Wednesday 20 January 2021

King of the Movies - A Henry King Documentary

Henry King retrospective (Fox output only) at NFT, London

When Henry King went to London in 1977 to open a retrospective dedicated to his 20th Century Fox films at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank), BBC Television seized the opportunity and filmed the 90 year-old master at what seems to be a single-take, single-set-up interview. Film clips aside, King of the Movies, directed by Philip Chilvers, 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.