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Paul Winfield effectively showed the charisma of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. as a speaker and leader. He also showed as a human side to Dr.
King, a man who could be scared and even cry privately, a man who could
laugh and have fun with his family and friends, and yet a man who
didn't understand why people wanted him to lead the movement. He didn't
feel confident about his own abilities, yet he made the most of what he
had and, based on what I saw here, few if any could have done better.
Winfield looked too old for the younger King, and he didn't deliver the
'I have a dream' speech exactly as King did (though imitating might not
have been as effective), but these are minor flaws.
And there were too many good acting performances to list. Cicely Tyson as Coretta, Ossie Davis as an angry King Sr., Dick Anthony Williams as an evil Malcolm X--just a few that I remember; there may have been others but I didn't recall the name of the characters. The only performance I was not happy with was Cliff De Young as Robert Kennedy, who came across as a whiny teenager.
This was a good presentation of the Civil Rights Movement--a little violent at times, but the violence was necessary. We saw the determination of the leaders and of ordinary people, even children. The 6-letter word starting with N was of course used a lot and no one censored it. A couple of times King's last name was changed, by opponents, to that of the small mammal with the black mask.
I was always intimidated by the length of this program, but one station in my area showed it a whole week before the King holiday, while the other waited until this past weekend. It definitely was worth seeing.
Made at a time before King had achieved public sainthood and acceptance by the ruling class, this mini-series changed the way many people felt about civil rights. Expertly scripted and directed by Abby Mann, the film centers on Paul Winfield's excellent interpretation of a man who was a great poet and writer as well as a leader. If it's ever released on DVD, it will be recognized as a classic biography.
I must admit, although I have always admired Martin Luther King Jr. for what he had attained, I never knew much about him. I saw this film with my family the day before the holiday designated in honor of him. There are few (non animated) films my three young boys will sit through, especially historical. However they were actually interested in this one. I was never one to be impressed by television mini-series (especially 70's) however this film holds it's own. The performances by the entire cast were well above board. At times I had to remind myself that this was a cast. The performances by both Paul Winfield as Mr. King and Cicely Tyson as His Wife (Coretta Scott King) were outstanding. As is to be expected since they are both fine actors, outstanding in their field. They both earned an Emmy nomination for their work on this film. It garnered a total of 8 nominations, and won for 'Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore) for the composer Billy Goldenberg. The direction and production values were extremely well done. The most important effect this film had on me, was in raising the awareness of what an amazing gentleman he was. I was born in the early 60's in the west, and was raised by open, loving parents to believe that all persons are equal. And that the content of one's character really was the only way to judge someone. ( Regardless of race.) I rarely saw the hatred that was so prevalent in the south in the 60's. Although I studied about it in school, and have seen documentaries of his life in the past, this film really stood out in making those horrors real to me. I have never been able to understand how anyone can have so much hate for anyone. If this film opens just one child's eyes to the horrors or racism, so that those atrocities are never to be repeated, it is a great film. Mr. King made great sacrifices, let us never allow them to be in vain. (9 Stars)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would not even begin to downplay this powerful drama about an amazing
man who changed the face of history for Black America. I don't mean to
take anything from the man or the message and I did thoroughly enjoy
this film. That being said I do think there were some minor things that
made the film slightly less enjoyable for me and stopped it from being
truly a classic film. Anyone nowadays let alone back in 1978 who wished
to tackle such a remarkable man and concept is brave and to do it
complete justice might be near impossible so what first and only time
director Abby Mann did was probably as close to perfection as could
possibly be done.
