Revisiting ‘The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ for its 50th anniversary

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of E. L. Konigsburg’s classic YA novel

This year marks the 50th anniversary of E. L. Konigsburg’s classic YA novel, 1967’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which won the 1968 Newbery Medal. I also recently read a very informative article from the always excellent Smithsonian Magazine online, “The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files.”

Smithsonian Magazine article
Smithsonian Magazine article

The article’s author, Patrick Sauer, aptly sums up how beloved this book remains:

“If visions of Claudia and Jamie bathing—and collecting lunch money—in the Met’s Fountain of Muses bring up fond childhood memories of your own, you’re among the legions of readers who grew up loving E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The classic children’s book turns 50 in 2017, and the tale of the Kincaid siblings spending their days wandering about the paintings, sculptures and antiquities, and their nights sleeping in antique beds handcrafted for royalty, is as popular as ever. The 1968 Newbery Medal winner has never been out of print.”

The article then goes into the many inspirations behind the book and Konigsburg’s writing, including this sweet memory shared by her son Paul:

“When we were in grade school, Mom would write in the morning. When the three of us kids would come home for lunch, she would read what she wrote,” says Paul Konigsburg, 62. “If we laughed she kept it in. If not, she rewrote it.”

The article also mentions the 1973 film version of the book, also released under the title The Hideaways, which I wrote a post about almost two years ago on this blog. The film doesn’t feature a librarian, but it DOES shine a spotlight on the vital role of research, as well as libraries, both public and private.

Public library scene in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Public library scene in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Private library scene in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Private library scene in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)

As I wrote back in 2015 about the film’s version of the “mixed-up files” scene:

The scene in the film is different from the book, but it’s still fun to see a visual representation of all those “mixed-up files.” Although, of course, they’re not mixed-up at all. They files are quite logically organized, at least according to the logic of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

And I learned something new about the film from the Smithsonian article — that the 1973 film version was the first film ever shot inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

I also learned that last year, the Met produced and released a video tour called “Can We Talk About the Mixed-Up Files and the Met?”:

#MetKids—Can We Talk About the “Mixed-up Files” and The Met?” video by The Met is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

And finally, next week on July 13 and 15, in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary — and of course, the Met’s starring role in the book! — the Met will host special Art Trek family tours featuring several exhibits mentioned in the book that are still in the museum, including the mummy and the bronze cat in the Egyptian wing.

Have you ever been to the Met? Are you a fan of the book? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’

“Is there not freedom in the very choice of which book you want to be?”

I recently rewatched the 1966 film version of Fahrenheit 451, directed by French New Wave director Francois Truffaut and starring 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.

*MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS THROUGHOUT*

Here is one of the original trailers for the film:

Fahrenheit 451 1966” video uploaded by DIOTD2008 is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

The origins of Fahrenheit 451:


One of the major themes of the book, and resulting film, is about authoritarian censorship, the kind that led to book-burning in World War II. The finished novel of Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1953, so this was still fresh in people’s minds.

The origins of the book, however, actually go back to 1947-1948, right after the war ended, when Bradbury wrote a short story, “Bright Phoenix.” This story featured a librarian who confronted a book-burning “Chief Censor.” Bradbury turned that story, plus another story in 1951 called “The Pedestrian” set in a totalitarian future, into the novella called “The Fireman,” which was published in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Bradbury relished retelling the story about how he wrote “The Fireman” (which essentially serves as the first draft of Fahrenheit 451) in 9 days on a typewriter he rented in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library for ten cents per half hour. He then expanded that story into the novel we know today.

In a dystopian future — one again, like in The Handmaid’s Tale, is too eerily familiar to modern times — books are forbidden and burned when discovered. In this future, firemen are trained to burn books, rather than prevent fires. Neighbors are encouraged to spy on one another and report those they suspect have books. Information (or rather, propaganda) is spread through television, called “wall screens,” as well as through comics-like publications, as seen in the screenshot below.

