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America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry Paperback – November 26, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The great, the historic, and the lousy (but, alas, influential) all find their place in this engrossing survey of titles selected by the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. Eagan (HBO's Guide to Movies on Videocassette and Cable TV) chronologically catalogues 500 Registry films, from 1893's 30-second Blacksmithing Scene to 1995's Fargo, jumbling Hollywood classics together with obscure art films, cartoon shorts, documentaries, industrial and student films, newsreel footage from the Hindenburg disaster and the Zapruder film. Each entry includes complete cast and credits lists and an engaging one- to two-page historical and interpretive essay. These are packed with biographical thumbnails of actors and directors and making-of narratives-from screenplay rewrites to on-set feuds and hysterics to final-cut showdowns-that buffs and scholars will delight in. Eagan dutifully assesses the artistic merits of each film (yes, even Animal House) in critiques that abound in pithy and sometimes contrarian opinions: he rates Clint Eastwood rather higher than either Orson Welles (Citizen Kane is, merely, "a delightful stunt with the appeal of an eager puppy") or the "glib, cruel" Robert Altman. The result is an erudite, perceptive, always entertaining cinematic encyclopedia. Photos.


This valuable and highly readable book will serve equally well as a primer for newcomers to film history and a refresher course for more experienced viewers on the vast spectrum of American cinema. Best of all, it will introduce novices and veterans alike to a number of offbeat and unjustly-forgotten titles on the National Film Registry. --Leonard Maltin

The opportunity to revisit and be inspired by the past is one of the purposes behind the National Film Registry. The 1915 film The Italian was preserved from a single paper copy. If prints were readily available at the time I made The Godfather, I would have enjoyed having access to it. I'm proud that The Godfather and The Godfather Part II join The Italian on the Registry, an attempt to preserve our cinematic heritage. America's Film Legacy doesn't just explore the films on the Registry, it ties together the past and the present, showing how the great movies of today can be built on the those of an earlier era. --Francis Ford Coppola

I've always thought of my films as a kind of private history, a record of things that interested me, music, people, events, sometimes politics. They allowed me to watch like a cat, and not have to be a reporter. What made it risky was not explaining anything. When I got rid of the script and the narration in the early films, and went out hunting for films with a camera they were seen as sort of dicey and unorthodox and unfortunately for us, unsaleable, at least to TV. That was what got us into theaters. I really welcome the existence of the National Film Registry and Daniel Eagan s wonderful book--America s Film Legacy--about it. The NFR's determination to collect these early experimental works and not let them disappear is really collecting and preserving the history of our times. I believe that films will eventually be our most important artifact. They may well become a new language. --D.A. Pennebaker

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum Pub Group (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826429777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826429773
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.6 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By S. Berner VINE VOICE on December 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
The National Film Registry is a fascinating endeavour. It collects, in the Library of Congress, what it deems the most important films in our history. NOT the best, necessarily (some of them are downright awful... Elia Kazan's "Wild River", anyone?); not necessarily the most famous (I'll wager there isn't a movie buff alive who won't find at least one or two films he/she's never heard of before). Even being a full-length film isn't required,(any number of 7 minute cartoons and, from earlier days, brief snippets like "The Kiss"). All that IS required is that the film, in some way or other, has contributed something unique to the history and/or art of film. What have each of the films in this book, the first 500 selections, contributed? THAT is what this marvelously readable compendium is all about! Indeed, I can't imagine ANY film fan worthy of the name who WOULDN'T want to read this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark on April 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's a great deal of useful information on the individual films in this book, but trying to find it is frustrating indeed. The book provides no index of titles or meaningful table of contents. The 500 titles are listed chronologically within the years of their release, the reader is first required to determine the release date, then riffle thru the book to find the section that covers those years (NOT marked on the pages themselves), and then within that section locate the title alphabetically. When I first received the book, I tried to find the entry for "Eraserhead" , it took five minutes of tedious flipping through the pages to locate it. Surely providing an index would not have been too much trouble, it certainly would have been an enormous courtesy to the reader.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Walker on May 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great read.
I took this to Europe with me to read on the plane and at the Airport.
Lots of short articles that works for me, since I get interupions when I am trying to
read a novel.....Good information for every Film fan.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Philip Dhingra on July 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been trying to watch all the films on the National Film Registry for a couple years now. It's become a project for me, and I've created a spreadsheet to track all the films. I've also recruited friends into the project, and seem to have drum up some interest in films because of this process. The NFR doesn't cover the best films nor the most popular, but it covers the most notable. Watching these movies will create a deep impression on you and change your life. It will also significantly enhance your appreciation of film.

Daniel Egan has done a wonderful job cataloging the first 500 films of the NFR. This book has been accompanying me and my project for a year now, and it is the perfect companion, for some very specific reasons:

(1) There are no spoilers. Using this book for background info on the films is so much better than looking them up on Wikipedia because major plot details are not given away.

(2) Full treatments are given to even obscure titles. I'd say that for 30% of the films mentioned in this book, Daniel has provided more information than you can possibly expect to find on the Internet. For the other 70%, he has provided insight and details that you'd be hard to find elsewhere.

(3) The layout of the book is easy to navigate. Just look up the book by name or by year in the beginning, and then the rest of the book is sorted by year. This is much better than having the book laid out alphabetically.

If you love movies, you'll love this book.
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