Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Novelist John Mortimer drew deeply from his memories as the son of a divorce lawyer and his own four-decade career as Queen's Council to create the delightful British legal drama series, Rumpole of the Bailey. Leo McKern starred as Horace Rumpole, a disheveled, irreverent barrister working out of Number 3, Equity Court in London's Old Bailey. An unreconstructed liberal and tireless champion of the underdog, Rumpole specialized in hot-potato cases that most other lawyers wouldn't touch, numbering among his clients several two-bit criminals, political radicals, pornographers and other such controversial characters. Once in the courtroom, the highly theatrical Rumpole bowed to no one, confronting and confounding the prosecution and the judges with his iconoclastic approach to jurisprudence and his long-winded quotations from "The Oxford Book of English Verse." The principal enemy in Rumpole's life was terminal pomposity on the part of his colleagues--or, as he preferred to call it, "judge-itis." In the privacy of his home, Rumpole enjoyed good food and at least one bottle of red wine per day. What he did not enjoy was the incessant badgering of his wife Hilda (played first by Peggy Bates-Thorpe, then by Marion Mathie), otherwise known as "She Who Must Be Obeyed." The daughter of a celebrated Head of Chambers, Hilda demanded that Rumpole at least try to curry enough favor to follow in her father's footsteps, and was sore annoyed when the likes of dithery Guthrie Featherstone (Peter Bowles) and self-absorbed Samuel Ballard (Peter Blythe) were appointed Head of Chambers instead. Others in the case included Patricia Hodge as Rumpole's fellow barrister Phyllida Trant, a feisty feminist who for reasons that defied logic (at least so far as Rumpole was concerned) settled for a conventional marriage to her dull colleague Claude Erskine-Brown, played byJulian Curry; Moray Watson as George Frobisher, Rumpole's best friend; Rosalind Landor and Abigail McKern (the star's daughter), respectively cast as Rumpole's idealistic students Fiona Allways and Liz Probert; and a variety of grouchy, gimlet-eyed judges, including Justices Bullingham (Bill Fraser) and Graves (Robin Bailey). The weekly, hour-long Rumpole of the Bailey was launched over the BBC on December 3, 1975 as a one-shot presentation on the "Play for Today" drama anthology. The series proper ran from April 3 1978 to December 3, 1992 (save for a few lengthy hiatuses) on the rival ITV1 network. In America, Rumpole of the Bailey was added to the PBS anthology Mystery beginning February 12, 1980.
client, court-battle, courtroom, crime, eccentric, lawyer, novel