March Adult Book Groups

The Chester County Library Evening and Afternoon Book Discussion groups have returned to in person meetings. The other groups are remaining virtual.  Please see our March titles and dates below. The online groups are being held via Zoom. We are requiring registration for these online book groups in order to send out the Zoom meeting information. Click on the date below to register. Information on our adult book groups can also be found on our website:

Evening Book Group
Monday, March 7, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library.

Page Turners Book Group
Thursday, March 10, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Whodunits Book Group
Wednesday, March 16 , 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

Afternoon Book Group
Wednesday, March 16, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library. 

Comics Unbound Group
Monday, March 21, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Registration is required for all book groups. Registration will close at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled start time of the book group. A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 2 hours before the book group starts.  Make sure to check the email address you registered with to receive the link.  You do not need a Zoom account to attend the virtual book group.

These programs support the PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy Initiative.

February Staff Picks

Felicia’s picks

Fiona Apple/ Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple’s fifth album is a phenomenal culmination of her career, and an overall fantastic listen.

Ex Machina (2014)

This small-scale sci-fi focuses on a high-stakes turing test between a newly developed artificial intelligence and an unsuspecting office worker.

Kim’s Picks

Season of the Osprey (2021)

Another miraculous bird, the osprey flies 4,000 miles from the Amazon basin to the Connecticut River Delta to mate, brood, catch hundreds of fish, and fend off thieving cormorants and eagles. Illuminating, beautifully photographed PBS documentary.

Devotion:  An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice (2015)

Jessie Brown, a black sharecropper’s son from Mississippi and Tom Hubner, a white son of a hardware store chain owner from Rhode Island develop a close bond while flying Navy Corsairs, distinctly sketchy WW II fixed-wing fighters converted into ground attack planes during the Korean war.  Makos, author of the bestseller Spearhead:  An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy and a Collision of Lives in World War II (2019) originally envisioned his tale as a magazine article but it quickly became a story so big it demanded novel length.  The story moves back and forth between Jessie and Tom, air and land operations.  Oddly enough, rising Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor has a small but significant role. Provides insight into the Cold War, carrier and ground warfare, and race.  

Eric’s Picks

Werewolves Within (2021)

A perfect comedic feast from beginning to end that is guaranteed to make you howl with laughter! Featuring the best ensemble of fresh, new comedic talent assembled in the last 10 years and masterfully directed by up-and-coming talent: Josh Rubin; this film is the unsung gem of 2021 and guaranteed to skyrocket to cult status! Rent it now so you can be that cool friend who heard about it first.

Pet (2019)

Set in a utopian future where all of society’s monsters have been vanquished, a transgender girl named Jam accidentally brings a creature named “Pet” to life from one of her mother’s paintings. Pet tells Jam that there are indeed still monsters living among them and that it is there to hunt one which resides within the family of her best friend. Wholly unique and raw, Pet serves as a commentary on abuse in many forms and the healing power of facing uncomfortable truths with those who love and support you. (Trigger warnings as the material does touch upon characters dealing with sexual abuse.)

Jessie’s Picks

So Far – The best of Sinéad O’Connor (1997)

This greatest hits compilation covers the Irish singer’s first eleven years (1986-1997) and four albums. It includes her biggest song, a cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” along with her overseas hits and some rarities. If you like her Prince cover, then check out this compilation to discover some more of her great songs.

42: The Jackie Robinson Story (2013)

Chadwick Boseman gave a great performance portraying Jackie Robinson. He brings to life the struggles and triumphs of Jackie Robinson’s race barrier breaking joining of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The League of Alternate Superstars: Dana Andrews

Carver Dana Andrews was one of 13 children born on a Mississippi farm in 1909.  (Actor Steve Forrest was his brother.)  In 1931 he tried his hand at singing in Los Angeles.  His film career began when given a contract with Samuel Goldwyn Productions but he became more of a fixture at 20th Century-Fox.  He was versatile, playing detectives, westerners, soldiers and sailors.  He came in for some small praise in David Shipman’s The Great Movie Stars:  The International Years:  “…he never got in anybody’s way, his sober-citizen appearance made its own mild contribution to the texture of the films in which he appeared.  He projected a certain authority, grave-faced and grave-voiced, a certain masculine concern and an air of restrained heroism—all qualities used well in his two best films, The Ox-Bow Incident and A Walk in the Sun.”  (At least Andrews made the book.  Shipman was often unusually harsh in his examination of many actors’ careers.  In his short analysis of Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives, he said he was “good” under director William Wyler but that his co-star, Virginia Mayo, soon to be a frequent Danny Kaye partner, as Andrews’ trampish spouse, gave “her one good screen portrayal….”—despite dozens of star outings!)  In The Hollywood Story, Joel Finler ranked Andrews an “important star” in his 20th Century-Fox star pantheon chart.   

