Every several years, I return to Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” – just to remind myself of what really good cinematic storytelling and excellent cinematography looks like.
Not only does Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling and the always marvellous James Mason turn out brilliant performances – everything from the choice of film stock, masterful camera angles and lighting to the perfectly modulated sound quality, makes this a film worth benchmarking others against.
I can imagine that many have been so inspired by “The Verdict”, that they eventually decided to become lawyers.
Come to think of it, I now remember having naively high hopes for a friend, who at the time of the film’s premiere was studying law, – would become a smart-mouthed, kick-ass defense attorney knocking off one important battle after the other against teams of corporate lawyers and pompous, unjust prosecutors.
He eventually did go on to become a successful judicial practitioner, but I’m sure he’d prefer to see himself as Ed Colcannon, James Mason’s portrayal of the ruthless, cynical, senior lawyer in “The Verdict” than Paul Newman’s underdog character, the self-pitying, womanizing drunk, Frank Galvin.
Curiously, one of the extras in the final courtroom scene, which is when Paul Newman makes his poetic, closing argument, is none other than a young, Bruce Willis – whom I was hired to be stand-in for and extra during the 1986 fall season of the then extremely popular sitcom, Moonlighting.
A stand-in is someone that replaces the principle actor in scenes where only an arm, hand, leg or foot will be visible. Like opening a car door, stepping onto an escalator and so on.
So, while Bruce and Sybille (Shepard) were in their trailers reading scripts and eating catered delicacies, parts of my body were busy playing the role of David Addison’s body parts.
As fun as it initially was to work on that show (and a few others, like Cagney & Lacey, Hunter), in all honesty, nothing can possibly be more monotonous than being a peripheral cast member on a television sitcom or drama series. Twelve hour days with short spurts of activity followed by endless hours of more waiting. Only watching wet paint dry could be more tedious.
The experience did, however, offer some insight to what it’s like to work in Hollywood, something both my father and mother had done, with limited success. The commercials and demo videos I shoot are usually produced with a small, nimble team and delivered with an extremely short turnaround – as opposed to anything one can say about film production in Tinseltown.