Serious, hard-working student James T. Hart faces the rigors of his first year at Harvard Law School. The pressure to succeed is tremendous and some of the students form study groups while also spending a great many hours studying. Hart's greatest challenge is contract law and his professor, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. Using the Socratic method, Kingsfield challenges his students with questions demanding accuracy and creativity in their responses and often humiliating those who are unable to respond. As the school year progresses, Hart faces many challenges but befriends Susan Fields - unaware that she has a connection that affects their relationship. Finally, Hart accommodates himself to whatever might come his way, accepting a new set of priorities in his life. Written by
Hart (Timothy Bottoms)'s first name, James, is hardly used in the film. It is spoken twice: when Hart introduces himself to Brooks and when Hart walks by O'Connor during Kingsfield's reception and O'Connor acknowledges him with "Jim." His full name, James T. Hart, appears on Hart's final exam and, in tiny lettering, on the envelope containing his grades. In the later TV series The Paper Chase (1978) the character is played by James Stephens - an actor with the same first name as the James T. Hart character. See more »
When Jim jumps on the bed next to Susan, his position next to her changes between shots. See more »
Have there been any other movies that are as good about the process of getting an education? Yes, you can guess from my login name that I'm a lawyer. I didn't go to Harvard but I can attest that the student/faculty struggle the movie depicts is realistic (and thankfully confined only to a few traditionalist Socratic profs now). The stress and tension involved in getting a law degree is accurate, too. We had a saying, the first year they scared you to death, the second year they worked you to death, the third year they bored you to death. I'd seen the movie years before I went to law school and then I watched it again a few months after I graduated. I actually started getting sick to my stomach and shifted uneasily in my chair as I watched the classroom scenes. It was the one and only time a movie induced a "flashback" for me and I can understand now why some war veterans cannot watch war movies.
John Houseman hadn't been in a movie in years when he made this one and he got a deserved Oscar for it. Having a babe like Lindsey Wagner would've made law school easier but I wasn't that lucky. On the other hand, the romance in the movie depicts a dilemma that many people find themselves in---they're caught up in an important part of their life such as getting a degree, dealing with a very challenging job, and then suddenly an opportunity for romance comes along. Do you let the romance distract you from your larger cause? "The Competition" was another movie that dealt with that romance vs. career theme and did it well.
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