Montag "reads" the comics while in bed with his wife, in an early scene from Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Montag “reads” the comics while in bed with his wife, in an early scene from Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The hidden library scene:


A turning point in the film comes almost exactly halfway through the film, when Montag is called to the house where he knows Clarisse lives. Clarisse is described as Montag’s “rebellious, book-collecting mistress” on the back of the DVD case, but her role in the film is much tamer than that description suggests. His supervisor, Captain Beatty (played by Cyril Cusack), discovers a “hidden library” in the attic and cannot hold back his glee at the prospect of burning all those books:

I knew it. Of course, all this — the existence of a secret library was known in high places, but there was no way of getting at it. Only once before have I seen so many books in one place. I was just an ordinary fireman at the time.

It’s all ours, Montag.

Once to each fireman, at least once in his career, he just itches to know what those books are all about. He just aches to know. Isn’t that so? Take my word for it, Montag, there’s nothing there. The books have nothing to say!

Captain Beatty and fireman Montag discover a hidden library
Captain Beatty and fireman Montag discover a hidden library

During this scene and monologue — only the captain is talking, Montag only reacts — Captain Beatty expounds on different types of books and genres, dismissing each in turn. At the end, he finally reveals the reasons behind this society’s book-burning:

We’ve all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal. So, we must burn the books, Montag. All the books.

This scene reminded me of the forbidden magazines scene in The Handmaid’s Tale and the reasons the Commander gave for their totalitarian regime. The reasons in The Handmaid’s Tale were different, that they needed to “cleanse” all the dirt and filth and sex from the world. The reasons expressed in Fahrenheit 451 come off as a search for a mythical, Utopian, and elusive “pursuit of happiness.” A generic happiness, but happiness nonetheless.


Modern martyrs:


The captain’s assertion that “the books have nothing to say” is directly contradicted in the next scene, in which the older woman refuses to leave her books.

Fabian, another fireman, rushes in to say that the woman won’t leave. “She won’t leave her books, she says.

Woman:  I want to die as I’ve lived.

Captain Beatty:  Oh, you must have read that in there. I’m not going to ask you again. Are you going?

Woman:  These books were alive. They spoke to me.

And so the older woman lights the match herself, to die as she lived, with her beloved books.

Book burning by choice
Book burning by choice

Truffaut also lingers several minutes over the burning of the books, with several close-ups.

Book burning closeup
Book burning closeup

In the final act of the film, Montag and his firemen troop are called to his own house. He is forced to burn his own hidden collection of books.

Montag torches his own collection of books
Montag torches his own collection of books

He is chastised and criticized by his captain:

What did Montag hope to get out of all this? Happiness? What a poor idiot you must have been.

His captain tries to grab the last book from Montag’s hand — we find out later this is a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, Tales of Mystery and Imagination — but Montag finally breaks, blasting Captain Beatty with the fire hose instead.

Montag torches his own captain
Montag torches his own captain

Now compare this photo, of his captain lying facedown in the pile of books, ablaze, with the previous screenshot of the older woman, standing upright, proud and defiant. Both are martyrs of their own kind, but the woman chose to go up in flames.


The book people:


Montag goes on the run then, hunted by the state, but he manages to escape to a hidden Utopia, deep in the forest, where others have escaped and banded together. These people are known as the “Book People,” as they have memorized a single work of literature and recite their tales for anyone who wishes to hear. The “book people” scenes were also filmed last.

Here’s how the leader of the camp describes how they came together, the 50 or so at their station. But he mentions there are more of the books:

In abandoned railway yards, wandering the roads. Tramps outwardly, but, inwardly, libraries.

It wasn’t planned. It just so happened that a man here and a man there loved some book. And rather than lose it, he learned it. And we came together. We’re a minority of undesirables crying out in the wilderness. But it won’t always be so. One day we shall be called on, one by one, to recite what we’ve learned. And then books will be printed again. And when the next age of darkness comes, those who come after us will do again as we have done.

And the book people also burn books themselves! But like the older woman in the house, they choose to do so, for their own specific reasons.

Yes, we burn the books. But we keep them up here [pointing to the brain] where nobody can find them.

The book people have literally “become” their chosen book and even introduce themselves as such:

“Are you interested in Plato’s Republic?”
“Well, I am Plato’s Republic. I’ll recite myself for you whenever you like.”

