Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

March 23, 1994

Library of Congress and Smithsonian Preview New Videos of Rare Silent Films

The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution will hold a special preview and reception to announce the release of "The Library of Congress Video Collection" by Smithsonian Video. The event, by invitation only, will be held on Wednesday, April 13, at 6 p.m. in the Library's Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd floor, Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Members of the press should reserve seats by calling (202) 707-2905.

"Rare Silent Films" draws upon the unique resources of the collections of the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. The group of six videocassettes includes important titles selected on the basis of recommendations from film historians, educators, and movie buffs. Some are newly restored prints of films long acknowledged to be historically important but not widely available. New piano scores have been added to all the films.

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, called the project "a unique partnership that joins the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution in a cooperative effort to make this remarkable collection widely available. This unprecedented collaboration makes it possible for the Library to disseminate some of its rarest films in a cost-effective way."

The Secretary of the Smithsonian, Robert McC. Adams, also warmly welcomed the joint project. "The enriched understanding of lost early stages in the development of the motion picture that these videocassettes will make widely available should be a significant contribution to popular culture," he said.

This six-cassette collection comprises the following:

Vol. 1, The African American Cinema I, presents Oscar Micheaux's "Within Our Gates" (1919), the earliest surviving feature directed by an African American. This startling film, newly restored, has been unseen for 75 years and is, in many ways, an answer to the racism depicted in D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation."

Vol. 2, Origins of the Gangster Film, presents D.W. Griffith's "The Narrow Road" (1912) and Maurice Tourneur's "Alias Jimmy Valentine" (1915), a major rediscovery that was lost for 75 years.

Vol. 3, Origins of American Animation, 1900-1921, presents a collection of 21 short animated cartoons, featuring George Herriman's "Krazy Kat," "The Katzenjammer Kids," and surviving fragments from "Gertie on Tour" and "The Centaurs" by Winsor McKay.

Vol. 4, Origins of the Fantasy Feature, presents two rare features from 1914, "The Patchwork Girl of Oz," produced by author L. Frank Baum, and "A Florida Enchantment," a gender-bending comedy of manners in which a jilted young woman tests magic seeds that change women into men (and vice versa) without altering their appearance.

Vol. 5, The African American Cinema II, presents "The Scar of Shame" (1926), a rare surviving silent film that exemplifies what the film industry once labeled "race movies." A melodrama of dance halls and gunfights, the film depicts poverty, ambition, and prejudice within the black community in ways otherwise unseen in silent film.

Vol. 6, America's First Women Filmmakers, presents four complete works from the silent era's two most accomplished and successful women directors. Included are "How Men Propose" (1913) and "Too Wise Wives" (1921) by Lois Weber and "Matrimony's Speed Limit" and "A House Divided," a pair of companion comedies on marriage and divorce by Alice Guy-Blache.

The Library of Congress Video Collection will be available for $ 34.95 per volume in the Library's Sales Shop and in Smithsonian museum shops and other retail outlets throughout the country. Videos are also available from the American International Distribution Corp. Shipping and handling is $3.50. For additional sales information, call (800) 669-1559 or write Smithsonian Video, 64 Depot Road, Colchester, VT 05446.

For information about the Smithsonian Video Project, journalists should contact Lisa Mincey at (202) 287-3738, ext. 343.

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PR 94-059
ISSN 0731-3527

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