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Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder

4.5 7
Director: Otto Preminger

Cast: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara


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Based on the best-selling novel by Robert Traver (the pseudonym for Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker), Anatomy of a Murder stars James Stewart as seat-of-the-pants Michigan lawyer Paul Biegler. Through the intervention of his alcoholic mentor, Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell), Biegler accepts the case of one Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), an


Based on the best-selling novel by Robert Traver (the pseudonym for Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker), Anatomy of a Murder stars James Stewart as seat-of-the-pants Michigan lawyer Paul Biegler. Through the intervention of his alcoholic mentor, Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell), Biegler accepts the case of one Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), an unlovable lout who has murdered a local bar owner. Manion admits that he committed the crime, citing as his motive the victim's rape of the alluring Mrs. Manion (Lee Remick). Faced with the formidable opposition of big-city prosecutor Claude Dancer (George C. Scott), Biegler hopes to win freedom for his client by using as his defense the argument of "irresistible impulse." Also featured in the cast is Eve Arden as Biegler's sardonic secretary, Katherine Grant as the woman who inherits the dead man's business, and Joseph N. Welch -- who in real life was the defense attorney in the Army-McCarthy hearings -- as the ever-patient judge. The progressive-jazz musical score is provided by Duke Ellington, who also appears in a brief scene. Producer/director Otto Preminger once more pushed the envelope in Anatomy of a Murder by utilizing technical terminology referring to sexual penetration, which up until 1959 was a cinematic no-no. Contrary to popular belief, Preminger was not merely being faithful to the novel; most of the banter about "panties" and "semen," not to mention the 11-hour courtroom revelation, was invented for the film. Anatomy of a Murder was filmed on location in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Karen Backstein
Stylish, sophisticated, and as supremely adult as only an Otto Preminger film can be, Anatomy of a Murder is both a murder mystery and a densely textured courtroom drama. Its complex, compelling protagonists are motivated by emotions ranging from passion to self-loathing, weakness to rage. As a country lawyer defending a GI who killed his wife's alleged rapist, James Stewart delivers a richly layered performance. Special notice also goes to George C. Scott, who plays a big-time prosecutor from the city; his performance in the film's penultimate scene is particularly memorable. Set in a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Anatomy succeeds in transposing the urban genre of film noir to this folksy setting. The visuals often have a dark, shady ambiance, and everyone from the soldier's fun-loving wife to the lawyer's snappy secretary (marvelously portrayed by Lee Remick and Eve Arden, respectively) fits snugly into noir's cast of archetypes. Yet the sharp and witty script (which actually marked the first time, post-code, that the word "panties" was heard on screen) delivers surprise after surprise.
All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Like the court proceedings at its core, Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder moves at a deliberate pace, unwinding its 161 minutes in long, fluid takes. The subject matter (rape and the insanity defense) was controversial in the 1950s, as was Preminger's approach, which was bluntly direct. The film maintains a cool objectivity as it explores both the psychosexual issues of the central characters and the complex legal issues confronted by lawyer Paul Biegler and his client Lieutenant Manion. It raises prickly and complex questions about legal ethics, while challenging the audience to decide for itself the tricky issues of justice and truth. Sam Leavitt's black-and-white cinematography contrasts with the various shades of gray in the moral dilemmas of the characters. Justice appears to be an afterthought in this case in which procedure and self-interest, rather than a pursuit of the truth, control the process. There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, and the film's resolution has a willfully ironic edge. An excellent soundtrack by Duke Ellington and superior casting invigorate what could have become a series of methodical courtroom scenes. James Stewart brings a natural integrity to his flawed character, while George C. Scott's gravelly voice and rumpled energy enliven his cinematic debut. Standouts also include Lee Remick, playing somewhat against type as the flirtatious "victim," and Ben Gazzara, who eases effortlessly into his cynical role. In an ingenious piece of casting, noted Boston lawyer Joseph N. Welch, famed for his evisceration of Joseph McCarthy ("Have you no shame, senator?"), is cast as the judge. Nominated for eight Academy Awards (though winning none), Anatomy of a Murder was an envelope-pusher in its day, forcing open some of the tightly locked censorial shutters in prudish 1950s Hollywood.

