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Arts & Life

'My Cousin Vinny' Turns 25

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Believe it or not, it has been 25 years since a hapless leather-jacketed lawyer from New York showed up in an Alabama courtroom.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MY COUSIN VINNY")

JOE PESCI: (As Vinny Gambini) My clients are...

FRED GWYNNE: (As Judge Chamberlain Haller) What are you wearing?

PESCI: (As Vinny Gambini) Huh.

GWYNNE: (As Judge Chamberlain Haller) What are you wearing?

PESCI: (As Vinny Gambini) I'm wearing clothes.

GREENE: That is Joe Pesci as Vinny Gambini making a terrible first impression on a tough judge in the film "My Cousin Vinny."

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It might surprise you to learn that lawyers love this movie about a lawyer who doesn't know what he's doing. It turns out the film is a good educational tool.

ELIZABETH BURCH: Unlike a lot of different legal movies, they took care to actually get the law right, so you can use it as a way to illustrate how trials actually work.

GREENE: That is Elizabeth Burch. She teaches law at the University of Georgia, and she uses "My Cousin Vinny" in her classes.

BURCH: You have this bumbling guy from New York who comes down and is in rural Alabama and completely out of his element. And, you know, I think a lot of students feel that way, too, particularly in their first year of law school.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MY COUSIN VINNY")

MARISA TOMEI: (As Mona Lisa Vito) He has to show you everything, otherwise it could be a mistrial. He has to give you a list of all his witnesses. You can talk to all his witnesses. He's not allowed any surprises. They didn't teach you that in law school either?

INSKEEP: Marisa Tomei there is Vinny's fiance, Mona Lisa Vito, teaching him about legal procedure.

PATRICK KRECHOWSKI: There's a lot of that movie that just hits home for attorneys.

INSKEEP: Patrick Krechowski is city attorney Neptune Beach, Fla. and also works as an adjunct professor, who shows his students examples of Vinny Gambini's ethics or lack of ethics.

KRECHOWSKI: You know, lying to the judge about his experience and his name - and even if Vinny had lost the case, those two defendants never would have faced the death penalty. That case would have been overturned on appeal in a heartbeat.

GREENE: Two lawyers and, believe it or not, two fans of the film "My Cousin Vinny," which was released 25 years ago today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.