“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Roman Holiday” and “The Wild Bunch” are among 25 films to be added to the National Film Registry, where they will be preserved for all time.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington released the latest list Tuesday, saying the 275 motion pictures now in the registry represent “a stunning range of American filmmaking.”
The oldest film on the new roster is the silent, black-and-white “The Kiss,” released in 1896 by Edison Manufacturing Co. with a cast of just two names, May Irwin and John Rice. No running time is listed; instead, it is said to be “50 feet” in length.
The most recent is Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989), from Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Universal, with Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
Other films on the list include the seven-minute, Warner Bros. cartoon “Duck Amuck” (1953), directed by Chuck Jones, with Mel Blanc performing the voices for Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny; Josef von Sternberg’s “The Docks of New York” (1928), from Famous Players Lasky/Paramount, with George Bancroft and Betty Compson; and George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), from Image Ten/Continental, with Judith O’Dea and Russell Streiner.
Big-hit choices include Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders” (1981), from Paramount, with Harrison Ford and Karen Allen; William Wyler’s “Roman Holiday” (1953), also from Paramount, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn; and “Wild Bunch” (1969), from Warner Bros./Seven Arts, directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Edmond O’Brien.
Reflecting film heritage
Under the National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress each year names 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant movies to the registry.
The list includes Hollywood features, documentaries, avant-garde and amateur productions, films of regional interest, and ethnic, animated, and short film subjects.
The effort to preserve the films is also guided by urgency. Fewer than 20% of U.S. feature films from the 1920s survive in complete form. Of the American features produced before 1950, only half survive.
“For shorts, documentaries, and independently produced works, we have no way of knowing how much has been lost,” the Film Preservation Board says on its Web site.
This year’s titles were chosen after the librarian evaluated more than 1,000 movies nominated by the public.
“Sadly, our enthusiasm for watching films has proved far greater than our commitment to preserving them,” Billington said. “And, ominously, more films are lost each year — through the ravages of nitrate deterioration, color-fading and the recently discovered ‘vinegar syndrome,’ which threatens the acetate-based film stock on which the vast majority of motion pictures, past and present, have been preserved.”
Once in the registry, films are safeguarded either through the Library of Congress’ motion picture preservation unit in Dayton, Ohio, or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios or independent filmmakers.
The Library of Congress contains the largest collections of film and television in the world, from the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest feature releases.
This year’s list
Remaining films on the new list include: “Civilization” (1916), dir. Thomas Ince, with Herschel Mayall, Lola May; “The Emperor Jones” (1933), dir. Dudley Murphy, with Paul Robeson, Dudley Digges; “Gunga Din” (1939), dir. George Stevens, with Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; “In the Land of the Head-Hunters” (aka. “In the Land of the War Canoes”) (1914), dir. Edward S. Curtis; “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” (1959), dir. Bert Stern, with Jimmy Giuffre Trio, Thelonious Monk, Chuck Berry; “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis” (1970), directors Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with narrators Paul Newman, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster; “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), dir. Robert Aldrich, with Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker; “Lambchops” (1929), with George Burns, Gracie Allen; “Laura” (1944), dir. Otto Preminger, with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price; “Master Hands” (1936), cinematographer Gordon Avil’s documentary filmed at the Chevrolet plants in Flint, Mich.; “My Man Godfrey” (1936), dir. Gregory La Cava, with William Powell, Carole Lombard; and “The Plow That Broke the Plains” (1936), dir. Pare Lorentz;
“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), dir. Ernst Lubitsch, with Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart; “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), dir. Elia Kazan, with Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando; “The Ten Commandments” (1956), dir. Cecil B. DeMille, with Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner; “Trance and Dance in Bali” (1939), Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead’s anthropological footage of a Balinese ceremonial dance; and “Woman of the Year” (1942), dir. George Stevens, with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn.
For a list of National Film Registry inductees and their credits, click here.