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The Verdict

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Title: The Verdict  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sidney Lumet, 40th Golden Globe Awards, 55th Academy Awards, Tobin Bell, David Mamet
Collection: 1980S Drama Films, 1982 Films, 20Th Century Fox Films, American Films, American Legal Drama Films, Boston, Massachusetts in Fiction, Courtroom Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by Johnny Mandel, Films About Alcoholism, Films About Lawyers, Films Based on American Novels, Films Based on Novels, Films Directed by Sidney Lumet, Films Produced by David Brown, Films Produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Films Set in Boston, Massachusetts, Films Set in Massachusetts, Films Shot in Massachusetts, Films Shot in Toronto, Screenplays by David Mamet
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Verdict

The Verdict
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by David Brown
Richard D. Zanuck
Screenplay by David Mamet
Based on The Verdict 
by Barry Reed
Music by Johnny Mandel
Cinematography Andrzej Bartkowiak
Edited by Peter C. Frank
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • December 8, 1982 (1982-12-08)
Running time
129 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16 million[1][2]
Box office $53,977,250[3]

The Verdict is a 1982 courtroom drama starring Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason, Milo O'Shea and Lindsay Crouse. The film, which was directed by Sidney Lumet, was adapted by David Mamet from the novel by Barry Reed. It is about a down-on-his-luck alcoholic lawyer who takes a medical malpractice case to improve his own situation, but discovers along the way that he is doing the right thing.

The Verdict garnered critical acclaim and box office success. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Leading Role (Paul Newman), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (James Mason), Best Director (Sidney Lumet), Best Picture and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (David Mamet).


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • American Film Institute 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) was once a promising graduate of Boston College Law School and a lawyer at an elite Boston law firm. But he was framed for jury tampering some years back by the firm's senior partner because he was going to expose their corrupt practices. Although he retains his license to practice law, Frank has become an alcoholic ambulance chaser who has had only four cases over the last three years, all of which he has lost.

As a favor, his former teacher and friend Mickey (Jack Warden) sends him a medical malpractice case in which it's all but assured that the defense will settle for a large amount. The case involves a young woman who was given an anesthetic during childbirth, after which she choked on her own vomit and was deprived of oxygen. The young woman is now on a respirator in a persistent vegetative state. Her sister and brother-in-law are hoping for a settlement in order to give her proper care. Frank assures them they have a strong case. Meanwhile, Frank, who is lonely, becomes romantically involved with Laura (Charlotte Rampling), a woman he meets at a local bar.

Frank visits the comatose woman and is deeply affected. He then meets with the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston (Edward Binns), which owns the Catholic hospital where the incident took place. As expected, the Bishop's representative offers a substantial amount of money – $210,000 – to settle out of court, but Frank declines the offer as he fears that this may be his last chance to do something right as a lawyer, and that merely taking the handout would render him "lost". Everyone, including the presiding judge and the victim's relatives, is stunned by Frank's decision (Frank fails to communicate the offer to his client's family before rejecting it).

Things quickly go wrong for Frank: his client's brother-in-law finds out from "the other side" that he has turned down a $210,000 settlement, and angrily confronts Frank; his star medical expert disappears; a hastily arranged substitute's credentials and testimony are called into serious question on the witness stand. His opponent, the high-priced attorney Ed Concannon (James Mason), has at his disposal a large legal team that is masterful with the press; the presiding judge (Milo O'Shea) makes deliberate efforts to obstruct Frank's questioning of his expert; and no one who was in the operating room is willing to testify that there was any negligence.

Frank's big break comes when he discovers that Kaitlin Costello (Lindsay Crouse), the nurse who admitted his client to the hospital, is now a preschool teacher in New York. Frank travels there to track her down, leaving Mickey and Laura working together in Frank's Boston office. Frank confronts Costello, asking, "Will you help me?" We don't see her answer.

Meanwhile in Boston, Mickey is looking for cigarettes in Laura's handbag and discovers a check from Concannon's law firm. He infers that she is a mole, providing information on their legal strategy to the opposing lawyers.

Mickey flies to New York to tell Frank that Laura has been betraying them. He suggests to Frank that it would be easy to get the case declared a mistrial, but Frank decides to continue. Shortly thereafter, Frank meets Laura, who has also traveled to New York. In a display of cold fury, Frank strikes her in the face, knocking her to the floor.

