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Jeff Lambert has been promoted to executive director of the National Film Preservation Foundation, succeeding Annette Melville, who nearly two decades ago was instrumental in launching the archival agency that rescues lost cinema. The NFPF announced the news Thursday.
Melville, who is retiring, co-authored two landmark legislative studies — Film Preservation 1993 and Redefining Film Preservation — that provided policymakers and the public with a snapshot of the precarious state of film preservation in the early 1990s.
Her work led to the 1997 creation of the NFPF, the nonprofit charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Melville, in fact, was its first staff member.
San Francisco-based NFPF has helped save some 2,100 films at archives, libraries and museums across the U.S. It has recently preserved and made public an unearthed 1927 short featuring 6-year-old Mickey Rooney; Too Much Johnson, a never-before-seen 1938 film found in Italy that was written and directed by Orson Welles; The White Shadow (1924), on which Alfred Hitchcock served as an assistant director and editor; and the missing 1923 Clara Bow film Maytime.
Lambert has served as NFPF assistant director since 2002 and has worked with the foundation for 16 years. As manager of NFPF grants for more than a decade, he directed the growth of the program that has served 272 cultural institutions across all 50 states and preserved thousands of films that likely would not have survived without public support.
The NFPF, which partners with Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive, the New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound and the EYE Filmmuseum of Amsterdam, makes films available through its website and Treasures DVD series.
Too Much Johnson was a screwball marital farce starring Joseph Cotten that was envisioned as a companion piece for a planned multimedia stage adaptation of a 19th century play by William Gillette. The NFPF last week posted for free streaming and download the 66-minute work print along with a 34-minute “reimagining” of how the films might have been put together had they been completed.
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