‘Rewrite’-ing the library

Movie magic revealed… is ignorance bliss then after all?

I recently watched the 2014 movie The Rewrite, the third film collaboration between director Marc Lawrence and actor Hugh Grant. (The other two films were 2002’s Two Weeks Notice and 2007’s Music and Lyrics, two films I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve rewatched several times.) I enjoyed The Rewrite, a film about a washed-up screenwriter, Keith Michaels (Grant), who starts teaching a screenwriting class at Binghamton University to make ends meet. Interestingly, J.K. Simmons, who plays the English department chair, was featured heavily in most of the ads, as he was coming off an Oscar nomination, and subsequent win, for Whiplash. I also loved ALL of the scenes with J.K. Simmons, and Allison Janney is also a hoot as a Jane Austen scholar and professor.

So what does this film have to do with librarians or libraries?

A few minutes into the film, after Keith Michaels arrives at Binghamton University, he walks out of a campus building. I immediately spotted the “Library” sign just to the side of the door, as seen in the screenshot below. My interest was piqued!

Outside the library in The Rewrite
Outside the library in The Rewrite

I had to hold that interest, however, as there wasn’t another scene set in the library until the credits!

In a bonus scene during the film credits, we spot Grant in the library stacks, and as he takes down a book, he spots a student from his screenwriting class down the row in a private study room.

Library scene in the credits from The Rewrite
Library scene in the credits from The Rewrite

He goes down the row and peeks in…

A peek into a library study room in The Rewrite
A peek into a library study room in The Rewrite

… and finds out that the student — who was known in class for being really dark and cynical and obsessed with death — is watching the film Dirty Dancing. She is also crying at the ending! The student warns him that if he tells anyone… you get the picture. 😉

I also appreciated that when she turns around, we also get a glimpse of the interior of the study rooms. Pretty spacious and organized for a private study room!

Library study room interior in The Rewrite
Library study room interior in The Rewrite

Even though there was no librarian in this short scene, I was glad to have watched through the credits to have at least seen one scene set in the library. However, The Rewrite does end up in the Class V category, which includes films with no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries.

I read trivia that this film was director Lawrence’s “love letter to Binghamton,” where he graduated college from. I also happen to personally know a librarian colleague who works at the Binghamton University Libraries, so I was excited to contact her and get the “inside scoop.”

My librarian colleague revealed that there were hardly any scenes filmed in Binghamton — basically the scenes in which Keith Michaels leaves the airport and drives through town. The director basically recreated Binghamton University at a different campus, and recreated well-known Binghamton locations and landmarks, as well. She didn’t even know the movie was being made until she saw a picture of Hugh Grant on the local Facebook site!

As she summed up her disappointment:

“I think the reason why it bothered me so much about the Binghamton scenes (or lack of) is because this movie is an homage to Binghamton and the university. And yet, what we saw on the screen was a false representation.”

Hugh Grant also voiced a similar disappointment:  “It’s sad we couldn’t have filmed more of it here.” That was a quote from a Q&A session with the film’s director and star after they premiered the film on the Binghamton campus, as revealed in a campus magazine article. Lawrence and Grant addressed the Binghamton absence right up front during the Q&A, with the director stating, “We had no money,” and that it would have been more expensive to shoot in Binghamton rather than shooting the film around New York City.

The film does do a good job of promoting Binghamton University, but it’s a bummer that we didn’t see more of the actual campus itself — or its library! A lot of the campus scenes were filmed using Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus as a makeshift Binghamton campus.

Movie magic revealed… is ignorance bliss then after all? 😉


Sources used:


  • The Rewrite. Dir. Marc Lawrence. Perf. Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney. Castle Rock Entertainment, 2014.

Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI?

Shining a spotlight on the “Reel Substance” portion of my Reel Librarians site.

Finishing up my spotlight on the “Reel Substance” part of my site… This week, let’s look at the (current) final category, Class V films. (Last week was Classes III and IV, and the week before that Classes I and II.)

If you’re new to this mini-series, then here’s a quick note about what the “Reel Substance” section is all about. One way I analyze and categorize films is according to the importance of the librarian role to the film overall. The “Reel Substance” section of this site is currently divided into 5 categories, starting with major librarian characters integral to the movie’s plot (Class I), and on down.

Reel Substance section
Reel Substance section

The basics:


Currently this is how I define Class V films:  They have no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries. Some of these films have been mistakenly listed on other sites or lists of reel librarians.

