Uncle Sam slaps Oscar: No Best Picture winners make National Registry of Film

Every year since 1989, the National Film Registry — a branch of the Library of Congress — selects 25 motion pictures to preserve for posterity. This year, as usual, most of its choices aren’t the ones deemed the best of their day by Hollywood — that is, they’re not past Oscars contenders.

Only 14 of this year’s entries were even eligible for Oscars. Of these, seven reaped nominations and six won Academy Awards; the seventh was, appropriately enough, “The Magnificent Seven,” which lost its sole race — Best Score — in 1960.

The other six films all numbered Best Picture nominations among their bids but none won this top prize. Each did prevail in at least one race as follows: 

“The Quiet Man” (1952) – Director 

“Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961) – Actor, Adapted Screenplay

“Mary Poppins” (1964) – Actress, Editing, Score, Song, Visual Effects

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) – Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography (B&W), Art Direction (B&W), Costume Design (B&W)

“The Right Stuff” (1983) – Editing, Score, Sound, Sound Editing

“Pulp Fiction” (1994) – Original Screenplay

So, even with 625 films dating up to 2002 now on the registry, 24 of the first 75 Best Picture champs remain missing in action, including those that beat the first five films above (1994 champ “Forrest Gump” made the registry two years ago). The two dozen Best Picture winners still not on the registry are: 

“Broadway Melody” (1929)
“Cimarron” (1930)
“Cavalcade” (1933)
“Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935)
“The Great Ziegfeld” (1936)
“You Can’t Take It With You” (1938)
“Rebecca” (1940)
“The Lost Weekend” (1945)
“Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947)
“The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952)
“Around the World in 80 Days” (1956)
“My Fair Lady” (1964)
“A Man For All Seasons” (1966)
“Oliver” (1968)
“Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979)
“Ordinary People” (1980)
“Terms of Endearment” (1983)
“Amadeus” (1984)
“Out of Africa” (1985)
“Platoon” (1986)
“Rain Man” (1988)
“Driving Miss Daisy” (1989)
“Braveheart” (1995)
“The English Patient” (1996)
“Titanic” (1997)
“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)
“American Beauty” (1999)
“Gladiator” (2000)
“A Beautiful Mind” (2001)
“Chicago” (2002)

James H. Billington — the Librarian of Congress who makes the final selections after discussion with the National Film Preservation Board and the library’s motion picture staff — says “The National Film Registry stands among the finest summations of more than a century of extraordinary American cinema. This key component of American cultural history, however, is endangered, so we must protect the nation’s matchless film heritage and cinematic creativity.”

Indeed, more than half of the movies produced before 1950 have been lost because of the deterioration of nitrate- or acetate-based celluloid. Yet while the registry has worked to save films from the golden era like “Lassie Come Home” (1943) and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948), it has not bothered to rescue any of these other films with performances which won lead acting Oscars: “Coquette” (1929), “In Old Arizona” (1929), “Disraeli” (1930), “The Divorcee” (1930), “A Free Soul” (1931), “Min and Bill” (1931), “The Champ” (1932), “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1932), “The Sin of Madelon Claudet” (1932), “Morning Glory” (1933), “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933), “The Informer” (1935), “The Story of Louis Pasteur” (1936), “Captains Courageous” (1937), “The Good Earth” (1937), “Boys Town” (1938), “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1939), “Kitty Foyle” (1940), “Suspicion” (1941), “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942), “Song of Bernadette” (1943), “Watch on the Rhine” (1943), “None but the Lonely Heart” (1944),”The Razor’s Edge” (1946), “To Each His Own” (1946), “A Double Life” (1947), “The Farmer’s Daughter” (1947), “Johnny Belinda” (1948) and “Key Largo” (1948).

Though all of these Oscar champs still survive, they are not in the mint condition that NFR protection guarantees. Lots of modern movies number among the 625 registered even though there’s far less of a threat of losing them compared with those golden oldies. Among the more recent inclusions: “The Nutty Professor” (1964), “Terminator” (1984) and “Groundhog Day” (1993). You can see the full list of rescued films here and a list of movies still neglected here.

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