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Library of Congress enshrines Elvis’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’

Presley movie is one of 25 added to the National Film Registry

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Elvis Presley stars as singing ex-convict Vince Everett in director Richard Thorpe's "Jailhouse Rock, which was released by MGM in 1957.

Elvis Presley stars as singing ex-convict Vince Everett in director Richard Thorpe’s “Jailhouse Rock, which was released by MGM in 1957.

Deseret Morning News Archives

Elvis Presley the singer has been much honored. He's a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame — the only performer to have achieved that trifecta.

But Elvis the actor? Presley — who would have turned 70 this coming Saturday — might never have earned an Oscar nomination, but his ouevre achieved some validation last week when "Jailhouse Rock" was one of the "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films" chosen for inclusion this year in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

In addition to Elvis, stars whose movies were honored included Popeye, "Ben-Hur" and Rin Tin Tin.

According to Librarian of Congress James Billington, director Richard Thorpe's "Jailhouse Rock" (1957) was selected because it presents Elvis in "ultimate rebel mode. . . . The edginess reflected in this film was toned down in the singer's later movies."

Elvis's third film, a black-and-white MGM production, chronicles the swift rise to obnoxious stardom of singing ex-convict Vince Everett (Presley), who performs such sensational Leiber-Stoller numbers as "Treat Me Nice," "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" and the title tune.

Under terms of the 1988 National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress has named 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant motion pictures to the registry each year since 1989. The selections — which range from major studio blockbusters to avant-garde shorts — are picked from nominations by the public, film scholars and filmmakers.

The Library of Congress ensured the preservation of each title named to the registry, either through the library's motion-picture program or in cooperation with a studio, museum or university archive.

The list is designed to reflect the breadth and diversity of America's film heritage. "By preserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of our cultural history," Billington said. According to the library, 50 percent of all American films made before 1950 and 90 percent of films before 1920 are lost forever because of nitrate deterioration and other chemical problems associated with film stock.

In addition to "Jailhouse Rock," titles selected for the registry this year include:

William Wyler's biblical epic, "Ben-Hur" (1959), winner of 11 Oscars, including best picture.

"The Blue Bird" (1918), Maurice Tourneur's expressionist adaptation of Maeterlinck's play.

Jay Leyda's 11-minute "city symphony," "A Bronx Morning" (1931).

German shepherd Rin Tin Tin's 1925 hit, "Clash of the Wolves."

The Danny Kaye adventure parody, "The Court Jester" (1956).

Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust" (1991), a look at three generations of Gullah sea island women that became the first feature by a female African-American filmmaker to receive wide distribution.

Rudolph Mate's fatalistic film noir, "D.O.A." (1950).

"Duck and Cover" (1951), the infamous short civil-defense film in which Bert the Turtle instructed schoolchildren to "duck and cover" in case of atomic attack.

"Empire" (1964), Andy Warhol's eight-hour, one-shot, stationary-camera record of the Empire State Building.

Robert Clouse's "Enter the Dragon" (1973), the action hit that made Bruce Lee a superstar.

David Lynch's stunning, grotesque debut, "Eraserhead" (1978).

"Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers" (1981), Les Blank's affectionately comic 51-minute documentary about devotees of "the stinking rose."

Leo McCarey's "Going My Way" (1944), with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald as lovable priests.

H. Lee Waters' "Kannapolis, N.C." (1941), representative of the short "town portraits" made by itinerant filmmakers who screened their footage (in exchange for a portion of receipts) before the feature attraction in small-town theaters across America in the 1930s and '40s.

D.W. Griffith's "Lady Helen's Escapade" (1909), a short comedy with Florence Lawrence, "The Biograph Girl" who was the first performer to receive billing in film credits.

Jerry Lewis' alternately hilarious and disturbing auto-critique, "The Nutty Professor" (1963).

Scott Bartlett's nine-minute "OffOn" (1968), a landmark abstract work that merges video and film.

The Fleischer brothers' lush Technicolor cartoon short, "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor" (1936).

"Pups Is Pups" (1930), a Hal Roach short in which Wheezer, Farina, Chubby and other "Our Gang" kids (or "Little Rascals," as they would be known on TV) wreck a fancy pet show.

Steven Spielberg's Holocaust epic, "Schindler's List" (1993).

Stanley Donen's rowdy widescreen musical, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." (1954).

George Stevens' 1936 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical, "Swing Time."

"There It Is" (1928), a spoofy and surreal haunted-house short from writer-director-star Charley Bowers that combines live action with stop-motion animation.

Clint Eastwood's dark Western, "Unforgiven" (1992).

John Beifuss writes for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn.