U.S. film registry adds 25 new titles
November 16, 1999
By Jamie Allen
(CNN) -- In a list ranging from George Romero's 1968 cult classic "Night of the Living Dead" to the Cecil B. DeMille 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments" and Steven Spielberg's 1981 "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the United States' Library of Congress has added 25 new films to the National Film Registry. The additions bring the registry's total number of films to 275.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the new additions to the list in a Tuesday press release. The film registry annually adds 25 new films. The registry was created by the 1988 National Film Preservation Act to "reflect the full breadth and diversity of America's film heritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness of American cinema and the need for its preservation."
The diverse list of 1999 entries spans 93 years of filmmaking, from the 1896 "The Kiss" to Spike Lee's 1989 "Do the Right Thing." Films must be at least 10 years old to be considered for inclusion in the registry.
"It's a very broad-ranging list and it's meant to be that way," says David Francis, head of the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress.
"It's really (inclusive of) films that are historically, culturally or aesthetically important in any way. It's not the Academy Awards. It's not a competitive list. It's trying to show a broad cross section of American film heritage.
"I'm very pleased to see Spike Lee's 'Do the Right Thing'" added this year, says Francis. "I think he's a marvelous filmmaker and it's one of his best films."
Francis says the list is chosen using a mix of public and professional feedback.
"Each year about April, we approach a large number of film critics and they encourage their readers to send these lists of favorite films," Francis says. "We analyze these lists and submit them to the National Film Preservation Board," which is made up of key members of organizations represented in the film industry.
Ultimately, Billington has the final call as Librarian of Congress.
1999 registry additions
Directors Raymond West and Reginald Barker, produced by Thomas Ince, 1916, 10 reels, silent, black and white
Director Spike Lee, 1989, produced by 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Universal, 120 minutes, color
Director Josef von Sternberg, produced by Famous Players-Lasky Paramount, 1928, eight reels, silent, black and white
Director: Charles M. "Chuck" Jones, Warner Bros., 1953, seven minutes, Technicolor
Director Dudley Murphy, produced by Krimsky-Cochran/United Artists, 1933, 72 minutes, black and white
Director George Stevens, produced by RKO, 1939, 117 minutes, black and white
Director Edward S. Curtis, produced by Seattle Film Co./World Film Co., 1914, about 50 minutes, silent, black and white
Director Bert Stern, produced by Raven Film/Galaxy Productions, 1959, 85 minutes, color
Directors Sydney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, produced by Commonwealth United, 1970, 185 minutes, black and white
Produced by Edison Mfg. Co./S. Lubin, 1896, 50 feet, silent, black and white
Director Robert Aldrich, produced by Parklane/United Artists, 1955, 105 minutes, black and white
George Burns and Gracie Allen, produced by Vitaphone, 1929, eight minutes, black and white
Director Otto Preminger, produced by 20th Century-Fox, 1944, 85 minutes, black and white
Jam Handy Organization for Chevrolet Motor Company, 1936, 33 minutes, black and white
Director Gregory La Cava, produced by Universal, 1936, 95 minutes, black and white
Director George Romero, produced by Image Ten/Continental, 1968, 96 minutes, black and white
Director Pare Lorentz, produced by Pare Lorentz/Resettlement Administration, 1936, 25 minutes, black and white
Director Steven Spielberg, produced by Paramount, 1981, 115 minutes, color
Director William Wyler, Paramount, 1953, 119 minutes, black and white
Director Ernst Lubitsch, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1940, 97 minutes, black and white
Director Elia Kazan, produced by Warner Bros., 1951, 122 minutes, black and white
Director Cecil B. DeMille, produced by Paramount, 1956, 219 minutes, VistaVision, Technicolor
Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, 1938-'39, 22 minutes, black and white
Director Sam Peckinpah, produced by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, 1969, 148 minutes, Technicolor
Director George Stevens, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942, 112 minutes, black and white
Call for preservation
Billington is using the release of the list to promote the need for preservation of America's celluloid history.
"Despite the heroic efforts of archives, the motion picture industry and others, America's film heritage, by any measure, is an endangered species," Billington says in his statement. "Fifty percent of the films produced before 1950 and at least 90 percent made before 1920 have disappeared forever."
Francis says that the burgeoning field of digital filmmaking might change the need for archiving this type of storytelling.
"Digital technology is a really worrying thing from an archivist standpoint," says Francis with a laugh. "When you read in the trade press that films are going to be beamed direct to the cinema and the only thing on celluloid will be the camera negative and possibly just a fine grain positive copy kept in a salt mine somewhere, what do the archivists go for?
"I think what we can say is we're watching the situation carefully."
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