The Ox-Bow Incident

Andrews rose through the ranks and early on, as Shipman observed, received his best early notices as a lynching victim in 20th Century-Fox’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) with Henry Fonda in the lead.  Back at Goldwyn that same year, he was directed by Lewis Milestone, heralded helmsman of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and frequent future combat films, including The North Star, a propaganda film extolling Ukrainian resistance to the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  Andrews was in that, too, as well as Milestone’s The Purple Heart (1944).   

Then came Laura (1944), one of the most universally praised noir films.


Eddie Muller, host of TCM’s series Noir Alley, considers Andrews the finest exemplar of the ubiquitous fedora worn by cops and hoods alike.    

Andrews never stopped acting, in film and on stage.  He was a fixture as military officers in the 1960s.  See The Satan Bug (1965), In Harm’s Way (1965), Battle of the Bulge (1965), and The Devil’s Brigade (1967).  Andrews was dogged by alcoholism for many years but finally licked it and spoke on behalf of the National Council of Alcoholism in 1976.  Andrews died in 1992 at age 83. 

Dana Andrews’ Most Significant Movies

The Ox-Bow Incident (20th Century-Fox, 1943)  A vigilante posse rounds up three men (Andrews, Anthony Quinn, Harry Morgan) they think are cattle rustlers.  The well-taken arguments against a lynching by Gil (Henry Fonda, who himself witnessed mob violence and the ensuing lynching of an African-American in Omaha in 1919) are disregarded.

The Purple Heart (20th Century-Fox, 1944)  Downed U.S. airmen are put on trial by the Japanese.  It’s a “kangaroo court” and they are tortured and scheduled for execution.  Andrews is the officer in charge of the prisoners.

Laura (20th Century Fox, 1944)  In probably one of the top six of the crime subgenre known as “film noir,” Andrews begins his era as a fedora-wearing detective, here investigating the presumed murder of the beautiful Laura (Gene Tierney), whose portrait haunts him.  The Los Angeles Times reviewer was much impressed by individual scenes:  “There is one that is outstandingly enacted by Andrews, while he is alone in the apartment of the murdered woman.  A portrait hanging on the wall reveals the magic that she exerts and is a symbol of this spell.  It is action carried out without a single word being spoken, yet it is remarkably compelling.  The audience at the Fox Wilshire last night quite evidently fell under the hypnotic influence of the scene, for under ordinary circumstances it would have appeared too protracted.  But its force was fully conveyed.”  The Film Noir Encyclopedia extolled Andrews’ performance:  “Overshadowed by Clifton Webb’s marvelously idiosyncratic performance as Lydecker, Andrews’ quieter portrayal deserves more attention. With his haunted eyes, taut yet sensitive mouth, and softly insinuating voice, Andrews is a highly evocative screen presence, conveying more with a look than many actors do with a soliloquy.  As the pragmatic, unromantic cop who, when asked by Lydecker if he’s ever been in love, replies, ‘A doll in Washington Heights got a fox fur out of me once,’ he is only able to love the perfumed ghost of a woman he believes is dead, and who becomes a dream expressed in a work of art.”  

State Fair (Fox, 1945)  Andrews could sing a little, but the studio forgot and he was dubbed.  Wearing a straw fedora, he squires Jeanne Crain around the Iowa State Fair in this famous piece of Americana featuring two Rodgers and Hammerstein songs that became standards:  “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” and “It Might As Well Be Spring.” 

A Walk in the Sun

A Walk in the Sun (Fox, 1945)  One of the best and most realistic U.S. combat movies made during the war is not openly propagandistic.  (Others in this small fraternity include Sahara; The Story of G. I. Joe; Destination Tokyo; They Were Expendable; Objective, Burma!)  Once more it’s Lewis Milestone in the director’s chair.  Leaving the Salerno beachhead in Italy, a U.S. platoon is entailed with rousting Germans from an isolated farmhouse.  Casualties inflicted by air and ground cause command to devolve onto Andrews’ Sergeant Tyne.  War Movies called it “memorable” and gave special praise to Andrews and Richard Conte. 

The Best Years of Our Lives (Samuel Goldwyn, 1946)  The multi-Academy Award winning masterpiece from director William Wyler about returning veterans features Andrews as a Fred Derry, former bombardier, seeking something more than a soda jerk job and finding that his wife has been no paragon of virtue during his absence.  Andrews is center stage in one of the great scenes in cinema history:  walking dumbfounded through a bomber graveyard, a multitude of planes rolled straight from the factory to these broad fields outside Boone City.  Destination:  scrap heap.    

