Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Harvard Law School Looks Back on “The Paper Chase”

posted by Nell Minow

The Paper Chase, the story of a student’s first year at Harvard Law School and his rocky relationship with a demanding teacher, was released in 1973.  The fiercely Socratic law professor was played by John Houseman (at one time producer of Orson Welles’ Federal Theater Project plays) and was so popular he inspired a spin-off television series.

The movie and series were based on a novel by Harvard Law School graduate John Osborn, and on the 40th anniversary of its publication Osborn returned to the law school for a conversation with Dean Martha Minow, my sister.

According to Osborn, a 1967 Harvard College and 1970 HLS graduate, 40 years ago the Law School had professors with stern classroom styles and zero tolerance for poorly prepared pupils. Based on that experience, Osborn crafted his curmudgeonly composite, one that has proved popular to generations of readers and moviegoers.

Osborn talked about the way he worked with legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis to show the evolving relationship of the initially intimidated student (tellingly named Hart) and the icy professor, who famously told the student to call his mother and tell her he would never become a lawyer.  They showed the relationship

by including close-up shots of the gruff professor throughout the first part of the film. In addition, camera tricks and a movable set heightened the sense of distance between teacher and student. As the film progressed, Hart came increasingly into the foreground of the camera’s lens and was finally “right in the frame with Kingsfield,” on a par literally and figuratively with the stern professor, said Osborn.

Reflecting on the choice of Houseman to portray the professor in the film, Osborn said the actor was the perfect fit. “He could be that way; it wasn’t a big stretch for him. He was used to being in control.”

But when it came to the TV series, they had to modify the Kingsfield role to entice a weekly audience to keep watching. “You can’t have a guy who is just nasty through and through,” said Osborn. Instead, Houseman, who reprised the role for the series, offered viewers “a watered-down version” of Kingsfield for the small screen.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Osborn himself became a professor, but he assured his audience that in his class, students are not scared to answer.



Previous Posts

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
[iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uI1SqfJvvCk?rel=0" frameborder="0"] And don't forget the only live action film written by Dr. Seuss, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T! [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgpfMxYFSmE[/youtube]

posted 11:12:17am Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Going Clear -- Documentary About Scientology
HBO will show Alex Gibney's new documentary about Scientology on March 29, 2015. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zllYkNu1sl4?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:17am Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

A New Alphabet Book for Women's History Month: Rad American Women A-Z
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! is a wonderful new alphabet book to teach girls, boys, and their families abou

posted 3:37:56pm Mar. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Opening this Month: March 2015
Happy March! Looking forward to warmer days and better movies. Some of what we're looking forward to this month: March 6 "Chappie," from "District 9's" Neill Blomkamp, is the story of a robot whose artificial intelligence may just rise to the level of a personality, even a soul, with Hugh Ja

posted 3:35:27pm Mar. 01, 2015 | read full post »

A Purim Take on Uptown Funk -- Shushan Funk
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KsJKSew4BvY?rel=0" frameborder="0"] Happy Purim! May this be a year when all the Hamens of the world are vanquished. This tale, was once told In the days of Achashverosh This one needs a new girl Needs a good girl A strai

posted 12:36:54pm Mar. 01, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.