Pics ranging from “Pillow Talk” and “The Muppet Movie” to “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” are among the 25 titles selected as this year’s addition to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, the feds’ official archive of film gems worthy of preservation.
This year’s crop includes the Registry’s first musicvideo — Michael Jackson’s 1983 landmark “Thriller” — and “Hot Dogs for Gauguin,” a 1972 entry from then-NYU student Martin Brest featuring Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman in her film debut.
The titles join 500 other pics that have been added to the Registry since it was created in 1989 by the National Film Preservation Act. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington selects 25 films each year that are deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,” culled from hundreds of titles nominated by the public, members of the National Film Preservation Board and the library’s motion picture staff.
The Registry “spotlights the importance of protecting America’s matchless film heritage and cinematic creativity,” Billington said. “By preserving the nation’s films, we safeguard a significant element of our cultural patrimony and history.” The films (and video) on the list are not tapped as the “best” of all time but are merely deemed works of enduring importance to American culture, he said.
To be eligible for the Registry, a film must be at least 10 years old. All titles in the registry are available for screening free of charge at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill.
This year’s entries again include a mixture of classics and obscure gems spanning most of the 20th century, from the 1911 live action/animation work “Little Nemo” and Mabel Norman’s 1914 silent pic “Mabel’s Blunder” to Helen Hill’s 1995 student film “Scratch and Crow.” Others include 1938’s “Jezebel,” the William Wyler-directed pic that won Bette Davis her second Oscar; 1957 sci-fi classic “The Incredible Shrinking Man”; and William Wyler’s 1942 WWII British homefront drama “Mrs. Miniver,” which earned six Oscars, including best picture.
The library reached back to WWI for 1920’s “Heroes All,” one of many films produced by the Red Cross Bureau of Pictures about the Great War and its aftermath. The WWII era is also represented by 1945’s “The Story of G.I. Joe,” featuring Burgess Meredith as the gritty war correspondent Ernie Pyle.
Among the other obscure titles added to the registry are 1967’s “The Jungle,” a docu-drama made by a group of young African-American gang members in Philadelphia, and 1932’s “A Study in Reds,” an amateur film by Miriam Bennett that spoofed women’s clubs and the Soviet menace in the 1930s.
Also selected were the 1927 film “Stark Love,” director Karl Brown’s depiction of mountaineers of North Carolina and Tennessee, and “The Revenge of Pancho Villa,” a compilation film from 1930-36 that demonstrates the early Mexican-American film presence.
Other films from the ’30s and ’40s were “Under the Western Stars,” the 1938 pic that turned Roy Rogers into a matinee idol; 1940’s “The Mark of Zorro,” with Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone; and 1949’s “The Lead Shoes,” from avant-garde filmmaker Sidney Peterson.
Among the more prominent titles, 1959’s “Pillow Talk” marked the first teaming of Doris Day and Rock Hudson and is considered by the library to be “a time capsule of 1950s America.” Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” starring Al Pacino, predicted the contempo era of media frenzy in its portrayal of a bank robbery gone awry as a media circus ensues. Jim Henson solidified his position as a spiritual heir to Walt Disney with the success of 1979’s “The Muppet Movie.”
Filmmaker Kent MacKenzie’s 1961 docu “The Exiles” “sensitively captures the raw essence of a group of 20-something Native Americans who left reservation life in the 1950s to live among the decayed Victorian mansions of Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill district.” Sergio Leone’s 1968 epic “Once Upon a Time in the West” marked a peak of the spaghetti Western genre.
The Registry’s other new entrants are 1975’s cult-fave toon “Quasi at the Quackadero”; 1986 docu “Precious Images,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Directors Guild of America; and 1994 experimental pic “The Red Book,” from helmer Janie Geiser.
Films Selected to the 2009 National Film Registry
1) Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
2) The Exiles (1961)
3) Heroes All (1920)
4) Hot Dogs for Gauguin (1972)
5) The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
6) Jezebel (1938)
7) The Jungle (1967)
8) The Lead Shoes (1949)
9) Little Nemo (1911)
10) Mabel’s Blunder (1914)
11) The Mark of Zorro (1940)
12) Mrs. Miniver (1942)
13) The Muppet Movie (1979)
14) Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
15) Pillow Talk (1959)
16) Precious Images (1986)
17) Quasi at the Quackadero (1975)
18) The Red Book (1994)
19) The Revenge of the Pancho Villa (1930-36)
20) Scratch and Crow (1995)
21) Stark Love (1927)
22) The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
23) A Study in Reds (1932)
24) Thriller (1983)
25) Under Western Stars (1938)