Canyon Passage (Universal/Walter Wanger Productions, 1947)  Relatively unsung and rather unique Technicolor western was filmed on location in the Pacific Northwest where settlers try to co-exist peacefully with the indigenous tribe.  The fly in the ointment is the brutish Honey Bragg (Ward Bond), who kills a female tribe member, inciting a war.  (The late radio DJ and movie maven Ken Garland said that if you are asked to name a character actor in a particular old movie and must guess, guess Ward Bond.)  Andrews plays a freight transporter and Bragg’s nemesis.  Susan Hayward’s flaming red hair vies with the scenery for accolades.  “Dana Andrews’ work may be the best of his career, as the steady-nerved, pipe-smoking Logan Stuart,” wrote Brian Garfield in Western Films:  A Complete Guide.

Boomerang (Fox, 1947)  Director Elia Kazan’s third film—before classics like Gentleman’s Agreement, A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and Viva Zapata—was termed a “docu-noir” by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini, whose commentary on the DVD is exceptional.  Based on the real-life murder of a clergyman in a Connecticut town, vagrant John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy) is given short shrift by the legal establishment and townsfolk until State’s Attorney Henry Harvey (Andrews) realizes that the so-called evidence is shaky at best and dismisses charges.    

My Foolish Heart

My Foolish Heart (Samuel Goldwyn/RKO, 1949)  The accidental demise of her new beau, Walt Dreiser (Andrews) leaves Eloise Winters (Susan Hayward) with an unexpected child, no husband and the potential for ostracism.  Based on J. D. Salinger’s “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut,” this film version was hated by the author, but it’s an affecting tearjerker with one of composer Victor Young’s greatest tunes.  Andrews makes the most of his screen time.   

Where the Sidewalk Ends (Fox, 1950)  A well-regarded (“dialogue is consistently pungent,” said The New York Times Guide to Movies on TV), Otto Preminger-directed noir features Andrews as detective Mark Dixon, so angry his father was a hood that he metes out his own justice on the criminals with whom he comes into contact.  Ironically, he accidentally kills a miscreant and decides to lay the blame on mob boss Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill).  It’s a recipe for personal disaster. 

Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon; Columbia, 1957)  Scoring 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, this terror tale is based on M.R. James’ classic 1911 short story, “Casting the Runes.”  Arriving in England to participate in a parapsychology conference, the skeptical Dr. John Holden (Andrews) finds himself confronting the seemingly benign Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), unaware that the man is a satanist capable of summoning a noxious demon whose horrific mission of murder cannot be thwarted once the spell is cast.  Incredibly unsettling horror from Jacques Tourneur, a master of all genres (I Walked with a Zombie, Cat People, Out of the Past, The Flame and the Arrow) who’d directed Andrews in Canyon Passage.  You will see the demon, which irked some critics, but the most perspicacious realized that not showing it would provide no fun at all. 

By Kim


Christy, Marian.  “Andrews Conquers Drinking Problem.”  South Florida Sun-Sentinel (June 21,1985).

Finler, Joel.  The Hollywood Story.  1988.

Garfield, Brian.  Western Films:  A Complete Guide.  1982.

Garland, Brock.  War Movies.  1987.

Morella, Joe.  The Films of World War II.  1973.

Schallert, Edwin.  Los Angeles Times (November 17, 1944).

Shipman, David.  The Great Movie Stars:  The Golden Years.  1970. 

Silver, Alain, and Ward, Elizabeth.  The Film Noir Encyclopedia.  3rd ed.  1993.  Julie Kirgo on Laura.

Thompson, Howard, ed.  The New York Times Guide to Movies on TV.  1970. Vieira, Mark A.  Into the Dark:  The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950.  2016.

Multimedia New Releases – February 2022




CCLS/CCL Board Meeting

Due to the easing of COVID restrictions, the Board of Trustees of the Chester County Library System/Chester County Library will now be hosting their monthly board meeting as a hybrid offering. If you have always wanted to attend a meeting but haven’t had the time, this is your opportunity. Please click on this link at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 15 to join the Chester County Library System Board Meeting virtually; or attend in person at Chester County Library, 450 Exton Square Parkway, PA 19341. The Chester County Library Board Meeting will immediately follow. Find the Chester County Library Board Packet here.

If you are a person with a disability and wish to attend this meeting and require an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to observe or participate in the proceedings, please call Chester County Library’s Administration Office at 610-344-5600 to discuss how we may best accommodate your needs.

February KClub Meeting

Been watching K-Dramas for years and want to meet new K-Drama lovers?  Love BTS but don’t know much about Korean television?  Break out the kimchi and join us to watch an episode of one the hottest Korean shows, then pop onto a Zoom call to chat about the show, the newest Korean music, and Korean culture – all from the comfort of our own homes.

