The Paper Chase

Synopsis: Serious, hard-working student James T. Hart faces the rigors of his first year at Harvard Law School. The pressure to succeed is tremendous and some of the students form study groups while also spending a great many hours studying. Hart's greatest challenge is contract law and his professor, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. Using the Socratic method, Kingsfield challenges his students with questions demanding accuracy and creativity in their responses and often humiliating those who are unable to respond. As the school year progresses, Hart faces many challenges but befriends Susan Fields - unaware that she has a connection that affects their relationship. Finally, Hart accommodates himself to whatever might come his way, accepting a new set of priorities in his life.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director(s): James Bridges
Production: 20th Century Fox
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
113 min

Mr. Hart...

will you recite the facts

of Hawkins vs. McGee?

I do have your name right?

You are Mr. Hart?

Yes, my name is Hart.

You're not speaking

loud enough, Mr. Hart.

Will you speak up?

Yes, my name is Hart.

Mr. Hart, you're still

not speaking loud enough.

Will you stand?

Now that you're

on your feet, Mr. Hart...

maybe the class will be

able to understand you.

You are on your feet?

Yes, I'm on my feet.

Loudly, Mr. Hart.

Fill this room with

your intelligence.

Now, will you give us

the facts of the case?

I haven't read the case.

Class assignments

for the first day...

are posted on

the bulletin boards...

in Langdell

and Austin Halls.

You must have

known that.


You assumed this first class

would be a lecture...

an introduction

to the course.

Yes, sir.

Never assume anything

in my classroom.

Mr. Hart, I will myself give

you the facts of the case.

Hawkins vs. McGee

is a case in contract law...

the subject of our study.

The boy burned his hand by

touching an electric wire.

A doctor who was anxious to

experiment in skin grafting...

asked to operate on the hand...

guaranteeing that

he would restore it 100%.

He took a piece of skin

from the boy's chest...

and grafted it onto

the unfortunate boy's hand.

The operation failed

to produce a healthy hand.

Instead it produced

a hairy hand.

A hand not only burned...

but covered with

dense, matted hair.

Mr. Hart...

what damages do you think

the doctor should pay?

What did the doctor promise?

There was a promise

to fix the hand...

back to the way it was

before it was burned.

And the result

of the operation?

The hand was much worse than

before he went to the doctor.

How should the court

measure the damages?

What should the doctor

pay the boy?

The doctor should...

The doctor should pay

for what he did...

and he should pay

for the difference...

between what the boy had...

a burned hand...

and what the doctor

gave him, a...

a burned and hairy hand?

Mr. Pruit.

That's just

the screamer, men.

Screams every Friday and Sunday

night at exactly 12:00.

It's all right.

Nobody's ever seen him.

Not that I know of.

It's my third year now, and he's

been screaming since I came.

Right at the stroke of 12:00.

Story is it was Kingsfield.

Kingsfield drove him mad.

He's driven a lot of lawyers

mad over the 40 years...

since he's

been teaching here.

I just heard he ripped up

a one-L this morning...

so bad that the guy

lost his breakfast.

That's true.

That was me.


a propitious start.

Well, let's see,

I guess I covered...

everything I'm supposed

to tell you about the dorm.

There's no cooking.

No hot plates.

There's intramural

football and basketball...

if you have the time.

Where's the pool?

It's across the square

behind Holyoke Center.

You a swimmer?

No. Just relaxes me.

There's one more thing.

All that stuff

about grades is true.

You gotta work

like hell. No kidding.

Nobody jokes

about grades.

Try getting a job

without them.

It's stacked against you if

you don't have the grades.

Don't think you're made

'cause you go to Harvard.

Maybe I better

start studying then.

That's it. Study.

If there's any law around

the dorm, that's it.

That's the main rule.

Remember, I'm here to answer

your questions, so just ask.

And I'm the only third-year

student you can trust...

so talk to me.

Okay. Thanks a lot.

Right. So long.

My name's Ford.

I'm across the hall.

I knocked, but

you didn't hear me.

Hi. My name's Hart.

I came to ask you

to join my study group.

What's a study group?

It's a device. A tool.

Groups of

first-year students...

get together

a couple times a week.

Review the class work,

the casebooks.

They make outlines

and then share them.

It helps at exam time.

You interested?

Yeah. I'm interested.

You plan

to study all night?

No, I'm finished.

Five hours is plenty.

You want to get drunk?

Of course you have

to have the grades.

I mean, hell,

you can't wear "Harvard"

on a sign around your neck.

You gotta have the grades

and you have to look good.

Where you from, Hart?


You went to

the university there?

Yeah. Where'd

you go to school?


In the grand tradition

of the Fords.

I'm something like fifth

generation Harvard.

Harvard Law School.

And depending on

if I get the grades...

and then make

the Law Review...

I'm on my way

to Wall Street.

You'll make

the Law Review.

Well, why not?

After all, I am a genius.

I've got an IQ of 190.

When I was a freshman

at college, I had 3 roommates.

One was a genius,

and one was crazy...

and one was inconsequential.

Kept to himself.

It was the genius who

told me about Kingsfield.

First guy to tell me

all about Kingsfield.

He read an article about him

in Life or Time.

Something about

a book he wrote.

It was called

Contracts in Our Daily Lives.


To make a long story short...

genius took the law school

admission's test...

but didn't score high enough

to get into Harvard.


The study of law...

is something new and unfamiliar

to most of you.

Unlike any schooling

you've ever been through before.

We use

the Socratic Method here.

I call on you,

ask you a question...

and you answer it.

Why don't I just

give you a lecture?

Because through my questions,

you learn to teach yourselves.

Through this method of

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James Bridges

James Bridges (February 3, 1936 – June 6, 1993) was an American screenwriter, film director, producer and actor. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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