‘Pride and Prejudice’ follow-up

From clergyman to librarian (and back again)

One major benefit of going back through every post while updating the site — other than, you know, updating the site! — was getting reacquainted with past posts. And I took note when I wrote that I wanted to follow up on some thing, to close the loop on specific questions or ideas. This post is one of those threads I wanted to follow up.


From clergyman to librarian:


Back in Feb. 2014, I analyzed the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice, in which the character of the “odious Mr. Collins” was changed from a clergyman in Jane Austen’s original novel to a librarian. And not just any librarian! Lady Catherine de Burgh’s personal librarian.

Here’s how he introduces himself in the 1940 film version (and how I reacted):

How Mr. Collins introduces himself as a librarian
How Mr. Collins introduces himself as a librarian

Back then, I researched a couple of theories about why his character was changed, which included both the height of the “screwball comedy” genre in cinema at the time, as well as the influence of the “Hays Code” that forbid “ridicule of the clergy.”

I also took note back then of the screenwriters and their source material:

[T]he film’s writing credits are lengthy: Aldous Huxley (!) and Jane Murfin are credited as co-authors of the screenplay, which also borrowed heavily from Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization of the play entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts. I haven’t obtained a copy of the play — and only bits of it are available to read for free online — to check if the character of Mr. Collins was turned into a librarian in Jerome’s version. I doubt it, but it would be nice to close that loop.

When I revisited that original 2014 post during my “revisiting favorite posts” series in Summer 2016, I continued to note that:

Rereading this post made me remember that I still need to get a copy of Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization of the play entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts, in order to close the loop on whether or not Collins’s profession is changed in the play this film is based on.

So. I finally requested a copy of Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization, Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts, through my college library’s InterLibrary Loan (ILL) service.

1934 Pride and Prejudice play
1934 Pride and Prejudice play

I now have my answer:

No doubt about it, Mr. Collins is a clergyman in this play.


Clergyman clues in the play:


Here’s how he is introduced, when Mr. Bennet breaks the news that Mr. Collins is coming to visit, in Act I:

ELIZABETH [to her father, Mr. Bennet]: Can he [Mr. Collins] be a sensible man, sir?

LYDIA: He sounds to me a bit of an ass.

MRS. BENNET: Now, Lydia, my love, is that a nice way to speak of a clergyman?

LYDIA: I thought I heard you refer to him as an odious creature a few minutes ago, Mama?

Clergyman introduction in Pride and Prejudice 1934 play
Clergyman conversation

And moments later, Mr. Collins arrives:

MR. BENNET: Mrs. Bennet, let me present the Reverend Mr. Collins, our esteemed cousin.

Act II drops in bits about Mr. Collins’s professional duties as a clergyman. For instance, Mrs. Bennet mentions that:

I suppose our dear cousin Collins is preparing his sermon for Sunday.

And right before he proposes to Elizabeth, Collins confirms that:

I had two sermons to prepare in readiness for my return to my parish.

It only took 5 years to get around to answering that question… but better late than never, right? 😉

Given the fact that this 1934 dramatization, which, along with the source novel, provided the foundation for the 1940 film version — and that this play still highlighted Mr. Collins as a man of the cloth — I think it makes sense that the screenwriters changed (or were forced to change?) Mr. Collins’s profession due to the main reasons I outlined previously. I think it likely that the Hays Code played a more prominent role in this character switch. As I noted back in 2014:

The occupational change seems to serve the absurd and ridiculous qualities of Mr. Collins — we do not pause and wonder at a bumbling librarian, whereas we might be offended at a bumbling clergyman.

Sigh.


Mentions of libraries in the play:


While I had the play on hand, I noted when/if libraries were mentioned at all, as Mr. Bennet uses his own private library as a retreat of sorts — from his wife, assuredly, but also probably from the world? — in the novel. And yes, both Mr. Bennet’s private library AND Lady Catherine de Burgh’s private library are mentioned.

