Friday, February 7, 2014

Classic Films About Librarians

It’s been difficult for movie librarians to move away from their stereotyped image as shy, conservative bookworms. Despite their star power, Greer Garson (Adventure), June Allyson (Good News), Shirley Jones (The Music Man), and Barbara Eden (The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao) did little to alter the stereotyping. 

In contrast, Bette Davis portrayed a fiery librarian fired for her refusal to censor a book on communism in 1956’s Storm Center. Jewish college dropout-turned-librarian Richard Benjamin ignored social conventions in his pursuit of country club heiress Ali MacGraw in the film version of Philip Roth’s frank bestseller Goodbye, Columbus (1969).  

Robards in Something Wicked.
Meek librarian Jason Robards, Jr., turned out to be the only person in town with enough courage and will power to confront the mysterious Mr. Dark in Ray Bradbury’s chilling, turn-of-the-century fantasy Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). In the 1974 oddity Mr. Sycamore, Robards played a mailman with a crush on librarian Jean Simmons and a bizarre desire to become a tree. (Note: The focus in this post is on classic films, which excludes recent movies like The Librarian telefilms with Noah Wylie.)

Scandal Street (1938)
Adventure (1945)
Good News (1947)
Katie Did It (1951)
Storm Center (1956)
Desk Set (aka His Other Woman) (1957)
The Music Man (1962)
Only Two Can Play (1962)
The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
Goodbye, Columbus (1969)
Mr. Sycamore (1974)
Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Off Beat (1986)

Reprinted with the authors' permission from the Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series.


  1. Fun! I am going to share this with my librarian friends.

  2. In 'The Mummy' (1999) Rachel Weisz plays a librarian opposite Brendan Fraser's Legionnaire.

  3. As a bit of an off-center librarian character, there's Donna Reed's Mary in "It's A Wonderful Life"'s alternate universe, where she's the town's repressed, unhappy librarian, having never married because George Bailey never existed. I always felt that Capra was being a bit unfair to librarians here. Frankly, I think it'd be a great job, to be always surrounded by books.

  4. Also, QUIET PLEASE, MURDER starring George Sanders as the book forging villain. Most of the film takes place in a library.

    1. That one should definitely be on the list. Hope TCM shows it sometime... Sounds quite intriguing.

  5. As a librarian, I'm always interested in a list like this. How about The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Richard Burton works in a library and there's a few others too. There's a web site devoted to this topic, of course:

  6. Forbidden (1932)
    Barbara Stanwyck is a librarian t the beginning of the film.

  7. No Man of Her Own (1932)
    Carole Lombard plays a librarian in the film.