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  • Anatomy of an excellent movie:

    Begin with an extremely tight and well written script, from the novel by the same name. While reportedly the story is based on a real-life case it is nevertheless a timeless story, almost biblical, presenting age-old questions of human conflicts and human dilemmas.

    Add to that a sensational cast, starting of course with the leads, Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick, and Ben Gazarra, but also the rest of the cast, filled as it is with numerous accomplished and veteran stage actors and radio performers from days of yore. Character parts played by actors Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Ken Lynch, Joseph Kearns, and Howard McNear. Someone paid careful attention to the casting for this film.

    Perhaps the most masterful stroke as far as casting goes was the casting Joseph Welch as the judge. Welch was an experienced and renowned lawyer in real life. Welch turns in a very good and a very believable performance.

    With the collision of those elements, a great script and a great cast, adding Otto Preminger as director, an overseer who knew exactly what to do with it all, you then have a very fine film.

    More than any other movie or play, including modern day presentations like the television series Law & Order, this 1959 movie, Anatomy of a Murder, even though it is now 46 years old, is by far the most realistic and technically accurate courtroom drama ever produced. The conduct of the trial, the examination of the witnesses, the colloquy and bantering back and forth between the lawyers and between the lawyers and the judge, is spot-on. Every bit of it. Every question from the lawyers, every objection, every ruling by the judge, every admonishment from the judge, and the testimony of the witnesses, every bit of it, is realistic and believable, lines that were accurately written with care, and then flawlessly delivered.

    Beyond the technical accuracies of the legal proceedings, some other aspects of the overall story were also spot on. The ambiguous ambivalence of lawyers, their motivations, their ethics, their relative honesty. Nothing is all black or all white. Shades of gray abound. Legal cases as sport. Being a "good lawyer" means pushing the envelope too far, bending the rules until you're told to stop. Not for justice. No, not that. To win. That's why. To win. Then sanctimoniously telling themselves that the system really works better this way. The movie accurately captures the fact that real-life legal cases are very often comprised of upside down Alice in Wonderland features. Innocent people are guilty, and guilty people are innocent. Good is bad, and bad is good. Everything is relative. Some call it cynicism. Others, cynically, call it realism. Anatomy of a Murder captures all of these and more.

    I've read the criticism that Lee Remick was not believable, that as an actress she failed at nailing the portrayal of how a true rape victim would appear and behave, and that her character, Laura Manion, just didn't seem to have the proper affect nor strike the right emotional chord of a woman who had been raped. All I can say is that such criticism misses a humongous part of the point. It is almost mind-boggling that there are viewers out there who, after viewing this film, somehow managed to miss it. Let me clear it up: we the viewers WERE SUPPOSED to have serious doubts about whether Laura Manion had actually been raped. The question of whether she was really raped or not is central to the plot and story line. That's why Lee Remick played the part the way she did. And then, in turn, it was part of the story for the Jimmy Stewart character, Paul Biegler, to recognize this problem, and the problem that it presented to his defense. He worried that the jury would see it and would also doubt that she had been raped, and so that's why he propped her up in court, dressed up all prim and proper, with a hat over her voluptuously cascading hair, and with horned-rim glasses. So, yes, Lee Remick nailed it. Bull's eye.

    Speaking of Lee Remick, some say that this was the movie that put Lee Remick on the map. She was stunningly beautiful here, at the ripe young age of 24. Even though the film is in black and white, her red hair, blue eyes, and porcelain skin still manage to jump right off the screen and out at you. Has any other actress ever played the role of the beautiful and sexy lady looking to get laid any better than Lee Remick? It was a woman she reprised several times in her career, sometimes with greater subtlety and understatement than others. This was her first rendition of it, and it may have been the best.

    Anatomy of a Murder is a very complex movie, with multitudes of layers and texturing, where much is deftly explored, but precious little is resolved. It's a movie that leaves you thinking and wondering. I highly recommend it.
  • Well filmed, beautifully acted, and painstakingly directed, this film deserves the highest praise.

    James Stewart brings his customary stammering, quirky charm to a role that could have easily become overwhelmingly serious. Lee Remick is seen establishing her early image as the somehow fragile, undeniably seductive pawn (see also "A Face in The Crowd"), while Gazzara wavers intensely somewhere between heartless murderer and protective husband. The supporting cast is strong, creating a human backdrop for the senior players, keeping the story in the real world, effectively preventing this from becoming an exercise in legal theory.

