Three films of special interest to theatregoers were chosen Dec. 5 by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Film Registry, which marks them as having special "cultural, historical and aesthetic value," according to Variety.
They were among 25 films added to the Registry in 1996, bringing the total to 200 in the eight years since the Registry was created. Congress has alotted money to make special efforts to preserve the films in perpetuity.
* The Producers, Brooks' first film, is a devastating parody of Broadway in the 1960s. Dead-broke Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) hires mousy accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) to go over the books of his many flops. Bloom offhandedly comments that it is theoretically possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit: you can raise the capitalization many times over, and after the show flops no one will ask where the money went, assuming it lost. Bialystock sees this as inspired brilliance and sets about producing the biggest flop of all time by assembling the worst script, worst score, worst star, worst director, etc. Problem is, Springtime for Hitler turns out to be a huge hit. The film reflects Brooks' unhappy experience writing the libretto for the musical All American in 1961.
* To Be Or Not To Be is, oddly enough, another show business story involving Nazis. In this case, Benny plays the head of a Polish theatre company, trying to help his family and actors escape the Nazis by giving one last brilliant performance -- pretending to be a Nazi officer. Coincidentally, Brooks remade this film in the 1980s with himself in the Benny role. Though it's a farce, the stakes are extremely high: failure means death. Note the double-entendre title. * Show Boat: One of two film versions of the Jerome Kern/ Oscar Hammerstein II musical, but the one many critics consider the best. Stars Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniel, Helen Morgan as Julie and Paul Robeson repeating his Broadway role singing "Old Man River." Like the other film version, this one dispenses with much of the score, except the well-known standards.
-- By Robert Viagas