On February 13, from 3:00pm – 5:00pm, we will be watching the pilot episode of “W: Two Worlds.”  “W: Two Worlds” tells the story of the clash between two worlds – the “real” world and a parallel universe set within a webtoon. Kang Chul, main character of the webtoon, is a self-made millionaire with a tragic past. Oh Yeon-joo is a cardiothoracic surgeon resident and daughter of the webtoon’s illustrator. When her father goes mysteriously missing, she goes looking for him at his office and gets dragged into the world of the webtoon just in time to save Kang Chul’s life. Part thriller, part romance, part urban fantasy, this is a great drama for celebrating this year’s palindrome date, Twosday, as well as Valentine’s Day.

Ages 16+

Registration is required to receive the Zoom link and viewing instructions.  Register on the event calendar here.

For questions, please email us at:

Chester County Library Welcomes New Director

New Director of Chester County Library and Henrietta Hankin Branch, Mary Gazdik

Chester County Library and Henrietta Hankin Branch have announced Mary Gazdik as its next library director. She will succeed Marguerite Dube, who retired at the end of April after 20 years with the organization.

Gazdik’s understanding of a library’s role in the community comes with over 20 years of prior experience and proven accomplishments providing innovative library services to the community and building great teams that help execute exemplary customer service. Before joining Chester County Library, she was the director at Middletown Free Library in Delaware County for ten years. Before this, Gazdik was the Library Director in Narbeth and a Head Librarian at the Glenside Library in the Cheltenham Library system (both in Montgomery County).

Joe Sherwood, Executive Director for Chester County Library System, praised Gazdik’s “extensive experience as a public library director—starting her career as a Teen Librarian before moving into the administration of small and medium-sized libraries. She brings a mix of service to various constituencies with a thorough knowledge of library services.”

“In her variety of positions, she has pushed for better customer contact to technology and formats. Particularly her work at the forefront of public libraries’ maker spaces and the advancement of new technology access for the public shows that she has the vision to lead the Chester County Library & District Center into the future,” Sherwood said.

Gazdik started her new role on January 31st. Her responsibilities will include all aspects of library operations, future strategy and direction, donor relations, and fundraising. “As I start my new role, I am most looking forward to getting to know the community and staff and to continue the wonderful work the library has been doing in building strategic partnerships with other community organizations and leaders,” said Gazdik. “I am especially excited to share my passion for maker spaces and creative learning in libraries and the way they connect people through curiosity and discovery.”

Library staff and the Library Board of Trustees are equally delighted to welcome Mary as the new Director for Chester County Library. Chester County Library System Board President JoAnn Weinberger said of Gazdik’s appointment: “On behalf of the entire Board, we have the utmost confidence that this appointment as Director for Chester County Library will be one of continued success, always keeping our library community at the forefront of technology, programs, and future initiatives. Mary’s proven track record of leadership and management demonstrates the critical skills needed as we strive to provide the highest quality and diversity of programs and services our community wants.”

The Bitter Chocolate Binge:

Perfect Movies to Watch on Valentine’s Day When You’re Single

It has only been a month into the new year when a feeling of dread falls over you. You wake one morning and look at the calendar next to your bed. It is already February, which means one thing: Valentine’s Day is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it. When it arrives, the sun shines brighter, birds chirp everywhere you go and, no matter where you look, couples are holding hands. It will be awful… Okay, okay, so maybe we are being a bit melodramatic but the truth is that Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a downer. It’s a holiday that seems engineered to be an annual reminder that you are still single.

This year, we at the Chester County Multimedia Department have concocted our own batch of movies, hand-selected to salve any of your Valentine’s Day woes. From perfect break-up comedies to those cautionary relationship horror flicks, we guarantee that when you are finished with our watch list, you will feel great about your single status.  So, this February 14th, put down the traditional sugary picks and try a marathon of something decidedly more bitter, but oh so enjoyable!  

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Topping off our list is a real nail-biter of a film that may make you swear off going on dates for a while. Fatal Attraction follows the story of a married man (Michael Douglas in the prime of his 80’s movie star run) who has a weekend affair with a new co-worker anmed Alex (Glenn Close). What begins as a passionate fling soon unfolds into a pulse pounding fight for his life when Alex refuses to let him go . This film was nominated for six Academy Awards including: Best Director (Adrian Lyme), Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Anne Archer), and Best Actress (Glenn Close, in a career-making, powerhouse performance). With the passage of time, Close’s performance as spurned lover Alex Forrest has only become more iconic. At both times sympathetic and frightening, Close turns in a portrayal of someone so clearly wronged that your heart would break for her, if it wasn’t busy pounding in terror. Often-imitated but never duplicated, Fatal Attraction kick started the late 80’s-early 90’s wave of erotic psychological thrillers, but arguably still holds its place as gold-standard of the genre. 

