Thurgood Marshall’s life is well known: respected attorney, NAACP stalwart, 1st African American Supreme Court justice.
Less noted was his role in a 1940 case. Greenwich socialite Eleanor Strubing told a harrowing tale of being raped by her black chauffeur, Joseph Spell.
Only 32 years old, Marshall had already argued before the Supreme Court. The NAACP sent him to help. The case was a defining moment for the young attorney — who, prevented from arguing before the bench, had to find other ways to influence his white co-counsel and jury.
It took place in Bridgeport. And — thanks to a pair of Westporters — it’s now the subject of a movie earning notice across the country.
“Marshall” was written by longtime local attorney Mike Koskoff and his son Jake, a 1992 Staples High School graduate now living, and screenwriting, in Los Angeles.
It’s not easy to write (and sell) a courtroom film these days — especially a period piece, with an African-American protagonist. Even if he’s played by Chadwick Boseman.
But Thurgood Marshall was “a legal genius,” Jake Koskoff says. The story is compelling, and father and son gave the script everything they had.
The response has been “wonderful,” says Jake. Since its world premiere at Howard University last month, and its American release a couple of weeks ago, reviews have been strong. Critics say it’s “gripping.”
“Bloggers have been inspired to write about the film,” Jake notes. “And they don’t have to.”
He and his father are gratified to hear that some moviegoers have been inspired to donate to the NAACP and ACLU. “Marshall” inspired others to consider applying to law school
Thurgood Marshall’s son John said the film brought his father “back to life.” The justice’s former clerks praised it for getting Marshall’s story “right.” Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor met Mike Koskoff at a screening, and told him she loved it.
On a personal level, working with his father — “as an adult” — is an added bonus for Jake.
“It’s difficult to write with anyone. And the father-son relationship can be fraught,” he says. “But it worked out well.”