“I am The Prince by Machiavelli. As you see, you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

“That man over there hasn’t much longer to live.”
“He’s The Weir or Germiston by Robert Louis Stevenson. The boy is his nephew. He’s now reciting himself, so the boy can become the book.”

The film clip below is a combination of the final two scenes from the film.

The Book People of Fahrenheit 451” video uploaded by Andrew David is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

In a special “making of” featurette in the DVD’s special features, film historian and professor Annette Ensdorf gave her own interpretation of the film’s final scenes among the “book people,” stating that the people reciting their books at the end are just as self-absorbed as the narcissists we saw at the beginning of the film. Ensdorf sums up the finale and the “book people” as:

…instruments of the text — not really existing as a completely integrated social community but rather as individual icons.

But there’s the feeling of a certain muted triumph, namely that the book people will maintain a portion of civilization, that someday these books will still be alive, even if they are recounted rather than as written text.


Classification and connections:


Although the people literally become books in the end and could therefore be argued to be the only thing left resembling a librarian in a futuristic sense, I have to categorize this film in the Class V category, films with no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries. There are definitely library and censorship themes in the film, but no actual, identifiable librarians.

This contrasts with the “Books” in another sci-fi classic, Soylent Green. In Soylent Green, “Books” are former librarians and professors who become personal researchers in a dystopian future, a world in which books have ceased to be written and published. Books become rare commodities, precious treasures to be hoarded — but not due to fear of burning. Rather, books — and the people who take care of them, who then are referred to as “Books” themselves — are almost revered, and they have a unique power of their own.

In Soylent Green, the “Books” guard the past, but there is little hope for the future.

In Fahrenheit 451, however, the “Book People” guard, or consume, the past because they are the only hope for the future.

The book people in Fahrenheit 451 vs. the Books in Soylent Green
The book people in Fahrenheit 451 vs. the Books in Soylent Green

Books in Fahrenheit 451:


Here’s a list I compiled of all the books mentioned in the final scenes, in the order they are mentioned. The leader mentions there are around 50 or so around their camp, but says there are many others out there. A southern camp is also mentioned in the last scene.

These are some of the books we know that will live on:

  • Plato’s Republic
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • The Corsair by Byron
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Alice Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  • Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Jewish Question
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • The Prince by Machiavelli
  • Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, volumes one and two
  • Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Memoirs of Saint Simon
  • The Weir of Germiston by Robert Louis Stevenson

Book-burning in Fahrenheit 451:


On the “making of” feature on the DVD, producer Lewis M. Allen shared this tidbit about censorship he experienced during the making of the film:

An interesting thing about censorship is that when we were doing the book burning scene, the studio… wanted to eliminate all books that were by living authors that were not in public domain, and the fact that they may be sued or whatever. And we just ignored that. We said, the hell with it, because I think everybody, anyone who was around who had a book being burned in there would be very much flattered by it. … So we ignored that and went right ahead.

Reel Librarians | Books in 'Fahrenheit 451' (1966)
Books in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (1966)

Allen also shared an amusing anecdote about how they compiled and played with all those books for the book-burning scenes:

To me, the most interesting part of the film… was the burning of the books, which went went on and on. And we had those books in our offices, we had hundreds of books, from the beginning of the film. And he would play with them. We’d go round and pick ones out, play with them, and toss them, and put piles and so on. Every day this was done, as a kind of ritual, which was fun to do, ‘cause we’d come up with strange books.


Homme livre/libre:


The screenplay was originally written in French, as it was director François Truffaut’s vision, so there were several puns that got lost when translated into English.

One of the best puns focused on “homme livre” versus “homme libre.”

The original script had a moment between Clarisse and Montag, in which Clarisse explains about the “homme livre,” which translates to “book man.” But in French, “homme livre” sounds very close to “homme libre,” which translates to “free man.”

Screenplay puns
Screenplay puns

As producer Lewis M. Allen shared on the “making of” DVD feature:

That was a nice pun, about the book people and the free people, livre and libre, which could not be translated.

