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December 16, 2003

Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced his annual selection of 25 motion pictures to be added to the National Film Registry, see attached list. This group of titles brings the total number of films placed on the Registry to 375.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 culturally, historically or aesthetically significant motion pictures to the Registry. The list is designed 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. In making the announcement, the Librarian said, Our film heritage is America's living past. It celebrates the creativity and inventiveness of diverse communities and our nation as a whole. By preserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of our cultural history.

This year's selections span the years 1894 to 1988, and encompass films ranging from Hollywood classics to lesser-known, but still vital, works. Among the films named this year:

Antonia: Portrait of the Woman
Jill Godmillow and Judy Collins’ documentary on the life of extraordinary musician-conductor Antonia Brica and her struggles to become a symphony director despite her gender.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
One of the most popular American films of all time with critically acclaimed performances by Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

The Chechahcos, Inuit word meaning tenderfoot or newcomer
This independent, regional film was the first feature film produced in Alaska, and is renowned for its spectacular location footage of the lonely and unfathomable Alaskan wilderness, frenzied dogsled pursuits and life-and-death struggles on the glaciers.

Dickson Experimental Sound Film
The subject of a recent high-profile restoration project, this film was a very early attempt by W.K.L. Dickson of the Thomas Edison Company to combine film image and sound.

Fox Movietone News: Jenkins Orphanage Band
Culturally important newsreel footage of the renowned African American touring musical group of Charleston, S.C.

Nostalgia and Film Portrait
Two avant-garde classics considered eloquent and evocative explorations of memory and family by Hollis Frampton and Jerome Hill, a descendant of a railroad tycoon of the late 1800s.

Gold Diggers of 1933
Arguably the definitive Depression-era musical, rife with visually stunning Busby Berkeley productions, ranging from the escapist, kaleidoscopic, neon-violin-playing chorines of The Shadow Waltz to the powerful social statement of My Forgotten Man, a stirring paean to World War I veterans unemployed by the Depression.

The Hunters
Seminal anthropological film chronicling a giraffe hunt by Kalahari Desert tribesmen.

Matrimony’s Speed Limit
Pioneering woman filmmaker Alice Guy Blache’s deft, ironic short film of a man financially compelled to marry by noon, thanks to some sneaky encouragement from the woman in his life.

National Velvet
Enduring family film classic with Elizabeth Taylor as a young girl whose wild ambition is to have her horse run in the Grand National Steeplechase.

Naughty Marietta
A singing romance and cinema’s first pairing of the electrifying singing duo Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, who captivated audiences with songs such as Ah Sweet Mystery of Life.

One Froggy Evening
A cartoon on every short list of the greatest animation, this classic Chuck Jones creation features crooning frog Michigan J. Frog, who drives his owner insane by singing only in private, but never in public.

Princess Nicotine; or The Smoke Fairy
A dazzling special effects landmark from 1909, where fairies bedevil one man’s attempt to light his pipe for a relaxing smoke.

Show People
The classic silent comedy that showcases actress Marion Davies’ deft touch for light comedy.

The Son of the Sheik
Rudolph Valentino, who died shortly after the film’s release at the age of 31, inflamed female hearts for a final time in this slightly tongue-in-cheek adventure-romance.

Tarzan and His Mate
A rather steamy pre-Production Code Tarzan film, generally considered the finest in the series, with Tarzan and Jane battling poachers and living a rather carefree, swinging life in the jungle.

Tin Toy
Early innovative short animation from Pixar Studios, which revolutionized American animation with its hits such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

White Heat
Pulsating gangster film with James Cagney as a mother-obsessed, psychopathic gangster exiting the world with the legendary Made It Ma. Top of the World ending.

The Librarian chose this year's selections after evaluating nearly 1,000 titles nominated by the public and conducting intensive discussions with the Library's Motion Picture division staff and the distinguished members and alternates of his advisory group, the National Film Preservation Board, which also advises the Librarian on national film preservation policy.

In making his announcement, Billington lauded two of the Library’s landmark developments in the film preservation field:

The National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, which opens in Culpeper, Va., in 2005 as the world’s preeminent audiovisual preservation and research facility, is being built with the generous support of the Packard Humanities Institute.

The Moving Image Collections (MIC) program, which is the largest and potentially most significant archival-moving image project in history. Archives worldwide have started working on the first stage, a comprehensive directory of moving image repositories. MIC was launched in partnership with the Association of Moving Image Archivists and with a grant from the National Science Foundation. For information on the project’s progress, visit http://gondolin.rutgers.edu/MIC/.

Regarding the National Film Registry, Billington observed that the films we choose are not necessarily either the best American films ever made or the most famous, but they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance - and in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition. The selection of a film, I stress, is not an endorsement of its ideology or content, but rather a recognition of the film's importance to American film and cultural history and to history in general.

Taken together, the 375 films in the National Film Registry represent a stunning range of American filmmaking - including Hollywood features, documentaries, avant-garde and amateur productions, films of regional interest, ethnic, animated and short film subjects - all deserving recognition, preservation and access by future generations. As we begin this new millennium, the registry stands among the finest summations of American cinema's wondrous first century, he added.

This key component of American cultural history, however, remains a legacy with much already lost or in peril. Billington explained: In spite of the heroic efforts of archives, the motion picture industry and others, America's film heritage, by any measure, is an endangered species. Fifty percent of the films produced before 1950 and 80 to 90 percent made before 1920 have disappeared forever. Sadly, our enthusiasm for watching films has proved far greater than our commitment to preserving them. And, ominously, more films are lost each year - through the ravages of nitrate deterioration, color-fading and the recently discovered vinegar syndrome, which threatens the acetate-based, safety, film stock on which the vast majority of motion pictures, past and present, have been reproduced.

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress works to ensure that the film is preserved for all time, either through the Library's massive motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Library of Congress contains the largest collections of film and television in the world, from the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest feature releases. For more information, consult the National Film Preservation Board Web site at www.loc.gov/film.

Films Selected to 2003 National Film Registry

  • Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman, 1974
  • Atlantic City, 1980
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
  • The Chechahcos, 1924
  • Dickson Experimental Sound Film, 1894-5
  • Film Portrait, 1970
  • Fox Movietone News: Jenkins Orphanage Band, 1928
  • Gold Diggers of 1933, 1933
  • The Hunters (anthropological film), 1957
  • Matrimony’s Speed Limit, 1913
  • Medium Cool, 1969
  • National Velvet, 1944
  • Naughty Marietta, 1935
  • Nostalgia, 1971
  • One Froggy Evening, 1956
  • Patton, 1970
  • Princess Nicotine; or The Smoke Fairy, 1909
  • Show People, 1928
  • The Son of the Sheik, 1926
  • Tarzan and His Mate, 1934
  • Tin Toy, 1988
  • The Wedding March, 1928
  • White Heat, 1949
  • Young Frankenstein, 1974
  • Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939

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PR 03-211
12/16/03
ISSN 0731-3527

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