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Storm Center

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago

Back to 1950s

Back to Libraries and popular culture

 

Storm Center

 

"Storm Center" was a 1956 film starring Betty Davis as Alicia Hull, a character largely and loosely based on the situation where Ruth Brown dismissed from her position at the Bartlesville Public Library. Screenwriters Erick Moll and Daniel Taradash was inspired to write "Storm Center" from an article that appeared in the Saturday Review detailing the issues and actions surrounding Brown's dismissal from the Bartlesville Public Library. He invisioned "Storm Center" as a way to "fight McCarthyism through film". In fact, the original title for the film was "The Library".

 

Both Ruth Brown and Alicia Hull were public librarians who were fired from public libraries for refusing to remove material considered "communist" from their libraries, and both were caught up in a storm of local politics when the the local Library Board was taken over by angry powerful local anti-communists. They were both middle aged single women, and both had been in thier positions for a very long time (Brown for 30 years and Hull for 25).

 

However similarities end there.

 

The film version of events included a strong subplot with a young boy named Freddie Slater. Taradash called it a "love story", even though it was far from romantic. Hull shares her intense love of learning and books with the young man, dispite the disapproval of his father "who disdains books and cultural activities" and wishes that his son was not "different from other boys". When Hull loses her job, Freddie's father feeds his confusion and resentment to turn him away from her. The boy begins having violent nightmares and violent verbal outbursts towards Hull.

 

 

In the end, Freddie sets fire to the local library and Hull reconciles with her former enemies when the mayor asks her to return as head librarian. Hull famously vows "I'm going to stay here and I'm going to rebuild this library if I have to do with with my bare hands. And if anybody ever again tries to remove a book from it, he'll have to do it over my dead body!"

 

Though Taradash and Moll finished the script in 1951, it would take them years to find a producer brave enough to touch the piece. They connected with Stanley Kramer soon after the script was written and dispite angry letters, cautious studios, and the firm displeasure of the Catholic Legion of Decency, production began in 1955.

 

The film itself was directed by Taradash and won the first ever Chevalier de la Barre Prize for promotiong "the cause of freedom of expression and tolerance" at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956. The film premired to mixed and contradictory reviews in the States however. Some praised it for it's ability to connect with its audience and touch the heart, others said that the creators "failed to develop a film that whips up dramatic excitement or flames with passion in support of its theme."

 

The film has never been released on video or DVD.

 

 

Sources:

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049800/

 

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/storm-center.html

 

Robbins, Lousie. The Dismissal of Mrs. Ruth Brown. University of Oaklahoma Press: Norman, 2000. p128-153.

 

Crowther, Bosley. "Screen: 'Storm Center'; Bette Davis Star of Film at Normandie". The New York Times, October 22, 1956.

 

Photo Credits:

 

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~witzelal/EDUC7p10.html

 

http://www.dacre.org/flash/www/usi00189.jpg

 

http://www.thegreatescapeonline.com/nonmuze/images/MOVIE_TVFOTOPHOTO01268PHOTOBC.jpg

 

 

This entry created by Sarah Stumpf

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