Five Unlikely Screen Appearances By Martin Luther King, Jr.

Categories: Movies
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Today is Martin Luther King Day; meaning government employees are off, most other people aren't, and Houston has feuding parades.

King has become an absolute icon, showing up in countless movies, documentaries or TV shows, usually as shorthand for either the overall turmoil of the Sixties or the fact that blacks were making headway in their fight for civil rights.

In almost all cases, this shorthand involves a clip of King saying "I have a dream" from the Washington Monument; if the producers are emphasizing the chaos, they follow that with, or use on its own, the "Mountaintop" speech with King talking about his death right before he dies.

The shorthand, of course, means that clips of King have shown up in some unlikely places. Among them. from IMDB:

Gilligan's Island: A Pop Culture Phenomenon
Possible reason why he shows up: Gilligan decides to throw off the shackles of his oppressive "Little Buddy" with the Skipper. Other possibility: The Professor builds a bus out of coconuts, and forces someone to ride in the back.
Probable reason why he shows up: To demonstrate that the innocent, goofy fun of Gilligan's Island came amidst a time or turmoil. And, since this documentary was made by someone who considered it worth their time to make a documentary about Gilligan's Island, we're guessing the theory is proffered that the series offered "an escape" from the turbulence.

Rock Hudson
Possible reason why he shows up: Who knew MLK was a sucker for a frothy Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy? The producers of this made-for-TV movie did. In fact, King went out on the Lorraine Motel balcony to tell friends in the parking lot that Send Me No Flowers was just about to start on the TV.
Probable reason why he shows up: To demonstrate how frothy comedies like Send Me No Flowers began to lose steam in the Sixties, as audiences turned to hard-hitting fare like Gilligan's Island.

Beyond Titanic
Possible reason why he shows up: Jack's "I'm King of the world!!!" was actually a pre-enactment of the "I have a dream" speech. A somewhat inaccurate pre-enactment, but then again it came sixty years or so before the actual event.
Probable reason why he shows up: You got us. This 1998 doc is described as "a survey of 86 years of Titanicana in popular culture, with the emphasis on movies about (or inspired by) the disaster." And, ummm, some movie somewhere tied the Titanic to MLK???

Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies
Possible reason he shows up: Someone thought The Poor People's Campaign showed the unfortunate decorating choices made by those in the lower-income ranks.
Probable reason he shows up: Hopefully it's because some bad movie makes a terrible stretch by including him. But it's more likely the reason is the ol' chaotic-Sixties thing again.

The Jeffersons
Possible reason he shows up: Weezy declares "Fish don't fry in the kitchen; beans don't burn on the grill, and one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood." The Jeffersons' maid offers a sassy, eye-rolling rebuttal, and hilarity ensues.
Probable reason why he shows up: It was A Very Special Episode of The Jeffersons. Lessons were learned, and hugs were exchanged.


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