Monday, November 24, 2014

Case Study No. 1694: Unnamed Female Librarian (The Philadelphia Story)

The Philadelphia Story - Library scene
Funny scene from "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)
Tags: philadelphia story 1940 james jimmy stewart library scene funny thee
Added: 3 years ago
From: BrazenWizard
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[scene opens with a young man entering the public library, as he walks over to a bookshelf directly behind the conservatively-dressed older female librarian (who looks up from the books she's reshelving when she notices him standing there)]
LIBRARIAN: What is thee wish?
[the man (not really paying attention to her) continues looking at the shelf]
MIKE: Oh, I'm looking for some local b--
[it suddenly dawns on him what she just said, so he slowly turns to look at her]
MIKE: What'd you say?
LIBRARIAN: What is thee wish?
[he continues staring at her, with a bemused look on his face]
MIKE: Um, local biography or history.
[she points to someone off camera]
LIBRARIAN: If thee will consult with my colleague in there.
MIKE: Mm-hmm ...
[he starts to walk away, as the librarian moves on to the shelf he was browsing to continue reshelving, when he turns back]
MIKE: Dost thou have a washroom?
[she smiles and points in the opposite direction]
MIKE: Thank thee.
[she goes back to reshelving, as he gives her one more incredulous look before moving on]




The Philadelphia Story Cukor, George (Director). The Philadelphia Story. United States: Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, 1940.

Starring: Hilda Plowright (Librarian); James Stewart (Mike Connor); Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Lord); Cary Grant (C.K. Dexter Haven)

Based on the Play: Barry, Phillip. The Philadelphia Story: A Comedy in Three Acts. New York: Coward-McCann, 1939.

And Broadway Play (1938) Starring: Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Lord; in 1980 Blythe Danner revised the role on Broadway for a brief run). Donald Ogden Stewart won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Haven's grandfather built the vine-covered public library that briefly appears in this witty film that relaunched Hepburn's career and won Stewart his only Oscar. The dialog is crisp and funny, especially when writer Mike Connor (Stewart) goes to the library to research the history of the hoity-toity Lord family. The conservative librarian (no glasses!) asks him, "What does thee wish?" He tells her, and she replies, "If thee will consult with my colleague in there." He then asks, "Dost thou have a washroom? Thank thee." (One must assume the librarian is a Quaker but it's never specified.) Of course he gets shushed when speaking with Miss Lord (who happens to be sitting there reading one of his books). Wonderful repartee in this film. Tracy to short-story author Connor: "People buy books, don't they?" "Not as long as there's a library around." Wise-acre Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) later says to Connor, "I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know, one time I secretly wanted to be a writer." No heavy library themes here, but you can use it as your excuse to re-watch this light and lively early movie featuring three true Hollywood stars in their prime.



In "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), journalist Macaulay Connor (James Stewart) visits a public library to research some local biography and history. Macaulay meets a librarian (uncredited; Hilda Plowright), evidently a Quaker as suggested by her usage of "three" and "thou," who momentarily stops shelving books in order to provide assistance. She wears a front pleated dress with small lace collar and has a low fishtail bun.

As he walks around the library, Macaulay meets Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) at a library table reading his book. As they chat, their voices elevate, and the librarian twice gives them a "shush" as she walks by the table.

Actress Plowright projects the stereotypical image and adds one new dimension to the stereotype in American films - the "shush" for silence. Although the "shush" was used seven years earlier in "The Good Companions," Plowright is the first American reel librarian the authors detected using the term; succeeding reel librarians added the "shush" to their vocabulary almost immediately.

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