Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Post Of 2014: Kudos, Bravos And Huzzahs To The Latest Additions To The National Film Registry

While film buffs can - and do - argue endlessly about which films should or not be selected for the National Film Registry, this correspondent is always thrilled to see what the new additions each year are. Big screen favorites represented on this list include Vinnie Price, Will Rogers, Charles Laughton, Zasu Pitts, Spencer Tracy, Charlotte Greenwood, John Wayne, Dean Martin, musical icons Busby Berkeley, Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable, director Howard Hawks, groundbreaking Ziegfeld Follies star Bert Williams and the devastatingly great Nicholas Brothers.

Several titles in the 2014 group, ESPECIALLY the 1913 film starring the legendary comedian, actor, vocalist and stage sensation Bert Williams, supported adeptly by a troupe of African-American actors, are truly historic and represent celluloid finds of the most miraculous kind.

Your correspondent likes just about every film on the list, although some not nearly as much as Charley Chase in Mighty Like A Moose. The mere mention of Mr. Chase, the hilarious and unequalled king of the comedy short (with Laurel & Hardy), reminds the incurable classic comedy buffs here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog that one addition to the registry is an unbeatable classic film directed by Chase cohort, friend and collaborator Leo McCarey.

Ruggles Of Red Gap, one of the most delightful and inspired McCarey comedies, stars Charles Laughton as the very proper British butler in a rootin' tootin' western town - and gets better with each viewing.

The film is teeming with beautiful performances by charter members of the Character Actor Hall Of Fame (Charlie Ruggles, Mary Boland, Roland Young, Zasu Pitts).

Leo McCarey, of course, went on to direct a wide variety of features, from thigh-slappers to "no dry eye in the house" tear-jerkers (Make Way For Tomorrow). Leo also would reprise those "dapper but very funny leading man" concepts he developed with Charley Chase to perfection with the incredible Cary Grant.

Among the new additions of particular interest to animation fans is The Way Of Peace, a stop-motion film produced by Wah Chang and directed by Frank Tashlin, a.k.a. Tish Tash and Frank Tash.

The irony of Tashlin, who slipped the most risque humor imaginable into both his feature films and 1943-1944 Warner Bros. cartoons, writing and directing a film for the American Lutheran Church is not lost upon the writer of this blog!

You gotta love a guy who was part of the WB "dream team" (with, among others, fellow comic geniuses Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng), directed Bob Hope's funniest film, Son Of Paleface, the groundbreaking rock n' roll musical The Girl Can't Help It AND the satiric Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. . . and was also the only person on the earth with the cajones to throw Jerry Lewis off a set for bad behavior.

Also on the list: an epic drama, The Power & The Glory featuring a Preston Sturges script (and co-starring Colleen Moore, winsome light comedienne of The Roaring Twenties), director Lois Weber's 1916 film Socks, the 1933 Fox version of State Fair, featuring the studio's biggest pre-Shirley Temple stars, Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers (a wonderful writer, satirist and social commentator who often proved equally delightful and warmly funny onscreen), "dawn of CGI" animation by Pixar's John Lasseter and more.

Here's the complete list of new National Film Registry additions for 2014:

  • Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Down Argentine Way (1940)
  • The Dragon Painter (1919)
  • Felicia (1965)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  • The Gang’s All Here (1943)
  • House Of Wax (1953)
  • Into The Arms of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport (2000
  • Little Big Man (1970)
  • Luxo Jr. (1986)
  • Moon Breath Beat (1980)
  • Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
  • The Power and the Glory (1933)
  • Rio Bravo (1959)
  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  • Ruggles Of Red Gap (1935)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • Shoes (1916)
  • State Fair (1933)
  • Unmasked (1917)
  • V-E + 1 (1945)
  • The Way Of Peace (1947)
  • Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)

And with that, like the "voice of the globe" narrator in a James A. Fitzpatrick Traveltalk, we reluctantly (well, not THAT reluctantly), say adieu to 2014 and wish all of our readers a Happy New Year.

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