“King: Montgomery to Memphis” Documentary Comes Out of The Vaults After a 40 Year Absence

Hat tip to NeoGriot and Shadow and Act. This was screened for one-night only, on 600 screens across the country in 1970, while the country was still grieving over the deaths of King (and the Kennedys and Malcolm), and then it practically disappeared.  From Sergio at Shadow and Act:

Produced by Ely Landru, with original footage sequences directed by Sidney Lumet, the film was a critical and financial success, raising money for the Martin Luther King Jr. Special Fund making over $3 million dollars. But after its special one time only showing it was barely seen again, until now.

The film which was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary, and also selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, is now available though Objective Cinema as either video-on-demand or as 2 DVD set.

Above is a 40-minute clip that includes the moment when the civil rights movement splintered into two groups, one led or influenced by the likes of Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Turé) and known as the Black Power Movement, and the one still led by King, who refused to give up his nonviolent stance. There is also footage of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and there is soundtrack of King reading his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” against a backdrop of bombings, beaten Freedom Riders, sit-ins, hosed-down elementary and high school students in “The Children’s Crusade,” and other instances of nonviolent confrontation.

From the Objective Cinema website:

The film documents the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his non-violent campaign for racial equality and social justice. It uses only authentic newsreel footage as well as original film from the time of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 until Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. There is no narration. In the words of Ellen Holly of The New York Times, “The events are allowed to speak for themselves.”

The live action sequences are linked by a series of short dramatic readings by Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Clarence Williams III and Joanne Woodward.

Although these are definitely the usual moderate-to-liberal line-up, leave Charlton Heston out of this. By the time of his death, Heston had gone so far over to the Dark Side to even being photographed at the side of the racists and the segregationists he earlier opposed, you could say that his presence here is as a spy. Anthony Quinn, who was part-Mexican as well as Irish, and James Earl Jones may be/have been conservatives, but they weren’t idiots.  Furthermore, it is fairly easy to see those who wore the black hats and those who wore the white hats.  It’s a bit more difficult these days.

The film has been digitally remastered for this time and is mostly in glorious black and white.  It’s worth every dollar as a historical document of a people’s struggle.  And perhaps for Wisconsinites out in the streets going against the Cheesehead Pharoah, it reminds them and schools others why people keep fighting on for a greater ideal.

~ by blksista on February 24, 2011.

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