Remembering Absence of Malice

Two recent passings brought to mind the 1981 movie Absence of Malice. The actor Wilford Brimley died on August 1 and screenwriter Kurt Luedtke died on August 16. Luedtke, a former reporter and executive editor of The Detroit Free Press, wrote an imaginative screenplay about investigative journalism gone wrong. Brimley portrayed a disheveled but shrewd and ethical federal public servant who cleans up the mess created by negligent journalism.

Luedtke received an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay for Absence of Malice and a few years later won the Oscar in that category for Out of Africa. Brimley went on to play other roles depicting unstylish middle-aged men with deeply held life-enhancing values, parlaying this character type as the face and voice of Quaker Oats.

Here is a link to the blog I posted about Absence of Malice five years ago. The post is primarily exposition, because I felt it important to explain the issues of journalistic ethics and public administration on which the movie turns. The post is comparable to the one about Arbitrage that I discussed last week but it hasn’t been picked up by generations of fans of Absence of Malice stars Paul Newman and Sally Field. Still, I think the film is a genre classic in the sense that it is rewarding viewing for students of journalism and/or public administration. It’s available on YouTube in Canada and both Netflix and Amazon Prime in the US.

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