National Film Registry - 12/15

December 9, 2020
National Film Registry - 12/15

The National Film Registry is the Library of Congress’s listing of films deemed worthy of preservation by the United States National Film Preservation Board, which was established by Congress in 1988 to ensure the survival, conservation and availability of America’s film heritage. Each year, the Registry selects 25 films that showcase the range and diversity of that heritage to increase awareness of the importance of film preservation. In celebration of this year’s announcement, TCM will present six of the selections.

Screenings will be presented by TCM host Jacqueline Stewart and Dr. Carla Hayden, who was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress in 2016. Below are the films being shown.

The Battle of the Century (1927) is a silent short starring the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, produced by Hal Roach and directed by Clyde Bruckman. The storyline has Hardy entering Laurel into a boxing competition before the boys become involved in a massive fight with cream pies. Reportedly somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 pies were involved in the fight scene. Portions of the film had been lost until 2015, when the missing parts were restored.

Cabin in the Sky (1943) is MGM’s screen version of the 1940 Broadway musical fantasy with music by Vernon Duke. Vincente Minnelli directed the film, one of the few studio productions of its era to feature an all-Black cast. The movie stars Ethel Waters, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and a young Lena Horne (in her only leading role in an MGM musical), with appearances by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Anderson plays a man who is killed for his gambling debts but gets a chance to save himself from going to hell. Songs include the Oscar-nominated “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe,” written for the film by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg and memorably sung by Waters.

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) is a drama about drug addiction, based on the novel by Nelson Algren, directed by Otto Preminger and released through United Artists. Oscar-nominated Frank Sinatra stars as Frankie, an addicted musician who struggles to remain clean after serving time in prison and returning home to Chicago. Eleanor Parker plays his longsuffering, supposedly disabled wife, and Kim Novak is an old flame who tries to help Frankie. Controversial in its day, this hard-hitting film broke new ground in its treatment of drug abuse.   

Lilies of the Field (1963) brought Sidney Poitier a Best Actor Oscar for his sensitive performance as a handyman who befriends a group of German nuns at a farm in rural Arizona. Ralph Nelson directed the comedy-drama, a United Artists production based on the novel by William Edmund Barrett. The film also was nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Lilia Skala), Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography.

Illusions (1982), a 34-minute independent production written, produced and directed by Julie Dash, tells the story of an African-American woman (Lonette McKee) who passes for white in order to find work in the Hollywood film industry of the 1940s. The film was the thesis submission at the University of California, Los Angeles from Dash, whose 1991 feature Daughters of the Dust became the first feature-length film directed by an African-American woman to gain general theatrical release in the U.S.

The Joy Luck Club (1993), directed by Hong Kong/American filmmaker Wayne Wang, is based on the novel by Amy Tan (who co-wrote the screenplay with co-producer Ronald Bass) and was produced by Disney’s Hollywood Pictures. This touching drama looks at the lives of four young women of Chinese descent who live in San Francisco and explore difficult relationships with their immigrant mothers. The cast includes Tamlyn Tomita, France Nuyen and Lisa Lu.

Featured Films Airing 12/15

The Battle of the Century (1927)
Cabin in the Sky (1943)
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
Lilies of the Field (1963)
Illusions (1982)
The Joy Luck Club (1993)