Thursday 24 April 2014, doors open 7pm
Daniel Taradash | USA 1956 | 85 mins
The first overtly anti-McCarthyism film to be produced in Hollywood, Storm Center tells the story of Alicia Hull (Bette Davis), a widowed New England librarian dedicated to introducing children to the joy of reading. In exchange for fulfilling her request for a children’s wing, the city council asks her to withdraw the book The Communist Dream from the library’s collection. When she refuses to comply with their demand, she is fired and branded a subversive, setting in motion a wave of accusation, fear and turmoil in her small-town community.
Inspired by the real life sacking of an Oklahoma public librarian in 1950, the film spent five years in production and almost didn’t make it to the screen after the hounding of actors and screenwriters associated with the project.
At once addressing themes both of anti-McCarthyism and book banning, Storm Center was met with a mixed response. Many in the press heralded its fearlessness and audacity at a time when these themes were highly controversial, while other groups criticised its clear leftist leanings, including the National Legion of Decency which labelled it a “warped propaganda film.” In 1957 the Cannes Film Festival awarded the film its Prix de Chevalier da la Barre award, citing it as ”this year’s film which best helps freedom of expression and tolerance.”