So there are two different kinds of films I currently include in Class V, with examples:


Includes scenes set in libraries or mentions librarians (but doesn’t include any actual librarians):


  • Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
  • Blackmail (1929)
  • The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
  • Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
  • Slightly Dangerous (1943)
  • Urban Legend (1998)
  • Wanted (2008)

Mistakenly listed as including reel librarians:


  • Big (1988)
  • The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
  • The Final Cut (2004)
  • Night at the Museum (2006)
  • Red Dragon (2002)
  • Sitting Pretty (1948)
  • Summertime (1955)

With the latter — films mistakenly listed on other sites or lists as including reel librarians — many times, a bookseller is mistakenly identified as librarian, or a bookstore mistakenly identified as a library. That’s the case with The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), The Final Cut (2004), Night at the Museum (2006), Red Dragon (2002), and Sitting Pretty (1948). In my post analyzing Night at the Museum, I point out some helpful tips on how to spot the difference between a bookstore and a library onscreen. Other times, a mousy or spinster-ish female lead is mistaken for a librarian, like Katharine Hepburn in Summertime (1955) — in that film, she’s actually described as a “fancy secretary”.

Side note:  Katharine Hepburn did play a librarian in Desk Set (1957). Plus, one of her sisters, Peg Hepburn Perry, was a children’s librarian in real life, for over 50 years! She was featured in The Hollywood Librarian documentary, which I reviewed here in this post.


Wherefore art thou, reel librarians?


Films that complicate matters are the ones that mention librarians but don’t include any actual librarians. Here are four interesting examples:


Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941):  In this film, Miss Bishop, a college English professor, reflects back on her life. Miss Bishop advises a female student to take the librarian’s course, but we later find out the student became a “world-famous historian” instead. At one point, Miss Bishop also tells the university president 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.

You can read my full post about Cheers for Miss Bishop here.


Demolition Man (1993):  In this film, Sylvester Stallone plays John Spartan, a cop who is brought out of cryogenics in order to pursue an old enemy (Wesley Snipes) running rampant in a future, nonviolent 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.

You can read my full post about Demolition Man here.


Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970):  The main plot of this film involves the opportunistic Mr. Sloane, who lodges with an eccentric family, consisting of the aging nymphomaniac Kath, her uptight brother Ed, and their doddery Dadda. Kath lies to Ed, saying she met Sloane in the library.

You can read my full post about Entertaining Mr. Sloane here.


Spellbound (1945):  A psychiatrist realizes that the mental hospital’s new director, Dr. Edwardes, is an impostor 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, a hotel detective, guesses that her occupation is that of a librarian.

You can read my full post about Spellbound here.


Should there be a Class VI?


I have been thinking for awhile that the films that have been mistakenly listed as having reel librarians should be their own category, a new Class VI. What do y’all think? Does it overcomplicate matters? Or would it help clarify my “Reel Substance” section and balance out the film categories?

Please leave a comment and let me know!


2019 UPDATE: 


I have added a Class VI category! The official description for this new category is “films with no identifiable librarians and/or archivists, as these films have been mistakenly listed on other sites or lists of reel librarians.”

The Class V category now focuses solely on “films with no identifiable librarians and/or archivists, although they mention librarians and/or have scenes set in libraries.”

The Lindgren trilogy | Comparing the archivist character in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ book and film versions

LINDGREN.

I recently was able to watch the original Swedish film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), thus completing the cycle; I have also read the books — translated into English, of course — and watched the 2011 American film version of the first book in the trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I also blogged about the reel librarian character, Lindgren, who shows up in the book, in this post, and in the American film version, here in this post. And now, with this post, I complete the Lindgren trilogy.

However, Lindgren was nowhere to be found in the Swedish film adaptation, making it a Class V film. No “if looks could kill” librarian glare. No battle of wills between the reel librarian and the researcher/hacker Lisbeth. NO LINDGREN. Imagine my disappointment! 😦

(By the way, I am totally going to put her name in all caps from now on. Just because.)

Screenshot from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Getting lost in library stacks

Toward the end of the film, we do get the cinematic trick of cutting back and forth between Mikael and Lisbeth as they zero in on the killer’s identity, albeit from two different locations and pathways. Lisbeth figures it out by looking up archives at the Vanger Industry headquarters. This scene is briefly detailed in the book — again, click here for my post where I highlighted the specific book passages — and the scene, as well as Lindgren’s role, is actually expanded in the David Fincher’s American film version. In the Swedish version, however, this scene feels abbreviated, or at least simplified. There is no tension of Lisbeth racing against time and battling Lindgren for access to the locked archive files; instead, Frode provides archives access to Lisbeth up front. The tension is focused solely on Lisbeth tracking down clues from the archive files and receipts and running down the bookcase aisles with loads of books and file boxes in her arms.