Definitely an attempt to preserve the nature of the original pun in French, but it’s a pale ghost of the original.


Homage to the written word


"fahrenheit 451" by CHRIS DRUMM is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“fahrenheit 451” by CHRIS DRUMM is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The ultimate message of Truffaut’s film version of Fahrenheit 451 gets discussed by several people in the DVD features.

From film historian and critic Annette Ensdorf:

What you’re going to get is Truffaut’s really passionate homage to literature, to the written word, to the notion of a text as a living, breathing entity and process that can still affect us.

Ensdorf’s thoughts on the ultimate significance of the book people’s actions:

You learn it [the book] by heart, through the process of love. […] Is there not freedom in the very choice of which book you want to be?

From producer Lewis M. Allen, who praised Truffaut playing down several of the more overt sci-fi elements in the book, like the “mechanical hound,” because:

It would be very distracting, in fact, from the simple story of the books, which was really what he was interested in most of all.

From Steven C. smith, biographer of composer Bernard Hermann, who composed the music for the film and who was personal friends with the book’s author Ray Bradbury:

The act of reading becomes… the most romantic thing in Fahrenheit 451.

And in the music feature on the DVD, Ray Bradbury summed up the themes of the film’s musical score and its connection with the story itself:

What we have is a romance with books.


Final words from the author himself:


The DVD that I checked out of this film also included in its special features an interview with Ray Bradbury, who talked about how he first wrote the book in a library basement and how the title came about.

"Ray Bradbury, Miami Book Fair International, 1990" by MDCarchives is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
“Ray Bradbury, Miami Book Fair International, 1990” by MDCarchives is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

On reflection in 2002 special feature on the DVD by Universal Studios, Bradbury remarked:

I am a library person. I never made it through college you see. I’m self-educated in the library so anything that touches the library touches me.

You can also read a bit more background info and personal quotes from the author in my obituary post for Ray Bradbury, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 91. He was a lifelong and vocal supporter of libraries, and as he stated in 2009:

Libraries raised me.

Here’s to the “book people” around the world who stand up to censorship and advocate for reading, books, libraries, and librarians. ♥


Have you read the book and seen the film version of Fahrenheit 451? Please share your thoughts and leave a comment below.


Sources used:


The school library in ‘Blackboard Jungle’

It is effective in underlining the point that no place is safe: not even a school, not even a classroom, not even a library.

This week, we explore another school library in MGM’s Blackboard Jungle from 1955. This dramatic film, starring Glenn Ford, is credited to have helped launch rock ‘n’ roll music in popular media, as it played the “Rock Around the Clock” song by Bill Haley and the Comets over the title credits.

Title card from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Title card from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Intro card from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Intro card from Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Blackboard Jungle is 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 delinquency mentioned in the title introduction.

One of the new teachers is Lois Hammond, played by Margaret Hayes. Almost a half-hour into the film, she offers to drive Dadier home and goes downstairs to wait for him. On the stairs, Ms. Hammond stops to adjust her stockings after a long day of teaching. She doesn’t notice a student watching her from below, but we, the audience, definitely get a sense of foreboding. (Plus, there were scenes earlier of other teachers — all male, of course — warning her about the way she dressed and “joking” that she was not safe among all the tough boys in school.)

Screenshot from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
That’s not the school librarian
Screenshot from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
A new female teacher stops on the stairs to adjust her stockings

As Dadier — pronounced “Dah-dee-eh” but, of course, gets switched to “Daddio” by the students — walks down the stairs a few minutes later, he notices a lone high-heeled shoe outside the door to the library.

Outside the school library in Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Outside the school library in Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Outside the school library in Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Outside the school library in Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Dadier hears a muffled scream from inside the library, and his combat training kicks in. He breaks the window with his briefcase and runs in, and he and the student chase and fight each other in the library. Destruction quickly ensues:  books overturned, a window broken, a free-standing globe knocked over, Ms. Hammond’s jacket torn, and more.

Library assault scene in Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Library assault scene in Blackboard Jungle (1955)

The student tries to escape by leaping head-first into a window, but Dadier pulls him back in. The student is led away with blood running down his face, and we later hear that he has been expelled.

