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Category: Film Essay

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“Jam Session”: National Film Registry #13

Posted by: Cary O’Dell

In the short film, “Jam Session,” Duke Ellington and his band perform “C Jam Blues.”  “Jam Session” is a “soundie,” the music videos of their day. These short musical films were produced largely between 1940 and 1946 for showing in Panorams, coin-operated film jukeboxes that were placed in nightclubs, bars, lounges and restaurants.  As Mark Cantor …

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“The Hitch-Hiker”: National Film Registry #10

Posted by: Cary O’Dell

Though greatly out-numbered, female film directors have always been a part of the movie-making industry.  One of the very first, and still today, one of the very best was Ida Lupino.  Lupino began her career in front of the camera as an actress before transitioning to being behind it, bringing to the screen a meaningful …

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“The Great Dictator”: National Film Registry #9

Posted by: Cary O’Dell

Obviously no list devoted to great cinema can overlook the contributions of Charlie Chaplin.  Among his greatest films is this one, a brave political send-up from 1940 that was added to the National Film Registry in 1997. Extraordinarily timely when it came out, and in some ways, still, the silent film scholar Jeffrey Vance said about the intersection …

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“Broken Blossoms”: National Film Registry #8

Posted by: Cary O’Dell

“Broken Blossoms,” one of the great silents, was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.  Directed by D.W. Griffith, it starred his best-known muse, the ethereal Lillian Gish. Though, today, Griffith is a somewhat controversial figure, Ed Gonzalez, film editor of “Slant” magazine, says that, regardless, his influence on film cannot be ignored: “No dialectic approach …

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“Stagecoach”: National Film Registry #7

Posted by: Cary O’Dell

In 1995, one of the all-time great Westerns, “Stagecoach,” was added to the Registry.  Directed by that sagebrush master, John Ford, the film features–not surprisingly–John Wayne. Writer and archivist Scott Nollen noted of the film’s value and influence by saying: “Orson Welles, who named John Ford as his favorite filmmaker, claimed that he studied ‘Stagecoach,’ ‘over …

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“E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”: National Film Registry #6

Posted by: Cary O’Dell

 In 1994, the National Film Registry welcomed Spielberg’s immortal “ET” to its list.  The beloved film that has forevermore encouraged us to “phone home,” was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas and C. Thomas Howell. The Library of Congress’s own Dave Gibson once wrote of the film: “‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ …