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Libraries Go to Hollywood: Matilda

Famous Hollywood Hills in California, USA. Hollywood Sign. California Photo Collection.

By Annie Stockmal

This summer Falvey Library is going to the movies! Well, we’re using our beloved Library’s resources to research the coolest film scenes set in libraries. So grab a seat and a box of popcorn because the we’re going to look at when libraries go to Hollywood.

Although movies like It might try to give librarians a bad rap, the beloved 1996 classic Matilda, available in Falvey’s DVD Collection, contains one of the most heartwarming (and my personal favorite) depictions of libraries in film.

Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, Matilda is an ode to the power of books and education. Now, going to Falvey and reading books (probably) won’t give you telekinetic powers, but the film demonstrates how reading has the capacity to change our lives for the better, whether that’s furthering our pursuit of knowledge or escaping the stresses of everyday life. That’s something we at Falvey wholeheartedly agree with.

Before Matilda meets Miss Honey and the horrid Miss Trunchbull at Crunchem Hall Primary School, she begins her love of learning at her local library. With the help of a nice, grandma-coded librarian, Matilda is able to read her very first book and learns to find solace from her comically awful family through reading.

Photo courtesy of EEJCC on Wikimedia Commons

Matilda doesn’t just pay a service to kind librarians and the importance of reading. Director Danny DeVito and cinematographer Stefan Czapsky also capture its structural beauty. Although it’s branded as a public library in the movie, the majority of the library scenes were filmed in University of Southern California’s Doheny Memorial Library.

It’s not hard to make this massive library, adorned with high ceilings, stained glass, and beautiful stonework, look good. Yet, DeVito and Czapsky are able to use Doheny to make Matilda look even smaller (kind of like you might feel staring up at the tall windows in our own Dugan Polk Reading Room). It’s a memorable scene that sets up Matilda’s character and her aspirations.

Matilda isn’t the only film to appreciate Doheny’s beauty. You can also see the library featured in some pretty recognizable films, like Forrest Gump and The Graduate, both available in Falvey’s DVD Collection.

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.



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Last Modified: July 27, 2023

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