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Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, John Bunny, George Kuchar: National Film Registry 2011 Movies

Gloria Grahame, The Big Heat
Gloria Grahame, The Big Heat

FORREST GUMP, BAMBI, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: National Film Registry 2011 Movies

Besides the aforementioned Hester Street and Norma Rae, women are also at the forefront of Julia Reichert and Jim Klein’s Growing Up Female (1971); Chick Strand’s Fake Fruit Factory (1986), a documentary about Mexican women who create ornamental papier-mâché fruits and vegetables; and the recently deceased George Kuchar’s experimental short I, an Actress (1977), which is available on YouTube.

I couldn’t find any titles focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual, multisexual, etc., or transgender characters. As so often happens, political correctness will go only so far.

Anyhow, more interesting than p.c. choices was the inclusion of A Cure for Pokeritis (1912), an early comedy starring then-popular (and quite odd) couple John Bunny and Flora Finch; and what may well be my favorite noirish crime drama, Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953), starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.

Here are the remaining titles: Pixar visual effects artist Ed Catmull’s one-minute film A Computer Animated Hand (1972); Robert Drew’s Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963), about Governor George Wallace’s attempt to prevent two black students from enrolling in the University of Alabama; Jordan Belson’s five-minute 1961 short Allures, "inspired by Eastern spiritual thought"; and George Nichols’ socially conscious melodrama The Cry of the Children (1912), from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem and featuring future filmmaker James Cruze (of the 1920s blockbuster The Covered Wagon).

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who selected the 25 movies out of 2,228 titles submitted by the public, stated that "our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams."

Once again, that’s all fine. But despite my film lover credentials, I never get excited about the National Film Registry choices. After all, I don’t believe anyone in his/her right mind is afraid that, say, Paramount and Disney won’t be "protecting" Forrest Gump and Bambi in the decades to come. Meanwhile, hundreds of lesser-known but no less "culturally significant" American motion pictures lie waiting — some rotting away — for lack of preservation funds.

Also, having the National Film Registry "protect" a movie doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be made available for you and me to watch it on DVD or on cable television. For movies made after 1923, studios still own the rights to them.

It would be nice, of course, if Preminger’s Porgy and Bess, generally dismissed at the time and extremely hard to find today (reportedly thanks to the George Gershwin estate), were to be made available. In addition to Poitier and Dandridge, the film’s cast includes Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis Jr, and Brock Peters. Distributed by Columbia Pictures, Porgy and Bess was Samuel Goldwyn’s last production.

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