In Act I, Scene I, right at the beginning of the play:

MR. BENNET: Hill! [a manservant] Take this book to the library! I don’t want Miss Lydia to read it.

In Act II, Scene I, Mr. Bennet’s library is also used as a retreat for Elizabeth, during Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal to her:

ELIZABETH: No, Mr. Collins, I will as plainly as possible say no. (She crosses to library door. He tries to get to door. She brushes him aside.) And you need not try to scamper in front of me again. This time I am going out by this door. (Exits R.)

Later, in Act II, Scene III, we get the only mention of Lady Catherine’s private library, during this brief exchange with Elizabeth:

LADY CATHERINE: Ah, you are writing letters, I see, Miss Bennet.

ELIZABETH: I was.

LADY CATHERINE: But why in this rom. We always write our letters in the library.

ELIZABETH: Yes, I know, Lady Catherine — But the library does not possess such a view — and I write with so much more inspiration when looking out on green trees and flowers.

In Act III, Scene I, the library is mentioned in the stage directions, when Lady Catherine is visiting Longbourn to try and intimidate Elizabeth before leaving in a huff:

LADY CATHERINE: I take no leave of you. I send no farewell message to your mother! Miss Bennet, I am seriously displeased.

(Mrs. Bennet comes in quickly from the library R. where she has probably tried to eavesdrop. Looking around room for Lady Catherine.)

Finally, in Act III, Scene II, Mr. Bennet’s library is again mentioned in stage directions, as Darcy makes his move (again) for Elizabeth’s hand. He knocks at the library door, which Elizabeth answers. She comes out of the library, and they sit on the sofa for the final proposal scene.


Library props:


And last but not least, props! I really enjoyed that the play included lists of costumes and props at the end.

Library props in 1934 Pride and Prejudice play
Library props

I’m assuming the following were included as props for the library:

  • 1 hanging shelf (in two sections) is listed in the “Bric a brac, etc.” heading
  • 70 leather bound books are listed in the “Small properties” heading

Comments?


Did you enjoy this trip down memory lane? Have you seen the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice and ever wondered why Mr. Collins was a bumbling librarian, rather than this usual bumbling clergyman self? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


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First impressions: ‘Captain Marvel’ and its archives scene

Cue the chase-and-fight scene in the archives!

Kicking off our now twice-monthly posting schedule (new posts go live now on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month — sign up for email updates!) is a new “first impressions” post. If you’re unfamiliar with this series, let me remedy that: these posts focus on more current films that I have watched in theaters that include reel librarians and/or library or archives scenes. The resulting “first impressions” posts are necessarily less detailed, as I don’t have the luxury of rewatching scenes and taking notes.

*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD*

I recently enjoyed watching Captain Marvel, the next movie in Marvel’s Avengers movie series, starring Brie Larson in the title role. I straight-up and unapologetically LOVED this movie. LOVED LOVED LOVED. How much? Let me count the ways:

  • Larson’s easy camaraderie with Samuel L. Jackson as a younger, pre-eyepatch-wearing Nick Fury (the digital erasure of Jackson’s naturally age-lined face was seamless, and I honestly didn’t even think about it while watching the film)
  • The ’90s setting with its cheeky pop culture references and soundtrack
  • Larson’s warm friendship with fellow pilot Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch) and her daughter, Monica (played by Akira Akbar) — I’m realllllllly hoping for Monica’s character returns as a character in the next Avengers movie!
  • Ben Mendelsohn’s rogue-ish charm evident even under several pounds of makeup in the character of Talos
  • The sight of Annette Bening looking bad-ass AF in a leather jacket
  • That last scene between Jude Law and Brie Larson
  • The film’s unapologetically feminist focus
  • That the film was co-directed and co-written by women
  • And last but not least, I felt SO SEEN whenever Nick Fury fell all over himself cooing and petting Goose the cat. This is the correct behavior around cats, and I am here for it. #FlerkensForever

I also was surprised — and appreciative! — of an archives scene that popped up about halfway (?) through the film, and you can spy glimpses of the archives scenes starting at 1:26 into the trailer embedded below:

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Trailer 2” video uploaded by Marvel Entertainment is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

This scene is vital to the plot, as it provides clues to the essential question of the film: Who is Carol Danvers? This question is the center of the film’s second-released trailer, seen above, when you hear Ben Mendelsohn’s voice asking:

“Would you like to know what you really are?”

And over the flashes of the archives scene, you can hear Brie Larson’s voice say:

“I think I had a life here.”

Using bits of fractured memories, Vers/Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and Fury go to a U.S. Air Force base to look up “Project Pegasus.” In the archives — which feature rows and rows and rows of neatly organized archival boxes — Vers easily finds the file she’s looking for. (I think she pulled down a box labeled “P” for “Pegasus,” but it might have been “L” for Bening’s character Wendy Lawson, but regardless, it was super easy to find — and further evidence for why an organizational system MATTERS, y’all!)

Archival boxes in the records scene in Captain Marvel (2019)
Archival boxes in the records scene in Captain Marvel (2019)
Nick Fury and Carol Danvers in the archives scene in Captain Marvel (2019)
Nick and Carol go fact-finding. Thank goodness for clearly labeled archives!

In that archival box — props to the propmaster for highlighting proper storage of archives, as this type of archival box would look familiar to any archivist or librarian — Fury and Vers discover evidence that she was a pilot presumed to have died in 1989 while testing an experimental jet engine designed by Lawson. This helps trigger more memories, as she starts putting together the pieces of her long-lost identity.

Photograph evidence of Carol Danvers as a pilot on Project Pegasus in Captain Marvel (2019)
Photograph evidence of Carol Danvers as a pilot on Project Pegasus

After this pivotal fact-finding scene in the U.S. Air Force Archives base, a S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by Talos (in disguise) tries to capture them. Cue the chase-and-fight scene in the archives! I also appreciated the automatic lighting used in the archives setting, as this detail is not only realistic to large archival collections (automatic lighting saves money), it also provides cinematic DRAMA during the entire scene, as Fury can’t move without triggering the lights and revealing his hiding spot. Long rows of bookshelves are always cinematic in scope, but adding automatic lighting is the cherry on top of this archival sundae. And they used this lighting effect in the trailer, too, set to beats of music.

Dramatic lighting in the archives scenes in Captain Marvel (2019)
Dramatic lighting in the archives

Alas, there is no archivist in this scene — I guess they didn’t need one since the archives were so well organized?! 😉 Therefore, this film lands in the Class V category, films with no identifiable librarians and/or archivists, although they mention them and/or have scenes set in libraries/archives.

To sum up, a library/archives scene — once again — provides pivotal clues to propel the plot forward. Just one more reason to love this action movie!


Have you seen Captain Marvel yet? What are your thoughts? Did you perk up during the archives scene? Are you #TeamFlerken? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


  • Captain Marvel. Dir. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Perf. Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch. Disney, 2019.
  • Captain Marvel (film)” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.

A variety of research scenes in ‘Double Jeopardy’

“Someone said I should try the internet.”

As we wind down this October, I’m back with another film analysis post, this time of the suspense thriller Double Jeopardy (1999), starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones.

Here’s the IMDb.com plot synopsis for the film:

“A woman framed for her husband’s murder suspects he is still alive; as she has already been tried for the crime, she can’t be re-prosecuted if she finds and kills him.”

There are so many factual errors in that plot synopsis alone. I won’t go into them here; check out the IMDb.com Goofs page for the film.

Here’s a quick trailer:

Double Jeopardy (1999) Official Trailer – Ashley Judd Movie HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

There are no actual reel librarians in this film, landing it in the Class V category. However, there are a few research scenes that I found interesting, so let’s dig in, shall we?


Research scene in the library:


After Libby (Ashley Judd) has served her time in prison for the crime of murdering Nick, her husband (Bruce Greenwood), she visits a public library to look up her former friend, the one who adopted Libby’s son, Matty. This library scene occurs 35 minutes into the film, and it was filmed at the main Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia. (I’ve been there!)

Research scene filmed in the Vancouver Public Library
Research scene filmed in the Vancouver Public Library

Since Libby’s been in prison the last 6 years, she’s not used to computers or concepts such as email. (Remember, this film was released in 1999.) She even says to a young man who stops to help her out on the computer that “Someone said I should try the internet.” I also really hope that “someone” was NOT a librarian!

This young man asks her a few questions — essentially doing a “reference interview” although it is clear that he is NOT a reel librarian. How do I know that?

  • He never identifies himself as a librarian
  • He is casually dressed, with a backpack or messenger bag (most likely marking him as a student)
  • He only agrees to help her after she reveals that she’s not looking for a guy friend (gross)
  • His role in the credits is listed as “Handsome Internet Expert,” hah!

After learning that her friend was a school teacher, he recommends that they start at the Washington State Department of Education directory site. Bingo!

Note:  There is no “Washington State Department of Education,” so this is a factual error. The Washington state educational agency is called the “Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,” otherwise known as OSPI.

While helping her, the young man continually attempts to flirt with her. This is Libby’s priceless reaction:

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)
Epic eye roll

After getting what she needs, Libby expertly sends the guy on his way by revealing that she had been convicted of murdering her husband. Buh-bye!

This library scene, with nary a reel librarian, lasts a total of 2 minutes. It is effective in helping Libby locate her friend, which gives her the next clue in tracking down her husband.

The best thing about this scene? The old-school web site designs, full of tables and frames. Ahhhhhhh, good times. 😉

Website screenshots from 'Double Jeopardy' library research scene
Remember when websites used to look like this?!

You can view the entire library research scene below.

Double Jeopardy (4/9) Movie CLIP – Library Pick-Up (1999) HD,” uploaded by Movieclips, Standard YouTube license

Research scene in the newspaper archives:


Fifty-eight minutes into the film, we next see Libby researching the death of her friend — she suspects at the hand of her husband! — by using microfilm in a local newspaper’s archives. It’s funny, Libby seems much more comfortable using microfilm than she did using a computer. That subtle body language is a nice touch. You can tell it’s a newspaper archives room because in the foreground, you can see newspapers being printed.

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)
A microfilm machine? Finally, something she knows how to use!

This scene lasts less than 30 seconds, but it provides a clue that leads Libby to the next step. In the photo used in the newspaper story about her friend’s death, Libby recognized a painting in the background.

Clue in the newspaper clipping
Clue in the newspaper clipping

Research scene in an art gallery:


And this next clue leads Abby to a particular painter, Wassily Kandinsky, her husband used to collect. So she heads to a local art gallery and asks the gallery owner to try and track down any purchasers of recent paintings by that artist. The gallery owner looks up the Art Net website for this info, while Libby looks on over his shoulder. (Nice reversal of the first research scene, where a guy looked over her shoulder at the computer!)

Research in the art gallery
Research in the art gallery

Fun fact:  The Art Net site still exists! It is a major art site used to “find artworks for sale, online auctions, top galleries, leading artists, and breaking art market news from around the globe.”

Below is a “then and now” collage from how the site (supposedly) looked in 1999, and how it looks now.

Then and now comparison of Art Net website
Then and now comparison of Art Net website

This art research scene lasts only a couple of minutes.


Adding up the value of research:


In total, all three scenes add up to less than 5 minutes total of screen time in Double Jeopardy, but they managed to pack in:

  • three different types of research;
  • different kinds of research tools, including websites and microfilm; as well as
  • different research locations, including a public library, newspaper archives, and an art gallery.

And each time, the research leads to vital clues that lead Libby to locating her husband and child.

All in all, Libby comes across as quite resourceful. My final thought is how much more quickly she might have tracked her husband down if she had utilized the resources of a reel librarian… 😉


Sources used:


Indiana Jones contradicts himself in ‘Crystal Skull’

“The real/reel Indiana Jones would never say ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library’!”

Last week, we looked at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which Indiana Jones praised the library, stating, “Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.” This week, let’s take a look at Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and a library scene in which Indiana Jones completely contradicts himself.

First up, a trailer to set the context for this most recent film in the series:

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Once again, as in the previous film in the series, we get a scene of Indiana Jones teaching. Twenty years later, he’s still wearing the same three-piece suit, polka-dotted bow-tie, and round glasses:

20 years later, Indiana Jones still teaching in the same suit and bow tie
20 years later, Indiana Jones still teaching in the same suit and bow tie

The library scene:


A little over a half-hour into the film, Indiana Jones meets with “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a guy with a chip on his shoulder the size of his motorcycle. Indy jumps onto the back of Mutt’s motorcycle to escape from Russian agents who are after him. To finally shake off the agents, they motor into… what else? The library!

Why wouldn't you drive into a library to escape Russian agents?!
Why wouldn’t you drive into a library to escape Russian agents?!
Interior of the library scene
Interior of the library scene

Although this scene lasts just under a minute total, Spielberg makes the most of it.

This exterior of the library scene was filmed outside Yale University’s iconic Sterling Memorial Library, standing in for Indiana Jones’s fictional Marshall College library. The interior of the library scenes were actually filmed in Yale’s dining hall!

Everyone is stunned to hear a noise in the library, let alone a motorcycle!

What's that noise? A motorcycle in the library, what else?
What’s that noise? A motorcycle in the library, what else?

The two nearly run over a male student with a huge stack of books in his arms:

Slow down, save the books!
Slow down, save the books!
The books go flying, as does the motorcycle
The books go flying, as does the motorcycle

The guy’s books go flying, as does the motorcycle swerving to miss him. Indy, Mutt, and the motorcycle skid under a batch of tables, finally coming to a stop in front of one of Indy’s students. (That is a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

Fun fact:  This student in the library is played by Chet Hanks, the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

I have a question...
I have a question…

And of course that student, unfazed by loud noises or sliding motorcycles and undeterred in his quest for knowledge (can you tell I think he’s the real hero of this scene?!), has a question for Dr. Jones:

Student in LibraryExcuse me, Dr. Jones? I just had a question on Dr. Hargrove’s normative culture model.

Indiana JonesForget Hargrove. Read Vere Gordon Childe on diffusionism. He spent most of his life in the field. If you want to be a good archeologist, you got to get out of the library!

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008)
… and I have a dumb answer.

BOO. Boo, I say. BOO.

And I am not the only one incensed by this scene and total about-face for Indy’s view of the library and its vital role in research and archeology.

The trivia on the Amazon Prime version of the film also pointed out this contradiction:

Trivia about the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" (2008)
Trivia

And my overseas counterpart, Colin Higgins from Libraries at the Movies, messaged me this:

Do you like Crystal Skull? I don’t, at all. One of the reasons I feel it must be non-canonical is Indy’s dissing of libraries after his motorbike ride through Yale’s Sterling. The real/reel Indiana Jones would never say ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library’!

I love Colin’s wording here, that (1) this film in the series is non-canonical because of its treatment of libraries, and (2) “dissing of libraries” is totally not in Indy’s character. Agreed on both counts!


Goofs


I also enjoyed this extra bit of trivia/goofs from Prime, delving into the mention of Vere Gordon Childe in Indiana Jones’s advice to the student:

Trivia about the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" (2008)
Goofs

Hah! So Vere Gordon Childe, an Australian archeologist (1892-1957), did spend almost his entire career in the library! And OF COURSE I double-checked this. While he did oversee excavation of archaeological sites in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Childe is indeed most well-known for being a “great synthesizer” of archeological research, publishing over 240 articles and 26 books in his lifetime. And Childe was HIMSELF librarian of the Royal Anthropological Institute at one time (!), so I don’t think he would have EVER advised a student to “get out of the library.”

