NAUGATUCK — It took a few good men, a woman willing to take a chance and a bit of luck for a local man to pull off one of the most fascinating marriage proposals in local lore.
Standing in front of stars whose lines people quote every day—Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon—attorney Andrew J. Morrissey delivered the most nerve-wracking line of his life: “Will you marry me?”
A former captain and judge advocate in the Marine Corps, Morrissey consulted on the set of the 1993 movie “A Few Good Men.” His job was to authenticate the roles of Bacon, Cruise, Moore and others who played attorneys in the award-winning film.
On Dec. 20, 1991, the last day of filming, director Rob Reiner invited Morrissey’s then-girlfriend, Kathy, to the set. Reiner explained to her the ins and outs of Hollywood and persuaded her to pose for a photo near the witness stand. Dozens of movie stars and crew members waited for “action.”
Dumbfounded and a tad nervous, Kathy walked to the stand as Morrissey followed. On bended knee, Morrissey delivered the fateful line.
“I didn’t answer right away because I was speechless,” Kathy said.
When she said “yes,” applause echoed throughout the courtroom.
“If it wasn’t happening to me, I probably wouldn’t believe someone’s story,” she said. “The crew was phenomenal. They said, ‘What a gift you gave us of love and life.’ Their whole day is acting and this was happening in the middle of their sort of non-real world.”
Eighteen years later, Morrissey is reminded of that moment every day when he goes to the office. As a gift, Reiner gave him the witness stand from the film—the spot from which Jack Nicholson delivered the booming line “You can’t handle the truth!”—and a director’s chair emblazoned with the movie’s title. Both sit like trophies in the corner of Morrissey’s office in the Thomas Neary building on Church Street.
Morrissey, who still appears nervous talking about his marriage proposal, said his family is the real gift.
Andrew J. Morrissey and Kathy (Lawlor) Morrissey were married in a small ceremony on Cape Cod on June 5, 1993, a year after Morrissey finished his military duty. They have three children—Jake, 13, Peter, 10, and Amy, 3—who take up much of their time. But their busy lives seem to flow seamlessly, like a script written for the big screen.
The marriage proposal was created by Morrissey, who had a little bit of help from the stars.
Demi Moore asked him, “Are you sure she’s going to say yes? Is this the right setting?”
Morrissey didn’t have a ring picked out yet, so Reiner gave him a prop ring, which Morrissey describes as an Elizabeth Taylor-looking rock that Kathy thought was too big for her hand.
Morrissey, a Naugatuck native and current resident, almost cannot believe the story himself.
In 1991, he was working in Camp Pendleton, Calif., under Maj. Walter K. Bansley III, who was the real-life attorney played by Tom Cruise in the movie.
People from the film crew called Bansley, who went with Morrissey to visit the set in Los Angeles. Because of his military role, Bansley could not help with the film. So Morrissey volunteered.
He became friendly with the crew, and told Reiner he was thinking of proposing to his girlfriend, who was working in a medical lab at the University of California in San Diego. That’s when Reiner suggested she fly to the set.
“Reiner called me the captain, and later that day I hear him recounting the story,” Morrissey said. “…’And then the captain comes to the stand, and Kathy is shocked!’ It was great. … And the rest is history, as they say.”
Morrissey will show off the witness stand Friday night during a fundraiser for the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls. His firm, Morrissey, Morrissey and Mooney, is co-hosting a Halloween Gala fundraiser in the Thomas Neary Building ballroom, 203 Church St. Tickets are $25 and all proceeds will benefit the United Way. Call (203) 729-4555 for information.