Not many may know, but Harriet the Spy was written by Louise Fitzhugh 32 years before the movie ever came out.
Eleven-year-old Harriet loves to spy on people, and she writes down all her thoughts in a notebook. Not only does she record her findings on her spy route, she also writes down her honest thoughts about friends, parents, and classmates. When her notebook is found by her schoolmates, their anger and retaliation are swift and merciless, and Harriet…
Excerpt From the original Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh:
“I want to know everything, everything,” screeched Harriet suddenly, lying back and bouncing up and down on the bed. “Everything in the world, everything, everything. I will be a spy and know everything.”
“It won’t do you a bit of good to know everything if you don’t do anything with it. Now get up, Miss Harriet the Spy, you’re going to sleep now.” And with that Ole Golly marched over and grabbed Harriet by the ear.
Originally published by Harper & Row in 1964.
Harriet the Spy (1996)
Essentially, sixth-grader Harriet (Michelle Trachtenberg) attends school on the New York’s Upper East Side along with her two best pals, Sport, the jock (of course!), and Janie, the mad scientist. After school every day, she takes her notebook and proceeds through her spy route. Climbing on milk crates and hoisting herself up dumbwaiters, Harriet observes the rich lady who never gets out of bed, the man with twenty-five cats, and the Italian family who runs a grocery store. She takes brutally honest notes on them all.
Harriet’s downfall is that she also writes down her thoughts about people she actually knows. After a game in the park when her notebook is knocked out of her hands and read by her classmates, Harriet’s deepest thoughts are revealed:
Harriet is quickly ostracized by her classmates. They all form the Spy Catcher’s Club. Even former friends Sport and Janie become members!
After her parents find out what’s happened, Harriet receives a final, crushing blow. She can no longer take notes! She has to undergo the humiliation of being searched by her teacher everyday, while the class watches. Aided by the advice of Ole Golly (Rosie O’Donnell), Harriet is able to get through this, regain her friends, becomes editor of her school paper, and regains her notebook privileges.
Comments by Jenny: I think it was this movie that sparked that little thing within me to begin keeping an eye on Michelle. Her performance in Harriet the Spy was incredible and at times, the emotional overflow was difficult to watch. Michelle’s performance touched me deeply and ever since I have followed her career. The following review by James Berardinelli sums it up very well. It is to her credit, that even now, seven years since the movie was first released, it continues to be shown, and continues to win new fans for Michelle. The movie was released in 1996, in a recent interview with Caroline Rhea, Michelle said it will be exactly 8 years since the movie was made. Filming began on her birthday, October 11th.
Harriet the Spy
U.S. Release Date: 7/10/96 (wide)
Running Length: 1:41
MPAA Classification: PG (Some potentially disturbing sequences)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cast: Michelle Trachtenberg, Vanessa Lee Chester, Gregory Smith, Charlotte Sullivan, Robert Joy, J. Smith-Cameron, Rosie O’Donnell
Director: Bronwen Hughes
Producer: Marykay Powell
Screenplay: Theresa Rebeck and Douglas Petrie, based on the novel by Louise Fitzhugh
Cinematography: Francis Kenny
Music: Jamshied Sharifi
U.S. Distributor: Paramount Pictures