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Friday, October 27, 2006

Did Someone Say John Houseman?

posted by on October 27 at 17:31 PM

This man made a great impression on my youth.
Because there was no regulation on the amount of public television I could watch (commercial TV was practically banned from our house), the drama series I grew up with and learned to love was the Paper Chase, which ran on PBS and starred John Houseman as a merciless law professor. How I loved his stiffness, his meanness, the way he terrified students, and could them tremble with just his words and eyes. John Houseman was all I wanted to become.

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The Paper Chase is the worst movie ever made. And it's sexist, to boot!

Posted by annie | October 27, 2006 5:46 PM

Here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.

Posted by You... are a SON OF A BITCH, Kingsfield! | October 27, 2006 6:31 PM

Ah. I get it, now. Explains everything.

Posted by Mokawi | October 27, 2006 8:26 PM

Never saw the TV show, but when I was in college the student union ran the movie upon which it was based every semester around exam time, the climax of our own paper chase. Is it sexist? I guess maybe, but I always have liked it, and sure partly because of Houseman who appears in the movie version as well, but also because of a number of nicely drawn minor characters, a range of law nerds. The love interest is played by the actress I think of as the Bionic Woman -- she affects an odd sort of accent I suspect was her best effort at Boston Brahmin. The Timothy Bottoms character grouses to her "Susan, you don't give me much sustenance." It's not a line I ever tried on a girlfriend.

Posted by Eric | October 27, 2006 8:57 PM

Here's a dime. Take it, and call someone who cares.

Posted by Sean | October 27, 2006 11:08 PM

Go become a merciless law professor, Charles. It's fairly obvious that's your role-play with The Stranger. Myself, for lack of a specific interest, remember writing down 'Doctor' to the familiar question when I was about 8 years old. I guess that's my silly role-play now (I've hung out in enough bars though to know some wickedly funny [read: hurtful] jokes. Maybe another time).

Seriously though, remember Bill Russell. He weathered through a profession of ugly politics and obnoxious salaries. I don't know much about him, but it sounds like he learned not to (perhaps he never did) let people take advantage of him. And it's -sort of- alright not to reach a goal. Who knows? Here's hoping to see you on the Seattle U. campus; they have a stately new Law Building!

Posted by The future | October 27, 2006 11:12 PM

I liked the movie and show when they came out (BTW, it was on a network long before PBS showed it, but I couldn't tell you which one). It has that whole '70's/early 80's thing where the vestiges of old intra-white class and economic warfare were a lot more in your face (the protaginist is a working class midwesterner in an Ivy League school, which used to be sort of a big deal).

It also has that anti-authoritarian post-Watergate element that a lot of 70's and early 80's movies and TV shows had - Billy Jack, Bonnie and Clyde,the first Alien movie, Hill Street Blues, etc. I just saw the first Rambo movie again a couple of months ago, which came out before Reagan was elected, and was struck at how anti cop/establishment it was.

The Paper Chase could well have been sexist (I can't remember a prominent female character), but it did have its virtues.

Besides, compared to Star Search, it was postively edifying.

Posted by Mr. X | October 28, 2006 12:38 AM

The Paper Chase was a thing in my house growing up. I remember it being male centered, not sexist. I remember it taught me the value of trying to use our brains. It was good to be smart, and yes Mr. X, questioning.

But Rambo, I pointed out to you at the time that it's anti-authoritianism was the special version cooked up by the right that passes in other manifestations today as having intellectual rigor. It's not about being cynical about the decisions of a few in power, rather it's breeding a mistrust in government and democratic decision-making structures. Rambo is anti-government as opposed to demanding representation and justice from government. It's nihilistic. It's about the individiual. It's as different from the message of challenging authority in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as Grapes of Wrath is different from The Fountainhead.

Yeessh, Rambo was totally right wing entertainment propaganda. It also exploited the obsession a lot of right wing, military obsessed, "the government abandoned our boys in Vietnam" (early messaging that quitting a war you are losing is cutting and running as opposed to the Vets for Peace perspective that supporting our troops means getting them out)" weirdos (my high school boyfriend for instance) had with the POWs that were left behind. This was an unfortunate fact of course, but I remember how it was exploited by those early neo-cons.

Posted by LH | October 28, 2006 1:38 AM

It's always been my dream to cause people to tremble with my words.....

Posted by Dianna | October 28, 2006 2:02 AM

I love that one scene where Houseman waxes eloquently on having mercy sex with pregnant women!

Posted by cite | October 28, 2006 3:50 AM

Here's my experience with Mudede as a teacher, without giving away too much. Everyone had a great deal of respect for him and did whatever he told them. He was often quite funny and would rush in an out of class as though someone was chasing him. Frequently he would stomp up and down whenever someone say something wrong and rebuke the person with a quick switch of a bandanna that he kept dangling in one pocket.

He perspired frequently, it seemed, and seemed quite sad sometimes. On other occasions he would point his finger at someone like a character from Dickens, yelling, "the truth, my son, is like a turtle."

At other times he would makes obscure references to Derrida or Marx. "The story never ends," he quoted to us once, "because the end is the same as the beginning." Afterwards he would insist that we research Marxism, right away.

Posted by Cue | October 28, 2006 10:50 AM

LH, thats the most well thought-out and articulate (and correct) post Ive ever read on here. More, please. I cant really remember much about the Paper Chase except Housemans vibe and Ive never taken a class from you, Charles, but Im willing to bet that you have succeeded in fulfilling your dream.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | October 28, 2006 11:21 AM

For Christ's sake, please, please, please fire this man!!

Posted by Buster Sunfish | October 28, 2006 3:10 PM

#7 MR X -

The series ran on CBS.

Posted by Creek | October 28, 2006 11:07 PM

"This man made a great impression on my youth."

Everyone needs a youth upon whom impressions can be made. (signed) Mark Foley

Posted by A Proud Gay American | October 30, 2006 9:50 AM

I loved the Paper Chase when I was a kid, too. I aspire to be able to do the sort of soul-crushing damage that Houseman could inflict with a raised eyebrow.

In college, I was a music major and my music theory professor reminded me every day of Houseman's character in the Paper Chase. I was terrified of him.

Posted by Jill | October 30, 2006 11:04 AM

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