The Paper Chase is a 1973 film starring Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, and John Houseman and directed by James Bridges. Based on John Jay Osborn, Jr.'s 1970 novel, The Paper Chase, the film tells the story of Hart, a first-year law student at Harvard Law School, and his experiences with Professor Charles Kingsfield (played by John Houseman), the brilliant, demanding contracts instructor whom he both idolizes and finds incredibly intimidating. Houseman later reprised his role in a TV series of the same name that lasted four seasons.
Expecting only the basic pressures of attending Harvard Law School, a serious, hard-working student named James Hart (Timothy Bottoms), a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, finds himself the fearful adversary of the school's most imperious, sardonic contracts professor, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. (John Houseman). Their relationship grows even more complex when the young man discovers that the woman he is dating, Susan Fields (Lindsay Wagner), is his professor's daughter. Graham Beckel, Edward Herrmann, and James Naughton co-star as other law students.
The film is an extremely faithful adaptation of the novel, but it adds two revelations not in the book: Hart's first name and middle initial (James T.), and the final grade that Hart got in Contract Law. In both the novel and the film, Hart makes a paper airplane out of his final report card, and sends it sailing into the Atlantic Ocean without looking at it.
Kingsfield's words of advice to his class: "You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer."
(after getting kicked out of class by Professor Kingsfield)
Hart: You... are a SON OF A BITCH, Kingsfield.
Kingsfield: Mr. Hart! That is the most intelligent thing you've said all day. You may take your seat.
Hart: I found something. There's a room above the stacks that have all the professors' old notes from when they were law students here. They're just sitting there waiting. I want to see the notes... I want to see Kingsfield's notes on contracts.
Franklin Ford III: Oh no, I know what you're thinking.
Franklin Ford III: Uh-uh.
Toombs: Kingsfield drove him mad. He's driven a lot of lawyers mad over the past 40 years that he's been teaching here. I heard he ripped up a 1-L this morning so bad, the guy lost his breakfast.
Hart: That's true. That was me.