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Darrow (1991)

The life and career of Clarence Darrow, the noted American lawyer and civil libertarian.


John David Coles


William Schmidt (story), William Schmidt (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kevin Spacey ... Clarence Darrow
Bob Tracey Bob Tracey ... Judge
Paul Klementowicz ... Eugene Prendergast
Gerard Malone Gerard Malone ... Young Paul Darrow
Erin Cressida Wilson ... Jessie Darrow
Harry Goz Harry Goz ... Marvin Hughitt
Chris Cooper ... Eugene Debs
Bill Alton Bill Alton ... Ludwig
Michael Lewis Michael Lewis ... Jack Dolan
Larry John Meyers Larry John Meyers ... Judge Grosscup
Don Wadsworth Don Wadsworth ... Thomas Milchrist
Neil Vipond Neil Vipond ... Edward Lorber
Frances Foster Frances Foster ... Elsa Jackson
John Christopher Jones John Christopher Jones ... Edgar Lee Masters
Calista Flockhart ... Lillian Anderson


In the 1890s, Clarence Darrow was a corporate railroad lawyer who had a crisis of conscience when he saw the plight of the underprivileged. In response, Darrow quits to fight in the courts on their behalf. In a career that would mark him as the Lawyer for the Damned, we follow Darrow's life through his highs like his labor victories to the low of the hopeless McNamara trial that got him indicted for jury tampering. After all that, he rebuilds his life as a master criminal defense lawyer that would lead him to one of his greatest cases with the Leopold and Loeb trial. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama







Release Date:

8 June 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

L'avocat des damnés See more »

Filming Locations:

Pittsburgh ,Pennsylvania, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


Kevin Spacey and Chris Cooper later appeared in A Time to Kill (1996) and American Beauty (1999). See more »


Clarence Darrow: [I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love]
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User Reviews

Well worth a look
17 October 2002 | by lunarbeautySee all my reviews

Wow, a Spacey film with no reviews. I picked this one up from a pirate seller here in Shanghai. It's pretty good. It's got that made-for-TV feel, which is a bit distracting, but with its obviously modest budget it turns in a decent performance -- though the voice-over by the protagonist's son is largely superfluous.

Spacey plays (the historical) Clarence Darrow, who turns from a meek early 20thC corporate lawyer into a champion of justice for the poor and downtrodden. Spacey nicely captures Darrow's growing surety and nuanced reaction to his growing fame. The resulting break-up of Darrow's marriage, however, is dealt with somewhat incoherently, though the aftermath of the break-up is tackled with more gusto.

The surrounding cast turn in a workmanlike performance, though there's a hint of evil-baron-twirling-moustache to some of the villains, and too much `ard -working `onesty to the poor folk (sort of Goody Blake and Harry Gill)

Darrow's rise was followed by a sharp fall; this too is covered pretty well. But his most famous case, The Scopes Trial, which was the one I most wanted to see (Spacey getting his teeth into the absurd christians) is not covered, merely voiced by his son. I'm not sure if that's a cop-out or quite admirable (cf. the son's voice-over ``The Scopes Trial, the one which everyone remembers him for..'').

Thus the film closes with Darrow's return to notoriety, trying to save a pair of murders the death sentence. This calls for the lawyer-film favorite, the barnstormer speech. It's a trope ripe for melodrama, but Spacey sees the trap and sidesteps it. The make-up (Darrow's now elderly) is a bit ropey, it's true -- but that's no impediment to the actor. None of your cocksure lawyer here; he's half-broken, half-unsure, passionate but querulous. Nor is the speech wrapped up in a couple of paragraphs; it's a lengthy, judicious affair, Spacey dominating the scene entirely.

In all, well worth a punt.

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