Posts Tagged ‘trial’


Scottsboro is fact based fiction. It tells the story of the nine Scottsboro boys – nine young black men who were wrongfully convicted several times over, of raping two young women on a train in the American south in 1931. The colour of their skin ensured their guilty verdict, even when one of the girls retracted her statement and admitted that they had both lied about the rape.

The main narrator of the book is a (fictional) journalist named Alice Whittier, who covers the trial and tries to help in seeking justice for the boys. Parts are also narrated by Ruby Bates, the girl who admitted that she and her accomplice Victoria Price, had lied about being raped.

I think it is a skilful piece of writing, expertly blending fact and fiction. It will make you outraged at the absolutely blatant racism against the young men, (and also at the blatant sexism against the women in the story). It’s very eloquently written and I found it easy to lose myself in the pages, and hard to put the book down at times. However, while I could certainly see the usefulness of Alice as a character – her job entitles her to sit in the court while the trials were taking place, and to get to know Ruby and the nine Scottsboro boys – I did feel that unnecessary details about Alice’s personal life intruded somewhat. Of course people want a well rounded character, but certain events which she wrote about, just stalled the narrative.

However, anyone who is interested in civil rights and how they can be denied based solely on the colour of one’s skin (and this is not something that should come as a surprise to anyone) could do worse than read this book. I would recommend.

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This performance of the play which was adapted into the (wonderful) 1957 film starring Henry Fonda, features Martin Shaw in the role of Juror number 8, who must convince his fellow jurors that there is reasonable doubt in the case of a young man accused of murdering his father.  The rest of the cast of this production which I saw at the wonderful Birmingham Rep Theatre, includes Robert Vaughn as juror 9, Jeff Fahey as the bullying juror 3, Nick Moran as juror 7, who only wants to get the case finished with so that he can go to a baseball match, and Edward Franklin as juror 5.

I thought the play was wonderful, and judging by the enthusiastic response and standing ovation from the audience, so did everybody else.  Shaw was excellent as the only juror to initially believe that the defendant may not be guilty, and I also loved Robert Vaughn as the sensible and intelligent fellow juror who is the first to agree.  Jeff Fahey was ideally cast as juror number 3 – an unsympathetic character, who is projecting his own unhappiness at his failed relationship with his son, onto the young man sitting in the dock.

With a small cast of 13 (twelve jurors and a guard), all of whom were on stage the whole time, and with just one setting, the atmosphere was suitably claustrophobic, as tensions run high amongst the men who just can’t seem to reach a verdict with which they all agree.  The staging was very clever, with the table around which the jurors sit – for the most part, when they are not pacing the room or staring out of the window – slowly revolves, so that no character is ever really out of clear view of the audience.

The whole cast were wonderful, it did seem like a natural conversation rather than scripted lines.  It was completely absorbing and the audience seemed captivated throughout – I most certainly was!

Whether you have seen this play before, are a fan of the film, or just like excellent drama performed by a top-notch cast, this play is definitely worth seeing.  It will shortly be playing in London, and I highly recommend it.


Click here for my review of the 1957 film.

Click here for my review of the 1997 film.

Click here for my review of the 2015 production.


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Taken from the same source material as the (far better known) film Chicago, this film feature Ginger Rogers as Roxie Hart – a woman who admits to killing her boyfriend, even though she didn’t, because of the publicity it will bring her. She is convinced that with top lawyer Billy Flynn on her side, she won’t be found guilty, and instead relishes the attention that is lavished on her. The story is told in flashback by a reporter (George Montgomery) who was a rookie when the Roxie case was big news, and is now reflecting on the story of his career….

I really enjoyed this film. At about an hour and 15 minutes, it rattles along nicely, and Ginger Rogers once again gets to prove that her talent was solely in her dancing; she was a great actress too. The subject matter is relevant – perhaps more so – in today’s world, where celebrity culture is such that people will do almost anything to get into the public eye. Here, a woman accused of murder is turned into an instant celebrity!

Ginger does get chance to show off her dancing skills on a couple of occasions, but it should be noted that this film is NOT a musical. It is though, an amusing comedy with a satisfying ending, and I enjoyed it a lot. Fans of Chicago should definitely check this film out.

