Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Compulsion (1959)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Compulsion (1959)

In director Richard Fleischer's courtroom drama loosely based on the famous 1924 murder trial of Leopold and Loeb, in which there was a 10-15 minute eloquent, closing argument (considered the longest true monologue in film history) against the death penalty:

  • the character of Clarence Darrow-like Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles) and his spellbinding three-day argument against capital punishment, to save two rich young law student-turned-thrill-killers Artie Straus and Judd Steiner (Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell) in their court trial, with his final summation: ("...It's taken the world a long, long time to get to even where it is today. Your Honor, if you hang these boys, you turn back to the past. I'm pleading for the future. Not merely for these boys, but for all boys, for all the young. I'm pleading, not for these two lives, but for life itself, for a time when we can learn to overcome hatred with love, when we can learn that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of men. Yes, I'm pleading for the future. In this court of law, I'm pleading for love")

Jonathan Wilk
(Orson Welles)


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