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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The One-Man Play starring Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow, December 6, 2001
This review is from: Clarence Darrow: A one-man play (Hardcover)
David W. Rintels' "Clarence Darrow: A One-Man Play" had the virtue of being performed by Henry Fonda. Indeed, which is based on Irving Stone's biography "Clarence Darrow for the Defense," is dedicated to both Fonda and John Houseman, who directed the original stage production. A taped performance, directed by John Rich (noted for his television work on "All in the Family") was aired as "IBM Presents Clarence Darrow" on September 4, 1974 on NBC. Rintels won the 1974-75 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Special Program--Drama or Comedy--Adaptation for his reworking of the play for television. This play focuses on Darrow as the champion of the underdog, a longer who fights for causes with every breath in his body. Obviously Darrow is a man from the past, because he represents a time when the practice of the law was a noble profession. The two acts are built around the great court cases that were the defining moments of Darrow's legal career.
Of course, my primary interest is how the play deals with the subject of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, which is covered in the second act and deals almost exclusively with Darrow's celebrated cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan. Since Bryan is not there to speak on his behalf, Darrow's questions and comments provide the only clues as to what the Great Commoner was "saying." Rintels does stick to the topics Darrow actually quizzed Bryan about on that hot afternoon in Dayton, Tennessee way back in 1925, but he takes extreme liberties with Bryan's various positions. For examples, Bryan had immediately declared it was the earth and not the sun God had halted, then refusing to explain the apparent error. Rintles also has Bryan holding to Bishop Usher's calculations as to the date of the flood and then creates a brand new joke, "Any idea who Noah threw the rope to when he docked the ark?" Of course, Rintels is following the lead of "Inherit the Wind," with Darrow forcing Bryan to declare his belief that the 24-hour days of creation were not necessarily 24-hour days, ignoring Bryan's preemptive point on the length of days before the sun was created. However, the Scopes trial is not given the final word in this particular play. That is reserved for Darrow's eloquent plea in the Loeb-Leopold case. Ultimately, it is Fonda's performance more than anything else then ennobles Darrow's character.
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Clarence Darrow: A one-man play
Clarence Darrow: A one-man play by David W. Rintels (Hardcover - 1975)
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