    This film is noteworthy for a myriad of reasons, but most specifically because it addresses the still controversial issue of acquaintance rape, and presents us with a victim of questionable morals. At the same time our murder victim is seen as a monster, then a friend and father. There really are no heroes here, no noble defenders, no pristine heroines, no completely innocent bystanders...both sides take their turns pointing fingers, each claiming that the other only got what they deserved.

    We are forced to re-evaluate our thoughts on what constitutes justifiable homicide--the unwritten law that Manion speaks of in the film versus the law as written that Biegler must now interpret. This manipulation of intended meaning sets a somewhat tragic precedent evident in the legal system we work within today.

    This film is highly entertaining, and excellent for discussion. Watch it with some of your more philosophical friends.
  • telegonus15 July 2001
    Anatomy Of a Murder is probably Otto Preminger's best film. It's certainly my favorite. Adapted from a novel by Robert Traver, it tells the story of a lawyer in northern Michigan and his defense of a particularly surly and violent murderer. As is always the case with Preminger, scenes are filmed mostly with all the characters present in the frame. There is no cross-cutting to speak of, which is to say the drama plays out with the assorted characters confronting one another, or at any rate with one another, and the effect is one of surprising warmth and good feeling in the movie's cosier scenes, which for once enhance rather than detract from the drama. I would have been quite happy to have spent much more time in lawyer Biegler's house and study, with its books, old furniture and broken typewriter, but alas this is a murder case so one has to get down to businss.

    The question of whether the defendant, an army officer, was temporarily insane, is in fact insane, or is merely putting on a good show, is never fully resolved. The lawyer is by no means perfect. He's a little lazy, though he gets over it. One senses he's cheap. He enjoys his shabby genteel bachelor's life and isn't always responsive to the needs of his secretary, who would like to get paid more regularly. In the end he proves far more dedicated and brilliant than we might have first imagined him to be, but the fly in the buttermilk is that the better he gets the more complicated the case becomes, and the more ambiguous everything gets the more he finds out about his client and the man he killed. In this respect the movie is a masterpiece of ambiguity. Beautifully shot on location in black and white, it is more gray than anything else. Morally gray. No one is quite what he appears to be at first. And people change; or rather we learn more about them. The bartender at the resort where his boss was killed at first comes off as a jerk; in time he comes to seem more of a jerk. Then he seems maybe not so bad after all; and then he's a jerk once more, but a jerk we understand. The lawyer's assistant, an on-again, off-again recovering alcoholic, is also a mixed bag. He is dogged but sloppy, and always (or so it appears) on the verge of breakdown. Or at least this is how Arthur O'Connell plays him. The prosecuting attorney is a dolt, but he is aided by a legal bigwig the state has brought in, but this hotshot is no match for the cunning country lawyer. The defendant's wife, who 'started the whole thing' is gorgeous, sexy and provocative. She makes a play for her husband's lawyer, but he doesn't bite. One wonders about her. And one wonders about the marriage she and her hot-tempered spouse really have, and whether it will last.

    This is a very sophisticated and adult movie for 1959, or for that matter today. The location filming greatly enhances the mood, chilly and very upper midwestern. Yet indoors one feels different, and the tone is often playful. The actors are superb. James Stewart is gritty, lovable, homespun, physically slow and mentally quick; and for all the familiarity there is about his screen persona, out of character, that is, in character he manages continually to surprise and delight. He was a true actor. Ben Gazzara is very Method actorish, which suits him well in his role as the volatile military man. Lee Remick is stunning as his wife, and one can well imagine a man killing for her, many times over. She is also a good actress. George C. Scott plays the state's bulldog prosecutor well, though he's an acquired taste at best. His hamminess contrasts with Stewart's folksy naturalism in interesting ways not ungermane to the plot, but he is out-acted and outclassed by the old pro he is presumably upstaging in this film.
  • First of all be patient as the following information is getting to a point that might add to your appreciation of the movie. I became aware of the following information while attending Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI over a few tall drinks with John D. Volker, the author, years ago.

    This great courtroom drama is set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To be more specific the cities of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming and the village of Big Bay and is based on a true murder case that took place there. The names of the cities and people are changed in the movie but it is filmed on the same locations that the murder case took place. The screenplay was written by John D. Volker (who wrote his novels under the pen name Robert Travers) and was based on his first novel. He was from Ishpeming (Iron City in the movie) and a Michigan Supreme Court Justice when he reviewed the appeal of this case and turned it into a detailed novel and then screenplay. The movie is given an extra dose of authenticity by using the unique people of the Upper Peninsula as extras and in minor roles.

