‘My Cousin Vinny’ Court Scenes

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Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny

Few actors are as at ease rotating between tough guy roles and comedic ones as Joe Pesci. Five years after the actor won an Academy Award (for Best Supporting Actor) as Tommy DeVito in 1990’s Goodfellas, he appeared as mobster Nicky Santoro in another Martin Scorsese picture, Casino.

In between were the first two Home Alone comedies, as well as his return as Leo Getz – “What Leo wants, Leo gets!” – in 1992’s Lethal Weapon 3.

And then there’s My Cousin Vinny. The comedy film, released March 13, 1992, paired Pesci with actress Marisa Tomei, then just 27. The Brooklyn-born actress (birthday: December 4, 1964) was largely unknown and, given her age, an unusual choice to be cast in a romantic role opposite Pesci, then 49. (He was born February 9, 1943.)

Pesci’s Vincent LaGuardia Gambini is a novice New York lawyer who is summoned to Alabama to defend a cousin, played by Ralph Maccio, and his co-defendant, who have been charged with murder, based on circumstantial evidence. Along for the ride is Gambini’s fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito.

Pesci’s character has no trial experience and he immediately bumps up against the courtroom code of behavior expected for an attorney. He racks up one violation after another from the judge, played by Fred Gwynne, best known for role as Herman Munster on TV’s The Munsters. It’s clear that Vinny Gambini is in over his head.

[Gwynne, born July 10, 1926, was just 65 when the film arrived in theaters. He died on July 2, 1993, one year after the movie was released.]

Gambini and “Miss Vito” have many fish-out-of-water moments as New Yorkers with strong accents and inappropriate courtroom attire. The trial advances and Pesci’s character is learning on the fly, even as he wears a movie usher’s uniform, the only “suit” he could purchase on short notice.

He asks a witness about “the two yutes”…

It’s time for the co-defendant’s lawyer, played brilliantly by actor Austin Pendleton, to give his statement.

Under the pressure of the case, Gambini makes fun of Vito’s suggestions to help and the pair are barely on speaking terms. He realizes that her experience in her father’s auto body shop can prove useful for the case and he calls her to the stand as an expert, but reluctant, witness.

Watch the scene in which Tomei is put to the test by the prosecuting attorney

She’s still angry at Gambini as he elicits her testimony from the stand…

It was considered quite a surprise when Tomei received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role. The four women she was up against had far longer resumes and actors rarely win Oscars for comedic roles.

Watch Jack Palance announce the nominees and the surprising winner

For years there was a theory that Tomei was not the actual winner. Read the explanation on Snopes.com disproving the claim.

Related: Did you know Pesci released an album of Beatles and Bee Gees covers when he was a “yute”?

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5 Comments so far

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  1. Charlie
    #1 Charlie 10 July, 2020, 12:22

    One of the funniest movies of all time, and one of my favorites. The “two yutes” scene is absolutely hilarious. I think it’s one of Fred Gwynne finest roles too. I watch the reruns of it every time it’s on.

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  2. Bluzrider
    #2 Bluzrider 11 July, 2020, 07:35

    I agree 100% with Charlie, in my opinion it is THE funniest movie ever made. If it’s on TV, and I have the time, you can bet I’ll sit through it again. One of Pesci’s best acting jobs, and the rest of the cast were just great.

    Pesci sleeping through the prison riot was also one of the best scenes in the movie.

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  3. Batchman
    #3 Batchman 7 December, 2020, 15:29

    More than its merely being hilarious, the film is memorable because of its underlying message of two subcultures of American colliding and each learning something of value from the other.

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  4. NAK MAN
    #4 NAK MAN 5 December, 2023, 01:19

    As previously mentioned, it is truly one of the funniest movies ever. Oddly enough, each time I watch the movie, I discover some subtle comedic nuance that I’d not noticed previously. The movie ranks among the national treasures of cinematic performances and a wicked clever screenplay.

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  5. BMac
    #5 BMac 5 December, 2023, 11:06

    If I’m doing some channel flipping, and I click onto this movie, and it’s anywhere close to that court scene, I’m sticking around. Pesci and Tomei are just perfect in it, as is Fred Gwynne.

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