History alum makes a career of celebrating film

Cinema Books is a reunion of old friends. The walls are a scrapbook of familiar faces from John Wayne to James Earl Jones. Shelves are stuffed with books covering fan favorites such as Buster Keaton and The Big Lebowski. Owner Stephanie Ogle reintroduces classics, champions new treasures and plays a starring role in celebrating film.

“Movies become part of your life. They transport you to a place, a person or a time period that can feel very intense and real,” says Ogle. “They contribute to your personal sensibility of who you are.”

Ogle, ’71, ’81, is passionate about storytelling both on the page and screen. Teenage trips with her best friend to watch Steve McQueen triple-bills cemented a joy for movies. Reading material from the library and University Book Store furthered her cinematic education, which she continued at the UW. A history major, she participated in the campus film club. Full houses gathered for varied events, such as Humphrey Bogart retrospectives, which were followed by post-screening lectures by UW professors.

“The professors imparted a joy that I admired. It shaped my view of what’s important in an education,” says Ogle. “I tell undergrads to ask friends which professors changed their outlooks. Take those courses even if it’s not your normal interest. It may open doors and ideas that stay with you for the rest of your life.”

While earning a Ph.D. in history, Ogle co-founded Cinema Books in 1977 with her brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Susan Favor. (They left the business in 1979.) Since 1984, the shop has been tucked underneath the University District’s Seven Gables Theatre. She has welcomed everyone from Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth to students thumbing through Animal House prints. She readily shares her encyclopedic knowledge and is quick to dispense UW-related film trivia: Keye Luke paid tuition by drawing movie posters for theaters before his Hollywood break in Charlie Chan movies; Bruce Lee taught classes in parking garages.

Ogle taught film-history classes at the UW for four years in the late 1980s. Students learned about the industry’s business side and benefited from a roster of guest speakers representing Seattle’s creative community. She also broadened horizons by showing silent films and black-and-white classics.

After screening Cary Grant’s 1937 comedy The Awful Truth, a student relayed how it changed her life. “Her parents were critical of her attending college and always asked what she was getting out of it and how it helped her future,” says Ogle. “For Christmas, she watched The Awful Truth with them and they laughed and loved it. Her parents said that her UW education must be worthwhile if that’s what she was learning. The film brought them together.”

Ogle values movies for their entertainment value—her guilty pleasure is submarine movies—and for bringing history alive. When the credits roll, however, she believes connections to the people onscreen and sitting next to you are most influential. “I still remember my fellow students I went to school with and enjoyed movies with,” says Ogle. “Those are the memorable parts of life that last for generations.”