Infamous character actor, the late Paul Winfield tackled the role of the revered Martin Luther King Jr. He looks the role, and gives a very deeply emotional role and puts so much person to this idol like never before seen. I didn't think his voice really fit the part but I definitely noticed that when Winfield did King's speeches, he held your attention in much the same way that King himself did. He had a powerful aura about him and he did a terrific job. Never before has King been shown in such a real manner covering his fears, and drawbacks, strengths and victories and losses as well. For all the rave reviews I didn't think Cicely Tyson's performance as Coretta Scott King was all that terrific, she did an adequate job and had her moments but I did find that at times her acting seemed almost campy, overdone but she wasn't the only one. There were several times when I felt the acting was very forced and campy and it just didn't fit into the story or the passion behind it. Sometimes scenes of intense emotion were over acted to the point where it broke the mood. William Jordan who portrayed John F Kennedy looked like the most boring human being on the face of the planet. In any scenes featuring him, he slouched in his chair and in a monotone low voice delivered lines that would imply he was bored to absolute tears.
Now I admit I am an avid Kennedy fanatic. I do think that the portrayal of the Kennedy brothers was incorrect and harsh but that is just my opinion of course. Robert Kennedy played by Cliff De Young was portrayed as a raving lunatic. I don't think he ever had a scene where he wasn't literally screaming about something. And as stated JFK was portrayed as a complete dud. Their involvement with the integration movement was heavily downplayed and actually made them out to be more of a burden to the movement than a help and I think both Kennedy's worked very hard to push forward and support that movement to the best of their ability. Nonetheless this is about the movie and not about the characters I suppose.
I also thought there were two very, very important and defining moments that were severely underplayed in this film. The "I Have A Dream" Speech and King's Assassination. Both events were covered so quickly with little emotion and felt very anti climatic. I realize that this was the seventies and there was only certain things they could show when it comes to the assassination but even the Washington March I waited eagerly for them to show and they blew through it like it was nothing. It was one of Winfield's less powerful speeches as King. Despite these criticisms I had this film was brutally powerful, very moving and unlike no other film about that time in American history. It opens your eyes to the harsh times the African American people went through. Any fan of history or the sixties or the Black movement MUST see this film because it is stunning and a great achievement. Please see this movie!! 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw this on TV in 1978 and was held spellbound by it. In a time
when I was becoming involved in the issue of Apartheid "KING" spoke to
me like a prophet telling truth to power.
Created as a flashback the film speaks from the last week of King's life and goes back to where it all began in Montgomery in 1956. Like John Lennon, Harvey Milk, Gandhi and JFK, King was shot for the danger he presented to those who had much invested in the status quo.
For a long time after I wanted to get this on VHS I now have the DVD which sits alongside of Attenborough's GANDHI, Zaffirelli's Jesus of NAZARETH and IMAGINE: JOHN LENNON
"How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?"
Bob Marley in "Redemtion Song"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've seen this film three times. First during its original 1978
telecast, secondly about 10 years later, and the third time today.
It includes some outstanding performances. Winfield is superb as MLK, portraying his heroic qualities while reminding us that King was an imperfect human being, like the rest of us:). From all I've read about MLK Senior, Ossie Davis captured him completely, conveying the forceful personality that was tempered by Daddy's love and concern for his son. Howard Rollins is a much more dynamic Andrew Young than Young himself:). Art Evans and Roger Robinson are excellent, respectively, as A.D. King and Fred Shutttlesworth. Ernie Lee Banks fully embodies Ralph Abernathy.
But Cicely Tyson, a GREAT actress, gives one of her few less-than- first-rate performances as Coretta King. She's OK, no more than that. Throughout the film, you get the sense that Tyson is trying to embody the character, but can't quite find her. I blame that on the script, which doesn't flesh Coretta out.
Bobby and Jack Kennedy are NOT well-played by Cliff DeYoung and William Jordan. Each struggles with the Baaston accent, for example. DeYoung suggests RFK's drive; Jordan suggests none of JFK's charm. But to cut them some slack, only two actors have stepped completely into the Kennedy brothers' cinematic (or telegenic?) shoes. The only exceptions are William Devane's JFK in "The Missiles of October" and Cotter Smith's RFK in "Blood Feud."
