In the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era, no one is more feared than Boyd Bendix (Daniel J. Travanti), an acerbic, right-wing gossip columnist. Anyone who crosses Bendix the wrong way runs the risk of being accused of everything from sexual deviancy to communism. Bendix’s latest victim is prominent journalist named Dennis Corcoran (Gordon Pinset). Unlike everyone else who has been bullied by Bendix, Corcoran refuses to quietly submit. Working with a gruff but brilliant attorney, Robert Sloane (Ed Asner), Corcoran takes Bendix to court.
A Case of Libel was made for Showtime and it is very much the type of movie that was made for teachers to show in classrooms full of aspiring Clarence Darrows. Adapted from a Broadway play, A Case of Libel is also based on the true story of a successful lawsuit that was brought against columnist Westbrook Pegler in 1955. A Case of Libel is basically a filmed play but is memorable for the performances of Ed Asner and especially Daniel J. Travanti.
A Case of Libel is a movie that I used to rent, on VHS, from my local video store when I was just starting to get interested in politics. Because it was a cheap production on a cheap tape, the picture always looked terrible but I still enjoyed it. Despite what the picture above claims, it’s never gotten an official DVD release and it probably never will be since there’s not a huge demand for old Ed Asner/Daniel J. Travanti courtroom dramas. If it ever does come out on DVD, I’ll buy it.