Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Paper Chase

THE PAPER CHASE was a CBS TV series in 1978 which was adapted from a 1973 movie, itself adapted from a 1970 book. The story told of a Mister Hart and his experiences in Harvard Law School, particularly his run-ins with the legendarily persnickety Professor Kingsfield. It was not a hit. 

The movie had starred Timothy Bottoms and brought great attention to Linday Wagner who was soon afterwards cast as TV's BIONIC WOMAN. The TV series cast actor James Stephens as a more streamlined, less angsty version of Mister Hart. 

None of that mattered however, as the real star of both the film and TV versions was the unflappable John Houseman as Kingsfield. A producer for forty years (he was Orson Welles creative partner for ages), Houseman's acting career consisted of exactly one film prior to THE PAPER CHASE. That was in 1964's SEVEN DAYS IN MAY where he had a tiny uncredited role. With THE PAPER CHASE, he won the Oscar. If anything, his performance is even better in the TV version. 

Houseman's Professor was thankfully given plenty of time to become a nuanced character, too. CBS canceled the series after a single season but a full four years later, THE PAPER CHASE returned as one of the first original series on SHOWTIME, a little more adult but with most ofbthe main cast of the CBS version back. Year Two was followed by Tears Three and Four, literally following Mr. hart through Law School to graduation.

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