Screenshot from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
My, what a book book you have

It is nice to know, however, that Lisbeth is as equally dismissive of Frode in the Swedish version as she was of LINDGREN in the American version. 😉

Screenshots from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
That’s all.

Funnily enough, there is an additional library scene in the Swedish version, when Lisbeth and Mikael research newspaper reports of earlier murders; the scene occurs a little more than halfway through the 2 1/2 hour running time. The library in that scene is obviously a public library, but alas, no librarian appears — not even in the background. It’s interesting to note that in the American version, the research of earlier murders is handled remotely, as Lisbeth gets to show off her research skills — and mastery of Boolean logic! — to track down online police and newspaper accounts of earlier murders.

Screenshot from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Research in the library… without a librarian

Although I bemoan the lost opportunity of another LINDGREN glare, I can understand why the character was dropped. The plot doesn’t lose anything major by axing the reel librarian character, although it was useful to know in the book (and American film version) that Martin Vangar was using LINDGREN as a way to keep tabs on Lisbeth’s whereabouts; this added another layer of awareness as the net tightened. However, the shorter and simpler archives scene in the Swedish version helps to amp up the pace toward the final third of the film. (By contrast, David Fincher spun out the archives scene in his version to add tension, which also worked.)


Librarian/archivist character name:


  • The book (2005):  Bodil Lindgren — we get her first name!
  • Swedish film version (2009):  N/A
  • American film version (2011):  Lindgren

Archives access:


  • The book (2005):  Lindgren is unhappy about giving Lisbeth access, “but Herr Frode had given her instructions that could not be misinterpreted. This slip of a girl was to be free to look at anything she pleased.”
  • Swedish film version (2009):  Frode, Henrik Vangar’s lawyer, personally introduces Lisbeth to the archives.
  • American film version (2011):  Lindgren tries to lock up. When Lisbeth resists and requires access to locked records, she tells Lindgren to “call Frode.”

Character references by Martin Vangar:


  • The book (2005):  “archives manager”
  • Swedish film version (2009):  N/A
  • American film version (2011):  “archives manager”

I quite enjoyed the 2009 Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, especially the fearless performance of Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. I found it interesting to mentally compare the Swedish and American versions — even beyond their choice to include LINDGREN or not! — and I honestly cannot choose a favorite. They are both done so well, and the lead actresses both so well cast, that the two films are equally good in my mind. One can enjoy both and appreciate them for the distinct expressions of artistic creativity they are.

The Swedish version gains points by being Swedish, of course, but the American version gains that ground back by including LINDGREN and that classic librarian glare.

If looks could kill
If looks could kill

And we end with that chill-worthy parting shot of LINDGREN from the 2011 American film version. You’re welcome. 😉

LINDGREN.


Sources used:


  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Dir. Niels Arden Oplev. Perf. Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Sven-Bertil Taube. Yellow Bird Films, 2009.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård. Columbia, 2011.
  • Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Millennium series. Vintage Crime, 2011.

‘Anatomy of a’ law library

Researching the night away in the law library

I recently rewatched the courtroom classic Anatomy of a Murder (1959), as it was on my Master List. I didn’t remember a librarian being in the film, but I did remember a pivotal scene set in a law library. And my memory was correct, there is no actual reel librarian in the movie — landing it in Class V territory — but there is indeed a law library scene in the film that is key to the trial, and therefore the plot of the film itself.

In the early scenes setting up the tone of the film and the main character Paul Biegler, played by James Stewart, we also get treated to Paul’s personal law library. His love of the old law books helps the audience trust him and his actions, as he is shown to be a careful and thoughtful person. Paul and his lawyer friend, Parnell, are settling down for a night in. Let’s listen in:

Paul:  In the evening, I sit around and drink bourbon whisky and read law with Parnell Emmitt McCarthy, one of the world’s great men.

Parnell: That was a kind word, Paulie. You know, I might have been. I look at you and see myself years ago, with the same love for the smell of the old brown books and the dusty office. [Pointing to the bookcase of law books] … The United States Supreme Court reports. Well, what should we read this evening, counselor? How about a little Chief Justice Holmes?

