Breakfast at Tiffany's
A League of Their Own
will be preserved for their enduring significance in American culture by the Library of Congress, along with
A Christmas Story
and several pioneering sports movies.
They are among 25 selections the library inducted Wednesday into the National Film Registry. Congress created the program in 1989 to preserve films for their cultural or historical significance. The latest additions bring the registry to 600 films that include Hollywood features, documentaries, independent films and early experimental flicks.
The newest movie chosen for preservation is 1999's The Matrix, noted for its state-of-the-art special effects and computer-generated animation with a style that drew on Hong Kong action films and Japanese anime to change science-fiction filmmaking, curators noted.
The oldest film being preserved, The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight, dates back 115 years to 1897. Film curators said the boxing movie helped establish the film industry as a successful business, drawing on the sport's popularity and controversy to generate $750,000 in income. Boxing was illegal in many states at the time but had been made legal in Nevada, which hosted the fight. The film, with a running time of about 100 minutes, became the longest movie ever produced at the time, showing the full course of the fight.
Another pioneering sports film, 1967's They Call It Pro Football, was chosen for how it changed the way football was portrayed on screen. Before then, football films were mostly highlight reels. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle decided the success of the NFL depended on its television image, to capture the struggle of football and not just the end result on the scoreboard.
The Librarian of Congress, currently James Billington, makes the selections after conferring with members of the National Film Preservation Board and receiving public nominations. To be considered, the films must be at least 10 years old.
"These films are not selected as the 'best' American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture," Billington said in announcing the selections. "They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation."
They also include some unforgettable characters.
Audrey Hepburn landed the lead in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's even though writer Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe. Critics and fans decided that Capote had been wrong.
A League of Their Own (1992) received many public nominations for the registry over the years. With a cast that included Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Rosie O'Donnell, it told the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Many nominations also were received for Born Yesterday (1950) and A Christmas Story (1983), both chosen this year, as were Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and the original 3:10 to Yuma (1957). Selected films will be preserved in the library's Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., or in collaboration with other archives or studios.
Documentaries chosen include The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), about San Francisco's first openly gay elected official, who was assassinated in 1978, and Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990), about rebuilding after Pol Pot's misrule.
This year's selections include some firsts. The 1914 film Uncle Tom's Cabin was based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery novel, previously adapted for movies with white actors in the lead roles. But this version was the first feature-length U.S. film to star a black actor, Sam Lucas.
The library will also preserve the first "Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests" from 1922. The two-color film features leading actresses posing and miming for the camera to demonstrate the new color film. Before then, to show film in color, black and white images either had to be hand-painted or colored with a stenciling process. Inventors, including scientists at Kodak, began experimenting with ways to create true color film.
The Kodachrome test shown at Paragon Studios in New Jersey was the first publicly demonstrated color film to draw the American film industry's industry; later, Technicolor became the standard.