The First Wives Club (1996)

Sometimes what you really need to recover from a relationship ending is your friends. While divorce can feel like the ultimate end, it really isn’t, and as the ladies of the The First Wives Club will teach you, when it comes to love and happiness, “Don’t get mad. Get Everything.” This 1996 box office smash is headlined by three Hollywood heavy hitters at their absolute best! Goldie Hawn, Diane Lane, and Bette Miller star as old, college friends who have lost touch over the years but are brought back together by the death of their mutual friend. Reunited, they find that they all share a common problem: their husbands have all left them for much younger women. So what are three divorced ladies to do when their husbands take them for granted and coldly cut them out? The answer is simple: exact their vengeance until they get what they are owed. Hawn, Lane, and Midler have an electric chemistry that jumps off the screen. This feel good comedy will remind you that happy endings don’t need romance, so long as you have your girls by your side. So call up your best pals and make it a raucous movie night with The First Wive’s Club!

Down with Love (2003)

Do you think you may be a bit too cynical for all this love stuff? Do you think that love is nothing more than a chemical reaction similar to the dopamine kick your brain gets from eating chocolate?  If so, then 2003’s period-piece, rom-com Down with Love is the movie for you! First of all, this is not your average period piece. Director Peyton Reed doesn’t merely set this movie in the 1960’s, he styles the entire film to look like it was MADE in the 1960’s! Rene Zellweger stars as aspiring author Barbara Novak whose debut book “Down with Love” advocates for female independence. Novak’s book presents her philosophy that women should free themselves from the shackles of love and enjoy commitment-free sex “the same way that men do.” This immediately puts her in the sights of notorious womanizer and writer of Know Magazine: Catcher Block (played with bombastic delight by Ewan McGregor). Block adopts a false identity to woo Novak and get her to abandon her beliefs so that he can go back to his womanizing ways before any women get wise to his scheme. What ensues is a cat and mouse game that uses all of the familiar tropes of 60’s rom coms in a loving, tongue-in-cheek tribute. All of the performances are expertly in step with the acting style of the era and the chemistry between McGregor and Zellweger is dynamite! This is, hands down, one of the most colorful, zany, and loving pastiches of the genre ever done!

Fear (1996)

When it comes to scary, unhinged boyfriends, David McCall in the 1996 film Fear, is one for the record books. What starts as an idyllic YA romance between sixteen-year old Nicole Walker (Reese Withersoon) and the handsome and charming David McCall (Mark Wahlberg), quickly turns into a nightmare. Though he manages to charm the rest of her family, Nicole’s father doesn’t trust David’s motives. This instinct proves true as David soon turns from a seemingly normal boyfriend into a possessive and manipulative psychopath who will stop at nothing to have Nicole all to himself. Director James Foley gives Fear some cinematic flourishes that help to elevate it from standard fair of the genre. In particular, the film’s early scenes portraying David and Nicole’s wooing period masterfully conveys the overwhelming rush of young love. As vivid and powerful as the speeding rollercoaster they share on their first date, Fear presents love as an uncontrollable ride, both exciting and terrifying as the audience and Nicole brace themselves for whatever waits around the next turn. 

There are many films that play on the story tropes of an obsessive stalker, driven by their warped perception of love (Play Misty for MeSwimfan). However, the majority of these stories cast women in the role of the dangerous pursuer, hell-bent on obtaining the object of their affection. It is Fear’s gender-reversal of this relationship dynamic that both: sets it apart from its peers and also makes it feel like a far more accurate depiction of toxic relationships. Because of this, a warning may be advisable for anyone who may be triggered by portrayals of abusive relationships. 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Sometimes we need to see how ridiculous love and misery can make us look and learn to laugh at ourselves. If you have ever been the one in your group of friends moping over a big breakup, then you may find yourself connecting a lot to the journey that Jason Segel’s character finds himself on in the hilarious 2008 comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The story follows Peter Brenner (Segel), the perpetual plus-one boyfriend of rising television actress Sarah Marshall (Kristin Bell). Brenner doesn’t care that he is a relative nobody to the press, because he is blissfully happy and in love with Sarah. That bliss is instantly ripped away when Sarah breaks up with him, quickly moving on to a very public relationship with the mega famous rockstar Aldous Snow (Russell Brand in a debut role). To escape the constant reminders of his ex’s new relationship, Peter takes what was once their planned vacation trip to Hawaii by himself. Unfortunately for him, it turns out that Sarah and her new boyfriend Aldous had the same idea and show up at the exact same resort, in the very next room. If you have ever gone through the grieving period of a break up, you will find plenty to laugh at, relate to, and maybe in the end, put old feelings into perspective.  

