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Laurence Fishburne rules that 'To Kill a Mockingbird' still rocks

July 21, 2010 | 12:15 pm

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee's classic novel set in the segregated Deep South. Among the biggest fans of the book and its Oscar-winning 1962 film adaptation is actor Laurence Fishburne, who this summer is portraying Thurgood Marshall in his one-man show, "Thurgood," at the Geffen Playhouse, through Aug. 8.

Laurence Fishburne 

Marshall, of course, like the Alabama-bred Lee, knew something about racism's insidious effects on American society. As a young civil rights lawyer, he helped sway the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its landmark anti-segregation ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education. He later served as the nation's first African American Supreme Court justice.

In a recent interview with The Times, Fishburne recounted his admiration for Lee's story about the young girl,  Scout; her older brother, Jem, and her lawyer father, Atticus Finch (played in the movie by Gregory Peck), who defends a black man, Tom Robinsion, who has been unjustly accused of a crime.

"You know, one of my favorite movies is ‘Mockingbird,’ and my favorite moment in that movie is when Atticus leaves the courtroom," Fishburne said. "You know that moment? Atticus is leaving the courtroom, the trial is over and you know Tom is going to go and get killed. Scout and Jem are up in the gallery with the black folks. Atticus is putting his things away, and the reverend stands up and everybody in the gallery stands up. And the reverend says to Scout, ‘Stand up.’ She says, ‘What?’ ‘Stand up! Your father’s passing.' That stuff messes me up every time."

Actually, Fishburne put that last sentence a bit more colloquially.

But if you watch (or rewatch) the film, or read (or reread) the book this summer, you'll probably know exactly what he meant.

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Laurence Fishburne. Credit: Joshua Roberts / For The Times