My main problem with "King" concerns the nods toward conspiracy theories. Now there is no doubt that J.Edgar Hoover used his FBI to harass King. But orders from above to get the black security officers off the King detail in Memphis, the FBI paying young black guys to disrupt the march there, etc? Not so sure.
Much King scholarship has taken place since 1978. I've read much of it, including the work of David Garrow and Taylor Branch, and don't recall these theories having been established therein as fact.
Having said that, I acknowledge my imperfect memory. I'll reread Garrow and Branch's books. If I am wrong, I will come back and say so. As an honest critic, I can hardly do otherwise:).
Those possible reservations aside, "King" is well worth seeing. But I do wish some far-sighted producer/director will bring MLK's story -- expressing both high and low points -- to the big screen eventually.
A poster here made mention that Malcolm X and Dr. King had never met, which isn't true. They had met, once, but briefly. There's even a famous picture depicting said meeting, with the two of them smiling. Had Malcolm not been assassinated, who knows what they could have accomplished together. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for whatever the conversation they had was. I like to think that theirs would have been a strong alliance of an interfaith nature, working to address the lack of human rights, not just for black people, but for all people. They would have also address poverty together, which Dr. King was already addressing. Malcolm might have also spoken out, like King,(and eventually, Muhammad Ali, who came to Islam under the tutelage of Malcolm X)against the Vietnam War. One wonders at what might have been and weeps at what took place.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a television movie, this is really good. True, some of the acting
was a bit over the top, and some of the 70s "cop chase" music really
needs to go. But overall, it managed to tell the story of a complex man
who became an almost reluctant hero. Better still, "King" does not
forget that remarkable men are always supported by other remarkable
people--and gives them some voice as well.
I was pleasantly surprised that the movie didn't try to deify King, a mistake that has been made too often in the last 35 years. He was a man, with all of the attendant potential for good and bad. But what comes across here is that he tried hard to choose the path he believed would give the Civil Rights movement the best chance for success. I was also glad that the movie showed how engaged and brave Coretta was. Some movies about Martin have tended to push her to the background.
This movie rarely pulls punches, which means it doesn't try to let the government off the hook either, like so many recent movies about Civil Rights tend to do. Despite what movies like "Mississippi Burning" claim, the FBI often hindered the work of the Civil Rights movement--even more than was shown in "King". And the White House was not to be relied upon for unconditional support. No disrespect to previous posters, but it was well known that the Kennedys were often reluctant to get involved in the Civil Rights movement (don't take my word for it--any good history of the Kennedys will admit to it). The Kennedy brothers were always very concerned with the political ramifications of their actions. They were politicians first and foremost. Sadly, it often took a tragedy to push JFK to take action (like the murder of the four little girls in the Birmingham church). That is not to say that the Kennedys did not care at all--because no one really knows what was in their hearts at the time. And I think RFK became more dedicated to the cause after JFK's death. But "King" shows how everyone involved in this turbulent struggle thought and acted strategically. And no one was a saint, but few characters were shown to be thoroughly corrupt. I think the only person portrayed as truly evil was Hoover--but, I must admit, I have no problem with that.
I enjoyed the imaginary conversation between Malcolm X and King. The two men never actually met, but I liked the way "King" managed to express both men's points of view rationally, not as being good and evil, but as being two sides of the same coin. Malcolm wanted to attack the problem and give back as good as he got, keeping in mind the nation's history of violent oppression. He was a revolutionary. Martin was a diplomat, who wanted to change the system itself, and realized that he would need to work with the white government to do so. Neither man was completely right or completely wrong--but both sides were necessary to put sufficient pressure on this country to begin to change its policies. That said, it is eerie the way so many of Malcolm's predictions have eventually come to pass.
I saw this movie a few days after Coretta Scott King's funeral--in the wake of all of the brouhaha about Carter's words about wiretapping, and the political nature of some of the speeches given. I think this movie serves to remind us all that in order to celebrate the lives of the Kings and all that they fought for, we must never forget--nor should we abandon--the ongoing struggle for social, racial, and economic justice.
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