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Hits, obscurities picked by Library of Congress

25 films, including 'Exorcist,' 'Airplane!' join Film Registry

With a typically eclectic mix, the Library of Congress’ selection of 25 pics to join the National Film Registry runs the gamut of obscure experimental and avant-garde works to mainstream hits including “The Pink Panther,” “The Exorcist,” “All the President’s Men,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Airplane!” and “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Other titles include the Maysles brothers’ far-reaching 1976 docu “Grey Gardens”; 1931 newspaper potboiler “The Front Page”; and John Huston’s 1946 war docu “Let There Be Light,” which the Pentagon banned for 35 years because it depicted combat veterans suffering from psychological traumas.

The selections were chosen from 2,112 titles nominated by the public and members of the National Film Preservation Board as well as Library of Congress staffers. The 2010 selections bring the number of pics selected by the Library of Congress for preservation to 550. The Registry was created in 1989 by the National Film Preservation Act to ensure the survival of works deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

The list encompasses several works featuring prominent biz figures who have recently died, including Blake Edwards, helmer of “The Pink Panther” (1964); “Empire Strikes Back” (1980) helmer Irwin Kershner; and “Airplane!” (1980) star Leslie Nielsen.

Early Hollywood pics on this year’s list include the 1914 William S. Hart starrer “The Bargain” and W.C. Fields’ “It’s a Gift” (1934). Elia Kazan’s first feature, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945), made the cut, as did Robert Altman’s offbeat Western “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971) and Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic “Malcolm X.”

Among the obscure gems is “Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB,” the 15-minute film made by George Lucas during his days at USC. The film drew the attention of Warner Bros. and led to Lucas’ first feature, “THX 1138,” produced by Francis Ford Coppola. “A Trip Down Market Street” (1906) is a 13-minute chronicle of San Francisco’s Market Street, as seen through a camera perched on the front of a cable car. It was likely shot a few days before the city was hit by the April 18, 1906, earthquake, according to the Library.

The oldest entry is 1891’s “Newark Athlete.” Pic was made at the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, N.J., by W.K.L. Dickson and William Heise, who made important technical contributions that led to the invention of the Edison Kinetograph motion picture camera.

Other esoteric picks include “Cry of Jazz” (1959), a 34-minute study of Chicago’s black neighborhoods by helmer Ed Bland that is recognized as an early and influential example of African-American independent filmmaking; and Luis Valdez’s “I Am Joaquin” (1969), a 20-minute short about Chicanos, based on the epic poem by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales.

Librarian of Congress James Billington emphasized that the goal of the Registry is to highlight works of cultural significance and the importance of preservation efforts. The Library works with the owner of each title to ensure that a copy of the film is preserved at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, home to 6 million films, TV programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings.

“The National Film Registry is a reminder to the nation that the preservation of our cinematic creativity must be a priority because about half of the films produced before 1950 and as much as 90% of those made before 1920 have been lost to future generations,” Billington said.

Nominations for titles to be considered for next year’s Registry selections can be made online at loc.gov/film.

Library of Congress 2010 selections:

• “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945) Elia Kazan’s first feature film was based on the enduring Betty Smith novel.

• “A Trip Down Market Street” (1906) The 13-minute docu was filmed before the San Francisco earthquake.

• “Airplane!” (1980) Jim Abrahams, Jerry and David Zucker’s broad comedy featured durable actors Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves and Lloyd Bridges.

• “All the President’s Men” (1976) Based on the bestselling memoir by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

• “The Bargain” (1914) Cowboy actor William S. Hart’s first film

“Cry of Jazz” (1959) This 34-minute, black-and-white short intercuts scenes of Chicago’s black neighborhoods with interviews of artists and intellectuals.

• “Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB” (1967) Directed by George Lucas, the 15-minute student short was expanded into “THX 1138.”

• “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) Irvin Kershner’s 1980 sequel helped lay the foundation for the long-lived “Star Wars” franchise.

• “The Exorcist” (1973) William Friedkin directed this influential horror film starring Linda Blair.

• “The Front Page” (1931) Directed by Lewis Milestone and based on one of the best screenplays of the 1930s by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur

• “Grey Gardens” (1976) Cinema verite docu by Albert and David Maysles has been adapted as a telefilm and stage play.

• “I Am Joaquin” (1969) Short based on a poem by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales is important to the history and culture of Chicanos in America.

• “It’s a Gift” (1934) This W.C. Fields film is the third named to the National Film Registry.

• “Let There Be Light” (1946) Director John Huston’s docu was withheld by the War Dept. for 35 years.

• “Lonesome” (1928) One of the few American feature films directed by Hungarian-born filmmaker and scientist Paul Fejos.

• “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937) This Leo McCarey-directed Depression-era film follows an elderly couple parted by financial ruin.

• “Malcolm X” (1992) Spike Lee’s biopic stars Denzel Washington.

• “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971) Robert Altman’s Western stars Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

• “Newark Athlete” (1891) Experimental film was one of the first made in America at the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, N.J.

• “Our Lady of the Sphere” (1969) Experimental pic by Lawrence Jordan uses found graphics to produce animated collages.

• “The Pink Panther’ (1964) The Blake Edwards comedy introduced the animated Pink Panther character in the film’s opening and closing credit sequences.

• “Preservation of the Sign Language” (1913) This two-minute film demonstrates in sign language the importance of defending the right of deaf people to sign.

• “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) Starring John Travolta, the disco era pic revitalized the Hollywood musical.

• “Study of a River” (1996) Peter Hutton directed this experimental look at the Hudson River over a two-year period.

• “Tarantella” (1940) This five-minute color, avant-garde short was created by Mary Ellen Bute, a pioneer of visual music and electronic art.

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