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Clarence Darrow

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This one-man show based on the David W. Rintels play is an entertaining introduction to the life and times of the legendary American defense attorney Clarence Darrow. The set is a courtroom with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. After Henry Fonda walks on-stage in the persona of Darrow, he thumbs his suspenders and tells folksy tales about horse-trading and public hangings in Darrow's hometown of Kinsman, OH, before getting down to the serious business of Darrow's life in the law. Darrow (1857-1938), perhaps America's most celebrated attorney, defended legal underdogs in some of this nation's most famous cases, including the John T. Scopes "monkey trial" in Dayton, TN, in July 1925, pitting Darrow and Darwinism against William Jennings Bryan and Protestant fundamentalism. Fonda performs brilliantly as he roams the stage, mixing amusing anecdotes with accounts of labor strikes, ******, bribery, murder, racism, and the everyday life of hapless railroad workers scraping by in tenements with one toilet for every five families. Although Fonda is the only actor in this production, he holds the attention of the audience throughout, using gestures, bearing, tone of voice, and an engaging storytelling ability. In describing a catalogue of controversial cases -- including one in which Darrow exonerated himself of jury-tampering -- Fonda makes clear that it was idealism that motivated the wily lawyer. Wherever anyone was accused of "the crime of human thought" -- or wherever the mighty oppressed the weak -- Darrow popped up, deus ex machina, to draw blood with razor-edged truth. Make no mistake, though: Clarence Darrow is not a scholarly production for tweedy intellectuals; rather, it is entertainment, a once-upon-a-time story of a man who was larger than life. Mike Cummings, All Movie Guide