So. Indiana Jones not only contradicts himself — and one of the primary messages and themes from the previous film — he GETS IT WRONG.

I think it’s clear that Indiana needs to get back to the library, stat! (Without the motorcycle this time.) 😉

Extras in the library scene in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008)
Extras in the library scene in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends up in the Class V category, as there are no reel librarians identified or distinguishable from all the other people in the library scene.


Continue with conversation:


What are your thoughts about this film in the Indiana Jones series and this library scene? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


“You went to the library” | The importance of library books in ‘Zodiac’

“Somebody didn’t want a record of ever having checked out these books.”

It often happens in my life that when I settle down to watch a movie at home, a library or librarian gets mentioned onscreen… and then date night turns into “film analysis” night. Like I have said before, once you are aware of reel librarians, you start seeing (or hearing about them) EVERYWHERE. 🙂

The movie in question this past week was David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac, based on the true events of the Zodiac serial killer, as detailed in the 1986 non-fiction book of the same name by Robert Graysmith. The Zodiac’s killing spree was in and around the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the killer sent several letters and ciphers to the police and newspapers. The film’s star-studded cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as newspaper cartoonist Graysmith, Robert Downey, Jr. as reporter Paul Avery, and Mark Ruffalo as Inspector David Toschi.

Here’s a trailer for Zodiac:

“Zodiac – Trailer,” uploaded by YouTube Movies, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License 

*POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD*

Although no librarian is featured in this movie, and no scenes are set in a library onscreen, this film DOES include several scenes that highlight libraries and library books. Reel librarians are often used as shortcuts for plot progression; in this case, just the library books themselves are used as plot shortcuts. Therefore, it’s a Class V film (no librarians featured), but I found it an interesting film to analyze, nonetheless.

Shall we?


Cracking the library code:


At 52 minutes into this 157-minute film (it’s a really long, slow-paced film, y’all), Graysmith is talking with Avery in a bar about a cipher the Zodiac killer used to write a note to the police, challenging the public to crack his message. Graysmith explains the starting point to figuring out the coded message. (Underlining throughout signifies my own emphasis.)

AveryBut how do you go from “A” is one, “B” is two to figuring out this whole code?

GraysmithSame way I did. You go to the library.

At this point, Graysmith takes out a book from his briefcase, a book entitled The Code Breakers by David Kahn.

NOTEThis is a real book, by the way, first published in 1967. I looked it up. ‘Cause librarian. 😉 And for sake of the timeline, the first official Zodiac killing occurred in 1969.

The Code Breakers book in a scene from Zodiac (2007)
The Code Breakers book in a scene from Zodiac (2007)

Graysmith In this book, the author presents a very simple substitution code in the preface. Eight of the 26 symbols that he suggests are in this cipher.

He then takes out another book from his briefcase, this one entitled Codes and Ciphers by John Laffin. This book describes another Middle Ages code called the “Zodiac Alphabet.”

NOTE:  Yep, another real book, this one published in 1964. Gotta hand it to the David Fincher team for its research skills. HOWEVER, that team overlooked the detail of including call numbers, because neither one of these books has a call number — and Graysmith clearly states that he got them from a library. A real library book would have a call number on the spine. Back in the 1960s, it was commonplace to strip the paper covers from hardback books, and then either paint on call numbers or otherwise affix typed call numbers onto the spine. But dully colored hardback books would not have cinematic impact, so I suspect the product team just bought first edition copies and didn’t think about call numbers. But librarians do! 😉

Codes and Ciphers book in a scene from Zodiac (2007)
Codes and Ciphers book in a scene from Zodiac (2007)

Newspaper research:


Any film involving reporters has to include a scene in the newspaper archives, right? This almost obligatory scene, lasting only a minute, occurs a little over an hour into the film. Avery takes Graysmith to the newspaper archives, looking for copies of the Modesto Bee. (Yep, a real newspaper, founded in 1884. Of course I had to look that up, too!) They gather clues from newspaper clippings to suggest that some killings the Zodiac killer confessed to are in doubt, because he only provides clues in letters written after articles in the newspaper came out.

