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Adam Clayton Powell

6 customer reviews

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(Jan 27, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Academy Award-nominated ADAM CLAYTON POWELL delves into the gripping life and career of the most influential and flamboyant civil rights leader in America in the '30s, '40s and '50s. From his emergence as the princely pastor of Harlem's enormous Abyssinian Baptist Church, to his improbable, riotous political climb and eventual ruin, this must-watch film captures a man who was truly larger than life.

Narrated by civil rights activist Julian Bond and resplendent with rich archival footage and candid interviews with those who knew him best, this tell-all documentary mines the good, bad, and ugly acts of Powell's illustrious but controversial career - the multiple marriages, the uproarious taunting of the white establishment, his desegregation of Congress, and his shameful smearing of Martin Luther King, Jr. from self-imposed exile on the island of Bimini.

An unforgettable story of being unforgivably black in white America, ADAM CLAYTON POWELL makes for ''endlessly fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable'' viewing (Chicago Sun-Times). Masterfully directed by Richard Kilberg, this film explores the nature of power, personality, and politics as exemplified in a flawed, but sublime hero.

Handsome, passionate, and an electrifying speaker, Adam Clayton Powell rose from being the son of a Harlem preacher to being a powerful 12-term Congressman--but his many accomplishments have been forgotten in the wake of the self-indulgence, arrogance, and demagoguery that dominated Powell's later years. It's a genuine American tragedy. A man who was, for a time, the voice of black America was brought low by the very qualities that fueled his rise. The documentary Adam Clayton Powell strives to bring balance to our view of this polarizing yet crucial political figure through historical context and interviews with black leaders like Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman elected to Congress), but above all by including footage of Powell himself from the various periods of his life: The dynamic firebrand who spoke out against the repressive political establishment and fought furiously against segregation; the wily crowd-pleaser who flaunted his scandals and became all the more popular for it; and the bitter, smug old man who arrogantly dismissed his younger rivals for influence (including Martin Luther King, Jr.). This rich and engaging documentary is eye-opening in its depiction of Powell's remarkable achievements, but it can barely contain Powell's force of life and capacity for self-destruction. He's a larger-than-life figure waiting for a major motion picture to be made about him. Both his rise and his fall are mesmerizing. --Bret Fetzer

Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Kilberg
  • Directors: Richard Kilberg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: January 27, 2009
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001HBVE8I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,765 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Adam Clayton Powell" on IMDb

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on March 17, 2010
Format: DVD
If you talk to people who were around during the days of ACP (and having often visited relatives in Harlem as a child, I did), they will tell you that Powell was either a pimp or a prophet. This DVD does an excellent job at examining both sides.

It uses interviews and generous newsreel footage to tell the tale of Powell, who used his good looks and articulation to his advantage to fight for the dispossesed and for his own place in the world. He dazzled the Black poor with stirring speeches that articulated his anger and used his influence as one of the first Black post-reconstruction Congressmen to advance education and civil rights legislation. However, this good side was overshadowed by his love of wine, women, and song (one clip actually shows a drunk Powell ranting at critics) as well as his tendency to skip congressional sessions whenever he felt like it and naked ruthlessness (at one point, the film shows his envy over the younger MLK leading him to start unfounded gay rumors about King and Bayard Rustin). This led his obvious enemies to expoit his weaknesses and partially self-destruct.

Before you note the similarities between this and another arrogant modern civil rights leader, it's an interesting sidenote to consider that in Powell's book "Adam by Adam," he denigrates King but speaks well of Jesse Jackson. Powell was also a mentor to the far cruder Al Sharpton (the one occasion that I met Sharpton, he shared some anecdotes about Powell).

Powell himself is fascinating to watch and hear.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bronson E. Woods on January 26, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
What a remarkable story on this country's most effective legislators in all of history, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

This film will bring light into the minds of the young people today of this strong tower and pillar of strength and power that many weren't aware. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr is truly as Good as it Gets!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on August 20, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
Must see. Can't wait to see it again and again and again. I only wish it showed more of his accomplishments. Such as him being instrumental in. Exporting Jazz over seas!
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