Letters to the Editor

Great Article, But How Could You Have Overlooked ... ?

Posted Oct 1, 2008 8:00 AM CDT

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Kudos for “The 25 Greatest Legal Movies,” August. I enjoyed it immensely, and not just because I agreed with your choices almost entirely. It was a wonderful reminder of how the law is a part of everyday life.

Atticus Finch is a lawyer’s conscience: He does and says everything in the courtroom that we know we should do and say, but don’t—because we don’t have that much courage.

If you claim to be a trial lawyer and the hair on the back of your neck doesn’t stand up at: “In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robin­son!” you’re in the wrong line of work.

District Judge Robert L. McGahey Jr.
2nd Judicial District, Denver


I enjoyed “The 25 Greatest Legal Movies.” Your judges did a nice job, although I dis­agree with some of the picks. Most notably, I would have ranked two films much lower on the list—The Verdict and Kramer vs. Kramer. And how could Judgment at Nuremberg and A Man for All Seasons be ranked only 12 and 13? The Caine Mutiny and The Accused deserved better than they got, too.

Finally, I am shocked that one of the truly outstanding lawyer movies of all time, King & Country (1964), was overlooked altogether.

Jonathan M. Hoffman
Portland, Ore.


Your list read a bit like “25 Le­gal Films That Most People Already Know About.” A little more creative drilling might have reached a whole strata of excellent legal-themed movies, though not conventional courtroom dramas: Carl Dreyer’s 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc (one of the most famous trials in history); John Ford’s 1934 Judge Priest (a Will Rogers vehicle, climaxing in an arresting trial sequence); Fritz Lang’s 1936 Fury (an unusual instance of the prosecutor as hero); the 1932 The Mouthpiece (a brilliant portrayal of a guilt-stricken DA-turned-defense counsel by Warren William); Michael Powell and Emeric Press­burger’s 1946 A Matter of Life and Death (a trial in heaven, with Ray­mond Massey as the prosecutor); and the 1941 The Devil and Daniel Webster (starring Edward Arnold as one of America’s great legal lights).

Paul W. Mollica
Chicago


Your August cover story and its honorable mentions list are both though­tful and incisive. As for To Kill a Mockingbird, your No. 1 choice, it is worth noting that the Amer­ican Film Institute also chose it as the No. 1 “courtroom drama.” Indeed, Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men, your No. 2 legal film, both appear on the AFI’s list of the top 100 American movies (at 25 and 87, respectively). And of the AFI’s “top 50 heroes” of American film, the No. 1 character is none other than a lawyer—Atticus Finch as portrayed by Gregory Peck.

I wish to mention five other films that didn’t make the cut but are just as wonderful: The Life of Emile Zola (1937), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), The Talk of the Town (1942), The Wrong Man (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). Written, directed and acted by Hollywood’s best, these deserve to be on any list.

Gus Bauman
Washington, D.C.


I’m disappointed that Whose Life Is It Anyway? didn’t even get an honorable mention ...

Nelson D. Crandall
Menlo Park, Calif.


I suggest your jury missed the boat by not selecting Boomerang! (1947). ...

Ben Aisenberg
Denver


How could the 1959 film the Young Philadelphians not be named, yet the fanciful Pelican Brief is given honorable mention?...

Tom Carpenter
Little Rock, Ark.


... however, you should not have left off Costa-Gavras’ Special Section, a movie in the tradition of Judgment at Nuremberg and Breaker Morant.

Peter L. Davis
Central Islip, N.Y.


... however, i would have chosen the original version of 12 Angry Men as the No. 1 legal film. It was a superb litigation teaching tool.

Edward L. Koven
Highland Park, Ill.


CORRECTIONS

How I Learned to Litigate at the Movies,” August, incorrectly identified Area 51, a tract of federal land that includes an Air Force base, as being in New Mexico. Area 51 is located in Nevada.

In “Of Passions and Practice,” July, the company founded by Nance L. Schick should have been referred to as THEBOA.

The Journal regrets the errors.

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