memories of the ’70s – The Paper Chase

File:Paper Chase Book.jpgThis story hit three mediums in this decade – novel, film and tv series: The Paper Chase.

Written by John Jay Osborn Jr., the story is focuse on a first year Harvard Law student named Hart, who has one nemesis – Professor Charles Kingsfield, a tough teacher who isn’t letting anyone get through his class easily.

And of course, Hart has a love interest, the fascinatingly contrary Susan Field, a fellow student and Kingsfield’s daughter.

Published in 1970, Osborn Jr. completed the novel while a third year student at Harvard. The story was adapted for the screen in 1973, with Timothy Bottoms as Hart, John Houseman as Professor Kingsfield and Lindsay Wagner as Susan.

“Mister Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about your becoming a lawyer.” – Kingsfield

File:Poster of The Paper Chase.jpg

Although not received with open arms by movie critics, Houseman’s portrayal of Kingsfield earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film.

In 1978, the novel was interpreted again into a tv series starring John Houseman as Kingsfield and James Stephens as Hart. Cancelled after one year, the series was re-aired on PBS and then picked up by Showtime in 1983, where it was relaunched and aired another additional three seasons.

The crux of the series lay within the original story of the relationship between Hart and Kingsfield – challenging each other to be better and do better.

“The study of law is something new and unfamiliar to most of you, unlike any other schooling you have ever known before. You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush and, if you survive, you leave thinking like a lawyer. – Kingsfield.

As this story lured readers and then viewers, the revelation of a student’s maturity and his growth is the key to the story – although he resents his instructor, he’s glad for the experience and so were we.




About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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