First Monday in October (film)

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First Monday in October
Directed byRonald Neame
Produced byPaul M. Heller
Martha Scott
Based onFirst Monday in October
by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee
StarringWalter Matthau
Jill Clayburgh
Barnard Hughes
Music byIan Fraser
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 21, 1981 (1981-08-21)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$12,480,249[1]

First Monday in October is a 1981 American comedy-drama film from Paramount Pictures, produced by Paul M. Heller and Martha Scott, directed by Ronald Neame, that is based on the play of the same name by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The film stars Walter Matthau (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) and Jill Clayburgh (for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy). The cast also co-stars Jan Sterling in her final feature film role.

First Monday in October was originally scheduled for a February 1982 release, but President Ronald Reagan's appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female Supreme Court justice on July 7, 1981, forced the film's release a month after the presidential nomination, in August 1981.


The death of Stanley Moorehead, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has created a vacancy on the high court. The president's appointee turns out to be Ruth Loomis, a staunch conservative from Orange County, California, who is confirmed as the first female Associate Justice.

She and Associate Justice Daniel Snow, a committed liberal who is many years older than Loomis and with many years on the Supreme Court, clash intellectually on just about every judicial issue before them. One case involves a pornographic film and involves arguments about freedom of speech.

Another is a lawsuit, sent up from the lower court, brought by a company's stockholders regarding the suppression of a possibly revolutionary new power source, a momentum engine. The patent is controlled by the board of directors of Omnitech International, and its CEO Donald Richards, who has not been seen in public for a decade and is unavailable by subpoena.

With time, the two judges develop a liking and respect for each other. They realize this while Snow is recovering in the hospital from a "heart episode" suffered while he and Loomis were debating the complexities of the momentum engine/Omnitch case, after hours, in the courthouse.

Based on something Snow intimated during their debate, Loomis returns to Orange County, overnight. There, in a records storage center, she discovers proof that her late husband and his law firm covered up the death of their client, Donald Richards. Because of her former association with the law firm, she concludes she has a serious conflict of interest on the Omnitech case, and must now resign her Associate Justice position. When Snow hears this, he leaves the hospital abruptly and after more debate, talks her out of resigning. They head by taxi to the Supreme Court to announce her discovery, one that will no doubt shake up the Omnitech case and get it on the docket for the high court to review.


  • Walter Matthau as Associate Justice Daniel Snow
  • Jill Clayburgh as Associate Justice Ruth Loomis
  • Barnard Hughes as Chief Justice James Jefferson Crawford
  • Jan Sterling as Christine Snow
  • James Stephens as Mason Woods
  • Joshua Bryant as Bill Russell
  • Wiley Harker as Associate Justice Harold Webb
  • F.J. O'Neil as Associate Justice Waldo Thompson
  • Charles Lampkin as Associate Justice Josiah Clewes
  • Lew Palter as Associate Justice Benjamin Halperin
  • Richard McMurray as Associate Justice Richard Carey
  • Herb Vigran as Associate Justice Ambrose Quincy

Critical response[edit]

At the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 47% of 975 viewers liked The First Monday in October. The film carries an average rating of 3.1/5.

In her 1981 film review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin observes several discontinuities in the film, as well as the casting of James Stephens in a role very similar to his one he played in the television series The Paper Chase.[2]

Home video[edit]

First Monday in October was first released on DVD by Paramount Home Video on July 6, 2004. No Blu ray release has been announced.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Janet Maslin (21 August 1981). "Movie Review: First Monday in October". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-10.

External links[edit]