A soon-to-be filmed documentary about famous American politician and emancipationist Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903) will have a strong Georgetown College presence. Ed Smith ’88 and George McGee, GC professors in the Theatre & Performance Studies department, have key roles. Also in the cast are Ed’s wife, Betsy Brannock Smith ’86, and oldest son, Ethan, a sophomore at the College.

McGee, who also portrays Henry Clay in the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautauqua series, is the famous Senator from Kentucky in the film, too. “With all the commemorations of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary in 2011 and the War of 1812 bicentennial coming up next year, there’s more interest in Henry Clay,” said a busy McGee.

Ed Smith, who portrays two Chautauqua characters (Kentucky basketball coaching legend Adolph Rupp and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, pictured here), will have the documentary role of abolitionist John G. Fee, founder of Berea College. Son Ethan will play the young Cassius Clay and Betsy Smith will be Cassius’s mother, Sally Lewis Clay; both are pictured as their Chautauqua characters, too.

Producer Michael Breeding said the documentary should be ready for showing on Kentucky Educational Television this spring. He also hopes there will be a special airing on the Georgetown College campus – and that some scenes may be shot at GC, mostly in the Lab Theatre.

Here’s more:

Cassius Marcellus Clay, the Kentucky emancipationist, is An Audacious American in new documentary film.

Contact: Michael Breeding, 859.481.1201

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, January 13, 2011 — He was wealthy, handsome, arrogant, intelligent, quick to respond to challenges to his honor and ideals regardless of the personal expense, always ready to serve his country but never lost sight of his burning ambition—emancipation of slaves. He was responsible for the purchase of Alaska and was an audacious American, Kentucky’s native son, Cassius Marcellus Clay.

Cassius Clay has never received the recognition he so richly deserves and producer/director Michael Breeding said he was correcting that oversight with a ninety-minute documentary on Clay entitled An Audacious American. Breeding, who produced The Keeneland Legacy and the Our Lincoln DVD for the Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, conceived the idea of having an older Clay, through actor Mel Hankla, relate his fascinating story in his own words. “You could not make up a life like Clay’s,” Breeding said. “His relentlessness in fighting slavery was found in every other aspect of his life. Clay’s fame in America was evidenced when most major newspapers in the nation carried news of his death.” If Thomas Jefferson was the Renaissance man of his generation Cassius M. Clay held that stature during his lifetime.

The script was written by Kentucky author Betty Boles Ellison and draws from the research for her biography of Cassius Clay, A Man Seen But Once. “The real power of the film,” Breeding said, “comes from the manner in which we have woven Clay’s story from his own words about his life experiences. The duels he fought, his wide circle of acquaintances and friends that included the nation’s top leaders, his utterly fearless determination to advocate the emancipation of slaves through his newspaper the True American and his orations made this man an icon in American political history.”

An Audacious American is funded, in part, by the KET Fund for Independent Production with additional support from Berea College and the Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. “Additional sponsorships are available,” says producer Michael Breeding. “Sponsorship of programs like An Audacious American is an excellent media buy while supporting the arts in Kentucky.”

Mel Hankla, who has portrayed George Rogers Clark and Simon Kenton in the Kentucky Humanities Council’s successful Kentucky Chautauqua series, said the most difficult part in playing Cassius M. Clay “was getting his arms around the enormity of the man’s character, background and career.” Dr. George McGee and Dr. Ed Smith, both of Georgetown College, will portray Senator Henry Clay and abolitionist John G. Fee, founder of Berea College, respectively. Other Kentucky actors include Ethan Smith, Janet Scott, Sam Stephens, Erma Bush, Betsy Smith, and Kelly Brengelman. Flower Black of Paducah and Gathan Borden of Louisville will serve as on-camera narrators for the project. Other bit parts have not yet been assigned.

“The Kentucky State Parks system is proud to keep Cassius Marcellus Clay’s home, White Hall Historic Site, near Richmond, open to the public,” Kentucky State Parks Commissioner Gerry van der Meer said. “This was truly a great man and the Parks system is excited that Cassius Clay’s life story, as presented in the new documentary by Michael Breeding, will keep his legacy alive.”

Completion date for the documentary is set for early 2011.
High resolution media photos of the producer, Cassius Marcellus Clay and seven of the actors in this project are available at www.michaelbreedingmedia.com. At the Website, click on the Cassius M. Clay Documentary tab and enlarge photos for easy retrieval.