find a case to use as precedent.
Related post: ‘Anatomy of a’ law library
An Angel at My Table (1990):
Details: Dir. Jane Campion. Perf. Kerry Fox, Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson. New Line, 1990. Based on Janet Frame’s autobiographies To the Is-land, An Angel at My Table, and The Envoy from Mirror City.
Synopsis: A film based on the life of Australian writer Janet Frame, who suffered many years in a mental institution as a young woman. As a young girl, she visits the library to get books for her family, but there is no librarian in sight.
Blackboard Jungle (1955):
Details: Dir. Richard Brooks. Perf. Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier. MGM, 1955. Adapted from the novel by Evan Hunter.
Synopsis: A very earnest film about teaching. Glenn Ford plays Richard Dadier, a veteran who wants to teach and make a difference in an inner-city school. The beginning scenes of the film go to extreme lengths to illustrate the juvenile delinquent behavior outlined in the title introduction. One of those scenes takes place in the school library, in which a student sexually assaults a woman teacher. No school librarian mentioned or seen, and no other scenes afterward set in the school library.
Related post: The school library in ‘Blackboard Jungle’
Details: Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Anny Ondra, John Longden, Cyril Ritchard. British International Pictures, 1929. Adapted from the play by Charles Bennett.
Synopsis: Alice, a daughter of a shopkeeper, has a boyfriend who’s a detective at the Scotland Yard. One night, she goes on a date with an artist, who attempts to rape her in his studio. She kills him in self-defense, but a witness later tries to blackmail Alice and her boyfriend. A police chase culminates atop the Round Reading Room at the British Museum.
Related post: ‘Blackmail’ and the British Museum
Captain Marvel (2019):
Details: Dir. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Perf. Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch. Disney, 2019.
Synopsis: Brie Larson stars in the title role in this Marvel Avengers movie. About halfway through the film, a U.S. Air Force archives collection provides clues to her identity and propels the plot forward to uncover the importance of “Project Pegasus.” No archivist in sight, but the archives are so well-organized that they don’t need one! Bonus points for the use of proper archival boxes.
Details: Dir. Lasse Hallström. Perf. Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Lena Olin, Charlie Cox. Buena Vista Pictures, 2005.
Synopsis: World-famous lover Casanova reflects back on his adventures in Venice. Even though Casanova ended up in real life a librarian for a private estate, libraries and librarians are never mentioned in this film. There is, however, a literary angle explored in the film, and a young white lady, Francesca Bruni (played by Sienna Miller), visits a libreria, which is Italian for bookstore. There are a few scenes throughout the film set in this bookstore.
Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941):
Details: Dir. Tay Garnett. Perf. Martha Scott, William Gargan, Edmund Gwenn. United Artists, 1941. Based on the novel Miss Bishop by Bess Streeter Aldrich.
Synopsis: Miss Bishop (Martha Scott), a college English professor, reflects back on her life. Miss Bishop advises a student to take the librarian’s course because of her “amazing memory”; we later find out the student became a “world-famous historian” instead. At one point, Miss Bishop also tells the university president (Edmun Gwenn) that she is leaving to become an assistant librarian in New York, but he convinces her to stay on at the college. Therefore, there is no actual librarian in this film, but it is interesting that the film mentions a college librarian course.
Related post: ‘Cheers for’ library education
Children of a Lesser God (1986):
Details: Dir. Randa Haines. Perf. Marlee Matlin, William Hurt, Piper Laurie. Paramount, 1986. Based on the stage play by Mark Medoff.
Synopsis: This Best Picture-nominated film boasts the Oscar-winning performance of lead actress Marlee Matlin, who works at a school for the deaf. William Hurt plays a new speech teacher at the school, and they become romantically involved. They have an argument in the one-room school library, but no school librarian is present during the scene.
The Chosen (1981):
Details: Dir. Jeremy Kagan. Perf. Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger, Robby Benson, Barry Miller. Analysis Film Releasing Corp., 1981.
Synopsis: A teenager (Robby Benson) tells his friend, Reuven (Barry Miller), that he’s been secretly reading books in the library, because his father (Rod Steiger) is a strict Hasidic rabbi. He tells Reuven “this man in the library” has been showing him things to read, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and psychology. In the one scene set in a library, Reuven goes to see his friend in the library, and the “man in the library” turns out to be Reuven’s own father, who is referred to several times as a scholar and a writer—not a librarian.
The Da Vinci Code (2006):
Details: Dir. Ron Howard. Perf. Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno. Columbia, 2006. Based on the novel by Dan Brown.
Synopsis: The film, directed by Ron Howard, stars Tom Hanks as the intrepid researcher and incessant mansplainer Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou as French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, and Sir Ian McKellen as British historian Sir Leigh Teabingas. In one short scene, Langdon says they don’t have time to go to a library, so they borrow a young man’s cell phone instead to research a clue.
Demolition Man (1993):
Details: Dir. Marco Brambilla. Perf. Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt. Warner Bros., 1993.
Synopsis: Sylvester Stallone plays John Spartan, a cop who is brought out of cryogenics in order to pursue an enemy (Wesley Snipes) running rampant in a future, non-violent society. Sandra Bullock also co-stars as Lenina Huxley, a cop in the future. About an hour into the film, Lenina mentions visiting the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library to find archives of John’s past cases.
Related post: Library of the future (?) in ‘Demolition Man’
Double Jeopardy (1999):
Details: Dir. Bruce Beresford. Perf. Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish. Paramount, 1999.
Synopsis: Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) is convicted for her husband’s murder—and then sets out for revenge after she finds out he faked his death. Libby does go to a library (filmed at the Vancouver Public Library) to look up an address on the Internet. A young man helps her—and tries to flirt with her. He is clearly not a librarian, as listed on some other sites; he is listed in the credits as Handsome Internet Expert. There are people in the background, but the focus is not clear enough to discern any librarians. Libby also goes to a newspaper archives office (newspapers roll off the press in the background) to look up articles, but again, no librarians or archivists visible.
Related post: A variety of research scenes in ‘Double Jeopardy’
Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970):
Details: Dir. Douglas Hickox. Perf. Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery. Canterbury Film Productions, 1970. Based on the play by Joe Orton.
Synopsis: It takes a comedy of manners and twists it through a lens of satire and pitch-black humor. The main plot involves the opportunistic Mr. Sloane (Peter McEnery) who lodges with an eccentric family, consisting of the aging nymphomaniac Kath (Beryl Reid), her uptight brother Ed (Harry Andrews), and their doddery Dadda (Alan Webb). Kath lies to Ed, saying she met Sloane in the library.
Fahrenheit 451 (1966):
Details: Dir. François Truffaut. Perf. Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack. Universal Pictures, 1966. Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury.
Synopsis: In this dystopian, futuristic tale, firemen burn books rather than put out fires. This version of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel was directed by French New Wave director Francois Truffaut and starred Julie Christie in a dual role and Oscar Werner as Montag, the fireman who falls in love with books, the very thing he’s charged with burning. There is a hidden library that’s discovered by the firemen, plus final scenes in the book that focus on the “Book People,” but there are no actual librarians in the film.
Related post: Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, aka The Hideaways (1973):
Details: Dir. Fielder Cook. Perf. Ingrid Bergman, Sally Prager, Johnny Doran. Warner Home Video, 1973. Based on the book by E. L. Konigsburg.
Synopsis: Claudia and her brother, Jamie, run away from home to stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They try to solve the mystery of the new angel statue, rumored to be the work of Michelangelo, which leads them to the statue’s donor and famous recluse, Mrs. Basil E. Frankerweiler. They start their research of Michelangelo at the public library (but no librarians in sight).
Details: Dir. Paul Feig. Perf. Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones. Columbia Pictures, 2016. Based on the 1984 original film.
Synopsis: Remake of the 1984 original Ghostbusters, with female leads. This film also begins in a library, although this time a private library in a house museum called the Aldridge Mansion. The ghost in the opening scenes is not a reel librarian, however, but rather the ghost of an Aldridge family member. Also includes “drive-by cameos” of the New York Public Library central branch and the Columbia University Library.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009):
Details: Dir. Niels Arden Oplev. Perf. Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Sven-Bertil Taube. Yellow Bird Films, 2009. Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson.
