Many Americans typically spend their summers and the holiday season flocking to movie theaters nationwide. But even as they enjoy the latest releases, vast portions of the nation's movie heritage are vanishing.
It is estimated that 50 percent of the films produced before 1950, and 80 to 90 percent made before 1920, have disappeared forever. The Library of Congress is working to stanch those losses by recognizing and working with many organizations to preserve, films that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.
On Dec. 27, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington added 25 motion pictures to the National Film Registry to be preserved for all time, bringing the total number of films on the registry to 450.
In making the announcement, Billington said, "The annual selection of films to the National Film Registry involves far more than the simple naming of cherished and important films to a prestigious list. The Registry should not be seen as 'The Kennedy Center Honors,' 'The Academy Awards' or even 'America's Most Beloved Films.' Rather, it is an invaluable means to advance public awareness of the richness, creativity and variety of American film heritage, and to dramatize the need for its preservation.
"The selection of a film recognizes its importance to American movie and cultural history, and to history in general. The Registry stands among the finest summations of more than a century of wondrous American cinema."
The 450 films in the National Film Registry represent a stunning range of American filmmaking, including Hollywood features, documentaries, avant-garde and amateur productions, films of ethnic and regional interest, and animated and short film subjects — all deserving recognition, preservation and access by future generations.
Despite preservation efforts by various organizations, "This key component of American cultural history is an endangered species," Billington said. He pointed out that increasing numbers of films are lost each year to 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 have been reproduced.
The 2006 selections span the years 1913 to 1996 and encompass films ranging from Hollywood classics to lesser-known but still vital works. Billington 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. The board also advises the Librarian on national film preservation policy.
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, Congress established the National Film Registry in 1989 and reauthorized the program in April 2005 when it passed the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-9).
"This legislation signifies great congressional interest in ensuring that motion pictures survive as an art form and a record of our times," Billington said.
Among other provisions, the law reauthorized the National Film Preservation Board, mandated that the Librarian and Board update the national film preservation plan (published in the mid-1990s) as needed, increased funding authorizations for the private-sector National Film Preservation Foundation and amended Section 108(h) of U.S. Copyright Law, which enables libraries and archives to make works in their final 20 years of copyright protection accessible for research and education if the works are not already commercially available.
For each title named to the Registry, the Library of Congress works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, 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 works 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 the 2006 National Film Registry
- "Applause" (1929)
- "The Big Trail" (1930)
- "Blazing Saddles" (1974)
- "The Curse of Quon Gwon" (1916-17)
- "Daughter of Shanghai "(1937)
- "Drums of Winter" [Uksuum Cauyai] (1988)
- "Early Abstractions #1-5, 7, 10" (1939-56)
- "Fargo" (1996)
- "Flesh and the Devil" (1927)
- "Groundhog Day" (1993)
- "Halloween" (1978)
- "In the Street" (1948)
- "The Last Command" (1928)
- "Notorious" (1946)
- "Red Dust" (1932)
- "Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania" (1971-72)
- "Rocky" (1976)
- "sex, lies and videotape" (1989)
- "Siege" (1940)
- "St. Louis Blues" (1929)
- "The T.A.M.I. Show" (1964)
- "Tess of the Storm Country" (1914)
- "Think of Me First as a Person" (1960-75)
- "A Time Out of War" (1954)
- "Traffic in Souls" (1913)