Product Details

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Original Release:
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[B&W, Wide Screen]
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
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Special Features

Interview with Otto preminger biographer Foster Hirsch; Critic Gary Giddins explores Duke Ellington's score in a new interview; A look at the relationship between graphic designer Saul Bass and Preminger with bass biographer Pat Kirkham; Newsreel footage from the set; Excerpts from a 1967 episode of Firing Line, featuring Preminger in discussion with William F. Buckley Jr.; Excerpts from the work in progress Anatomy of "Anatomy"; Behind-the-scenes photographs by Life magazine's Gjon Mili; Trailer, featuring on-set footage; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick Pinkerton and a 1959 Life magazine article on real-life lawyer Joseph N. Welch, who plays Judge Weaver in the film

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Stewart Paul Biegler
Lee Remick Laura Manion
Ben Gazzara Lt. Frederick Manion
Arthur O'Connell Pamell McCarthy
George C. Scott Claude Dancer
Eve Arden Maida
Kathryn Grant Mary Pilant
Joseph Welch Judge Weaver
Brooks West Mitch Lodwick
Murray Hamilton Alphonse Pacquette
Orson Bean Dr. Smith
Alexander Campbell Dr. Harcourt
Joseph Kearns Mr. Burke, Photographer
Russ Brown Mr. Lemon, Caretaker
Howard McNear Dr. Dompierre
Ned Wever Dr. Raschid
Jimmy Conlin Madigan
Ken Lynch Durgo, Police Sergeant
Royal Beal Sheriff Battisfore
John Qualen Sulo
James Waters Army Sergeant
Duke Ellington Pie-eye
Don Ross Duane Miller

Technical Credits
Otto Preminger Director,Producer
Del Armstrong Makeup
Howard Bristol Set Decoration/Design
Duke Ellington Score Composer
Michael J. Harte Costumes/Costume Designer
Sam Leavitt Cinematographer
Boris Leven Production Designer
Louis Loeffler Editor
Wendell Mayes Screenwriter
Harry Ray Makeup
David Silver Asst. Director
Jack Solomon Sound/Sound Designer


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Anatomy of a Murder 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jimmy Stewart triumphs in his role as the humble, country lawyer Paul Biegler. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, but unfortunately didn't win. I think every actor would love to get a role like this in their career. Jimmy was older, but he could still show great range from tying flies in the courtroom to playing the piano with Duke Ellington to going head to head with the prosecutors of the case. The subject matter, racy for the time, gives a great story to this classic film. The other actors of the film give classic performances including Ben Gazarra (the army lieutenant), Lee Remick (Lt. Manion's wife), George C. Scott (the attorney from Lansing), Arthur O'Connell (Stewart's drunken friend), and Eve Arden (Stewart's secretary). A great film with great music, a great cast, and a legendary director, Otto Preminger!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love James Stewart and this film is definitely in the top 3 of any Stewart performance through his sixty year career. He is absolutely amazing, with a quick dry humor and incredible presence in the courtroom scenes. One of the best and most controversial courtroom dramas of all time has an all-star cast and great director, Otto Preminger. If only Ben Hur would have been made a year later, Stewart probably would have won the Best Actor Academy Award. An absolutely brilliant film in every aspect, controversy surrounded it after it's release because of its' racy themes and subject matter including rape, murder, and ladies underwear. The film was banned in Chicago, Jimmy's hometown Indiana, Pa (a campaign led by his own father) and in South Africa because of one short scene in which Jimmy Stewart plays the piano with Duke Ellington (who lends his talent with a beautiful score to the film). Great addition to anyone's film collection!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jimmy Stewart is captivating as a smart-aleck trial attorney hired to defend a Marine convicted of a murder. Enthralling and delightful perfomances from an ensemble of supporting actors, including George C. Scott and Eve Arden, cement this as an American classic.
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