Synopsis: In this original Swedish version of the first book of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrson, Noomi Rapace plays the title role. Although both the book and the 2011 American film version include the character of Lindgren, the archives manager at Vanger Industry’s corporate headquarters, this original film version does not. It abbreviates the archives scene. There is another very brief library scene when Lisbeth and Mikael research newspaper reports of earlier murders, but no librarian appears in that scene, either.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008):
Details: Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett. Paramount, 2008.
Synopsis: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and a tough guy (Shia LaBeouf) drive a motorcycle through the university library (but no librarians to be seen). Indiana Jones shouts to a nerdy student: “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library.” This directly contradicts what Indy had said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when he had championed the library: “Seventy percent of archaeology is done in the library.”
Related post: Indiana Jones contradicts himself in ‘Crystal Skull’
The Kennel Murder Case (1933):
Details: Dir. Michael Curtiz. Perf. William Powell, Mary Astor. Warner Bros., 1933. Based on the novel by S. S. Van Dine.
Synopsis: Well-known detective Philo Vance returns again, and this is William Powell’s fourth appearance as Vance. This is often regarded as the best of the Philo Vance screen adaptations, and it is a classic “locked room” kind of mystery. No librarians, but the film features a private library, and a book called Unsolved Murders is central to the mystery plot.
Related post: ‘Kennel’ clubs and unsolved murders
The Learning Tree (1969):
Details: Dir. Gordon Parks. Perf. Kyle Johnson, Mira Waters, Alex Clarke. Warner Brothers/Seven Arts, 1969. Based on the novel by Gordon Parks.
Synopsis: A coming-of-age story of Newt, a teenager growing up in 1920s Kansas. No library or librarian seen in the film, but Newt covers up for his girlfriend, Arcella, in one scene by telling her mother that Arcella is at the library.
Related post: ‘The Learning Tree’ and library cover-ups
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948):
Details: Dir. Max Ophüls. Perf. Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians. Universal, 1948.
Synopsis: A young woman (Joan Fontaine) develops a lifelong passion for a concert pianist (Louis Jourdan), who never remembers her. In one scene, she goes to the library to look up a book on her pianist idol, and there is a man sitting at a desk behind her who looks annoyed when she makes noise. There is no indication, however, that he is a librarian and not simply a fellow library patron. He is unlisted in the credits.
Libeled Lady (1936):
Details: Dir. Jack Conway. Perf. Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy. MGM, 1936. Based on the story by Wallace Sullivan.
Synopsis: The plot of this screwball comedy involves a newspaper editor (Spencer Tracy), his long-suffering fiancée (Jean Harlow), and his lawyer (William Powell), who aim to compromise a high-society lady (Myrna Loy) before she can sue the paper for libel. To this end, Powell sets sail on an ocean liner to England, to make contact with the high-society lady. In an attempt to cozy up to her, he does a little research on her personal interests, first reading newspaper articles about her father and his love of fishing, and then ringing the ship’s steward for books on angling.
Related post: A ‘Libeled Lady’ and a library
The Lost Tree (2016):
Details: Dir. Brian A. Metcalf. Perf. Lacey Chabert, Scott Grimes, Michael Madsen. Red Compass Media, 2016.
Synopsis: After a traumatic accident, a man moves to an isolated cabin. After strange things start happening at the cabin, he goes to a public library to conduct research.
Lucky Jim (1957):
Details: Dir. John Boulting. Perf. Ian Carmichael, Hugh Griffith, Terry-Thomas, Sharon Acker. Kingsley-International, 1957. Based on the book by Kingsley Amis.
Synopsis: Struggling professor Jim Dixon (Ian Carmichael) tries to make a name for himself at a stuffy university. Of course, all kinds of mishaps ensue. In one scene, he is researching at the college library and encounters Margaret, a neurotic woman who believes they have a serious relationship. However, she is clearly not a librarian as she wears long, black professor’s robes; she is also identified as a lecturer in the source novel.