Private law library
Private law library

At that point, the phone rings. It’s a call from Laura Manion (Lee Remick), and her call for Biegler’s legal aid propels the story forward. Her husband, Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) is in jail for murdering a local man, Barney Quill; his stated reason for doing so is that he believed Quill had raped his wife. Is this killing legally justified?

By the way, this film was a landmark movie in being open about the issue of rape, at least in a legal setting. It also caused controversy — and banning in some states — because of its inclusion of such words as “bitch,” “contraceptive,” “panties,” “penetration,” “rape,” “slut,” and “sperm.”

Later, Lt. Manion meets with the army psychologist, Dr. Matthew Smith (Orson Bean), and brings back notes that he’s suffering from “dissociative reaction,” also known as “irresistible impulse.” This is their ticket to a temporary insanity defense.

Paul:  And what did he say about your knowing the difference between right and wrong when you shot Quill?

Manion:  I don’t think he said anything. Why, is that important?

Lt. Manion goes back to jail, and Parnell and Paul strategize:

Parnell:  You ever heard of a Michigan court accepting ‘irresistible impulse’ as insanity? .. Well, tomorrow’s Saturday. We just have the weekend before the trial. When do you want to start working?

Paul:  Tomorrow morning, early.

And, of course, “start working” means … going to the library! 😀

Apparently, they research in the law library all weekend, as the next scene dawns on a new day with the judge walking to the courthouse. Judge Weaver, played by legendary real-life lawyer Joseph N. Welch — he went up against and brought down Joseph McCarthy! — introduces himself to the court by saying, “And while I might appear to doze occasionally, you’ll find that I’m easily awakened, particularly if shaken gently by a good lawyer with a nice point of law.” ♥

Screenshot of Anatomy of a Murder
Peeking into the law library

Judge Weaver walks up past the door marked “Library” and stops after hearing a book thud. He quietly opens up the door and peeks in on the two lawyers drowning in law books. Judge Weaver smiles and backs out again, unnoticed by Paul and Parnell.

Screenshot of Anatomy of a Murder
Researching the night away in the law library
Screenshot of Anatomy of a Murder
Research paying off

By the way, the movie’s entry on IMDb.com reveals a fun trivia tidbit about the library set:

IMDb.com trivia of Anatomy of a Murder
IMDb.com trivia of Anatomy of a Murder

In this double-decker law library, the two lawyers find the precedent they need — at the same time!

Parnell:  Paulie.

PaulHey listen to this, Parn.

Parnell: Never mind that. Just find People v. Durfee, 62, Michigan, 486, Year 1886.

Paul: That’s it. I have it right here in the A.L.R. Listen. “The right and wrong test, though deemed unscientific, is adhered to by most states but the fact that one accused of committing a crime may have been able to comprehend the nature and consequences of this act and to know that it was wrong. Nevertheless … if he was forced to its execution by an impulse — by an impulse which he was powerless to control, he will be excused from punishment.” The Michigan Supreme Court did accept irresistible impulse. This is precedent.

Screenshot of Anatomy of a Murder
Research in the law library

Note:  The A.L.R. stands for American Law Reports, published since 1919, which remain a key resource for legal research. And I looked the case in the LexisNexis library database, and it’s a real case! Here’s a related screenshot of that case and its appeal:

People v. Durfee case snapshot from the LexisNexis database
People v. Durfee case snapshot from the LexisNexis database

That piece of precedent does get its day in court — or rather, its day in chambers. About 2 hrs and 15 mins into the film, the prosecution lawyers ask for a recess after the testimony of the army psychologist. Paul is ready and brings his law book to the conference in chambers, as seen in the screenshot below.

Judge's private library in Anatomy of a Murder
Judge’s private library in Anatomy of a Murder

The Assistant State Attorney Dancer (George C. Scott) and District Attorney Lodwick (Brooks West) ask if the defense wants to change its plea:

Lodwick:  You know a guy’s not considered legally nuts in Michigan unless he didn’t know right from wrong. Why don’t you get this over with?

Paul:  Your Honor, will you turn to page 486?

Lodwick:  What’s that?

Judge:  Appears to be a law book, Mr. Lodwick.

And, of course, Paul just happens to have left a fishing line hook in the book to mark its place. He and Judge Weaver enjoy a brief conversation about catching frogs, which frustrates the two prosecuting attorneys!

Screenshot of Anatomy of a Murder
Enjoying the rule of law

Lodwick:  What case is he citing, Judge? What is it, your honor?

