King: A Filmed Record; From Montgomery to Memphis

King: A Filmed Record; From Montgomery to Memphis premiered as a special “one-time-only event” on March 24, 1970 in over 600 theaters throughout the United States.

The film, three hours in length, was billed as “An Evening in Tribute to Martin Luther King.” In addition to the New York screening, Kino Lorber is offering individuals and organizations across the country the opportunity to bring this important film to their local theater. The campaign commemorates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and reaffirms his legacy and vision.

Produced for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation by Ely Landau (The American Film Theater collection), King is an epic document of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott to his assassination in 1968. Rare footage of King’s speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by heartfelt testimonials by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Both a historiography of the non-violent, civil rights movement and a portrait of the movement’s inspiring leader, King is comprised of original footage captured during those turbulent years. “The events are allowed to speak for themselves,” wrote The New York Times’ Ellen Holly. “The roar of police motorcycles, bombs, burning crosses, ambulances, gospel, shouts, the massed crowds before the Lincoln Memorial at the 1963 March on Washington, and, most thrilling of all, the speeches of the man himself.”

Without any voice-over narration, King uses contemporary film/newsreel and video/television footage to brilliantly convey the boiling indignation of an oppressed people and their revolutionary organizing. Juxtaposed over this footage are dramatic readings by actors Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Clarence Williams III and Joanne Woodward.

A critical success, King was nominated in 1970 for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category, and raised over three million dollars for the benefit of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Special Fund. A shorter version of the film was subsequently made available to TV stations across the globe, but the original, unedited, three-hour version of the film, has rarely been shown in recent years.

Newly restored by the Library of Congress, in association with Richard Kaplan, and utilizing film elements provided by The Museum of Modern Art, the original version of King can again be seen in its entirety.

Admitted to the National Film Registry in 1999, King is a cinematic national treasure that allows viewers to be first-hand witnesses to Dr. King’s crusade, and thereby gain a fuller appreciation of both the personal challenges he endured and the vast cultural legacy he left behind.

The commemorative screening on February 17th, co-presented by Kino Lorber and The Maysles Cinema, offers an unparalleled opportunity to acquaint a new generation with an essential piece of American history and to engage a new generation to realize Dr. King’s dream.