Details: Dir. Reginald Hudlin. Perf. Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Sterling K. Brown. Open Road Films, 2017.
Synopsis: The film focuses on an early case in Thurgood Marshall’s career, State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell. Josh Gad co-stars as real-life attorney Sam Friedman, who worked as local counsel alongside Marshall. In an early scene, Marshall pulls out a stack of law books from his case so Friedman can get prepared for the case.
Related post: Law books and research in ‘Marshall’ (2017)
Moscow on the Hudson (1984):
Details: Dir. Paul Mazursky. Perf. Robin Williams, Maria Conchita Alonso, Elya Baskin, Cleavant Derricks. Columbia, 1984.
Synopsis: During a Soviet circus tour, saxophone player (Robin Williams) defects to the U.S. in the middle of Bloomingdale’s. In one scene, he and a couple of friends find themselves in a downpour after watching a movie. They take shelter beside a branch of the New York Public Library.
Related post: Gimme shelter in ‘Moscow on the Hudson’
My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006):
Details: Dir. Ivan Reitman. Perf. Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Anna Farris, Rainn Wilson, Eddie Izzard. 20th Century Fox, 2006.
Synopsis: Uma Thurman plays Jenny Johnson as well as her superhero alter ego G-Girl. She starts dating Matt (Luke Wilson) but goes crazy when he breaks up with her. Although initially described as “an uptight librarian on the outside,” we find out Jenny’s an art curator.
Related post: ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’ is not a librarian
Details: Dir. Jon Turteltaub. Perf. John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker. Touchstone Pictures, 1996.
Synopsis: George Malley (John Travolta) becomes super-smart after seeing a light in the sky one night. And because George starts reading multiple books a day, the library is mentioned several times throughout the movie. They even hold a library book fair showcasing all the library books he’s read in the past 2 months! Alas, no librarian.
Related post: Missed opportunities in ‘Wanted’ and ‘Phenomenon’
Regarding Henry (1991):
Details: Dir. Mike Nichols. Perf. Harrison Ford, Annette Bening, Rebecca Miller. Paramount Pictures, 1991.
Synopsis: After being shot, a lawyer (Harrison Ford) suffers brain damage and loses his memory. He reconnects with his wife and daughter as he learns how to walk, talk, and live again. There is a brief scene in the New York Public Library, in which Ford distracts his daughter, who is trying to do research.
Related post: ‘Regarding’ a public library
The Rewrite (2014):
Details: Dir. Marc Lawrence. Perf. Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney. Castle Rock Entertainment, 2014.
Synopsis: A washed-up screenwriter, Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant), starts teaching a screenwriting class at Binghamton University to make ends meet. There is a brief scene set in the library stacks and private study rooms during the film’s credits, but no librarian in sight.
Related post: ‘Rewrite’-ing the library
Slightly Dangerous (1943):
Details: Dir. Wesley Ruggles. Perf. Lana Turner, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Dame May Whitty. MGM, 1943.
Synopsis: Lana Turner stars as Peggy Evans, a small-town “soda squirt” who leaves town to find adventure, and her former boss (Robert Young) finds her posing as an heiress in New York. No librarian, but Peggy visits the New York Public Library’s newspaper archives to look up articles of missing heiresses.
Related post: ‘Slightly dangerous’ and snappy
Details: Dir. Pete Docter and Kemp Powers. Perf. Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Rachel House, Questlove, Angela Bassett. Disney/Pixar, 2020.
Synopsis: Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a jazz musician and teacher, dies before his “big break” playing with jazz legend Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett); in an effort to return to his body in time to realize his jazz-playing dreams, he mentors 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who resists every opportunity to develop a “spark” and complete the process of being born. In one short scene, Joe takes 22 to the Hall of Everything and its library to try and inspire a librarian spark within 22. Terry the accountant also searches the soul archives, a vast universe of file cabinet drawers, to figure out why the count of souls is off.
