In a new book, Michael Asimow looks at the truth and trickery of courtroom movies
The natural question after picking up Menlo Park resident Michael Asimow’s almost 500 page book, Real to Reel, Truth and Trickery in Courtroom Movies, is did he, as co-author with Paul Bergman, actually watch all of the 200 movies described?
The answer is “yes,” with the caveat that Paul watched a few more early classics as he had access to them in the UCLA film archive.
Their goal in writing the book is to encourage people to watch the movies. Chapters are divided by various topics and consist of long reviews followed by selected shorts.
Write the authors: “We provide gavel ratings for all films based on our judgment of their overall quality and the entertainment value of the courtroom scenes. Four gavels denote a classic, three gavel movies are quite entertaining, two gavels are good, while a one gavel rating suggests that you ask for a new trial.”
Michael is not bothered that “reel” is not necessarily “real.” “It’s important to accept that the movies are designed to entertain and make money,” he says
He considers Anatomy of a Murder (1959) the “single best courtroom movie.” Starring Jimmy Stewart, directed by Otto Preminger, with a musical score by Duke Ellington, “It’s quite long,” says Michael, “but almost all of it is in the courtroom. There’s a great judge and beautifully drawn characters.”
He continues: “Both my co-author and I love old movies. I’ve been a law teacher my whole life. I love law — writing and thinking about it.
“The idea about a book about courtroom movies came about when we realized there are books about every genre, but this one hadn’t been covered. It gave us an excuse to watch all these film and think about them! We worked on for about two years.”