Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1989. Screenplay by Phyllis Garland, Richard Kilberg. Cinematography by John Hazard, John Heller, Paul Koestner, Allen Moore, Bill Sheehy, Buddy Squires. Produced by Richard Kilberg, Yvonne Smith. Film Editing by Rob Kuhns.
Born to a wealthy pastor in turn of the century New Haven, Adam Clayton Powell grew up intoxicated with the fast life of jazz-era Harlem, an enjoyment that did not exactly leave him when he entered his father’s position as pastor of the largest Protestant congregation in the country. His powerful speeches and fully amiable manner eventually led to great success in politics, becoming a Congressman whose very presence broke colour lines in a country still rotten with segregation (when a Congressman from the south refused to sit with him, Powell made it a point to always take the seat next to him). Handsome, erudite and gregariously charismatic, Powell’s skyrocketing career also revealed limitations with time: his love of attention seemed to place more emphasis on his own glory than on the issues at hand, and when Martin Luther King began to take over as the popular hero for Civil Rights due to his more marketable manner, Powell took it personally. Then there are three marriages, tax issues and legal cases that see him reach a level of infamy that even his removal to his home in the Bahamas does little to mitigate, but he is not exactly without allies in the years that conclude his short life either. Fifty five minutes is not enough to enjoy the life of a man so complicated and fascinating, but Richard Kilberg gets credit for putting quite a lot of information into the brief running time without ever letting it feel crammed.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Documentary Feature