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Films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Orson Welles, John Ford, Blake Edwards, Sam Fuller, D.A. Pennebaker, George Cukor, James L. Brooks and Ang Lee are among the latest batch of motion pictures chosen for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, it was announced Wednesday.
The 30th annual selection of 25 films deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant to the nation’s film heritage helps ensure that those on the list will be preserved for all time.
The inductees include Hitchcock’s first American feature, Rebecca (1949); the noir classics Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai (1947); Spielberg’s groundbreaking dinosaur tale Jurassic Park (1993); Edwards’ bitter commentary about alcoholism, Days of Wine and Roses (1962); Kubrick’s chilling The Shining (1980); Buster Keaton’s ingenious The Navigator (1924); Kasi Lemmons’ eerie family drama, Eve’s Bayou (1997); Smoke Signals (1998), the first feature to be written, directed and co-produced by Native Americans; and Lee’s love story Brokeback Mountain (2005), which is now the most recent film on the Registry.
Music occupies a prominent place on the list with the Gene Kelly-Frank Sinatra classic On the Town (1949), the enchanting My Fair Lady (1964) and the documentary Monterey Pop (1968), directed by Pennebaker and produced by Lou Adler and the late John Phillips.
“I am extremely pleased and proud as I am sure John Phillips would be that Monterey Pop has been selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry,” Adler said in a statement. “Pleased that the film brings recognition to the artists involved in a cultural explosion of music festivals and celebrates a generation in tune with music and love. Proud to have collaborated with D.A. Pennebaker, who crafted a film that perfectly documented the time, the music and introduced a genre of filmmaking to be honored forever … long after June 16, 17 and 18, 1967 as proven by this selection.”
The Informer (1935) gives Ford his 11th film in the Registry, the most of any director.
The Librarian of Congress makes the selections after conferring with members of the National Film Preservation Board and others. Among the motion pictures considered were more than 6,300 titles nominated by the public. (Films must be at least 10 years old to be eligible, and nominations for next year will be accepted through the fall here.)
“The National Film Registry turns 30 this year, and for those three decades, we have been recognizing, celebrating and preserving this distinctive medium,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “These cinematic treasures must be protected, because they document our history, culture, hopes and dreams.”
Viewers can tune into Turner Classic Movies at 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday to view a selection of the films (indicated with asterisks below) named this year, with Hayden and film critic Leonard Maltin discussing the picks. (Select titles from 30 years of the Registry are also freely available.)
Here’s a look at this year’s additions, with descriptions supplied by the Library of Congress:
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
At only 81 minutes, Bad Day packs a punch. Spencer Tracy stars as Macreedy, a one-armed man who arrives unexpectedly at the sleepy desert town of Black Rock. He is just as tight-lipped at first about the reason for his visit as the residents of Black Rock are about the details of their town. However, when Macreedy announces that he’s looking for a former Japanese-American Black Rock resident named Komoko, town skeletons suddenly burst into the open. The standout cast also includes Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Dean Jagger. Director John Sturges displays the Western landscape to great advantage in this CinemaScope production.
Broadcast News (1987)
Brooks wrote, produced and directed this comedy set in the fast-paced, tumultuous world of television news. Shot mostly in dozens of locations around the Washington area, the film stars Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks, who makes the most of his everyman persona serving as Holly Hunter’s romantic back-up plan while she pursues the handsome but vacuous Hurt. Against the backdrop of broadcast journalism (and various debates about journalist ethics), a grown-up romantic comedy plays out in a smart, savvy and fluff-free story whose humor is matched only by its honesty.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
A contemporary Western drama that won the Academy Award for best screenplay (by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) and Golden Globes for best drama, director (Lee) and screenplay, Brokeback Mountain depicts a secret and tragic love affair between closeted gay ranch hands. They furtively pursue a 20-year relationship despite marriages and parenthood until one of them dies violently, reportedly by accident, but possibly, as the surviving lover fears, in a brutal attack. Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the short story upon which the film was based, described it as “a story of destructive rural homophobia.” Haunting in its unsentimental depiction of longing, lonesomeness, pretense, sexual repression and ultimately love, Brokeback features Heath Ledger’s remarkable performance that conveys a lifetime of self-torment through a pained demeanor, near inarticulate speech and constricted, lugubrious movements. In his review, Newsweek‘s David Ansen wrote that the film was “a watershed in mainstream movies, the first gay love story with A-list Hollywood stars.” Brokeback has become an enduring classic.
