Movies set in libraries are relatively rare, so it is a pleasure to recommend Quiet Please, Murder (1942) to all my librarian friends out there. We recorded it from the Fox Movie Channel. Its running length is only seventy minutes long, but the action never flags.
Starring the inimitable George Sanders as a murderous antiquarian book thief/forger and amateur psychologist who is in cahoots with glamorous, duplicitous Gail Patrick, turned out in impossibly high heels and ridiculous hats, the movie is set in the K Street branch of what must be the Washington, D.C. Public Library at the height of World War II. And what a library it is! It has an art department with a Picasso hanging on the wall and classical sculptures on display, a music department with beautiful instruments including a harp (which becomes a plot device), and a history department furnished with a lovely old Victorian settee along with some other choice pieces. Strangest of all, at least to librarians, the library has the most efficient shelvers anywhere, who whisk away books and reshelve them with the speed of light. Unfortunately, its security system and procedures for handling rare books are nothing to brag about, and this is what sets the plot in motion. Also not to be missed are the usually upstanding Sidney Blackmer as a ruthless Nazi agent, and a mute assassin who works for Blackmer. My favorite part of the movie was when a perky reference librarian painstakingly explains the Dewey Decimal System to the private investigator (Richard Denning); Denning eventually cracks the case with the aid of a call number.
This excerpt gives a taste of the movie, but here are some lines that I found particularly memorable. Some of them may even come in handy some day.
"Make him talk but don't finish him until we get the books."
"Say, I'm so scared, I have to get something to read."
"That little librarian, maybe she knows."
"Say, you've got a couple of books in here."
"We have two miles of books."
"I hate to disturb you, sister, but if you want books, this is the joint."
"A book never hurt anybody."
"Gee, how do you stand the quiet in here?"
"We've got to get the books and get out of here."
Finally, perhaps my favorite: "Each book has a number, just like the penitentiary."