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

If a good cry is what you are looking for then the 2017 Oscar nominee, Call Me By Your Name may be just what the doctor ordered. Set in 1983, this coming of age story follows 17 year old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet in his breakout performance) who is spending his summer with his parents in rural Northern Italy due to his father’s work as a professor of archaeology. Elio spends his summer with his childhood friends Chiara and Marzia, the latter of whom he has begun a romantic relationship with. When Elio’s father invites 24 year old American graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) to spend the summer with their family while helping with his academic paper, Elio becomes infatuated with the handsome stranger. As the two grow closer over the summer Elio is awakened to his own sexuality and experiences the highs and lows of falling in love for the first time in his life. Call Me By Your Name is a story about self-discovery, love, and most of all: experiencing your first true heartbreak. 

Death Becomes Her (1992)

When it comes to love triangles, there are few are as fun to watch as the A-list trio of Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis in Robert Zemeckis’ pitch black comedy Death Becomes Her. The film centers around the rivalry of two lifelong frenemies: narcissistic Broadway actress Madeline Ashton (Streep) and mousy, struggling writer Helen Sharp (Hawn). Helen has always lived in Madeline’s shadow, never having much to call her own, while Madeline has never known anything that she couldn’t (and wouldn’t) eventually have. That includes Helen’s spineless plastic surgeon fiancé, Ernest Menville (Willis) whom Madeline immediately snatches for herself. When Helen returns (years later), she has completely transformed into a beautiful and successful writer with a plan to steal Ernest back. Her secret? A magical potion that has granted her with eternal youth. Envious of her former friend’s beauty, Madeline takes the potion as well but soon finds out there are rather “unpleasant” side effects. The two women’s rivalry over the pathetic Ernest crescendoes to a knock-down, drag-out fight, heightening to a finale that features absurd levels of loony tunes inspired action!

This movie is truly a feast for the eyes with incredible direction from accomplished film maker Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit?), hilarious performances from all three stars who are at the top of their game, and special effects that look fantastic still to this day! It is fascinating to watch Willis, in particular, who plays a role so against type and does it so well, that it’s almost a shame he never does it again in his career. Death Becomes Her is a comedy that starts as a revenge plot, all centered around a man who is, pointedly, rather unremarkable. It is very transparent that this rivalry has very little to do with Ernest and speaks much louder volumes of how much each woman is concerned about the other’s perception of their life. In the end, it is an oddly sweet story about female friendship and how aging gracefully is over-rated when you have a friend to age poorly with.  

Midsommar (2019)

There is no movie that captures the essence of a break-up quite like 2019’s hit horror film, Midsommar. While the plot chronicles the end of a dying relationship, the horrors that the characters encounter along the way serve as an allegory for the emotional experience of a break-up. At the very beginning of the film we are introduced to the relationship between Dani and her increasingly distant boyfriend, Christian. It’s clear that this relationship is on its last legs, as Christian and his friends seem all too eager for him to split up with Dani before taking their trip to Sweden to attend a fabled Midsommar celebration. His plan is immediately aborted after Dani experiences a horrific tragedy that leaves Christian as the closest thing she has left to a family. Now, due to tragic circumstance, the two are stuck together: Dani, desperately clinging to Christian out of fear of being alone and Christian, trapped by his own guilt that leaving her now would make him an awful person. Much to the dismay of his friends, Dani tags along with Christian’s group to Midsommar; a pagan summer solstice festival that takes place once-every-ninety-years. There, they are greeted by the members of a secluded culture who have odd and mysterious customs, undocumented by the outside world. What begins as a spring vacation soon turns into a nightmare with the group growing fearful of the increasingly disturbing rituals, which they are expected to partake in.

What is so impressive about the horror of Midsommar is that it eschews the traditional visual tropes of the genre in favor of its sunny, idyllic setting. This is not simply a stylistic experiment, existing to impress fans of the genre; it’s a choice which reflects larger themes in the story. Springtime is the season of rebirth and the film places this idea front and center as the warm imagery of colorful foliage beckons Dani out of the bleak winter that was her misery and offers her a chance to be reborn. In the end, Midsommar crescendoes to a climax that is simultaneously horrifying and inspiring! If you like your chocolate (and movies) bitter sweet, then this is the perfect break-up movie for you!

