The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

Allred grew up going to movies with “strong, sassy women” like Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. But it wasn’t until she went to college and saw “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 1962 that she considered becoming a feminist and civil-rights lawyer.

“I was still in an intellectual cocoon. I was married with a baby; I had my hands full. But that film made its mark on me,” she recalls. “I had never known about that kind of racism, and here was this wonderful lawyer, Atticus Finch, who at great risk to himself and against popular opinion defended this unjustly accused man.”

A proud liberal, Allred makes it clear: “The impact of motion pictures on young people cannot be underestimated.”

With that M.O., she recently took her grandchildren to see Deepa Mehta’s film “Water.”

“Which inspired me,” the lawyer says. “Set in 1938, it’s about child brides in India and what happened to them after they became widows. The problem still exists today. Their choices are to kill themselves, marry the younger brother or live a life of celibacy. ‘Water’ is a moving film and highlights something I never even knew existed.”

See top story and other related content

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more