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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Timing of Judgment....

This afternoon I sat down to watch a rerun of Ken Burns two-hour PBS piece about the first "automobilist" to make it across the US back in 1903, and before I knew it I was watching Judgment at Nuremberg, a 1961 movie that I recall seeing that many years ago -- but obviously did not appreciate at the time.

I have often used movies to teach my Ethics course, and cannot recall why this was never on my list. Perhaps it is because the film runs over three hours.

But in seeing it again I am amazed at how well this movie holds up. It is really well done, and I was especially impressed with the "pull no punches" writing of Abby Mann. I cannot recall another movie that makes the moral dilemmas and issues so clear.

Reading a bit of history about the movie, it was an adaptation to screen from a play originally presented in 1959 on TV's Playhouse 90. Among folks in the movie cast were Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark -- and a very young William Shatner. Among the other little tidbits is that Maximilian Schell, who played the defense attorney Hans Rolfe in the TV version, won a "Best Actor" Oscar for that role in the movie despite the fact that his was not among the leading male roles.

Another bit of information is that there was a Broadway stage version that opened in March 2001 -- and closed in May. Schell was in the cast playing the Janning character that he was defending in the movie.

One wonders whether the stage version would close as quickly today given the moral relevance of the script....

The phrase that comes to mind is: timing is everything....

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