Judge:  People vs. Durfee, 1886. Looks like a precedent. Would you like to read it Mr. Dancer?

Dancer:  No, thank you, Your Honor. I think I recall the case. We’re hooked … like the frog.

It’s a relatively subtle moment, but I like that it echoes back to Judge Weaver’s personal introduction that he appreciates being “shaken gently by a good lawyer with a nice point of law.” 🙂

And if you’d like to see more of a law library — as well as a reel law librarian — click here for my post on the 1988 Gary Oldman legal drama Criminal Law.


Sources used:


‘Kennel’ clubs and unsolved murders

The film also concludes in the library, where it all began.

The 1933 film The Kennel Murder Case, whose title refers to the initial location of the Long Island Kennel Club, is the fifth film in the Philo Vance series — but the fourth outing for star William Powell as the well-known detective. The author of the Philo Vance mystery series was S. S. Van Dine, who penned 12 books in the series and whose works inspired 15 film adaptations.

The Kennel Murder Case collage
The Kennel Murder Case collage

This effort is generally considered the best of the films and has been critically well-received, even being hailed as a “masterpiece” in 1984 by film historian William K. Everson.

The film showcases a classic locked-room mystery, and of course, only Philo Vance and his trusty Scottish terrier can sniff out the truth. (And if you’re thinking this sounds awfully familiar to William Powell’s other famous detective and mystery series, The Thin Man, you’re not alone.) Powell’s legendary portrayals as Nick Charles in The Thin Man are not that different from his portrayals of Philo Vance, as both detectives are witty, well-dressed, and urbane. Both detectives have a canine sideback, as well. However, The Thin Man series boasts Powell’s chemistry with leading lady Myrna Loy as Nora Charles.

For all its good points, The Kennel Murder Case does not, alas, feature a reel librarian. It therefore ends up in the Class V category, which are films that may feature libraries but not librarians. So why continue this post? In the first five minutes of the film, we are introduced to a private library, as well as a book called Unsolved Murders that becomes central to the mystery plot.

The private library in question belongs to Brisbane Coe (Frank Conroy), who employs a private secretary, Raymond Wrede (Ralph Morgan). Five minutes into the film, we are treated to a classic cinematic shot of a bookshelf, revealing a close-up of Brisbane’s face. The bookshelves serve as a natural framing device. Brisbane grabs a book entitled Unsolved Murders, places it in an overnight bag, and prepares to leave on a trip.

Screenshot of The Kennel Murder Case
Books in a private library in The Kennel Murder Case
Screenshot of The Kennel Murder Case
Unsolved Murders book

Here’s the conversation between Brisbane and his secretary:

Brisbane Coe (Frank Conroy): Now, let’s see here. Where did I put that? Ah, here it is. Unsolved Murders. Hah! You know, I almost forgot it. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep a wink tonight. Wondering who murdered who and why.

Raymond Wrede, the Secretary (Ralph Morgan):  How any intelligent man can read that drivel is beyond me, Brisbane.

The next morning, His brother, Archer Coe, who has a contentious relationship with his entire family, is found dead upstairs. The police declare it an apparent suicide … enter Philo Vance and his dog! While they’re searching the dead man’s room — which features another shot from the closet and behind a line of suit jackets, mirroring the earlier shot through the bookshelf — Philo gathers clues that his brother, Brisbane, had returned home from the train station. But the question remains, “What did he do with his bag?”

A little over a half-hour into the film, Philo leads the detectives to Grand Central Station, where they locate Brisbane’s bag. Philo takes out the Unsolved Murders book, which has a bookmark opening up to a chapter that includes a description just like the murder scene of his brother.

“… the door was locked from the inside…”

Unsolved Murders book excerpt
Unsolved Murders book excerpt

Philo Vance, after following the book’s description, demonstrates to the police how the lock was locked from the outside. He then gathers clues that the murder was actually committed downstairs in the library, not upstairs where the body was discovered! A series of witness statements follow, featuring more shots of the library and its distinctive double doors, as seen below.

Screenshot of The Kennel Murder Case
Private library doors

Gathering statements and clues like a dog sniffing in the garden for a bone, Philo Vance uncovers a double murder, canine abuse (!), and a case of mistaken identity. The film also concludes in the library, where it all began. So although the film does not feature a reel librarian, a library and a specific book provide both the central setting — and catalyst — for the central murder mystery.

Thrilling indeed!


Sources used:


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