Enhance your purchase
Frequently bought together
Henry Fonda stars in a Hallmark Hall of Fame classic seen on CBS
In one of the finest and final performances of his distinguished career, Henry Fonda portrays Clarence Gideon, the destitute prisoner whose handwritten plea for justice changed the course of American legal history. Based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Anthony Lewis, Gideons Trumpet tells the remarkable human story behind the landmark "right to counsel" Supreme Court case.
Nominated for three Emmys® and winner of the prestigious Peabody Award, this powerful Hallmark Hall of Fame drama also features Oscar®- and Tony®-winner José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac, The Caine Mutiny) as Abe Fortas, Oscar®-winner John Houseman (The Paper Chase, Rollerball) as Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Fay Wray (King Kong) in her final screen performance.
"Ranks with the best films of the early 1980s" -- All Movie Guide.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE insert with production notes by Anthony Lewis and cast filmographies.
Anyone who's ever been arrested--or maybe just watched a cop show--knows that the right to representation by counsel is guaranteed by the Constitution, codified in the Miranda warning. But it wasn't until the early 1960s, when the events chronicled in Gideon's Trumpet unfolded, that this fundamental prerogative became law. As portrayed by Henry Fonda in this Emmy-nominated 1980 TV movie, Clarence Earl Gideon was neither a hero nor a crusader out to re-write history. He was in fact, a criminal recidivist, a poor drifter with four broken marriages and multiple prison terms in his past. Busted for breaking and entering and petty larceny in Panama City, Florida in 1961, Gideon proclaimed his innocence; but when his demand for a lawyer was rejected at trial (only defendants in capital cases were given court-appointed attorneys in Florida), he was forced to defend himself, resulting in a conviction and a five-year jail sentence. What followed was a matter of luck as well as persistence, as his appeal became one of the few that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear. Chief Justice Earl Warren (John Houseman, who also executive-produced) assigned Abe Fortas (Jose Ferrer), himself a future Supreme Court justice, to handle the case, and Fortas' skillful work led to the overturning of Betts v. Brady, a 1942 decision in which the high court had ruled that even indigent defendants weren't entitled to counsel when prosecuted by a state; Gideon's second trial (his claim that double jeopardy applied was rejected), this time with proper representation, is depicted in the final sequences of the film. As befitting the decidedly un-glamorous details of the story, Fonda, who was 75 at the time (the real Gideon was 51) and nearing the end of his storied career, delivers a laconic, low-key performance, effectively depicting a crusty, world-weary, but dignified man who got a raw deal, saw a flaw in the legal system, and fought to correct it. The film, too, is remarkably matter-of-fact: no melodrama, no music to manipulate the viewer's emotions at key moments, just a top-notch cast and a straightforward depiction of the case as described in Anthony Lewis' book of the same name. --Sam Graham
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.53 inches; 2.88 Ounces
- Director : Robert L. Collins
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
- Run time : 1 hour and 44 minutes
- Release date : August 28, 2007
- Actors : Henry Fonda, José Ferrer, John Houseman, Fay Wray, Sam Jaffe
- Producers : David W. Rintels, John Houseman, Myron L. Slobodien, Philip J. Grosz
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Unqualified
- Studio : ACORN MEDIA
- ASIN : B000QXDCXI
- Writers : Anthony Lewis, David W. Rintels
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #129,888 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Gideon’s chance of finding a needle in a haystack was infinitely better than having his case heard by the Supreme Court. But—miracle of miracles— it was. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) changed the whole course of American legal history. Thus the reason for the TV movie, starring Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon. The story follows Gideon’s improbable journey, from the crime scene to a Florida courthouse to a Florida prison cell. Also included are scenes inside the U.S. Supreme Court and inside one of Washington D.C.’s most prestigious law firms. The lead attorney to argue Gideon’s case was Abe Fortas, played convincingly by Jose Ferrer, and actor John Houseman makes for a decidedly formidable chief justice Earl Warren. We know the outcome of the case, but that does not lesson the drama of the story and, of course, it’s a marvel to watch the brilliant Fonda play Clarence Gideon, a down-on-his luck auto mechanic who nonetheless was shrewd and persistent, caught a break, and changed legal history. Never again would the accused be deprived of legal representation. Only in America do such things happen.
The real life Clarence Earl Gideon was not the likeable fellow as portrayed by Henry Fonda. However, this does not detract from the impact of the film. The basic story, that of a man wronged by the legal system, stands on its own. Some names are changed (for example, Lester Wade's real name is Henry Cook), and some testimony is left out. I suppose to include everything was not possible.
However, key parts of testimony in court and argument before the Supreme Court are put on display for the viewer. The film uses parts of actual testimony from all court proceedings. I consider this a strength of the film. You literally hear the true words spoken by the participants at certain points of this film.
What makes the film have an even greater impact is the cast. Henry Fonda, John Houseman, Sam Jaffe (one of his last roles), Jose Ferrer, Fay Wray (her last role!), Lane Smith...all do a fine job. In my opinion, it is one of Fonda's finest performances. It is a pity that the Supreme Court justices were not using names, but a bit of research would allow one to figure out the majors players that shaped the decision.
High school teachers---your students will enjoy this film. I have used this film for the past eight years, and it never fails to make an impact or foster discussion and talking points in the classroom. Discussion, debate, and writing all flow naturally from this film, and the more curious among them often want to know more about the true life characters. I've had students act with surprise at what happens to Abe Fortas later in life.
I suggest reading the book Gideon's Trumpet by Anthony Lewis if one has a chance to do so. As the New York Times Supreme Court reporter for years, he gives insights that the average person simply does not know.
Enjoy this film. I know I did.
One is equally astonished that the High Court gave such consideration to a relatively minor infraction of the law, and in doing so, gave everyone like the obscure,impoverished Gideon the right to council regardless of their station in life.
As has been stated elsewhere, this film is both an entertaining and informative experience. It is a must see for law students and laymen alike.