After seventeen previews, the Broadway production, directed by Edwin Sherin, opened on October 3, 1978 at the Majestic Theatre. The following month it transferred to the ANTA Playhouse, where it closed on December 9, for a total of 79 performances. Jane Alexander and Henry Fonda headed the cast. Alexander was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
A 1981 film of the same name, adapted by Lawrence and Lee and directed by Ronald Neame, starred Jill Clayburgh and Walter Matthau, both of whom were nominated for Golden Globe awards for their performances. Paramount Pictures was delighted upon the nomination in July of Sandra Day O'Connor who, like Loomis, was said to be conservative, a sports fan, and younger than others on the Court. O'Connor's nomination prompted the studio to change the release date to August.
|Role||World Premiere Cast, 28 December 1977
Washington, DC, Kennedy Center
|Custodians||John Stewart, P.J. Sidney|
|Chief Justice James Jefferson Crawford||Larry Gates|
|Associate Justice Josiah Clewes||Earl Sydnor|
|Associate Justice Waldo Thompson||Maurice Copeland|
|Associate Justice Daniel Snow||Henry Fonda|
|Associate Justice Harold Webb||John Wardwell|
|Judge Ruth Loomis||Jane Alexander|
|Mason Woods||Tom Stechschulte|
|Associate Justice Ambrose Quincy||Alexander Reed|
|Associate Justice Richard Carey||Eugene Stuckmann|
|Associate Justice Christopher Halloran||Patrick McCullough|
The play begins after the death of Stanley Moorehead, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The remaining justices speculate about whom the President of the United States will appoint to fill the vacancy, with jokes among the justices that the appointee may be a black man, or a woman. Whilst playing tennis, Ruth Loomis, a staunch conservative judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California, learns that she is to be the nominee. Associate Justice Daniel Snow is appalled to learn this, as her conservative views are strongly in conflict with his own liberal thinking.
Loomis testifies before the United States Senate, and is questioned about the business ties of her late husband. The Senate confirms her, and she is the first woman appointed to the US Supreme Court. On the court, Loomis and Snow immediately clash on their opposing legal and philosophical viewpoints, on such matters as freedom of speech and individual rights vs. the rights of society as a whole. One case concerns a fictional pornographic film, "The Naked Nymphomaniac".
Although Snow and Loomis never concur on any of the issues before the Court, they learn to develop a respect and affection for one another with the passing of time.