    The point of all this historical information is that along with a hard hitting realistic style by director Otto Premenger, great score by Duke Ellington, plus top notch true to life performances by the excellent cast (Jimmy Stewart, Ben Gazara, Lee Remick, George C. Scott, et.al) this black and white film is more reality than fiction and being aware of this adds to impact of this psychological courtroom drama. This is a true human experience written by an author from the area directly from the original court transcripts, filmed where it happened in a style that fits the subject matter where it actually happened with a cast that really knows what they are doing.

    If you like ripped from reality courtroom dramas, does it get better?
  • Based on the famous Traver novel, ANATOMY OF A MURDER is an extremely complex film that defeats easy definition. In some respects it is a social document of the era in which it was made; primarily, however, it is a detailed portrait of the law at work and the mechanizations and motivations of the individuals involved in a seemingly straight-forward case. In the process it raises certain ethical issues re attorney behavior and the lengths to which an attorney might go to win a case.

    Paul Biegler (James Stewart) is a small-town lawyer who has recently lost a re-election for the position of District Attorney and who is down on his luck--when a headline-making case involving assault, alleged rape, and murder drops into his lap. As the case evolves, there is no question about the identity of the killer. But a smart lawyer might be able to get him off just the same and redeem his own career in the process, and with the aid of an old friend (Arthur O'Connell) and his formidable secretary (Eve Arden), Biegler sets out to do precisely that. Opposing him in the courtroom is Claude Dancer (George C. Scott), a high powered prosecutor who is equally determined to get a conviction... and who is no more adverse to coaching a witness than Biegler himself. The two square off in a constantly shifting battle for the jury, a battle that often consists of underhanded tactics on both sides.

    The performances are impressive, with James Stewart ideally cast as the attorney for the defense, Ben Gazzara as his unsavory client, and a truly brilliant Lee Remick as the sexy and disreputable wife who screams rape where just possibly none occurred; O'Connell, Arden, and Scott also offer superior performances. The script is sharp, cool, and meticulous, the direction and cinematography both effective and completely unobtrusive, and the famous jazz score adds quite a bit to the film as a whole.

    Although we can't help rooting for Stewart, as the film progresses it seems more and more likely that Remick is lying through her teeth and Gazzara is as guilty as sin--but the film balances its elements in such a way as to achieve a disturbing ambiguity that continues right through to the end. If you expect a courtroom thriller with sudden revelations and twists you'll likely be disappointed in ANATOMY OF A MURDER, but if you want a thought-provoking take on the law you'd be hard pressed to find one better. Recommended.

    Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Anatomy of a Murder' illustrates vividly how one lawyer repeatedly faces the heat of a controversial rape-case courtroom battle... The film might be Stewart's finest performance... For his magnificent achievement, Stewart was nominated for an Academy Award... The film itself received a total of seven Oscars in various categories, but was overtaken by William Wyler's 'Ben-Hur', the blockbuster of that year, whose star, Charlton Heston, beat out Stewart for best actor...

    'Anatomy of a Murder' is one of the few great racy courtroom melodramas ever put on the screen... It is a study of characters superbly detailed, in which a simple country lawyer zealously defends a young Army lieutenant charged with clearly gunning down a bar-owner who, he alleges, raped his young wife... The murder takes place some time after Remick tells her husband (Gazzara) she was raped–enough time to suggest that the killing was not done in the heat of passion but with some deliberation...

    Stewart, a warm bachelor lawyer with an old-fashioned grace of manner, is wonderfully believable as the qualified defense attorney, who tries to establish whether or not Lee Remick has been raped... He masterfully guides his defendant to the most exciting climax, repeatedly drawing forth evidence which he knows to be inadmissible, but which he wants the jury to hear...

    Stewart smokes cheap cigars, plays jazz piano, and restrains beautifully Remick's flirtatious overtures, but his benevolence is never in question... We see him hauling the provocative Remick from out of the bar telling her to be a good, and submissive housewife for the court...

    Stewart studies with a cynical eye the peculiar traits of the accused, tolerates, with amused resignation, his friend's drunken lapses, and competently makes his point to the judge and jury...

    Ben Gazzara proves to be a problematic client, close to uncooperative with his lawyer... Also, it is very clear that he is a jealously possessive man, which is enough to question the validity of the rape charge, he claims that he acted in a moment of insane anger... The film raises fascinating legal highlights on disorders of jealousy...

    Lee Remick gives a sensational performance as the sexy wife whose missing panties form a vital part of the evidence...

    Remick knows how to attract and seduce... She is so coquettish that she drives her angry husband to murder... The trial poses tricky questions: Was the Remick character in advanced levels of seduction during her wanderings at the neighborhood bar? Did her bruises come from the man whom she claimed raped her, or from her jealous husband?