“I didn’t intend to make a statement with Brokeback Mountain,” Lee said. “I simply wanted to tell a purely Western love story between two cowboys. To my great surprise, the film ended up striking a deep chord with audiences; the movie became a part of the culture, a reflection of the darkness and light — of violent prejudice and enduring love — in the rocky landscape of the American heart.
“More than a decade has passed since Brokeback Mountain was released, but I hope that this film, a small movie with wide open spaces, continues to express something both fresh and fundamental about my adopted country.”
It would take the enchanted magic of Walt Disney and his extraordinary team to revitalize a story as old as Cinderella. Yet, in 1950, Disney and his animators did just that with this version of the classic tale. Sparkling songs, high-production value and bright voice performances have made this a classic from its premiere. Though often told and repeated across all types of media, Disney’s lovely take has become the definitive version of this classic story about a girl, a prince and a single glass slipper. Breathtaking animation fills every scene, including what was reportedly Walt Disney’s favorite of all Disney animation sequences: the fairy godmother transforming Cinderella’s “rags” into an exquisite gown and glass slippers.
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
This marked another in a series of Hollywood classics on the touchy subject of alcoholism. Previous examples on the theme include The Lost Weekend and Come Back, Little Sheba. Though his career before Days had been noted for a deft touch in light comedy, in this Academy Award-nominated performance, Jack Lemmon plays a hard-drinking San Francisco PR man who drags his wife (Lee Remick) into the horrific descent into alcoholism. Edwards pulls no punches in this uncompromisingly bleak film. Henry Mancini composed the moving score, best remembered for the title song he and Johnny Mercer wrote, which won the Academy Award for original song.
Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency
The original nitrate footage that comprises the 1908 Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency was discovered in a Montana antique store in 1982 and donated to the Human Studies Film Archives at the Smithsonian Institution. It is the only known surviving film footage from the 1908 Rodman Wanamaker-sponsored expedition to record American Indian life in the west, filmed and produced both for an educational screening at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia and to document what Wanamaker and photographer Joseph K. Dixon considered a “vanishing race.” Dixon and his son Roland shot motion picture film as well as thousands of photographs (most of them are archived at Indiana University). This film captures life on Crow Agency, Crow Fair and a re-creation of the Battle of Little Big Horn featuring four of Custer’s Crow scouts. Films from later Wanamaker expeditions are archived at the National Archives and the American Museum of Natural History. The original film was photochemically preserved at Cinema Arts in 1983.
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
Written and directed by Lemmons and co-produced by co-star Samuel L. Jackson, Eve’s Bayou proved one of the indie surprises of the 1990s. The film tells a Southern gothic tale about a 10-year-old African-American girl who, during one long, hot Louisiana summer in 1962, discovers some harsh truths beneath her genteel family’s fragile facade. The film’s standout cast also includes Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Diahann Carroll, Lisa Nicole Carson, Branford Marsalis and the remarkable Jurnee Smolett, who plays the lead. The tag line of this film was quite apropos: “The secrets that hold us together can also tear us apart.”
“It’s such an honor to return from production on my fifth film, Harriet, to find that my first, Eve’s Bayou, is being included in the National Film Registry,” Lemmons said. “As a black woman filmmaker, it is particularly meaningful to me, and to future generations of filmmakers, that the Library of Congress values diversity of culture, perspective and expression in American cinema and recognizes Eve’s Bayou as worthy of preservation.”
The Girl Without a Soul (1917)
George Eastman Museum founding film curator James Card was a passionate devotee of silent-film director John H. Collins’ work. It is through his influence that the museum is the principal repository of the director’s few extant films. As the expert on Collins’ legacy, the museum said he is “one of the great ‘What if …?’ figures of American cinema — a brilliantly creative filmmaker who went from being a costume department assistant to a major director within four short years before dying at the age of 31 in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Collins’ films show both a subtle understanding of human nature and often breathtakingly daring cinematography and editing. The Girl Without a Soul stars Viola Dana (to whom Collins was married) in a dual role as twin sisters, one a gifted violinist, the other a deeply troubled girl jealous of her sister’s abilities and the love bestowed upon her by their violin-maker father. This jealousy and the violinist sister’s unworldliness lead both into turbulent moral conflict, which takes considerable fortitude from both to overcome. The Girl Without a Soul has been preserved by George Eastman Museum.
Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984)*
Hair Piece is an insightful and funny short animated film examining the problems that African-American women have with their hair. Director Ayoka Chenzira, generally considered the first black woman animator, was a key figure in the development of African-American filmmakers in the 1980s through her own films and work to expand opportunities for others. Writing in The New York Times, critic Janet Maslin lauded this eccentric yet jubilant film. She notes the narrator “tells of everything from the difficulty of keeping a wig on straight to the way in which Vaseline could make a woman’s hair sound like the man in The Fly saying, ‘Help me!'”
“For my independently produced animated experimental film to be included in the National Film Registry is quite an honor,” Chenzira said. “I never imagined that Hair Piece would be considered to have cultural significance outside of its original intent, which was a conversation and a love letter to black women (and some men) about identity, beauty and self-acceptance in the face of tremendous odds.”
Hearts and Minds (1974)*
Director Peter Davis describes his Academy Award-winning documentary as “an attempt to examine why we went to Vietnam, what we did there and what the experience did to us.” Compared by critics at the time to Marcel Ophuls’ acclaimed 1971 documentary The Sorrow and the Pity, Hearts and Minds similarly addressed the wartime effects of national myths and prejudices by juxtaposing interviews of government officials, soldiers, peasants and parents; cinema verite scenes shot on the home front and in South Vietnam; clips from ideological Cold War movies; and horrific archival footage. Author Frances FitzGerald praised the documentary as “the most moving film I’ve ever seen on Vietnam, because, for the first time, the camera lingers on the faces of Vietnamese, and one hears their voices.” Author David Halberstam said it “brilliantly catches … the hidden, unconscious racism of the war.” Others from both ends of the political spectrum chided it as manipulative propaganda that oversimplified complexities.
Paul Newman received his third Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the title character, the handsome, surly and unscrupulous bad-boy son of a Texas rancher who locks horns with his father over business and family matters. Loosely based on Larry McMurtry’s debut novel, Horseman, Pass By, the film received seven Academy Award noms, with Patricia Neal (best actress), Melvyn Douglas (supporting actor) and James Wong Howe (black-and-white cinematography) winning. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey in 2017 chronicled the production of the film and summed up some of his impressions of its relevance 55 years after its release: “Naked and narcissistic self-interest have always been a dark undercurrent to the limpid surface stream of American optimism and justice, but it is not a reach to see the character of Hud as an avatar of the troubling cynicism of that other side of American Populism — the side that espouses a fake concern for one’s fellow man while lining one’s own pockets. Hud, a lothario at the wheel of his crashed convertible, raising a shroud of dust clouds in its trail, is nothing more than a flimflam 19th century snake-oil salesman and carnival barker. His type erupts over and over onto America’s psyche like a painful pustule.”
The Informer (1935)*
The film depicts with brutal realism the life of an informant during the Irish Rebellion of 1922 who turns in his best friend and then sees the walls closing in on him in return. Critic Andre Sennwald, writing in The New York Times, praised Ford’s direction: “In his hands, The Informer becomes at the same time a striking psychological study of a gutter Judas and a raw impressive picture of the Dublin underworld during the Black and Tan terror.” Ford and cinematographer Joseph August borrowed from German expressionism to convey the Dublin atmosphere. To this point, Ford had compiled a solid workmanlike career as he learned his craft. The Informer placed him in the top echelon of American film directors, and during the next 20 years, he crafted numerous other classics, from Stagecoach (1939) through The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
Jurassic Park (1993)
The concept of people somehow existing in the age of dinosaurs (or dinosaurs somehow existing in the age of people) has been explored in film and on television numerous times. No treatment, however, has ever been done with more skill, flair or popcorn-chomping excitement than this blockbuster. Set on a remote island where a man’s toying with evolution has run amok, this Spielberg classic ranks as the epitome of the summer blockbuster. Jurassic Park was the No. 1 public vote-getter this year.
The Lady From Shanghai (1947)*
The camera is the star in this stylish film noir. Lady From Shanghai is renowned for its stunning set pieces, the “Aquarium” scene, “Hall of Mirrors” climax, baroque cinematography and convoluted plot. Welles had burst on the scene with Citizen Kane in 1941 and The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942 but had increasingly become seen by the studios as difficult to work with. As a result, Welles spent most of his career outside the studio sphere. The Lady From Shanghai marked one of his last films under a major studio (Columbia), with Welles and execs frequently clashing over the budget, final editing of the film and the release date.
Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
Darkness and claustrophobia mark the visual style of many film noirs: the use of black and white or gloomy grays, low-key lighting, striking contrasts between light and dark, shadows, nighttime or interior settings and rain-soaked streets. Leave Her to Heaven proves the magnificent exception. Filmed in vibrant, three-strip Technicolor, many pivotal scenes occur in spectacular outdoor locations, shot by famed cinematographer Leon Shamroy in Arizona and California. Gene Tierney, a classic femme fatale, stars as Ellen, whose charisma and stunning visage mask a possessive, sociopathic soul triggered by “loving too much.” Anyone who stands between her and those she obsessively loves tend to meet “accidental” deaths, most famously a teen boy who drowns in a chilling scene. Martin Scorsese puts Heaven among his all-time favorite films and Tierney as one of film’s most underrated actresses. Heaven makes a supremely compelling case for these sentiments.
Monterey Pop (1968)*
This seminal music festival film captures the culture of the time and performances from iconic musical talent. Monterey Pop also established the template for multi-camera documentary productions of this kind, predating both Woodstock and Gimme Shelter. In addition to Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles and others provided the superb camerawork. Performers include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Hugh Masekela, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel and Ravi Shankar. As he recalled in a 2006 Washington Post article, Pennebaker decided to shoot and record the film using five portable 16mm cameras equipped with synchronized sound-recording devices, while Adler and Phillips (The Mamas & the Papas) sagely had the whole concert filmed and recorded. They further enhanced the sound by hiring Wally Heider and his state-of-the-art mobile recording studio.
“It was for us a vast undertaking,” Pennebaker said in a statement. “We were using all five of our homemade cameras, some with 3,000-foot reels we’d never tried before, praying they’d all work, and that it turned out as wonderful as it did I can still scarcely believe. But every camera was guided by an artist, some for the first time, looking for the poetry of the music and its artists as never before. It was an inspired crew, and every member of it earned this selection into the National Registry. They were the best.”
My Fair Lady (1964)*
In the 1950s and ’60s, besieged by shifts in demographics and having much of its audience syphoned off by television, film studios knew they had to go big in order to lure people back to the theater. This film version of the musical My Fair Lady epitomized this approach with the use of wide-screen technologies. Based on the sparkling stage musical (inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion), My Fair Lady came to the big screen via the expert handling of Cukor. Cecil Beaton’s costume designs provided further panache, along with his, Gene Allen’s and George James Hopkins’ art and set direction. The film starred Rex Harrison, repeating his career-defining stage role as Professor Henry Higgins, and Audrey Hepburn (whose singing voice was dubbed by frequent “ghoster” Marni Nixon) as the Cockney girl, Eliza Doolittle. Though opulent in the extreme, all these elements blend perfectly to make My Fair Lady the enchanting entertainment it remains today.
The Navigator (1924)
Keaton had burst onto the scene in 1920 with the dazzling two-reeler One Week. His feature The Navigator proved a huge commercial success and put Keaton in the company of Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in terms of audience popularity and films eagerly awaited by critics. Decades after release, Pauline Kael reviewed the film: “Arguably, Buster Keaton’s finest — but amongst the Keaton riches, can one be sure?” Keaton plays an inept, foppish millionaire whose idea of a marriage proposal involves crossing the street in a chauffeured car, handing flowers to his girlfriend and popping the question. Later, the two become stranded at sea on an abandoned boat, and Keaton proves his worth by conceiving ingenious work-arounds to ensure they survive. The silent era rarely saw films rife with more creativity and imaginative gags.
On the Town (1949)
Three sailors with 24 hours of shore leave in New York doesn’t sound like much to build a film around, but when Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin portray them under the sparkling direction of Stanley Donen (and Kelly), movie magic occurs. On the Town was based upon the Comden & Green Broadway musical of the same name. Shot on location all over New York City, the film carries over such splendid songs as “New York, New York,” the close-to-opening iconic scene with the trio performing while in their Navy togs. Female song-and-dance pros Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller match the guys step for step in the musical numbers. On the Town represents the upbeat, postwar musicals of the era that summed up the national optimism of the period.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Based on the 1956 Charles Neider novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones(a loose retelling of the story of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), this Western marks Marlon Brando’s sole directorial effort. One-Eyed Jacks displays his trademark introspection and offbeat quirkiness. Brando’s approach to updating the Western film genre marks it as a key work in the transition period from Classic Hollywood (1930s through 1950s) to the new era that began in the ’60s and continues to this day. As Scorsese and others have said, this evolution involved a change from filmmaking primarily being about profit-making to a period when many directors create motion pictures as a personal artistic expression.
