Thursday, December 17, 2015

12/17/1975 Rumpole courts TV

December 17, 1975.  This date saw the debut of a great character.  Barrister John Mortimer claimed that he invented Horace Rumpole as a retirement plan, and it certainly worked out that way.  The beloved and curmudgeonly advocate was in his sixties when he first arrived on the BBC, but he managed to keep plugging away on TV through 1992, and in books through 2009.

One inevitable problem with this longevity is that Rumpole, who was supposed to be a very minor barrister, defending hopeless cases in small British courts, became more successful (winning most of his cases in later years) and wound up appearing in an amazing number of venues: a Church of England inquiry, a medical investigation, a court martial, and an African court where the death penalty was a real possibility.  He wound up on trial himself, and - even less likely - once served as a prosecutor.  (Naturally he wound up proving the innocence of the man he was prosecuting.)

On TV Rumpole, whose motto was "Never plead guilty!", was played by Australian actor Leo McKern.  On radio he was played by Maurice Denham, Timothy West, and (inevitably) the unbiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch.

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