LANDMARK MLK DOCUMENTARY TO BE SHOWN AT ODEON THEATER JANUARY 19, 2020
America’s civil rights era will come to life at Mason’s historic Odeon Theater on the afternoon of Sunday, January 19, with a 50th anniversary screening of Ely Landau’s acclaimed documentary “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis.” The three-hour presentation will begin promptly at 2:00 P.M. and will include one intermission. Admission is free. Concessions will be available for purchase.
This Oscar-nominated film differs strikingly from a conventional documentary in that it consists entirely of archival newsreel footage taken between 1955 and 1968 with no narration or commentary. In other words, the film clips of actual events are allowed to speak for themselves. Most of them are lengthy enough to provide some powerful context and a firsthand, “you were there” feeling.
“King” traces Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rise from a young minister and regional activist to a world-renowned moral spokesman for the civil rights movement. It features rare footage of his public addresses, protests and arrests. Unflinching video recordings of brutal attacks are offset by some of the most riveting and eloquent speeches of the 20th century. The film follows King through the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, the confrontations in Birmingham, the 1963 March on Washington, the three Selma voter-registration marches, the housing protests in Chicago, the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, and his eventual assassination.
“King” is periodically interspersed with dramatic readings performed by several film stars of the era, including Charlton Heston, Ruby Dee, Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, Harry Belafonte, Ben Gazzara, James Earl Jones, Anthony Quinn, Joanne Woodward and Clarence Williams III.
The documentary was originally shown as a one-night-only event in 1,000 theaters nationwide on March 20, 1970. Once considered a “lost” film, it was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1999 and was finally restored in 2010 by the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art.
When “King” was released in 1970, the New York Times described it as “a most solemnly beautiful film” that “achieves a density and shapeliness that is rare in any movie—let alone a documentary committed to the sequence of actual events. … Dr. King’s strategies, seen here in rich and spacious detail, seem to have been designed less for winning civil rights as such than for the use of civil rights as a means to human dignity. … It raises reportage to the power of ritual.”
“King” was the only documentary directed by Sidney Lumet (“Network,” “Serpico”). His co-director was Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”), who won multiple Oscars for writing and directing.
Viewers should be aware that the newsreel footage in “King” is unedited and may be too disturbing for children.