7.1/10
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9 user 4 critic

Gideon's Trumpet (1980)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama, History | TV Movie 30 April 1980
The story of Clarence Earl Gideon and his fight for the right to have publicly funded legal counsel for the needy.

Director:

Robert L. Collins (as Robert Collins)

Writers:

Anthony Lewis (book), David W. Rintels (teleplay)
Reviews
Nominated for 3 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Henry Fonda ... Clarence Earl Gideon
José Ferrer ... Abe Fortas
John Houseman ... Chief Justice / Offscreen Narrator
Fay Wray ... Edna Curtis
Sam Jaffe ... 1st Supreme Court Justice
Dean Jagger ... Sixth Supreme Court Justice
Nicholas Pryor ... Jacob
William Prince ... 5th Supreme Court Justice
Lane Smith ... Fred Turner
Richard McKenzie ... Judge Robert McCrary
Dolph Sweet ... Charlie
Ford Rainey ... 2nd Supreme Court Justice
David Sheiner ... Abe Krash
J. Patrick McNamara ... Harris
Les Lannom ... Bobby Earle
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Storyline

True story of Clarence Gideon's fight to be appointed counsel at the expense of the state. This landmark case led to the Supreme Court's decision which extended this right to all criminal defendants. Written by Steve Walker <swalker@ionet.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 April 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hallmark Hall of Fame: Gideon's Trumpet (#29.3) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Henry Fonda, José Ferrer, John Houseman, Dean Jagger and Edmund H. North; and one Oscar nominee: Sam Jaffe See more »

Goofs

After Gideon wins his second trial and leaves the courthouse a reporter asks him a question. As Gideon leaves the reporter scribbles something on his notebook. However the reporter's notebook is closed throughout the shot. See more »

Quotes

Chief Justice: [final lines]
[reading Robert Kennedy's decision]
Chief Justice: If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in prison with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court; and if the Supreme Court had not taken the trouble to look at the merits in that one crude petition among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter; the court did look into his case;...
See more »

Connections

Edited into Hallmark Hall of Fame (1951) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The very best of the post-1970's "Hallmark Hall of Fame" productions
27 February 2004 | by critic-2See all my reviews

In another review, I stated that the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" series was never as good during the last twenty years or so as it had been during its glorious days in the 1950's and '60's. There was one brilliant exception, however, and this is it. "Gideon's Trumpet" can stand up proudly alongside all the other "Hall of Fame" episodes of the past as one of the finest made-for TV films ever made.

It tells the true story of Clarence Earl Gideon, an ex-convict who, in the early 1960's, was accused of breaking into and robbing a convenience store in Florida. Claiming innocence, he was forced to serve as his own lawyer because states' laws at that time did not require an accused person to be automatically given a lawyer. Failing miserably at his own defense, he was sent to prison, where, as a model prisoner, he studied up on law and petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to be granted a lawyer.

This phrase has already become a cliché from overuse, but Henry Fonda, in one of his last performances, does not play Clarence Gideon--he IS Clarence Gideon. He inhabits the role so completely that we never believe we are watching Henry Fonda; we believe we are seeing a poor, inarticulate, awkward, somewhat cranky, but basically kind man named Clarence Gideon. Fonda utterly lives the role in a way that he seldom does in his other films (although he was an excellent actor).

The other actor who gives a memorable performance is José Ferrer, as Abe Fortas, who pleads Fonda's petition before the Supreme Court. As Fortas, Ferrer gets to do one of the things he does best, and which he had not done to my knowledge since playing "Cyrano de Bergerac"--deliver a long, impressive speech. I don't know how much of the speech was actually taken from the Court hearing and how much was written by the excellent screenwriters, but there are few things as satisfying as an actor who not only gives a great performance, but also delivers a long speech beautifully. The thrill of hearing Ferrer's rich, beautiful voice argue a case before the Supreme Court is enough reason for me to tune in to this film every time it is shown on TV.

There is also a cameo from Fay Wray, as Fonda's longtime landlady, and the other Justices of the Court, all of whom are also excellent, consist of such familiar faces as John Houseman, Sam Jaffe, Dean Jagger, and other familiar character actors from television.

This great production might strike some viewers brought up only on action films as boring--there is no action at all in it; it's like watching a filmed play--but, believe me, there is not a single boring moment in it, if you appreciate well-written characters and dialogue. And this film avoids all of the drippy sentiment that has plagued "Hallmark Hall of Fame" over the last six years or so. If only this anthology series had stayed on the level of "Gideon's Trumpet".


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