Newspaper archives
Newspaper archives
Newspaper archives
Newspaper archives

I also wanted to include a couple of screenshots from this scene because of how visually they remind me of ANOTHER archives scene in a library directed by David Fincher, 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Read my analysis of that film here.)


Real library filming location:


I mentioned earlier that no scenes are set in a library onscreen. However, the production team did use a real-life library location… as a police station.

At one hour and 12 minutes into the film, several regional police officers travel to the Riverside Police Department to discuss a potential early victim of the Zodiac killer.

Here’s the narration of the victim’s last night — which also includes a library!

Cheri Jo Bates attended Riverside Community College. She studies in the library the night of Oct. 30, 1966. She leaves with an unidentified male at closing, 9 p.m. Her body’s found the next morning in a parking lot, stabbed to death.

This is based on true events; Bates’s murder has been linked to the Zodiac killings. Below is a screenshot of the note she left her father:  “Dad — went to RCC Library.

NOTE:  There is technically not a current “Riverside Community College.” There is now a Riverside City College, which had been known as “Riverside Community College” during the 1960s. The college is part of the Riverside Community College District. So the film got this detail correct, as the school was known as “Riverside Community College” during this time period.

Library note in victim's file
Library note in victim’s file
Real-life library filming location (interior) in Zodiac (2007)
Real-life library filming location (interior) in Zodiac (2007)

The interior and exteriors of this scene at the Riverside Police Station were filmed at the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum in Culver City, California. The library’s website includes a “Facility Rentals” page with “competitive film location pricing.” The photos on that page definitely correspond to the screenshots above and below.

Real-life library filming location (exterior) in Zodiac (2007)
Real-life library filming location (exterior) in Zodiac (2007)
Real-life library filming location (exterior) in Zodiac (2007)
Real-life library filming location (exterior) in Zodiac (2007)

“You went to the library”:


Graysmith continues to track down clues about the Zodiac killer, even when others have given up. At 1 hour and 44 minutes into the film, Graysmith visits Avery, who has left (been fired? or otherwise forced out?) from his job as a reporter and is living in a trailer. Avery challenges why Graysmith is even continuing down the Zodiac path.

GraysmithIt was important.

AveryThen what did you ever do about it? If it was so fucking important, then what did you ever do? You hovered over my desk, you stole from wastebaskets… you went to the library.

GraysmithI’m sorry I bothered you. [leaves]

I just want to point out that the man who basically says that Graysmith was doing nothing — that going to the library meant doing nothing — is living amidst trash and alcohol bottles and (un)dressed in boxers and a robe. Yeahhhhhh…. it’s Graysmith who has been doing nothing with his life. 😦

Avery sits in judgment, amidst beer bottles and Pong
Avery sits in judgment, amidst beer bottles and Pong

Library as alibi?


In the scene immediately following his confrontation with Avery, Graysmith arrives home late. His wife asks him where he has been.

Graysmith’s response?  “The library.”

He puts down books on the chair, the same code-breaking books we saw in the earlier scene with Avery. It’s not clear whether he’s using the library as an alibi, or if it’s where he really went after seeing Avery. Either explanation is plausible, although I’m erring toward the alibi angle.

The library as alibi? Complete with props!
The library as alibi? Complete with props!

Tracing library book records:


This next scene, between Graysmith and Inspector Toschi, feels like a companion piece to the first scene I mentioned between Graysmith and Avery; this scene takes place in a diner while the earlier scene occurred in a bar. Both involve library books.

