Thursday, September 27, 2012
Best Legal Drama: No. 2 To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and the movie version (1962) staring Gregory Peck are classics in every respect. Click here for the movie trailer.
Harper Lee captured the people and times of a depression-era small Alabama town - and maybe of America. But she also got the law right.
The daughter of a small town Alabama lawyer, Harper Lee spent many afternoons (sometimes accompanied by childhood friend Truman Capote) in court watching her father and the other lawyers in the area practice their profession. And much of what she saw made its way into both the book and movie.
The well-known story revolves around the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Against a wave of public sentiment and scorn, Atticus must stand for what he believes is right. He teaches lessons to his children who face name-calling and torment at school because of their father's defense of a black man.
Atticus puts forth a well-crafted defense for Tom Robinson, impassioned without being shrill; reasoned without being condescending. Atticus' cross examination of Mayella Ewell, the purported victim, is a lesson in the delicate balance used in the cross of a victim - challenging her story without alienating the jury. (Click here for movie clip of the cross-exam of Mayella). His cross of Mayella's father, Bob Ewell, is pointed. His cross of the Sheriff is respectful, but points out the shortcomings in the investigation. And Atticus' closing, though he knows it is futile, is a passionate call for justice.
But the scene which still gives me chills is when Atticus walks from the Courtroom after the case has concluded. In the Colored Section - the balcony of the old courthouse - the black pastor turns to Scout, who is sitting at his feet. His rich baritone voice carries the immeasurable respect earned from Atticus' fight for equal justice in an unjust world:
"Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing."
Click here for the movie clip.
It is writing at its best. Moving making at its best. It is when fiction contains more truth than non-fiction.