National Film Registry 2010

Newark Athlete (1891), one of five silent films included among the twenty-five films added to the National Film Registry for 2010

Once again at the end of the year we have the announcement of twenty-five further films added to the National Film Registry. Each year the Librarian of Congress (James H. Billington), with advice from the National Film Preservation Board (and with recommendations made by the public), names twenty-five American films deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant that are to be added to the National Film Registry, “to be preserved for all time”. The idea is that such films are not selected as the “best” American films of all time, but rather as “works of enduring significance to American culture”.

Five silent films are among the titles chosen for 2010, including two that have been championed in particular by the Bioscope: Preservation of the Sign Language, produced in 1913 in by National Association of the Deaf president George Veditz and one a of a number of films made by the Association at that time (available online from Gallaudet University); and the Miles Brothers’ haunting A Trip Down Market Street (1906), showing San Francisco just before the earthquake struck it. The others are Paul Fejos’ Lonesome (1928), which exists in both silent and sound versions, the William S. Hart western The Bargain (1914), and W.K.L. Dickson and William Heise’s 1891 proto-motion picture film experiment Newark Athlete, the oldest film to be added to the registry so far.

The other films on the 2010 list are Airplane! (1980), All the President’s Men (1976), Cry of Jazz (1959), Electronic Labyrinth: THX 113B 4EB (1967), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Exorcist (1973), The Front Page (1931), Grey Gardens (1976), I Am Joaquin (1969), It’s a Gift (1934), Let There Be Light (1945), McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971), Make Way for Tomorrow (1936), Malcolm X (1992), Our Lady of the Sphere (1969), The Pink Panther (1964), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Study of a River (1996), Tarantella (1940), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945).

The full list of films entered on the National Film Registry since 1989 can be found here, while this is the list of all silents (or films with some silent content) on the Registry 1989-2009:

Ben-Hur (1926)
Big Business (1929)
The Big Parade (1925)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Black Pirate (1926)
Blacksmith Scene (1893)
The Blue Bird (1918)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
The Cameraman (1928)
The Cheat (1915)
The Chechahcos (1924)
Civilization (1916)
Clash of the Wolves (1925)
Cops (1922)
A Corner in Wheat (1909)
The Crowd (1928)
The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916-17)
Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894-95)
The Docks of New York (1928)
Evidence of the Film (1913)
The Exploits of Elaine (1914)
Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915)
Flesh and the Devil (1927)
Foolish Wives (1920)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
The Freshman (1925)
From the Manger to the Cross (1912)
The General (1927)
Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Grass (1925)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Greed (1924)
H20 (1929)
Hands Up (1926)
Hell’s Hinges (1926)
Heroes All (1920)
The Immigrant (1917)
In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914)
Intolerance (1916)
It (1927)
The Italian (1915)
Jeffries-Johnson World’s Championship Boxing Contest (1910)
The Kiss (1896)
Lady Helen’s Escapade (1909)
Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)
Land Beyond the Sunset (1912)
The Last Command (1928)
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
The Life and Death of 9413 – A Hollywood Extra (1927)
Little Nemo (1911)
The Lost World (1925)
Mabel’s Blunder (1914)
Making of an American (1920)
Manhatta (1921)
Matrimony’s Speed Limit (1913)
Mighty Like a Moose (1926)
Miss Lulu Bett (1922)
Nanook of the North (1922)
One Week (1920)
Pass the Gravy (1928)
Peter Pan (1924)
The Perils of Pauline (1914)
Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
Power of the Press (1928)
Precious Images (1986)
President McKinley Inauguration Footage (1901)
Princess Nicotine; or The Smoke Fairy (1909)
Regeneration (1915)
The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36)
Rip Van Winkle (1896)
Safety Last (1923)
Salome (1922)
San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, April 18, 1906 (1906)
Seventh Heaven (1927)
Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Show People (1928)
Sky High (1922)
The Son of the Sheik (1926)
Stark Love (1927)
Star Theatre (1901)
The Strong Man (1926)
Sunrise (1927)
Tess of the Storm Country (1914)
There it is (1928)
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Tol’able David (1921)
Traffic in Souls (1913)
The Wedding March (1928)
Westinghouse Works, 1904 (1904)
Where Are My Children? (1916)
Wild and Wooly (1917)
The Wind (1928)
Wings (1927)
Within our Gates (1920)

