I’ve mentioned growing up watching TV on a black & white set. Well, one of the first shows I remember watching is Perry Mason. (Yes, I’m old. Not older than dirt. Just as old as dirt.) Now I was very young and don’t recall if I really followed the storyline; but since the rest of my family was glued to the tube, I watched, too. Hey, I was a kid of the 50s-60s. It was TV. I was gonna watch. But in reruns, I discovered why my family was hooked on series like Perry Mason. They’re great drama! That’s why we still have our lawyer shows on TV.
So I was thinking about my favorite courtroom dramas, both movies and TV. Dramas that are riveting, engaging and even suspenseful. And since I love black & white movies and television, I’m going to concentrate on those titles.
Anatomy of a Murder
(1959) – Probably my favorite courtroom drama, possibly because it stars James Stewart in one of his best performances. Or maybe because it was one of my father’s favorite movies. Stewart plays a small town lawyer defending an army lieutenant accused of murder. Outstanding supporting cast. And, to me, the best use of jazz in a movie score.
Inherit the Wind
(1960) – Based on the play about the Scopes Trial in 1925 Tennessee. Stars Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, two great actors going head to head. The movie has been remade and still stands as one of the great courtroom dramas of all time, no matter what incarnation.
To Kill a Mockingbird
(1962) – I doubt there are many who are unaware of this movie. Gregory Peck in his Oscar-winning role as Atticus Finch. A few years ago the character Atticus Finch was named the number one movie hero by the American Film Institute. Check out this movie to see why.
(1957-1966) – The
TV lawyer show. Raymond Burr is the no-nonsense, never-losing (well, he did lose once) attorney who talks murderers into confessing – often while on the witness stand! How cool is that!
Honorable mention #1: 12 Angry Men
(1957) – While not set in the courtroom itself, this movie about jury deliberations of murder trial is fascinating. The members of the jury examine the facts and confront their personal biases as they consider the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Henry Fonda stars as the foreman. Even a movie set in one room can be great drama.
Honorable mention #2: Adam’s Rib
(1949) – Okay, the courtroom can be funny, too. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn star in what is considered their best comedy together. A prosecutor and a defense attorney – married to each other – square off at the trial of a woman accused of shooting her husband. And they find their own marriage in trouble.
I might try courtrooms in color sometime in the future. Any suggestions?