F.: Bill Matthews. M.: Victor Jamison. Int.: Henry King (se stesso), Martin Jarvis (narratore). Prod.: Judy Lindsay per BBC. DCP. D.: 41’. Col.
An interview-based documentary broadcast by the BBC in May 1978, made to coincide with a season dedicated to King at London’s National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank). The 90-year-old master was in attendance at the tribute event and was interviewed on camera. Film clips aside, King of the Movies relies almost entirely on the brilliance of King’s storytelling, which entertains, illuminates and charms. Elegantly dressed in his typical late-period style of bowtie and horn-rimmed glasses, resembling a professor of American history, King reminisces on half a century in “the strangest business in the world”. He talks about his love for the rural American landscape (“I like the countryside of any country”); discovering Tyrone Power and Alice Faye; overcoming the limitations of early sound film by moving to Florida to shoot his first talkie Hell Harbour; Zanuck’s issues with his moustached heroes (Power and Peck); the translation of spirituality in the movies through the use of light (“I want a holy light here,” he asked the cameraman Arthur Miller in The Song of Bernadette); his years in Paris and meeting Hemingway, which led to King directing a series of high-profile films focused around 20th-century American authors. There are facts to learn but also more personal lessons to cherish, such as when King says, “I feel every emotion that you see in a picture has passed through the director’s mind and whether he shows it or doesn’t, the emotion is there”, reminding us that, most of the time, he actually felt what he filmed, and filmed what he felt.