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Storm Center (1956)

During the 1950s, a small-town librarian is shunned by the locals after she refuses the City Council's request to remove a book on Communism from the library's shelves.

Director:

Daniel Taradash

Writers:

Daniel Taradash (story and screenplay), Elick Moll (story and screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bette Davis ... Alicia Hull
Brian Keith ... Paul Duncan
Kim Hunter ... Martha Lockridge
Paul Kelly ... Judge Robert Ellerbee
Joe Mantell ... George Slater
Kevin Coughlin ... Freddie Slater
Sally Brophy Sally Brophy ... Laura Slater (as Sallie Brophie)
Howard Wierum Howard Wierum ... Mayor Levering
Curtis Cooksey ... Stacey Martin
Michael Raffetto ... Edgar Greenbaum
Joseph Kearns ... Mr. Morrisey
Edward Platt ... Rev. Wilson
Kathryn Grant ... Hazel Levering
Howard Wendell Howard Wendell ... Sen. Bascomb
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Storyline

A small-town librarian is branded as a Communist by local politicians when she refuses to withdraw a controversial book from the library's shelves. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

LONG AWAITED EVENT - BETTE DAVIS Hits the Screen in a Cyclone of Dramatic Fury! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 July 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Al centro dell'uragano See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Rosa, California, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The script was first offered to Stanley Kramer, a producer acclaimed for his films with a social conscience, including Home of the Brave [1949], High Noon [1952], and The Defiant Ones [1958]. Kramer offered the role of Alicia Hull to Hollywood legend Mary Pickford, who was looking to make a comeback. However, Pickford was quickly talked out of doing the film by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, an arch conservative and fervent anti-communist who warned Pickford that the film was pro-Red. Next, the part was offered to Irene Dunne, who also declined. Some claim that big-name stars Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young also turned it down because of the content. See more »

Quotes

Alicia Hull: How about helping out an old friend?
Freddie Slater: Your not my friend!
Alicia Hull: Freddie.
Freddie Slater: You're not anybody's friend! They kicked you out! You don't belong here. They found out about you! You want to destroy us! Your like all the rest of them! They found out what you were doing! You don't belong here! Your not the librarian anymore. Your a communist! A communist! A communist! A communist!
See more »

Soundtracks

Hymn to Our Library
(uncredited)
Lyrics by Elick Moll
Music by Morris Stoloff
See more »

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User Reviews

 
From The Embers of the McCarthy Era
16 December 2005 | by theowinthropSee all my reviews

Between the time that Bette Davis finished THE STAR and her appearance in POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, none of her films was an outstanding box office success. This was not a problem that she alone suffered. Only a handful of the stars of the 1930s and 1940s were able to maintain their starring positions in the 1950s, many being plagued by bad health, aging, or blacklisting. Davis at least still had some films to appear in, including this forgotten one: STORM CENTER. For a woman who was (at the time) washed up, Davis demonstrated she could still deliver a restrained and intelligent performance in a picture with an important message.

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS

STORM CENTER is about politics and censorship. Davis is a librarian, and is only concerned in running her town library as well as possible, and in encouraging literacy among the children of the town. One of the children is played by Kevin Coughlin, a wonderful child actor who would grow into a capable actor before being killed in a traffic accident when only 30 years old. Kevin is bookish - too bookish according to his "know nothing" blue-collar father (Joe Mantell). There is a struggle or tug of war between Mantell, wanting his son to be more like a typical boy (i.e. a sports oriented kid) and Davis, who wants Kevin's mind to grow.

Adding to her problems is that a book in the library that Davis has put out is controversial. A number of citizens would like it removed. Brian Keith, a new member of the city council, decides to take this up as a political issue (for his own advantage, of course). Soon, all sorts of pressures are put on Davis to get rid of the nasty book, and she refuses to do so. The pressures turn nastier and nastier. Despite the support of an old friend (Paul Kelly), Davis faces dismissal. In the meantime Kevin has been affected by the near hysteria sweeping through the town. His father is pretty happy about that - maybe his son will become normal. The father lets Kevin know that the problem is the library itself. So Kevin, in his own hysterical state, sets fire to the town's library.

I saw this film only once, back in the 1970s. The arson sequence always remained with me, for the director/writer Daniel Taradash, showed the names of the titles of the burning books throughout the building. There is a build-up in the titles, as most are classic or well known works, but the last is a life of Jesus Christ - certainly the last person most right wing American fanatics would think of destroying (at least in their claimed rhetoric) from among all potential targets.

There is a sense of shame at the conclusion from Keith and the townspeople, but Davis shows no triumph over them. She simply starts planning to rebuild the library, and starts planning to help Kevin regain his normal state of mind.

It was a fine piece of film, and it is a pity it is so little known or remembered. More people should have a chance to watch it and decide for themselves about it.


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