CRISIS: BEHIND A PRESIDENTIAL COMMITMENT (1963) B/W 52m dir: Robert Drew
From Now Playing, the TCM Viewer's Guide: "After years of segregation, the University of Alabama becomes the last U.S. collegeto open its doors to black students."
In Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film, Erik Barnouw hails the breakthrough wireless equipment that Robert Drew's unit developed that enabled the mobility of cameras, microphones, and the subjects they recorded. "Meanwhile the social values of these developments were indicated by Primary (1960), a film that, in spite of technical snags, emerged as a scintillating and illuminating document. Drew and Leacock had persuaded two United States Senators, John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, to allow themselves to be photographed and recorded throughout their campaign in Wisconsin for the Democratic presidential nomination. Drew stressed the historic value such a record might have. The film makers promised never to ask or suggest an action. They only wanted continued access --- at speeches, meetings, strategy sessions, interviews telethons, motorcades. Both candidates agreed, and the result was astonishing. No previous film had so caught the euphoria, the sweat, the maneuvering of a political campaign.
"Primary was telecast by a scattering of stations including a few owned by Time, Inc., but was rejected by all networks --- in conformity to their policy against documentaries made by others. But the work of the Drew unit impressed the ABC network, with the result that it made a contract with Time, Inc., by which the Drew group became, in effect, an ABC unit. Thus a series of Drew synchronized-sound documentaries became network programs, including Yanki No! (1960), a vivid and ominous picture of Latin-American unrest and the rise of Castro; Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963), on a confrontation between the Kennedy administration and Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama over admission of blacks to the University of Alabama; and The Chair (1963), which showed the attorney Louis Nizer and others in a crisis over a commutation appeal, involving a man sentenced to the electric chair. Most of the Drew documentaries were sponsored --- several, by Bell and Howell."