Nat’l Film Registry adds 25 pix

'Steamboat Willie,' 'Easy Rider' among picks

“Tootsie” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” were officially sanctioned as important cultural icons of American film history Monday. Librarian of Congress James Billington made the 10th anniversary presentation of 25 new entries to the National Film Registry in Hollywood at the Margaret Herrick Library, bringing the number of priority preservation films to 250.

This year’s eclectic selections range from Mickey Mouse’s first screen appearance (“Steamboat Willie”) to an ethnographic study, as well as early newsreel footage, a Puerto Rican drama and such entertainment favorites as “42nd Street,” the noir classic “Gun Crazy” and “Easy Rider.”

“What the selections have in common is their influence on the language of the movies,” said Billington. “Americans have been particularly good at speaking that language and coming up with new and innovative ways of expression. It’s a great pleasure to make up the list but also very taxing to decide on which films to select.”

Billington indicated that the task is somewhat easier now that the “classics” have been installed and the registry’s mandate has been broadened to include films of all descriptions and lengths. He receives hundreds of suggestions from scholars, archivists, the National Preservation Board and others annually before designating the final 25 selections based on their “historical, cultural or aesthetic significance.”

Other popular studio fare added to the registry included James Cagney’s star breakthrough in the seminal gangster study “The Public Enemy,” the groundbreaking Western social drama “The Ox-Bow Incident,” “The Phantom of the Opera” starring Lon Chaney, “The Last Picture Show” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Immigrant.” Ida Lupino’s much admired and influential 1953 thriller “The Hitch-hiker” and “Twelve O’Clock High” (1949), a vivid portrait of WWII bomber crews, were also among the chosen.

The list also included the 1912 religious saga “From the Manger to the Cross” and one of the first special effects spectacles, “The Lost World” (1925). Other representatives from the silent era were the two-reel comedy “Pass the Gravy,” headlining the largely forgotten Max Davidson; “Sky High” (1922), starring Tom Mix; and “Westinghouse Works 1904,” a commissioned industrial on production-line life in East Pittsburgh shot by D.W. Griffith cameraman G.W. “Billy” Bitzer.

Nonfiction films added to the registry include D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 portrait of Bob Dylan, “Don’t Look Back,” and such rarities as “The City,” a look at Manhattan by Willard Van Dyke and Ralph Steiner that premiered at the 1939 World’s Fair, and “Dead Birds,” a feature on the Dani of New Guinea made in 1964. The work of innovative filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames was recognized with the inclusion of “Powers of Ten,” an expressionistic piece that has a series of shots that initially magnify but then reduce perspective by multiples of 10.

The most unexpected selection, however, was unquestionably the Puerto Rican production “Modesta.” Produced in 1956, the 35-minute drama is considered one of the best films from the island’s indigenous film community, centering on a group of women who start their own domestic rebellion over their husbands’ inattention.