Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow

An excellent one-man show, based on Irving Stone’s biography Clarence Darrow for the Defence, preserved on Kino video from 74. Fonda holds viewer attention for 84 memorable minutes as America’s most famous lawyer who fearlessly was involved in many famous cases including Loeb and Leopold and the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The play covering the 1800s and 1900s featured many famous speeches and quotes by Darrow and you see him addressing defendants, judges, his wives, and juries, as well as musing aloud his deeper and funnier introspections.

The late great John Houseman directed the play on Broadway and advised Fonda on this project. It is flawlessly written and acted. The best (spoiler) moment comes at the end of the play while Darrow is defending the aforementioned college-boy-killers, and he makes a case for mercy as an advance over the harder Old Testament justice which prevailed in courts during his career at the time. He feels strongly that there is no humanitarian point in exacerbating violence by killing with court verdicts.

Highly recommended for its perspectives on justice and insights into racial justice, in particular. A memorable filmization of a great man on the American courts history.

Also recommended: Fonda’s other great performances about justice in Twelve Angry Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

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