The Library of Congress welcome suggestions from the public, and even provides a helpful list of titles not on the Registry yet but which are under consideration, to help prod your memories. It contains some 225 silent films alone, which suggests that they are not about to run out of ideas just yet.

But what about a world film registry, one which drew attention to world cinema (silents and beyond) and its need for preservation on account of its cultural, historical or aesthetic relevance? We have some films on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, but that’s not really enough. Isn’t it the sort of thing that FIAF ought to promote?

4 responses

  1. The Library of Congress has now issued the full press release with details of the 25 films: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-273.html

    This is what it says about the five silents (though Lonesome is really being considered as a sound film):

    The Bargain (1914)
    After beginning his career on the stage (where he originated the role of Messala in “Ben-Hur” in 1899), William S. Hart found his greatest fame as the silent screen’s most popular cowboy. His 1914 “The Bargain,” directed by Reginald Barker, was Hart’s first film and made him a star. The second Hart Western to be named to the National Film Registry, the film was selected because of Hart’s charisma, the film’s authenticity and realistic portrayal of the Western genre and the star’s good/bad man role as an outlaw attempting to go straight.

    Lonesome (1928)
    “Lonesome” is one of the few American feature films directed by the gifted Hungarian-born filmmaker and scientist Paul Fejös (1897-1963). The film has been recognized for its success as both a comic melodrama (about young lovers who become separated during the chaos of a thunderstorm at Coney Island) and for its early use of dialogue and two-color Technicolor. The film was restored by the George Eastman House and has found renewed popularity with repertory and film-festival audiences.

    Newark Athlete (1891)
    Produced May-June 1891, this experimental film was one of the first made in America at the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, N.J. The filmmakers were W.K.L. Dickson and William Heise, both of whom were employed as inventors and engineers in the industrial research facility owned by Thomas Edison. Heise and especially Dickson made important technical contributions during 1891-1893, leading to the invention of the world’s first successful motion picture camera—the Edison Kinetograph—and to the playback device required for viewing early peepshow films—the Edison Kinetoscope.

    Preservation of the Sign Language (1913)
    Presented without subtitles, “Preservation” is a two-minute film featuring George Veditz, onetime president of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) of the United States, demonstrating in sign language the importance of defending the right of deaf people to sign as opposed to verbalizing their communication. Deafened by scarlet fever at the age of eight, Veditz was one of the first to make motion-picture recordings of American Sign Language. Taking care to sign precisely and in large gestures for the cameras, Veditz chose fiery biblical passages to give his speech emotional impact. In some of his films, Veditz used finger spelling so his gestures could be translated directly into English in venues where interpreters were present. On behalf of the NAD, Veditz made this film specifically to record sign language for posterity at a time when oralists (those who promoted lip reading and speech in lieu of sign language) were gaining momentum in the education of the hearing-impaired. The film conveys one of the ways that deaf Americans debated the issues of their language and public understanding during the era of World War I.

    A Trip Down Market Street (1906)
    “A Trip Down Market Street” is a 13-minute “actuality” film recorded by placing a movie camera on the front of a cable car as is proceeds down San Francisco’s Market Street. A fascinating time capsule from over a 100 years ago, the film showcases the details of daily life in a major American city, including the fashions, transportations and architecture of the era. The film was originally thought to have been made in 1905, but historian David Kiehn, who examined contemporary newspapers, weather reports and car license plates recorded in the film, later suggested that “A Trip Down Market Street” was likely filmed just a few days before the devastating earthquake on April 18, 1906.

  2. Pingback: Little Nemo (Vitagraph) « 100 Year Old Movies

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