Laurel & Hardy’s silent film ‘The Battle of the Century’ enters 2020 National Film Registry of Lib of Congress
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Washington/Library of Congress/Canadian-Media: The inclusion of a silent short film, ‘The Battle of the Century,’ as a highlight of the 2020 class of the Library of Congress (LoC)’s National Film Registry (NFR) was announced by the LoC’s Librarian Carla Hayden on Dec 15.
In its attempt to raise awareness of film conservation, LoC every year adds 25 movies to the NFR to preserve for posterity.
800 films have been added to the National Film Registry for their contributions to the cultural, historic, or aesthetic history of American cinema. National Film Preservation Board and cadre of Library specialists make the preliminary selections, and the Librarian makes the final decision.
Directed by Clyde Bruckman in 1927, starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy Laurel, ’ The Battle of the Century,’ was considered as lost for many decades after its theatrical release.
Most of the silent films including a two-reel bit of comic relief got left behind as an outdated art form in the latter days of the twenties due to the popularity of the talkies.
But “Battle” wasn’t so quickly forgotten with Laurel and Hardy’s increasing fame.
‘Battle’ is such a well-made film with top-notch people working on it, many of whom went on to great careers,” says Rob Stone, moving image curator for the Library, talking about the film’s place in history. “It also makes for a good example to talk about how silent films were constructed, the progression of Laurel and Hardy’s work, and, besides, it’s a feel-good story about how ‘lost’ films aren’t really lost. Maybe it’ll get people to start looking under their beds for other ‘lost’ things,” LoC reported.
Other 2020 entrants into the registry include pop-culture classics “The Dark Knight,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “Grease,” as well as 1918’s “Bread,” by director Ida May Park and Wim Wenders’ 1999 documentary about aging Cuban musicians, “Buena Vista Social Club.”
Reel one of the film was found in the 1970s in a collection at the Museum of Modern Art by the film historian Leonard Maltin, and Mirsalis found its companion four decades later.
The nearly complete film, missing only a few short bits, has been pieced together from the collections of the Library, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the University of California at Los Angeles, and other sources. It’s for sale in a variety of formats, often as part of larger anthologies.
The film’s history started in 1927, when Hal Roach Studios put together comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the beginning of what would become one of Hollywood’s most famous on-screen pairings. One of their first projects was “Battle.”