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“The Spook Who Sat By the Door”: National Film Registry #24

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In the about-to-be 30 years that the National Film Registry has existed, many very well-known films have been added to its list.  Along the way, many films that are far less well known–but deserve far greater attention–have also been added.  A case in point is 1973’s “The Spook Who Sat By the Door” which was added to the Registry in 2012.

Authors Michael T. Martin and David C. Walls say of it:

“Based on Sam Greenlee’s provocative 1969 novel and, some say, urban revolutionary primer of the same name, Ivan Dixon’s ‘The Spook Who Sat By the Door’ (1973) tells the story of Dan Freeman, erstwhile CIA operative and consummate revolutionary organizer. Aware of his status as the CIA’s token affirmative action trainee, recruited in order to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to racial integration, Freeman’s carefully considered strategy is to maintain a low profile even while excelling at all of the agency’s tests for both intellectual and physical prowess. Thus, unfailingly polite and apparently always eager to please, he is the living embodiment of Ellison’s invisible man, ‘yessing whitey to death’ while discreetly learning everything he possibly can about urban guerrilla warfare. Finishing his apprenticeship with the CIA he returns to Chicago and proceeds to organize the Freedom Fighters, a clandestine militia, out of the disparate and ill-disciplined Cobras street gang of his former neighborhood.”

Read the remainder of this “The Spook Who Sat By the Door” (PDF) essay.


Title:  “The Spook Who Sat By the Door”

Year of Release:  1973

Year Added to the National Film Registry:  2012  (See all films added to the Registry in 2012.)

Trivia:  “Spook’s” director, Ivan Dixon, is probably best known to most audiences for his reoccuring role on the TV sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes.”

This blog post is the 24th of 30 in our “30 Years of the National Film Registry” series which was launched to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Registry.  The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.  The 30th National Film Registry selections will be announced on December 12, 2018.

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