Pickup on South Street (1953)
Fuller’s films are sometimes compared to the pulp novels of Mickey Spillane, though Fuller’s dynamic style dwarfs Spillane’s. With films often crass but always provocative, Fuller described his mantra of filmmaking: “Film is like a battleground, with love, hate, action, violence, death … in one word, emotion.” Considered by some as the archetypal Sam Fuller film and a nice summary of the main themes in his work, Pickup on South Street is a taut, Cold War thriller. The fast-paced plot follows a professional pickpocket who accidentally lifts some secret microfilm from his mark. Patriotism or profit? Soon, the thief is being pursued not only by the woman he stole from, but also by communist spies and U.S. government agents. The film culminates in a landmark brutal subway-based fight scene. It is arguably the classic anti-communist film of the 1950s and a dazzling display of the seedy New York underlife. In particular, Thelma Ritter’s excellent tough-yet-nuanced performance as Moe Williams stands out and earned her an Academy Award nom for supporting actress, which was highly unusual for what was considered at the time a lurid and violent B-movie.
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s most famous book (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …”), found its perfect cinematic interpreter in Hitchcock, here directing his first American motion picture. Powerhouse producer David O. Selznick had just imported the “master of suspense” from his native England. Laurence Olivier stars as Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine, in her breakthrough role, co-stars as Maxim’s new (and never given a first name) wife. However, it’s two other women who dominate the film — the intimidating housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and the film’s title woman, the deceased first Mrs. de Winter, whose powerful shadow hangs heavily over this great estate and its inhabitants. Winner of the Oscar for best picture, Rebecca is stylish, suspenseful and a classic.
The Shining (1980)
Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s terrifying novel has only grown in esteem through the years. The film is inventive in visual style, symbolism and narrative as only a Kubrick film can be. Long but multi-layered, The Shining contains stunning visuals — rivers of blood cascading down deserted hotel hallways, disturbing snowy mazes and a mysterious set of appearing and disappearing twins — with iconic performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.
Smoke Signals (1998)
Native American directors are a rarity in Hollywood. After the early silent films done by James Young Deer and Edwin Carewe, the portrayal of Native Americans in cinema turned dark and stereotypical. These social trends started changing with motion pictures like the groundbreaking Smoke Signals, generally considered to be the first feature film written, directed and produced by Native Americans. Director Chris Eyre uses the relaxed road-movie concept to create a funny and unpretentious look at Native Americans in the nation’s cinema and culture. The mostly Native American cast features Adam Beach and Evan Adams as road warriors who find themselves on a hilarious adventure. Beneath the highly entertaining facade, the film acquainted non-Native American audiences with real insights into the indigenous Americans’ culture. Sherman Alexie penned the witty, droll script based on his book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. This Miramax release was a big hit on the independent circuit and won numerous awards, including one at Sundance.
Something Good — Negro Kiss (1898)*
According to scholars and archivists, this recently discovered 29-second film may represent the earliest example of African-American intimacy onscreen. American cinema was a few years old by 1898 and distributors struggled to entice audiences to this new medium. Among their gambits to find acceptable “risque” fare, the era had a brief run of “kissing” films. Most famous is the 1896 Edison film The Kiss, which spawned a rash of mostly inferior imitators. However, in Something Good, the chemistry between vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown was palpable. Also noteworthy is this film’s status as the earliest known surviving Selig Polyscope Co. film. Selig had a good run as a major American film producer from its founding in 1896 until its ending around 1918. Something Good exists in a 19th-century nitrate print from the University of Southern California Hugh Hefner Moving Image Archive. USC Archivist Dino Everett and Dr. Allyson Nadia Field of the University of Chicago discovered and brought this important film to the attention of scholars and the public. “What makes this film so remarkable,” Field notes, “is the non-caricatured representation and naturalistic performance of the couple. As they playfully and repeatedly kiss, in a seemingly improvised performance, Suttle and Brown constitute a significant counter to the racist portrayal of African Americans otherwise seen in the cinema of its time. This film stands as a moving and powerful image of genuine affection and is a landmark of early film history.”
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