Year of release: 1942

Director: William A. Wellman

Producer: Nunnally Johnson

Writers: Maurine Dallas Watkins (play ‘Chicago’), Nunnally Johnson, Ben Hecht

Main cast: Ginger Rogers, George Montgomery, Phil Silvers, Adolphe Menjou

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It was probably a very brave decision to remake Miracle on 34th Street.  The original 1947 movie is much loved and pretty near to a perfect Christmas film.  This 1994 version is actually the third remake, but the only remake made for cinematic release.  The story is more or less the same.  A young girl named Susan doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but then she meets the new Santa at Cole’s Department Store (the original film used Macy’s, but Macy’s didn’t want to lend their name to this film, so the fictional store of Cole’s was used instead), who insists that he is is the real Santa Claus.  Susan starts to wonder whether Santa might in fact really exist…

There are a few changes in this version.  In 1947 those who wanted to prosecute Kris Kringle only needed to prove that the man really believed he was Santa Claus, in order to prove him insane, and have him committed.  In 1994, the fact that a man might believe he is Santa Claus would not be enough to have him committed – he is no danger to anyone else or to himself.  To that end, the reason for Kris going on trial is changed slightly.  There are also a couple of added villains who provide a tangent that was not in the first film.

I would say that while this was not an unenjoyable film, it simply is nowhere near a patch on the original.  Richard Attenborough is certainly great as Kris Kringle/Santa; I preferred Edmund Gwenn in the role, but Attenborough cannot be faulted.  However, whereas the little girl Susan was so adorably portrayed by a young Natalie Wood in the original version, I found Mara Wilson somewhat irritating in the same role (and I do feel bad criticising a child actor in a Christmas film!).  The real difference however is in the chemistry – or lack of – between Elizabeth Perkins as Dorey, Susan’s mother, and Dylan McDermott as Bryan Bedford, Dorey’s some-time boyfriend who defends Kris in court.  There simply wasn’t any spark between them; Bryan came off as bland, and Dorey verged on being unlikeable (unlike in the original film when the chemistry between Maureen O’Hara and John Payne really crackled).

The story dragged a little bit more as well, and the added elements didn’t really work.

On a shallow note however, there was one thing going for this film – James Remar as a spy for a rival department store, was GORGEOUS!  I very much enjoyed watching him on the screen!

Overall I would say that my enjoyment of this film was slightly lessened by my enthusiasm for the original.  If you watch the 1994 version first, you may really enjoy it; it just doesn’t stand up well to comparison.

Year of release: 1994

Director: Les Mayfield

Writers: Valentine Davies (story), George Seaton, John Hughes

Main cast: Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson


Click here for my review of the 1947 movie.


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This review is NOT of the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy and Frederic March, but instead, a 1988 adaptation of Lee and Lawrence’s play. The play was based on the real-life Scopes Monkey Trial, but it NOT a retelling of that story. In essence, a young schoolteacher in a Baptist town in the 1920s, is arrested for teaching evolution to his students, and the case goes to trial, attracting nationwide media interest.

Kirk Douglas plays Reverand Brady, the lawyer for the prosecution, and Jason Robards plays Henry Drummond, the solicitor for the schoolteacher. Kyle Secor plays the schoolteacher, Bertram Cates. I have seen some unfavourable comparisons of Douglas and Robards in comparison to Frederic March and Spencer Tracy, who played the same roles in the original film adaptation. For that reason, it was probably beneficial to me as a viewer, that I have not seen that version of the film.

I was actually gripped by this film. Jason Robards was superb as Drummond, injecting a note of humour and a healthy dose of cynicism into the proceedings. He is frustrated by the Judge, who is clearly biased towards the prosecution, and who refuses to allow Drummond to call any of his expert witnesses. However, Kirk Douglas seemed somewhat jarring as Reverend Brady, and I actually found his character to be quite sinister. Jean Simmons was excellent as his wife, however.

Kyle Secor is an under-rated actor, and does a fine job here. However, despite being the character who is the reason for the trial happening in the first place, Cates is really just a supporting character. This film is all about the two lawyers.

As for the ending…well, I’m not sure whether it was what I expected or not. But it rounded things off perfectly. The film made me want to see both other movie adaptations of the play (as well as the 1960 film, there is also a 1999 adaptation, starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott), and also find out more about the real-life case, which inspired the playwrights. This 1988 version doesn’t come around on television that often, and I was unable to find a DVD version of it, but if you do see it playing anytime, it’s well worth checking out.

Year of release: 1988

Director: David Greene

Writers: Jerome Lawrence (play), Robert E. Lee (play), John Gay

Main cast: Kirk Douglas, Jason Robards, Darren McGavin, Jean Simmons, Kyle Secor, Megan Follows

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