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Top Five Films Set In Bookshops

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Where The Written Word And Cinema Come Together

Films have been set in bookstores since the early days of the moving picture. Literature and film are inextricably linked. Some have gained iconic status and continue to be rewatched by older and younger generations. Here is a look at five of those classic films and their bookstores. 

5. The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep

Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a private detective in Los Angeles who is hired by General Sternwood, a wealthy, sickly older man, to assist in resolving the gambling debts of his young daughter, Carmen, played by Martha Vickers. Carmen’s elder sister, Vivian, played by Lauren Bacall, assists when she informs Marlowe that the situation is much more complex than he was originally led to believe. Not all of the famous scenes in The Big Sleep, directed by Howard Hawks, occur between Bogart and Bacall. One occurs between Bogart and an unnamed bookshop clerk at Acme Bookshop, played by Dorothy Malone. Marlowe enters the Acme bookshop and asks the unsuspecting and beautiful clerk for a favor, more specifically where he can get his hands on a “Ben-Hur 1863, third edition with a duplicate line on page 116″. She tells him such a book doesn’t exist, something he already knew. It is the same question he had just asked the phony clerk at Geiger’s Rare Books, but she just told Marlowe that they didn’t have it, tipping him off that the bookstore is a front. Marlowe later returns to Geiger’s shop, which serves as a pivotal location in the film.   

4. Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill

The Travel Book Company, based on a real store in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London called The Travel Bookshop, is at the heart of the film starring Julia Roberts as Anna Scott, a famous American actress, and Hugh Grant as William Thacker, a British man who owns the bookshop. The bookshop serves as the meeting point between Anna and William. Notting Hill, directed by Roger Michell, follows their characters as their chance meeting develops into a uniquely paired love story. The Travel Book Company serves as the stage of their relationship, ultimately being the place where the couple end up coming together time and again.  

3. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You Got Mail

Everything in You’ve Got Mail, directed by Nora Ephron, leads back to The Shop Around the Corner, owned by Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly and Fox Books, owned by Tom Hanks’ character Joe Fox and his family. The film personalizes the battle between small, independently owned businesses and the big box retailers. The bookshops serve as the setting and main point of conflict between Kathleen and Joe, who start an email chat romance, not knowing that they are real-life business competitors. The ending could be considered bittersweet as business is lost, but love is found. 

2. 84 Charing Cross Road (1987)

84 Charing

84 Charing Cross Road, based on the 1970 book of the same name, written by Helene Hanff, is directed by David Jones and chronicles the true story of the author, played by Anne Bancroft, a bibliophile who contacts the bookshop Marks & Co from New York in 1949 looking for obscure British classics. Frank Doel, the manager and book buyer, played by Anthony Hopkins, answers, fulfilling her request. Over time the two develop a long-distance friendship, even looping in other employees and Doel’s wife. Their natural bond is clear despite the distance. Over the years, Helene intends to visit London to meet her dear friends; however, various life happenings postpone her travel plans. She eventually does visit the shop in the summer of 1971 but not under the circumstances she originally had planned. 

1. Funny Face (1957)

Funny Face

What starts as a search by Maggie Prescott, an editor and publisher played by Kay Thompson, and top fashion photographer Dick Avery played by Fred Astaire, for a shooting location for a fashion magazine quickly develops into the finding of the new “it girl.” Audrey Hepburn’s character Jo Stockton runs the bookshop Embryo Concepts in Greenwich Village, New York. Maggie and Dick immediately identify Jo as the perfect blend of “beautiful” and “intellectual.” Despite Jo’s constant pushback and hopes of preserving the intellectual integrity of the bookshop and all things literary, Maggie and Dick persuade her to come to break out of her bookish shell and come to Paris. Jo agrees under the pretense that she will have the opportunity to attend a lecture by her philosophical hero Émile Flostre. This hope, however, turns out to be hugely disappointing. Funny Face, directed by Stanley Donen, is perhaps one of the most famous examples of the ugly duckling transformed into a beautiful swan trope. One can only hope that Jo remains the bookish soul she is at heart. 


While all five of these films are different in varying ways, they all share the commonality of bookshops being an integral setting of their plots. Bookshops have the ability to bring people together even in troubled times. They serve as meeting places, hives of intellectual activity, backdrops of conflict, and human connection. While bookshops have been declining in recent decades, it is evident through watching any of these films that the importance they serve to people and communities remains as essential as ever.  

Funny Face 1957 Official Trailer

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Stella Crouch
In addition to writing for Dead Talk News, Stella has also been published by The National Organization for Women, The Aurora Philosophy Institute, Phase Zero Magazine, and more. She has loved film since she was little, particularly old and obscure films. Stella currently attends The New School in New York City.