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; 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, CA, who is confirmed as the first female Associate Justice.
She and Associate Justice Daniel Snow, a committed liberal and 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's 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 court room.
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, CEO 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 Omnitch case and get it on the docket for the high court to review.
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.
First Monday in October was first released on DVD by Paramount Home Video on July 6, 2004. No Blu ray release has been announced.