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

Three, previously married and now single best friends (Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon) commiserate over the sexual repression they feel living in their conservative town of Eastwick. After a night of drinks where the three friends collectively paint the picture of their ideal man, a mysterious and eccentric stranger named Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) rolls into town. Though rude, brazen, and not traditionally handsome, Van Horne manages to seduce each of them, leading to their renewed sexual, emotional, and MAGICAL liberation as each begins exhibiting strange powers. Are these three friends being blessed or cursed? Either way, one thing is for sure: the town of Eastwick will never be the same again… 

Directed with a keen eye by auteur film-maker George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), The Witches of Eastwickis a wild romp of a movie, carried by the electric performances of all four of its stars. This is a movie about finding the empowerment in yourself and the magic that exists between best friends. This is another perfect movie for a slumber party with your best friends!

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

Boy oh boy, love can sure make us do funny things. It can also make us blind to some serious red flags in a significant other that would send anyone else running for the hills. If any of this is sounding familiar, then you may more easily forgive the lead character of the 2013 French Erotic Thriller, Stranger by the Lake. This movie follows a man named Franck who frequents a nude beach which is a regular cruising destination for gay men. When Franck meets the handsome and charming Michael he is instantly attracted to him and soon-after the two start up a romantic relationship. One night Franck believes that he witnesses Michael drowning another man in the lake, but finds himself still unable to untangle himself from his attraction and growing love for the stranger. As dead bodies keep turning up on the beach and signs continue to point to Michael as the killer, the movie investigates the more dangerous side of infatuation and passion. Love can truly make fools off us all, but if we aren’t careful, it may turn us into something far worse.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2003)

One of the most painful parts of any break-up is the post break-up period. Someone who has become a central part of your life is suddenly gone and their absence becomes all that you can think about. You try moving on without them but the memories you’ve made together keep weighing on your mind, bringing you nothing but heartache. If only there was an easy way to forget them; a way where you could skip this painful period of grieving and get back to your life…

Finishing out our list of films is a bitter-sweet, high-concept comedy which asks the question: “If you could erase the memory of someone, would you do it?” Born from the brilliant mind of Charlie Kauffman and the visual imagination of Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind follows a couple who undergoes a procedure which promises to do just that!

The movie begins after the painful breakup of colorful extrovert Clementine and sensitive introvert Joel (Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey unlike you have ever seen them before). Still reeling from their recent split, Joel discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine has undergone an experimental procedure to erase all her memories of him. Heartbroken and spiteful, Joel decides to undergo the very same procedure, forever erasing his memories of her. Unfortunately, it isn’t until after the process starts that Joel realizes he doesn’t want to forget Clementine. What ensues is an adventure inside of Joel’s own mind as he and his memory of Clementine desperately try to outrun the memory technicians before she no longer exists.

This movie is as genuine and profound as it is off-beat and entertaining. Both Winslet and Carrey portray characters that are the complete antithesis to the types of roles they are typically known for and do so with such exceptional skill it’s hard to argue against these performances as career bests for either. Screenwriter Charlie Kauffman delivers his trademark quirky brand of humor as well as his dependably rich characters while Michel Gondry’s directorial flare adds levity and humor, even in the film’s saddest moments. As Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind shows, our memories and experiences make us who we are, and to wish away a memory of someone is to wish away a part of ourself. 

So this Valentine’s Day, make a movie night out of our “Bitter Chocolate Binge” list and take solace in remembering that relationships aren’t all flowers and chocolates.

By Eric

Postwar NYC on Film:  Comedy and (Mostly) Crime

Until I revisited The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) a few years ago, I did not realize that my memory regarding the locale for this movie was faulty.  I recalled Danny Kaye bopping along the streets of New York City in sunny, broad daylight amongst a bustling throng of equally jaunty New Yorkers.  It was uplifting, suggestive of prosperity and optimism.  The U.S., after all, was one of the few belligerents to come out of World War II with its terrain and cities intact.  It had been the “arsenal of democracy” and reaped the benefits of victory.  However, my recollection that Mitty was filmed on the actual streets of New York was in error.  Except for some long shots of Times Square and various avenues, it was obviously not.  For instance, when Kaye exits a taxi and leaves his multi-film costar Virginia Mayo behind, the action takes place against a studio backdrop.  (I wonder if my recollection of a decades’ old Peter O’Toole TV interview is also in error?  I’d like to think he did tell the host that when he came to New York after the war he was astounded that he could buy a hotdog on every street corner.  No such delicacies could be had by Londoners.)   

There was indeed postwar on-location filming in New York City by major Hollywood studios:  crime movies.  Unlike Mitty, whose main through story is actually of a criminal mien involving Dutch crown jewels hidden from the Nazis and now in the U.S., these films were most definitely not cheery.  Nor were they in color.  However, much of the filming was done on location. 

Made during the war but released shortly thereafter, The House on 92nd Street detailed the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to break a German spy ring.  According to The Hollywood Professionals, actual footage of espionage agents was supplied by the FBI:  “material which had been secretly filmed by their own agents, and that had been top secret information during the War.”  FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was enlisted to provide verisimilitude.