Related post: Libraries and archives with ‘Soul’
Details: Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leo G. Carroll, Michael Chekhov. Selznick International, 1945. Based on the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes by Francis Beeding.
Synopsis: A psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) realizes that the mental hospital’s new director, Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck), is an imposter and suffers from paranoid amnesia. They go on the run to find out what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes. There is no actual librarian in this film, although a character in the film (mistakenly) guesses that her occupation is that of a librarian.
Related post: Mistaken identity in ‘Spellbound’
Details: Dir. Alex Israel. Perf. Carson Meyer, Noah Centineo, Bianca A. Santos, Jackson White. Distributed by Alex Israel, 2017.
Synopsis: This film focuses on the “life-changing adventures” of four teenagers housesitting Keanu Reeve’s house in Malibu. In one short scene, Penny (Carson Meyer), uses Google (and keywords!) to research a lifeguard.
Related post: ‘SPF-18’ and search tips
Three Days of the Condor (1975):
Details: Dir. Sydney Pollack. Perf. Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow. Paramount Pictures, 1975. Based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.
Synopsis: Robert Redford plays a CIA researcher whose code name is “Condor.” His co-workers are killed by a team of assassins, and Condor goes on the run to figure out why. No librarians, but the team of researchers work at a building whose front is “American Literary Historical Society.”
Related post: ‘Three days of the’ researcher
Urban Legend (1998):
Details: Dir. Jim Gillespie. Perf. Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson. Columbia TriStar, 1998.
Synopsis: College students keep getting killed off in scenarios based on urban legends. Is there a serial killer on an urban legend killing spree? Early on in the film, Natalie (Alicia Witt) heads off to the college library to research urban legends.
Related post: Striking out in ‘Urban Legend’
Details: Dir. Timur Bekmambetov. Perf. James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Common. Universal, 2008. Based on the comic book series by Mark Millar & J.G. Jones.
Synopsis: James McAvoy stars as Wesley, a regular guy who finds out one day he shares his (dead?) father’s super-human assassin skills. He gets trained by other bad-ass assassins (Angelina Jolie, etc.). There are several scenes set in a warehouse library, including the final showdown fight, but no librarian to be seen (or shot at).
Related post: Missed opportunities in ‘Wanted’ and ‘Phenomenon’
Wet Hot American Summer (2001):
Details: Dir. David Wain. Perf. Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Paul Rudd. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2001.
Synopsis: Over-the-top comedy about the last day of summer camp, set in 1981. In one scene, the camp director (Janeane Garofalo) and an astrophysicist on vacation (David Hyde Pierce) go to the public library to check out books about the other’s interests, to try and impress each other. They both pore over bookshelves in the library, on opposite sides of the same bookcase, yet are totally unaware of each other. No librarian in sight in this brief scene.
Related post: ‘Wet hot American’ library
What’s New Pussycat? (1965):
Details: Dir. Clive Donner. Perf. Peter Sellers, Peter O’Toole, Romy Schneider, Woody Allen. United Artists, 1965.
Synopsis: In one scene, Carole (Romy Schneider) and Victor (Woody Allen) argue in a library, and another man takes a book that Carole wanted. To prove his love for her, Victor “fights” with the man. No librarian in sight, although there is a quiet, bespectacled man (uncredited in the film cast) reading in the corner who doesn’t stir throughout the entire fight scene. A librarian, surely, would have been outraged by such destructive behavior in a library.
Wings of Desire (1987):
Details: Dir. Wim Wenders. Perf. Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk. Road Movies Filmproduktion (DVD released by MGM), 1987.
Synopsis: An angel in Berlin (Bruno Ganz) falls in love with a mortal and wishes to become human. There are three scenes set and filmed in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), where angels often go to hang out with humans. There are no identifiable reel librarians in the library scenes, however.
Related post: Angels in the library in ‘Wings of Desire’
Details: Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. Paramount, 2007. Based on the non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith.
Synopsis: The saga of how the quest to track down the Zodiac killer affects the lives of reporters and investigators. Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a newspaper cartoonist, never gives up in his own investigation and checks out library books to help him crack codes from the killer’s ciphers.