Cultural Classics: 25 Films

A publicity photo from the 1957 film, "Jailhouse Rock", in which Elvis Presley plays a convict who becomes a rock star
A Cold War era training film which teaches children to "duck and cover" in case of enemy attack and "Schindler's List," the Academy Award winning true story of a businessman in Nazi Germany who wound up saving the lives of thousands of Jews - are being added to the National Film Registry.

Also being preserved: an Elvis Presley film and a golden oldie starring Rin Tin Tin (for those of you who don't know: a canine movie star discovered in France during World War I who was featured in two dozen movies).

They are among 25 films selected by the Library of Congress to the registry, which now holds 400 movies.

Also on this year's list: movies starring Popeye the Sailor Man, Our Gang (nine years before Robert Blake joined the cast of the kiddie ensemble series, at the tender age of six), and dance and romance legends Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington made the selections after evaluating nearly 1,000 titles nominated by the public and consulting staff and advisers, the library said.

"The films we choose are not necessarily the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous," Billington said in a statement. Rather, they are chosen because they have "cultural, historical or aesthetic significance."

A film's selection recognizes its place in American film and cultural history, he said.

"The registry stands among the finest summations of American cinema's wondrous first century."

This year's selections span a wide cinematic range and include both obscure and well-known movies. Among the better-known films:

  • "Ben Hur," the 1959 epic starring Charlton Heston, which tells the story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, only to regain his freedom and come back for revenge. Its centerpiece: an action-packed chariot race.
  • "Duck and Cover," the 1951 landmark civil defense film seen by millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s. In the case of an atomic attack, children were advised to duck beneath a table or desk and cover their heads.
  • "Jailhouse Rock," which showcased Elvis Presley in ultimate rebel mode, in a film he hoped would put him on a path to being an actor as respected as Marlon Brando. The edginess in this 1957 film was toned down in later Presley pictures.
  • "The Nutty Professor," the 1963 film which some rank as comic Jerry Lewis' greatest.
  • "Schindler's List," the 1993 Steven Spielberg film based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a factory owner in Nazi-occupied Poland who employed thousands of Jewish workers and saved them from the Holocaust.

    Lesser known films on this year's list include "Daughters of the Dust," the first feature-length film by an black woman to receive a wide theatrical release, and "Empire," Andy Warhol's eight-hour, one-shot stationary camera look at the Empire State Building.

    The registry was established by Congress in the 1988 National Film Preservation Act, and each year, 25 movies are added. The Library of Congress works to ensure that each film in the registry is preserved for all time.