King: A Film Record… Montgomery to Memphis (1970): Seminal Documentary Co-Directed by Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz

A seminal documentary, King: A Film Record… Montgomery to Memphis presents a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and his creation and leadership of the nonviolent campaign for civil rights and socio-economic justice in the Civil Rights Movement.

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis
Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. behind bars in a Florida jail. The caption reads: "One night only. March 24th 1970, 8 P.M. Tickets $5.00, tax deductible. All proceeds to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Special Fund."

Theatrical release poster

It uses original newsreel and other primary materials, covering the period from the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and 1956 through his assassination in 1968.

The original newsreel segments are framed by celeb narrators, such as Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Clarence Williams III, and Joanne Woodward.

The movie was produced by Ely Landau and co-directed by Sidney Lumet (the only documentary he directed) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Richard J. Kaplan was the associate producer.

When first released, it was shown in theaters as a “one-time-only” event on March 24, 1970 for one night only. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Features.

In 1999, this film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in its National Film Registry.

After its “one-time-only” showing, it was occasionally seen on commercial TV (unedited and with limited interruption) and for a short period released for home video on the Pacific Arts label and distributed to the educational market by Richard Kaplan Productions.

Then for years it was no longer available and rarely seen. Finally, in 2010 Richard Kaplan, who had felt that King should be seen by a new generation, set up a not-for-profit company, A Filmed Record Inc., and produced a DVD. A Filmed Record, Inc. released the DVD and King was once again available after 40 years of being a “lost” film.

In 2012 A Filmed Record, Inc. (cooperating with of the estate of Ely Landau) handed Kino Lorber worldwide exclusive rights to distribute King. Kino Lorber, Inc., in partnership with Library of Congress and with the cooperation of the Museum of Modern Art, restored and remastered the original enabling 35 mm prints and made the film available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Kino Lorber and Kaplan prepared nationwide commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was screened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek on August 13, 2013, and then at Film Forum on August 28, 2013.

Kino Lorber is also launching educational outreach campaign to provide a 24-minute abridged version, titled Legacy of a Dream, to high schools in America.

Narrated by:

Harry Belafonte
Ruby Dee
Ben Gazzara
Charlton Heston
James Earl Jones
Burt Lancaster
Paul Newman
Anthony Quinn
Clarence Williams III
Joanne Woodward
Edited by Lora Hayes
John N. Carter

Credits:

Directed by Sidney Lumet, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Ely Landau, Richard J. Kaplan

Production company: Commonwealth United Entertainment

Distributed by Martin Luther King Film Project

Release date: March 24, 1970

Running time: 185 minutes