A new documentary premiering later this month at the Kentucky Theater in Lexington has no shortage of Washington County ties, starting with producer Michael Breeding of Michael Breeding Media.
Breeding, who left Springfield after graduating from Washington County High School in 1976 at the age of 16, said he’s excited about the showing of “Cassius Marcellus Clay: An Audacious American,” because Clay is a figure that more Kentuckians should recognize.
Clay was a 19th century emancipationist from Richmond, who made his share of enemies in the commonwealth.
“He made a lot of people mad and he stood for something that we today take for granted, and that is freedom for everyone,” Breeding said. “At the time he was bucking the system, and he was not very popular in Kentucky and Richmond because most of the state were slave-owners.”
Breeding said Clay, the cousin of renowned politician Henry Clay, has an interesting story because he was from an extremely wealthy family and married into another wealthy Kentucky family, which put his views at odds with many of his slave-owning relatives and associates. Breeding said because of this, Clay’s story is thoroughly entertaining, and is based entirely off of the memoirs Clay wrote himself.
“They tried to kill Clay at least three or four times, I’ve lost count,” Breeding said. “Every time someone would try to kill him, something miraculous would happen. Clay was a fascinating guy and when people watch the show they’ll understand why we were so excited about this documentary.”
Those attempts on Clay’s life included a botched assassination attempt when he was shot in the chest, only to have the bullet rejected by the scabbard that held Clay’s Bowie knife. Another attempt failed when a would-be assassin’s weapon misfired. In a time when Clay had an endless number of enemies, there were none greater than Robert Wickliffe, Jr., who will be played by a familiar face in Springfield, Scott Fattizzi.
“Wickliffe and his father were enemies of Cassius Clay and they were pro-slavery,” Breeding said. “In fact, Robert and Clay were supposed to fight a duel in Louisville, but so many people came to watch that they had to call it off.”
The premiere, which is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m., has at least one more Springfield connection, as the recently completed Lincoln Legacy Museum is one of the sponsors of the show.
Apart from learning about the life of Clay, Breeding said he always wants his shows to be an opportunity to have fun, so he said the audience can expect plenty of humorous moments throughout the 60-minute PBS documentary, and those in attendance are even encouraged to dress the part. Any attendees who dress in traditional 19th century attire for the premiere will receive a complimentary DVD of the film.
“I like to have fun and if you get the audience involved, everybody has a good time,” Breeding said. “I just thought it would be something that’s really cool and really fun at the same time.”
Breeding, who has produced many films about Kentucky tourism, assembled a cast nearly entirely made up of Kentucky natives, with the only exception being world-famous narrator Peter Thomas (Forensic Files, Medical Detectives and ESPN Monday Night Football.)
Tickets for the premiere are free in advance by claiming them at www.michaelbreedingmedia.com. Breeding is the son of Elwood and Elizabeth Breeding of Springfield.