Aftermath of the library scene from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Aftermath of the library scene from Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Ms. Hammond is also led away, in tears, and another new teacher is shocked at this event.

What’s happened?

The bland reaction from one of the long-suffering (and jaded) teachers, played by Louis Calhern?

Why, it’s the first day of school, teacher.

There is a recurring subplot of blaming the victim for the sexual assault inflicted upon her. (Didier’s own wife — !!! — remarks that “Maybe she provoked the boy. Teachers aren’t allowed to dress sexy.” !!!) Didier defends Miss Hammond on that account, but I will not get into that (unfortunately still timely) social issue here on this blog.

The library scene, featuring Miss Hammond’s terrified reaction during the assault, also gets highlighted on one of the film’s posters (!), as seen here on the IMDb.com site.

Library assault scene from Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Library assault scene from Blackboard Jungle (1955)

What I will get into, however, is why was the library chosen as the setting for this scene of attempted rape? Why not a regular classroom? I think it was a study of contrasts, one that is admittedly very effective. Libraries are usually viewed — in reel AND real life — as safe, secure places. The contrast is therefore heightened between the common view of libraries as being safe places, juxtaposed with the actions of the violent sexual assault and ensuing fight. It is effective in underlining the point that no place is safe:  not even a school, not even a classroom, not even a library.

Miss Hammond is seen again, the very next day, but no more scenes take place in the library, nor is there any glimpse or mention of a school librarian. Therefore, Blackboard Jungle (1955) falls into the Class V category, films with no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries.


Sources used:


  • Blackboard Jungle. Dir. Richard Brooks. Perf. Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier. MGM, 1955.
  • Photo Gallery.” Blackboard Jungle (1955)IMDb.com.

‘Wet hot American’ library

As this movie is an over-the-top comedy, it comes as no surprise that the library scene is also campy (har har) and over-the-top.

It just officially became spring, but you can still look toward summer — or remember past summers in a haze of nostalgia — with the 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. This was my first time watching the film, and as the beginning credits rolled, I kept shouting out, “And there’s… Paul Rudd! And Amy Poehler! And Bradley Cooper! And Elizabeth Banks! And the guy whose friend broke up with Sarah Jessica Parker with a post-it on Sex and the City! (That would be actor Michael Showalter.)

Title card from Wet Hot American Summer
Title card from Wet Hot American Summer

The 2015 TV series spin-off, “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” stars the same actors from the 2001 film, which was set in 1981. So that makes actors who were already a decade too old to play their characters back when they filmed the movie in 2001, and now, 14 years later, they’re playing the same characters. Such is the realm of the absurd, Wet Hot American Summer-style.

It is a goofy film, one that is purposefully over-the-top and awesomely cheesy. My husband and I had a lot of fun watching Wet Hot American Summer, but you have to be in the right mood to enjoy it. (And even if you don’t have any actual memories of “summer camp,” surely you have nostalgic memories of watching movies about summer camp, right? If you enjoyed Meatballs, then you will enjoy this film!)

I’ve had Wet Hot American Summer on my Master List for awhile, for possibly featuring a reel librarian, and SPOILER ALERT, there’s no actual reel librarian. But there is a brief library scene, clocking in about 40 minutes into the film.

The context? The summer camp director, played by Jeanine Garofalo as Beth, is trying to impress Henry, a vacationing astrophysicist, played by David Hyde Pierce. She comes across Nancy, another camp counselor, who is sitting on a porch, knitting. Beth asks Nancy where she’d find a book on astrophysics.

Nancy’s dryly delivered response, “I’d have to say a bookstore… or a library.”

[Editor’s note:  Attagirl, Nancy!]

Beth tries and fails to look nonchalant (“Right… just curious.”).

The second after she scampers away, in runs Henry, who also stops to ask Nancy, “Say I wanted to get a book on… camp directing, I guess.”

Nancy’s incredulous expression and reply: “Henry, Henry, library.”

Next stop, the public library in Waterville, Maine.

