Golden Age of Hollywood finds a niche in Giovatto Library

Pulling out a few choice film reels are (from left) Ray Morrissey, Kathy Stein-Smith and Jessie Ribustello, all of whom work at the Frank Giovatto Library on FDU’s Metropolitan Campus and have a hand in maintaining the archive. (Photos by Kenna Caprio)

Golden Age of Hollywood finds a niche in Giovatto Library

By Kenna Caprio

Funny Girl took up residence at the Frank Giovatto Library in the 1980s.

She joined Mr. Smith (heading to Washington), His Girl Friday (writing furiously on deadline), Jane Eyre (unsure of her affections for Mr. Rochester), Gilda (haunted by her love affairs) and Lawrence of Arabia (mired in World War I).

All of these classic characters and their films live on in the Columbia Pictures archive housed in the basement of the library on Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus.

The reels reside in several floor-to-ceiling shelves, some housed in plastic covers and others in metal tins. About 230 classics on 16 mm film occupy the chilled room.

“Some are single reels, most are multiples. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is five reels,” says Ray Morrissey, media coordinator at Giovatto Library.

The collection arrived at the library courtesy of a relationship established between Professor Emeritus Bernard Dick and FDU alum and former Columbia executive Peter Kells (BS‘62).

Dick, who later authored “Columbia Pictures: Portrait of a Studio,” convinced Kells to speak to some of his film classes once he realized the alumnus’ connection to the Hollywood industry. After forming a friendship, the two worked together to bring some of the studio’s greatest and lesser-known pictures together into an archive.

“A library is a wonderful place for any sort of archive, including film,” remarks Kathy Stein-Smith, associate university librarian and director of public services. “We can house the film, preserve and organize it. It’s available on request,” she continues.

Entrusting the University with the reels came easily to Kells. It’s just the “place for students to discuss and study some of the great works. It gives them a chance to go back and look at all the classics,” says the Pinnacle award-winner who also served on the University’s Board of Trustees in the 1990s.

Any member of the FDU community can request a screening facilitated by Morrissey, who will set up the reels on one of the library’s 16 mm projectors.

And if watching a movie the old-fashioned way doesn’t appeal to a borrower’s modern sensibilities, Giovatto also houses a significant collection of DVDs. More titles are being added each week to the large assortment, which currently features approximately 1,000 titles including both feature-length and educational films.

“Our movie collection builds on the archive,” says Stein-Smith. “We had the archive long before we had any other significant movie collection.”

There’s really something to be said merely for the nostalgia of watching the old reels spin out a movie, as the library staff attests.

“I like anything with Cary Grant,” announces Morrissey as Stein-Smith and Jessie Ribustello, circulation assistant and office coordinator, toss out their favorites from the collection including, “Mothra,” “It Happened One Night,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Bell, Book and Candle.”

“'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’” sighs Stein-Smith, “it’s the quintessential American Dream story.”

Stein-Smith says that she anticipates the day when the collection is used on a more regular basis by film, communication and English faculty to show to students. The staff also likes the idea of the University hosting some sort of larger screening or festival in the future.

“In the meantime, we’re very invested in maintaining the archive and making it available. Down the road, we’d love to have a broader audience,” she says.

For now, the FDU community can call on their old friends — All the King’s Men, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Taxi Driver — anytime, so long as they make an appointment first.

A close up of a row of reels housed in the library’s Columbia Pictures archive focuses in on a Barbara Streisand classic: “Funny Girl.”

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (Metropolitan Campus Office)
Dickinson Hall, Room 3365, H-DH3-1, Teaneck, NJ 07666

Dina Schipper,
Director of Public Relations
Fax: 201-692-7019

Kenna Caprio,
Communications Writer
Fax: 201-692-7019

Helen Grill,
Senior General Clerk
Fax: 201-692-7019

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (College at Florham Office)
East Cottage, Second Floor, M-EC2-01, Madison, NJ 08450

Scott Giglio,
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Daniel Landau,
Public Relations Assistant
Fax: 973-443-8671