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Prof. Kingsfield Stops In Town

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Ann Arbor, Michigan, Thursday, November 7,1974

Prof. Kingsfield Stops In Town

John Houseman At Head Of U-M Law Class

BY NORMAN GIBSON News Drama Critic

It was so real, it had to be a movie.

The dialogue could have been out of “The Paper Chase.”

John Houseman was real, though. He glared at the class, took his glasses off, put them back on to look at the paper before him.

“Pooley!” he shouted.

Pooley was at the back of the room and looked rather startled. He seemed to be shivering in his boots.

“Hadley versus Braxton,” Houseman thundered.

All 95 students in the room were goggle-eyed.

They didn't know whether they were seeing “The Paper Chase” all over again, but it had to be Prof. Kingsfield — the menacing Prof. Kingsfield who seemed to eat up law students — especially those who hadn’t prepared their lessons.

Pooley stammered. “Hadley versus B-Braxton?" he said.

“I still can’t hear you,” the professor on the lectern said in that tone of Prof. Kingsfield of “The Paper Chase," the professor who could make Marine sergeants sound as if they were singing lullabies to recruits.

“Hadley versus Braxton is a case of un...” 'Pooley’s voice trailed off. He wasn’t prepared, and he knew it. Worse, Prof. Kingsfield knew it.

“Mr. Pooley, will you stand up!” Pooley stood. His face was white. ‘‘Feel free to make full use of your intelligence,” the professor intoned. Icicles formed on the ceiling. Pooley was trapped.

“Mr. Pooley, step down here,” Prof. Kingsfield said. Pooley made his way through row after row of staring students. By now, their world was turned upside down.

A lot of them had seen "The Paper Chase” — which was a big hit in university cities such as Ann Arbor last year.

They knew what was coming next.

“Here is a dime," said Prof. Kingsfield. He paused dramatically.

“Phone your mother. And you’re chances of graduating are slim.”

By this time, the roomful of students got the joke. They all rose with applause.

Maybe what they didn’t fully appreciate was that this was the first in-person acting appearance of Houseman, the well-known and noted director and producer who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Prof. Kingsfield.

Houseman had not acted in a movie before “The Paper Chase.”

The students, however, appreciated the role of unprepared, belabored student played by their professor, Dr. Beverley Pooley, who also is director of the U-M Law Library.

After the scene, which was well-enough done so,both of them should have received an Academy Award, Prof. Pooley introduced Houseman to the class, telling how the distinguished man of the theatre had gained fame with Orson Welles in the old Mercury Theatre and his many other accomplishments, including the City Center Acting Company.

Houseman arrived in Ann Arbor late election night to check out the last play

the company, of which Houseman is artistic director, is putting on, beginning tonight.

Prof. Pooley’s students, however, probably know by now that he is a talented actor in his own right. Pooley often appears in plays put on by the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and if a play by George Bernard Shaw is put on in Ann Arbor without the law professor in the cast, it is as rare as a camera shy politician.

Pooley arranged for Houseman to appear in his 2 p.m. class on contracts through Jack O’Brien, who is director of William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life," the play Houseman is here to see.

Houseman readily agreed to make the live appearance in what probably will be his only performance as law professor away from the cameras.

“Not bad, not bad at all,” Houseman said after the real-life experience.

He says he will hurry back to New York after tonight to teach at the Julliard School of Drama, which provides graduate students for the City Center Acting Company. Houseman founded the school about four years ago.

Houseman says he has just finished another movie, this one made in England and Germany. It has the title of “Roller-ball.”

"I play the heavy again,” he says. “I won't be another law professor, but I will be the head of corporation management.”

In the company of Pooley and his wife

Patricia, who had driven Houseman to the Law School for his unexpected appearance, Houseman exclaimed outside Hutchins Hall, “My, what a magnificent law complex. How many students have you here?”

Pooley explained the enrollment was an overcrowded 1,150 but that the school was designed for a maximum of 350 students.

The law professor had kept it a secret, right up to the last minute, what was going to happen, but somehow the word leaked out. Pooley knew a mob would gather if they knew Prof. Kingsfield was present.

Students in the class started suspecting something when the class failed to start right on time. Things started getting more suspicious when photographers arrived with cameras.

As Mrs. and Prof. Pooley walked Houseman to Pooley’s office to get their coats, puzzled law students looked up from their books in the Law Library.

They weren’t sure they were seeing what they saw.

They tried to place the face.

Could it be...?