December 17, 2002 Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry

Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456

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 350.

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. As Billington 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 20th century from 1901 to 1991, and encompass films ranging from Hollywood classics to lesser-known, but still vital, works. Among films named this year: "Alien," the influential, spine-tingling sci-fi film where one learns that "in space no one can hear you scream"; "All My Babies," George Stoney's landmark educational film used to educate midwives in Georgia and throughout the South; "The Bad and the Beautiful," featuring Kirk Douglas as a ruthless film producer in one of Hollywood's most memorable examinations of its culture; "The Black Stallion," Carroll Ballard's evocative and visually stunning children's classic; "Endless Summer," Bruce Brown's droll documentary of two surfers and their around-the-world quest for the Perfect Wave that made millions despite an unorthodox distribution strategy; "From Stump to Ship," a once-forgotten 1930 logging film that has become a touchstone of cultural identity for Maine residents; "Fuji," Robert Breer's avant-garde replication (blending techniques of rotoscope, live-action imagery and line drawing) of a train ride past Mt. Fuji; the electrifying 1967 social drama "In the Heat of the Night," where Sidney Poitier as "Mister Tibbs" solves a crime his way; "Melody Ranch," one of the best vehicles for Gene Autry as the first singing cowboy; "The Pearl," a landmark among English-language Mexican classics released for Hispanic audiences in the United States, which features breathtaking cinematography by Gabriel Figueroa; "The Star Theatre," a dazzling 1901 time-lapse special effects film showing demolition of this New York City theater; "Theodore Case Sound Tests: Gus Visser and his Duck" and "This is Cinerama," two films illustrating technical innovation in cinema, in addition to being highly entertaining; "This is Spinal Tap," Rob Reiner's deft "mockumentary" parody of a fictitious, touring heavy metal band that places its faith in "the amplifier which goes to 11 "; "Through Navajo Eyes," a pioneering series of anthropological films; "Why Man Creates," an animated paean to the concept of creativity by legendary film title sequence designer Saul Bass; and "Wild and Wooly," one of the films which created Douglas Fairbanks' film persona, this film showcased his hilarious personal odyssey from effete Easterner to courageous, virile Man of the West.

Following intensive discussions with the National Film Preservation Board, the Librarian chose this year's titles after evaluating nearly 1000 films nominated by the public. Billington consults with the distinguished members of his advisory board on registry film selection and national film preservation policy, along with the Library's own Motion Picture Division staff.

Billington lauded recent landmark developments in the film preservation field, including the continuing development of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va., which is being built with generous support from the Packard Humanities Institute, and will open in 2005 as possibly the world's pre-eminent audio-visual preservation and research facility; and the Moving Image Collections (MIC), a joint project of the Library of Congress, Association of Moving Image Archivists, Rutgers University, Georgia Tech, University of Washington and numerous other institutions. This project recently received a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to begin creation of the nation's first online integrated catalog of moving images, a Web-based gateway to invaluable moving images held at archives throughout the world. Noted film critic and historian Leonard Maltin remarked, "Film researchers, archivists and buffs around the world have been eagerly awaiting the day when one could determine, easily and definitively, which films exist and where. It's high time for this project to come to fruition."

Regarding the National Film Registry, Billington observed, "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 350 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 added: "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 80-90 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:

Films Selected to the National Film Registry
Library of Congress: 2002

1. Alien (1979)
2. All My Babies (1953)
3. The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
4. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
5. The Black Stallion (1979)
6. Boyz N the Hood (1991)
7. Theodore Case Sound Tests: Gus Visser and His Singing Duck (1925)
8. The Endless Summer (1966)
9. From Here to Eternity (1953)
10. From Stump to Ship (1930)
11. Fuji (1974)
12. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
13. Lady Windermere's Fan (1925)
14. Melody Ranch (1940)
15. The Pearl (1948)
16. Punch Drunks (1934)
17. Sabrina (1954)
18. Star Theatre (1901)
19. Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
20. This Is Cinerama (1952)
21. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
22. Through Navajo Eyes (series) (1966)
23. Why Man Creates (1968)
24. Wild and Wooly (1917)
25. Wild River (1960)


PR 02-176
ISSN 0731-3527