This scene occurs at one hour, 47 minutes into the film, and lasts about a minute and a half.

GraysmithI wanted to ask you about the Zodiac. [Timeline note:  At this point, the Zodiac killer hadn’t written a letter in three years]

Toschi nods assent.

GraysmithCan I show you something? [Takes out books from his briefcase — sound familiar?] I’ve been doing research on the first cipher. Everything an amateur would need to create it can be found in these books. Now, I started thinking that if you can track these books, then maybe you can track the man. So I remember that you thought the Zodiac was military, so I went to every base library and I got a list of every person who’s ever checked out these books, and that’s when I found this.

He then takes out a sheaf of papers and hands them to Toschi. (Side note:  I did notice that at least one of the books below, a thinner tan-colored one, *does* have a call number label on its spine. Hurrah!)

Getting lists of library book checkouts in Zodiac (2007)
Getting lists of library book checkouts in Zodiac (2007)

ToschiMissing.

GraysmithIt means they were stolen.

ToschiSo, almost every book on ciphers was stolen from the Presidio Library?

GraysmithAnd the Oakland Army Terminal Library. Somebody didn’t want a record of ever having checked out these books.

ToschiWho are you again?

GraysmithI just wanna help.

I have to note that this scene reminded me very much of another David Fincher film, 1995’s Seven, in which they track down the killer through library checkouts. (Note to self:  I need to rewatch and analyze Seven soon for this blog!)

I also have to interject as a librarian about how UNETHICAL this is, what Graysmith just described. Librarians giving up library checkout information and records to a civilian??! Nope. No way. Nuh-uh. That requires a court order or a search warrant. If this detail is true — and in this scene, Graysmith clearly states, “I got a list of every person who’s ever checked out these books” — then he got those lists from unethical (or clueless) librarians or library workers. It reminds me of another, similar scene of an librarian doing this SAME THING, in 1943’s The Seventh Victim, in a post I entitled, “The horror of an unethical librarian.” Reel librarians may be shortcuts in movies, but we are NOT shortcuts to proper police procedures in real life.

Okay, soap box moment over. Now onto the final scene mentioning a library, or rather…


“The fuckin’ library”:


At two hours into the film, in a scene lasting fewer than 30 seconds, we see Avery drinking again, this time in a bar. (Progress?) The TV is on, and he looks up as a news reporter mentions the Zodiac killer. The reporter is interviewing Graysmith.

ReporterIn the decade since the Zodiac’s last cipher was received, every federal agency has taken a crack at decoding it. But today, where those agencies had failed, a cartoonist has succeeded.

Reporter, asking GraysmithHow did you do it?

GraysmithOh, uh, just a lot of books from the library.

TV news interview from Zodiac (2007)
TV news interview from Zodiac (2007)

Avery then quips, “Yeah, the fuckin’ library.

Avery comments, "Yeah. The fuckin' library" in a scene from Zodiac (2007)
Avery comments, “Yeah. The fuckin’ library” in a scene from Zodiac (2007)

That’s right, Avery, the fuckin’ library. 😉

And it’s amusing to me that the first scene that mentions library books happens with Avery, who was consistently condescending throughout the film about the library to Graysmith. But then Avery himself is the one who comes full circle, back to the library.

Here’s a screenshot of Avery’s facial expression from that first scene with Avery and the code-breaking library books. I feel his smug facial expression says it all.

Yep, that's right, the fuckin' library.
Yep, that’s right, the fuckin’ library.

There are 7 scenes total in this Class V film that mention libraries or library books or otherwise take place in an archives or library setting. The duration of those scenes last for a combined 12-15 minutes (only 10% out of a 157-minute running time!), but the combined scenes and library books leave a lasting impression.

Have you seen Zodiac? If so, do you remember the through-line and theme of library books and real-life research? Please leave a comment and share!


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