Side note: There is a real Waterville, Maine, although the movie was filmed in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, at Camp Towanda. And you can check out the real Waterville Public Library here on their website. Y’all knew I would look that up, right?! 😉

As this movie is an over-the-top comedy, it comes as no surprise that the library scene is also campy (har har) and over-the-top. Beth and Henry are both poring over bookshelves in the library, on opposite sides of the same bookcase, yet totally unaware of each other.

Library scene in Wet Hot American Summer
Library scene in Wet Hot American Summer
Screenshot of the library scene in Wet Hot American Summer
Those are some VERY SPECIFIC book collections in the library!

And OF COURSE, their respective sections — astrophysics and camp directing — are on the opposite sides of this same bookcase. Is it odd that there seem to be more books on camp directing than there are on astrophysics, at least if you take into account the size of Henry’s stack of books! Also, how in tune is this public library with the needs of its users?! Bravo, Waterville Public Library, bravo.

The call numbers highlighted in this scene are also fake — “AS” begins the section on astrophysics call numbers, while “CA DIR” begins the section on camp directing — but I had to laugh out loud at this celluloid call numbering system!

Call numbers in the library scene from Wet Hot American Summer
Call numbers in the library scene from Wet Hot American Summer

Although this is only a brief scene in a movie full of quirky memorable scenes, I did enjoy the inclusion of a library — and focus on research!

Do you think their respective research journeys help lead Beth and Henry into each other’s arms by movie’s end? I’d say the odds of that are as good as the odds of seeing Daisy Duke-style cut-off shorts and feathered bangs in Wet Hot American Summer. 😀


Sources used:


  • Wet Hot American Summer. Dir. David Wain. Perf. Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Paul Rudd. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2001.

‘From the mixed-up files’ of a private library

“Don’t mix up my files! They are in a special order, that makes sense only to me.”

The writer E. L. Konigsburg, 1930-2013, remains one of my favorite authors, with such YA classics as Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth (1967); From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967); A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (1973); The View from Saturday (1996); and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place (2004). Konigsburg is one of only six writers to have won two Newbery Medals, and remains the only writer to be both a Newbery Medal winner and one of the runners-up in the same year. That was 1968, winning for my personal favorite of her books, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and runner-up for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.

I’ve never watched a film adaptation of one of her works, so I taped the 1973 version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, starring Ingrid Bergman as the title character. The film was also released under the title of The Hideaways.

From the Mixed-Up Files -- book cover and movie poster collage
From the Mixed-Up Files — book cover and movie poster collage

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it focuses on two siblings, Claudia and her brother, Jamie, who 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.

Starting on their quest to solve the mystery (about 40 minutes into the 105-minutes film), guess where Claudia and Jamie begin? In the library, of course!

“Tomorrow, we’ll go to the public library and start our research.”

Claudia is a very smart girl, of course. We know this already, from how she’s thought out how they can live and hide out in the museum without getting caught, but this seals the deal for me. 😉

Researching Michelangelo in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Researching Michelangelo in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Researching Michelangelo in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Researching is hard work

There’s no librarian that I can see in the background of this shot, so the film ultimately lands in the Class V category (no librarians). However, not all is lost, as Claudia and Jamie talk about the importance of research.

Jamie:  Are you sure detectives work in libraries?

Claudia:  Yes. Keep looking. Sometimes, the search can be very important to solving a mystery.

They talk about different things they find out about Michelangelo, and then use the information they learn later to… and that’s all I can say for now. You will have to either watch the movie, read the book — or both! There was also a later TV adaptation from 1995 starring Lauren Bacall as the title character.

The climax of the story takes place in Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’s home and personal library of files and research. (No spoilers, as you get that from the story’s title!)

The mixed-up files themselves!
The mixed-up files themselves!

The scene in the film is different from the book, but it’s still fun to see a visual representation of all those “mixed-up files.” Although, of course, they’re not mixed-up at all. They files are quite logically organized, at least according to the logic of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Screenshot from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Library ladder alert!
Screenshot from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Researching is hard work

As she warns Claudia:

“Don’t mix up my files! They are in a special order, that makes sense only to me.”

Spoken like a librarian? 😉


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