By Ed Garea
A film about obscenity-spouting hitmen, America’s pioneering astronauts, and a prim nanny with a great singing voice were among the 25 films added by the Library of Congress to its National Film Registry.
The National Film Registry is a collection of the Library of Congress dedicated to the preservation of films deemed to be aesthetically, culturally, or historically important. Eclectic by its very nature, the only goal of the Registry is to protect our country’s film heritage. The new films were recently announced.
The Registry is not limited only to features coming out of Hollywood; cartoons, documentaries, and experimental films are also on the list. With these 25, there are now 625 films in the Registry.
"The National Film Registry stands among the finest summations of more than a century of extraordinary American cinema," said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress. "This key component of American cultural history, however, is endangered, so we must protect the nation's matchless film heritage and cinematic creativity."
The urgency that drives the Registry concerns the deterioration of film stocks. The Library recently released a report stating that about 70% of silent films are lost forever. Even films made as recently as the ‘70s have required extensive restoration efforts to fight their fading colors due to the deterioration of their film stocks.
The Library accepts nominations from the public for movies to be added to the Registry (visit www.loc.gov/film). Selections are made after conferring with members of the National Film Preservation Board and film curators at the Library. The Library then works with film studios, producers and archives to preserve and protect titles on the Registry for future audiences.
Following, in alphabetical order, are the new selections.
Bless Their Little Hearts (1984) – Director Billy Woodbury’s film thesis at UCLA about a working class African-American family’s struggle to keep afloat.
Brandy in the Wilderness (1969) – a 16-mm semi-fictional diary by director Stanton Kaye of life with his girlfriend. It’s a blend of autobiographical and fictional narrative with experimental editing techniques.
Cicero March (1966) – An eight-minute long cinema verite account of a civil rights march in an all-white Chicago suburb.
Daughter of Dawn (1920) – The first film shot in Oklahoma. Independently produced, it featured over 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes. It was lost after a single screening in Los Angeles and was recently rediscovered by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Decasia (2002): A documentary from Bill Morrison comprised of dissolving nitrate film culled from stocks around the country (including The Library of Congress, ironically).
Ella Cinders (1926) – Colleen Moore is a girl who leaves her abusive family for a shot at Hollywood stardom in this silent comedy from First National.
Forbidden Planet (1956) – MGM’s sci-fi thriller notable for its ahead-of-the-times special effects and the first to feature a robot with a personality in Robby. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Gilda (1946) – Do we need anymore of a reason than the sight of Rita Hayworth singing “Put the Blame on Mame?” From 20th Century Fox.
The Hole (1962) – The Oscar-winning animated short from John and Faith Hubley about the fears of nuclear annihilation as voiced by Dizzy Gillespie and George Mathews.
Judgment at Nuremburg (1962) – From United Artists, it’s yet another Important Film from the team of producer/director Stanley Kramer and writer Abby Mann; this one focuses on the Nuremburg Nazi trials and features several excellent performances from Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, and Maximilian Schell, who won the Oscar for Best Actor.
King of Jazz (1930) – This early two-strip Technicolor musical revue from Universal revolves around the music of bandleader Paul Whiteman and his singer, Bing Crosby.
The Lunch Date (1989) – Director Adam Davidson’s 10-minute Columbia University student film that won the 1990 Student Academy award.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) – From United Artists comes this John Sturges directed remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai now set as a Western.
Martha Graham Early Dance Films (1931-1944) – A quartet of film shorts choreographed by one of the 20th century’s most influential dancers.
Mary Poppins (1964) – The classic Walt Disney movie based on P.L. Travers novels won five Oscars, including Julie Andrews for Best Actress, Robert Stevenson for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”).
Men and Dust (1940) – A groundbreaking documentary from pioneering female filmmaker Lee Dick about the respiratory effects experienced by miners in the Midwest.
Midnight (1939) – Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder wrote this witty comedy for Paramount about false identities starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, and John Barrymore.
Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951) – Vincent Price narrates this impressionist documentary about San Francisco from director Frank Stauffacher based on a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Quentin Tarantino co-wrote and directed this Miramax-released collection of stories unified by low-life killers and highlighted by the most quotable dialogue in years. It almost literally changed the landscape of modern cinema.
The Quiet Man (1952) – John Ford’s Technicolor love letter to Ireland. It’s a romantic comedy from Republic starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara as the bickering couple.
The Right Stuff (1983) – From Warner Brothers and The Ladd Company comes this rousing adaptation by Philip Kaufman of Tom Wolfe’s book about the history of the U.S. Space Program.
Roger & Me (1989) – Michael Moore’s controversial documentary chronicling his pursuit of General Motors CEO Roger Smith. (Warner Bros.)
A Virtuous Vamp (1919) – Constance Talmadge is a young woman who has no difficulty in breaking hearts, except that of the man she really loves, in this romantic comedy written by Anita Loos and her husband, John Emerson.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) – Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the couple that put the fun in dysfunctional in Mike Nichols’ adaptation of the Edward Albee play for Warner Brothers.
Wild Boys of the Road (1933) – A stark Pre-Code socially conscious drama from Warner Brothers and director William A. Wellman about teenagers who hop freight trains looking for work in the depths of the Depression.