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AN ALPHABETICAL, ANNOTATED LIST OF FILMS

NB: Materials listed here are for informational purposes. Mention does not constitute endorsement or recommendation.

Absence of Malice (1981). Sally Field as a Miami journalist and Paul Newman as the son of a mobster. Features defamation lawsuit by Newman against Field's newspaper. 

Bibliography

Books

Rodney A Smolla, The Law of Defamation (looseleaf)

Issues

A scene early in the film shows the newspaper's lawyer analyzing the strength of Newman's likely defamation case against the paper. Also featured: assault on Field by Newman, Justice Department investigation of Newman showing questionable use of tactics by the feds, deliberate use of Field to "leak" information about the investigation by the Feds.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959). Otto Preminger directed this courtroom drama about an Army officer accused of murdering his wife's attacker. Starring Jimmy Stewart as lawyer Paul Biegler, Arthur O'Connell as Parnell MacCarthy, Ben Gazzara as Lt. Frederick Manion, Lee Remick as Laura Manion, Joseph Welch as the judge.

        Bibliography

                Michael Asimov, Anatomy of a Murder: The Lecture.

                Vivian Balch, Rearview Mirror: When Hollywood Came to the U.P.

Robert Traver (pseud. of John Voelker, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice), Anatomy of a Murder

        Websites

        Issues:

One scene between Biegler and MacCarthy features discussion of legal ethics ("leading" the client). Murder, self-defense, rape, legal ethics.

Blind Faith (TVM ). Robert Urich as insurance salesman Robert Marshall who hires a hit man to kill his wife in order 1) collect the life insurance on her and 2) marry his mistress. Based on a true story. Featured: scene in which Urich tries to suborn the perjury of one son in order to discredit the testimony of the hit man. 

Bibliography

Joe McGinniss, Blind Faith (1989).

Issues

Murder, murder for hire, murder for profit, perjury.

A Civil Action (1998).    Stars John Travolta as attorney Jan Schlichtmann, who risks everything to help two families sue companies who dumped toxic waste that they believe killed their children. Based on the book by Jonathan Harr.       

        Bibliography

           Berger, Marilyn J., Lessons From Woburn: The Untold Stories (VHS Tape)(Seattle University School of Law).

          Facher, Jerome P., The View from the Bottomless Pit: Truth, Myth, and Irony in A Civil Action, 23 Seattle U. Law Review 243 (1999). Robert Duvall played Facher's character in the film.

 Grossman, Lewis A., Robert G. Vaughn, and Jonathan Harr, A Documentary Companion to A Civil Action (NY: Foundation Press, 1999).

          Harr, Jonathan  A Civil Action (NY: Vintage, 1996).

    

         Webliography

        Marion Gould Gallagher Law Library: A Civil Action: Sources

        Issues

Fatal Vision (TVM 1984). The trial of Captain Jeffrey MacDonald for the murder of his pregnant wife and two small daughters. In the film MacDonald claimed that unknown intruders invaded his home, attacked him and committed the murders. (Compare with Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case for the "bushy haired stranger" defense, which was dramatized as well in the television series The Fugitive, later a film with Harrison Ford, and for the pre-trial publicity).

Issues

Murder. Evidence. Statute of limitations (on bringing a murder case). Double jeopardy. Standards for appellate review. Military justice. Uxoricide. Scenes show vindication of MacDonald through a military investigation and then prosecution by the federal government. 

Bibliography: Based on the book by Joe McGinniss (1989). MacDonald later sued McGinniss for breach of contract for not portraying him as sympathetically as MacDonald would have liked. Janet Malcolm, who was sued herself for defamation by Jeffrey Masson over the book In the Freud Archives, wrote a book about the MacDonald-McGinnis litigation called The Journalist and the Murderer (1989). See MacDonald vs. McGinniss, CV-84-6170(WJR)(MCX)(U.S. District Court, Central District of California, filed August 31, 1984).

American Justice: Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, Dr. Crippen (Terre Haute, IN: dist. by Columbia House Video Library, 1992).

Blackburn, James, Flame-Out: From Prosecuting Jeffrey MacDonald to Serving Time to Serving Tables (Leslie Books, 2000). Blackburn was the prosecutor in the case.

The Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case (Courtroom TV, 1999).

Malcolm, Janet, The Journalist and the Murderer (1989).

Potter, Jerry Allen and Fred Bost, Fatal Justice: Reinvestigating the MacDonald Murders (NY: W. W. Norton, 1997).

Stephens, Melinda, I Accuse: The Torturing of an American Hero (American Ideal Publications, 1987).

Websites

The MacDonald Case

True Crimes

I Want to Live! (1958). Docudrama about Barbara Graham (played by Susan Hayward), convicted of felony murder and executed. Remade in 1983 with Lindsay Wagner as Graham. The major issues discussed in the film are the justification for capital punishment, particularly of a woman, and the justification for a death sentence in a case of felony murder.

Issues

Capital Punishment, Felony Murder, Murder

Bibliography

California. Legislature. Assembly. Interim Committee on Criminal Procedure, Sub-committee hearing re alleged discrepancies and suppression of evidence re Barbara Graham confession : reporters transcript of testimony and proceedings, March 21, 1960, Sacramento, California (1960).

Rawson, Tabor, I Want to Live!: The Analysis of a Murder (NY: New American Library, 1958).

Walker, Bill, The Case of Barbara Graham (NY: Ballantine Books, 1961).

Websites

The Crime Library: Barbara Graham

The Insider (1999). Al Pacino is CBS producer Lowell Bergman, Christopher Plummer anchorman Mike Wallace, and Ralph Fiennes research scientists Jeffrey Wiegand in this dramatization of the circumstances surrounding Wiegand's whistleblowing activities concerning Brown & Williamson Tobacco and its use of cigarettes as "nicotine delivery devices." Of interest: scenes including Gina Gershon as a CBS attorney explaining "tortious interference" to Bergman, scenes dramatizing the activities of the Mississippi A.G. attempting to sue Big Tobacco to recover the costs of treating health problems of smokers, scene in which the A.G. explains to Wiegand that he could be arrested in Kentucky for testifying in Mississippi.

        Issues

        Whistle blowing, in house counsel

        Bibliography

        Brenner, Marie, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vanity Fair, May 1996

The Life of David Gale (2003). Kevin Spacey is an anti-capital punishment activist convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

10 Rillington Place (1971). Richard Attenborough is murderer John Christie who botches an abortion on his tenant, murders her daughter and disposes of the bodies. The husband of the dead woman is tried, convicted and executed for the murder. The outcry over Christie's later conviction for the same crimes led to a posthumous pardon for the husband. 

Bibliography

Websites

John Christie's confession

Number 10 Rillington Place

10 Rillington Place (includes plan of house)

Wills of the Famous: Number 10 Rillington Place

Issues

Featured: murder, miscarriage of justice, capital punishment, serial murder, uxorcide (murder of one's wife).

Twelve Angry Men (1957); television remake 1997. Also has been adapted for the stage as Twelve Angry Women. Twelve jurors attempt to resolve the fate of a defendant accused of murdering his father. At the beginning of the film, the vote is 11 to 1 for conviction, but one juror convinces the others to reconsider by reconstructing the crime.

Issues

Juries, bias

Bibliography

Becky Pearson, Twelve Angry Men

Terry Diggs, The Law According to Lumet

Websites




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