Here are the 25 films that have been added to the National Film Registry. These are the films (and some clips) that have been deemed culturally and historically significant by the Library of Congress.
1. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
2. Deliverance (1972)
3. Disneyland Dream (1956)
4. A Face in the Crowd (1957)
5. Flower Drum Song (1961)
6. Foolish Wives (1922)
7. Free Radicals (1979)
8. Hallelujah (1929)
9. In Cold Blood (1967)
10. The Invisible Man (1933)
11. Johnny Guitar (1954)
12. The Killers (1946)
13. The March (1964)
14. No Lies (1973)
15. On the Bowery (1957)
16. One Week (1920)
17. The Pawnbroker (1965)
18. The Perils of Pauline (1914)
19. Sergeant York (1941)
20. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
21. So’s Your Old Man (1926)
22. George Stevens WW2 Footage (1943-46)
23. The Terminator (1984)
24. Water and Power (1989)
25. White Fawn’s Devotion (1910)
All the hype surrounding this years list is about The Terminator being added to the registry but I am most excited about Hallelujah‘s inclusion. Directed by King Vidor, it is one of the first all-black cast studio pictures and is a huge departure from its contemporaries in its honest depiction of African-American life. If you have seen this 1929 musical, you really must check it out.
This past Wednesday (July 16) the US Postal Service issued a stamp set that honors five early films in early Black Cinema.
Black and Tan – a 19-minute film released in 1929 featuring Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.
Caldonia – a 18 minute short films, which was released in 1945. It showcased singer, saxophonist and bandleader Louis Jordan.
Hallelujah – a 1929 movie released by MGM. It was one of the first films from a major studio to feature an all-black cast. Producer-director King Vidor was nominated for an Academy Award for his attempt to portray rural African-American life, especially religious experience.
Princess Tam-Tam – a 1935 film starring Josephine Baker as a simple African woman presented to Paris society as royalty.
The Sport of the Gods – a 1921 film based on the book by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Of the five, I’ve only seen Hallelujah. It is a bit difficult to watch as it is unlike any other early musical. It far more complex than the typical backstage musical of the twenties and thirties. Nevertheless, it is really worth seeing.
The history surrounding not only these films but all of early black cinema is simply fascinating, It one of the most rich, frustrating, and brilliant aspects of early American cinema and I encourage anyone to read about the subject.
In fact, you can begin with these two books:
Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker
Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film
I love this poster!
I screened Hallelujah in my class (Race, Ethnicity, and the Hollywood Musical) recently and found it unbelievably compelling. It is one of the first all-black films produced by a studio and director King Vidor’s first sound film. Here is a clip featuring Nina Mae McKinney: