Last Thursday I went to see the movie Marshall. It’s a movie celebrating the first black Supreme Court Justice , Thurgood Marshall. I was thinking this would be a biopic detailing his life from childhood, rise to fame and the struggles he faced. Boy was I wrong!
The movie was actually about a case that Marshall (played by Chadwick Boseman) took on as part of the NAACP. There was a man named Joseph Spell( Sterling K. Brown) who was being accused of the rape and the attempted murder of a white woman. The narrative was that Spell raped her in her home multiple times while her husband was away. He then took her to a bridge and threw her into a reservoir.
The incident happened in the northern town of Greenwich, Connecticut. Marshall traveled from New York City, the headquarters of the NAACP to this little town because he believed Spell was innocent. When he made it to the small town he realized he would need some help, and that help would come from a Jewish insurance attorney.
Samuel Friedman( Josh Gad) was hired by the Bridgeport NAACP. Like most white people in the area, he thought Spell was guilty. The area was certainly not known for hospitality to black people. Friedman tried to get out of the case three different times but something in his character caused him to help Marshall and he became co-counsel. It was a good thing they were both on the case because getting past Loren Willis( Dan Stevens) an unreconstructed bigot would be close to impossible. It didn’t help that there were two attorneys; a black man and a Jew.
The other obstacle was that the victim Eleanor Strubing ( Kate Hudson) came from old money. She was the daughter of an investment banker. Her husband John Strubing Jr( Jeremy Bobb) an ambulance driver in WWI he also played for The Tigers football team. After being married for a while Strubing became a business man and he and his wife lived a charmed life. This lifestyle is how Spell came into their lives; he was their chauffeur.
Marshall and Friedman never really believed Eleanor’s story. She claimed she was raped four different times. She was kidnapped from her home, thrown off a bridge and then hit with rocks. At trial they quickly pounced on the prosecution’s case. Why would anyone rape a woman in her home when her husband could have come home at any moment? Why leave the house and drop her off of a bridge on the side where she could swim to shore? Why not drop her where the jagged rocks were located? And the story about the rocks was just ridiculous, not to mention there were no rocks on that bridge; only pebbles.
It came out at trial that her story was a complete farce. But she wasn’t the only one who lied. Spell said he never touched her but it was proven in court that the pair had consensual sex. Eleanor’s husband was always away on business and when he was home he often abused his wife. The night that Joseph came into her room to ask for money she had been drinking and invited him into her bed. They shared a night of passion but soon Mrs. Strubing became nervous.
The alcohol and paranoia got to her. She begged Spell to drive her away from the house. Then as they drove she asked him to pull over. He assured her that everything was fine and they wouldn’t get caught. In complete hysterics she screamed out rape. She jumped from the bridge into the Kensico Reservoir. It was revealed in court that she was a trained swimmer. She swam to shore, flagged a truck driver and started this whole tragedy with her cries of rape.
Thurgood Marshall and Friedman taking this case was like taking on the stories that black men are so scary and threatening, hell bent on raping poor white women. This made me think of how often that happens in today’s court systems. Our men are seen as brutal and menacing when in fact, there are rapists and murderers of all races.
Marshall and Friedman’s hard work was successful in gaining Spell an acquittal. The result catapulted the NAACP to start a chapter in Greenwich. Thurgood Marshall was in Oklahoma helping another client when the jury came back. He didn’t even have time to celebrate due to his full schedule.
For those of you who don’t know much about Thurgood Marshall. He was instrumental in The Brown vs The Board of Education desegregation case. He was the first black Supreme Court Justice from 1967-1991. And was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Spingarn Medal.
It was great seeing Chadwick Boseman in this role. He is fast becoming the go-to actor for biopics. A surprise was Josh Gad in the role of attorney Friedman. I am familiar with him in many comedic roles but he played this serious character and exceeded my expectations. He was excellent in this role and has me excited to see him in more dramatic pieces. Marshall is a movie I look forward to buying. I give it 4 stars.