In an emotional scene, Costello testifies that, shortly after the patient had become comatose, the anesthesiologist (one of the two doctors on trial, along with the Archdiocese of Boston) told her to change her notes on the admitting form to hide his fatal error. She had written down that the patient had had a full meal only one hour before being admitted. The doctor had failed to read the admitting notes. Thus, in ignorance, he gave her an anesthetic that should never be given to a patient with a full stomach. As a result, the patient vomited and choked.

Costello further testifies that, when the anesthesiologist realized his mistake, he met with Costello in private and forced her to change the number "1" to the number "9" on her admitting notes. But Costello made a photocopy of the notes before she made the change, which she brought with her to court. She was subsequently fired, leading her to exclaim in court, "Who are these men? I wanted to be a nurse!" But Concannon quickly turns the situation around by getting the judge to declare the nurse's testimony stricken from the record on technicalities. Frank's case seems hopeless, but he delivers a brief, weighty closing argument, telling the jury "you are the law" and entreating them to seek "truth and justice" in their hearts before they vote.

In the penultimate scene, the jury – disregarding the judge's instructions to ignore the nurse's testimony – announces that they have found in favor of Frank's clients. The foreman then asks the judge whether the jury can award more than the amount the plaintiffs sought. The judge resignedly replies that they can, but the amount they decide on is not revealed. As Frank is congratulated by his clients, Mickey, and colleagues and strangers alike, he catches a glimpse of Laura watching him across the atrium.

One night, Laura, in a drunken stupor on her bed, drops her whiskey on the floor, drags the phone toward her, and picks up the receiver. The final shot is of Frank in his office looking thoughtful, drinking coffee out of a paper cup, and ignoring the persistent ringing of his phone.



Film rights to the novel were bought by the team of Richard Zanuck and David Brown. A number of actors, including Roy Scheider, William Holden, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Dustin Hoffman, expressed interest in the project because of the strength of the lead role. Arthur Hiller was originally attached to direct and David Mamet hired to write a screenplay. Neither Zanuck-Brown or Hiller liked Mamet's script, so Hiller left the project and the producers commissioned another screenplay, from Jay Presson Allen. The producers liked this script and were approached by Robert Redford, who liked the project but did not like Allen's script. Redford suggested they hire James Bridges as a writer-director and Bridges wrote several drafts of the screenplay, but Redford was not happy with any of them and Bridges left the project. Redford then began having meetings with Sydney Pollack without telling the producers; irritated, they fired Redford.[4]

Zanuck and Brown then hired Sidney Lumet to direct, sending him all versions of the script. After several rewrites, Lumet decided the story's original grittiness was fast devolving and chose Mamet's original script. This was agreed to by Paul Newman, who ultimately agreed to star.[5]

Bruce Willis has an uncredited background appearance as an extra, in one of his first film appearances. After the verdict is read, Willis can be seen, smiling, to the left of Newman's head. Tobin Bell also appears, to Newman's right.


The Verdict holds a 96% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[6] In a poll of 500 films held by Empire magazine, it was voted 254th Greatest Movie of all time.[7] In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #91 on its list of 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written.[8] Richard D. Pepperman praised the scene in which Judge Hoyle eats breakfast and offers Galvin coffee as "a terrific use of objects, making for a believable judge in his personal, comfortable and suitable place, as well as a Physical Action (motion) that demonstrates the subtext of the Judge's objective (in support of the insurance company, the doctor and their attorney) without an abundance of expository dialogue."[9]

American Film Institute

See also


  1. ^ "The Verdict, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  3. ^ "The Verdict, Box Office".  
  4. ^ William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade, 1982 p 62-67
  5. ^ Shawn Levy, Paul Newman: A Life, p 436.
  6. ^ "The Verdict, Movie Reviews".  
  7. ^ The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time"Empire's".  
  8. ^ Savage, Sophia (February 27, 2013). "'"WGA Lists Greatest Screenplays, From 'Casablanca' and 'Godfather' to 'Memento' and 'Notorious. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  9. ^ Pepperman, Richard D. (2008). Film School: How to Watch DVDs and Learn Everything about Filmmaking. Michael Wiese Productions. pp. 184–185.  

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