House was not only noir, but perhaps the first “police procedural,” a crime movie filmed in semi-documentary fashion and based on real cases “torn from the headlines!”  Often there was a narrator, like an actor with an authoritative voice such as Reed Hadley.  Audiences became privy to FBI labs and all the methods our crime fighters employed to bring to justice veterans unable to adjust to peacetime and used to killing in the biggest criminal activity of all, war.  (As late as 1968 reviewers commented not only on Bullitt‘s now iconic car chase sequence, but the fascinating look behind the scenes of crime-solving, as in Steve McQueen’s detective hanging out in the San Francisco city morgue to confer with a doctor, and the use of telecopiers to solicit passport applications from Chicago almost in the blink of an eye.)   

Looking back, one sees that daytime filming was necessary to show monumental government buildings wherein law enforcement worked tirelessly to stymie gangsters and racketeers, Nazis, and as time went by, Commie spies. (Terry Moore’s hash-slinger in 1955’s Shack Out on 101 exemplified this mindset in a barely disguised piece of propaganda or, if you will, hokum:  “Just you wait until I pass that examination.  Instead of coming to see me in this broken-down beanery, you’ll, you’ll walk into a great big beautiful government building, and I’ll be sitting behind a big desk doing….”) 

According to The Film Noir Encyclopedia, many of the actors in The House on 92nd Street were nonprofessionals.  Some were true blue FBI personnel.  The director was Hollywood veteran Henry Hathaway.  Audiences would see his handiwork again.

The same year as Walter Mitty but very much on the opposite side of the coin was Kiss of Death, the famous noir starring Victor Mature and in his film debut, Richard Widmark as the psychopathic Tommy Udo, who pushes the wheelchair-bound Mildred Dunnock down the stairs.  As he had done with The House on 92nd Street, director Henry Hathaway did much on-location shooting.  Oddly, according to The Film Noir Encyclopedia, cinematographer Norbert Brodine made “a row house in Queens look like a soundstage set.”  Other locations included the Sing Sing Correctional Facility (formerly Ossining Correctional Facility) and the Tombs (Manhattan Detention Complex). 

In The Hollywood Professionals:  Producer Louis De Rochemont used the director’s on-location work experience to convince 20th Century-Fox’s studio head Darryl Zanuck that “semi-documentary crime films would be perfect for postwar audiences because of the factual or apparently factual basis of the material created with the assistance of official bodies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Hathaway acknowledged crowd control as a drawback.  Spectators had the habit of mingling with actors.  Incidental secondary noises like dogs barking or shouting children had to be ignored.  A big problem was transportation via six large equipment trucks shuttling between 76 sets.    

The Naked City

Most famous for on-location shooting in NYC in this period was The Naked City (1948).  This truly exemplified the police procedural.  Said The Film Noir Encyclopedia:  “The real star of the film becomes the city, which can take on a variety of personalities.  It is truly a mysterious entity imbued with all sorts of stories and affectations.  The Naked City is unlike most of [director Jules] Dassin’s other films, as it is a vision of the world that forsakes subtlety and deals almost exclusively with black and white absolute truths.”

To sum up, to my chagrin the close-ups and medium shots in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were not, as I’d misremembered, filmed in the skyscrapers and deli’s and on the streets of New York City.  The comic potential inherent in on-location urban shooting was there but a longer gestation period was needed before it flowered.  The good news was that the exploration of postwar on-location filming in NYC identified some very influential crime films:  The House on 92nd Street, Kiss of Death, and The Naked City.

By Kim


Canham, Kingsley.  The Hollywood Professionals:  Volume 1:  Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh, Henry Hathaway.  1973.  Includes quotes on Kiss of Death from publicity handout.

Ursini, James, and Ward, Elizabeth.  The Film Noir Encyclopedia.  rev. ed.  1992.

February Adult Book Groups

The Chester County Library Evening and Afternoon Book Discussion groups have returned to in person meetings. The other groups are remaining virtual.  Please see our February titles and dates below. The online groups are being held via Zoom. We are requiring registration for these online book groups in order to send out the Zoom meeting information. Click on the date below to register. Information on our adult book groups can also be found on our website: 

Evening Book Group
Monday, February 7, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library.

Page Turners Book Group
Thursday, February 10, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Whodunits Book Group
Wednesday, February 16 , 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

Afternoon Book Group
Wednesday, February 16, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library.

Comics Unbound Group
Monday, February 21, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Registration is required for all book groups. Registration will close at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled start time of the book group. A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 2 hours before the book group starts.  Make sure to check the email address you registered with to receive the link.  You do not need a Zoom account to attend the virtual book group.

These programs support the PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy Initiative.