    George C. Scott plays the sly, sardonic prosecuting attorney who offers the character a wonderful air of arrogance and superiority, unnerving with his aggressive antagonism witnesses and defense attorney...

    Arthur O'Connell rises to the occasion when his lawyer-hero needs him...

    Eve Arden is Stewart's faithful and efficient secretary eager that the Manion case might bring her a long-overdue paycheck...

    The courtroom fencing between Stewart and Scott is so convincing with the casting of Joseph N. Welch as the delightful ever-patient judge, Harlan Weaver... Judge Weaver, whose patience is repeatedly tried by the grotesque gestures of the lawyers in the case, appears too kindly to be much of a courtroom disciplinarian... But in the tension between the shrewd old judge and the lawyer for defense, the film raises a crucial issue on the rules of advocacy: To what extent a lawyer should represent a client zealously within the rules and norms of courtroom etiquette?

    Preminger's penchant for long takes and a mobile camera, rather than cuts and conversational reaction shots, here serves both to illuminate the crucial ambiguities in the characters, and to facilitate an objective appraisal of the mechanics of the legal process...

    Preminger challenges the American censors over the candid sexual terminology and explicit examination of rape in his courtroom drama... Ellington's score brilliantly captures the tension and the moral ambiguity that characterize the movie... Sam Leavitt's black-and-white photography is particularly impressive, setting as it does the stark mood of the authentic Michigan locations...
  • Lawyer Paul Biegler takes the case of Lt. Manion who killed a man after he discovered he had raped his wife, Laura. Biegler realises that the cards are not all in his favour and begins to ensure that the facts are spun in his favour as much as possible during the trial.

    This film caused a stir back when it was released – supposedly over the dialogue that contained words not used before in a motion picture. However it was more likely that the furore was over the cynical view of the legal profession that the film has. The story is good, but if you're looking for a John Grisham type film with shouting and ridiculous twists in the final reel then you're in the wrong place. What we have here is a clever, interesting story that moves slowly – focusing on Biegler rather than twists and turns in the actual plot.

    Biegler is sort of clean cut, but he seems like a real lawyer – he twists facts and prompts lies in order to improve his case. The various tricks and theatrical shenanigans during the trail are also well observed. The characters are all interesting with only the judge seeming like a dull stereotype.

    James Stewart is excellent and helps make the shifty lawyer more likeable and relatable. Remick is excellent as the flirtatious Laura while Gazzara is cool as the accused. George C Scott doesn't have much to do, but does well anyway.

    Overall a very enjoyable courtroom thriller – it lacks the fireworks of modern legal dramas but has a nice cynical edge to it that shows it isn't as in awe of the law as Grisham is.
  • As a courtroom drama, "Anatomy of a Murder" would be hard to surpass. It is a first-class production with an interesting and unpredictable story plus a strong cast. It works admirably, both as a story and as a portrayal of the workings of the law. It avoids the labored dramatics and contrived resolutions in which so many movies of the genre indulge, and it also declines to shy away from pointing out the more ill-conceived features of the legal system.

    From his first scene, James Stewart pulls the viewer right into the world of lawyer Paul Biegler. It takes little time before you come to know him and to get a pretty good idea of what his life is like. His scenes with Arthur O'Connell work well in rounding out the picture. The two are neither heroic nor brilliant, but simply sympathetic and believable.

    Into Biegler's world then come the characters played by Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick, a married couple with more than their share of faults. By making them less than ideal clients, the movie takes a chance on losing the audience's sympathy, but it adds credibility and complexity to the story. Both roles are played well - again, it seems as if you know a lot more about them than is specifically stated.

    When George C. Scott enters the picture, he adds yet another dimension. His character arrives at just the right time to complicate the plot, and his legal skirmishing with Stewart makes some dry material come to life in an interesting way. Eve Arden also has some good moments, and her character is used in just the right amount to add some amusement without causing a distraction from the main story. It's also interesting to see Joseph Welch as the judge, and his portrayal works well enough.

    Otto Preminger holds everything together nicely, with the right amount of detail and a pace that keeps the story moving steadily. The result is a very nice contrast to the many run-of-the mill legal/courtroom movies that present such an idealized view of the justice system. It maintains a careful balance, making clear the flaws and unpleasant realities of the system, yet never taking cheap shots either. And it's also an interesting and involved story, one of the most carefully-crafted of its kind.
  • Top-notch and realistic coutroom drama masterfully played with fine supporting and competently directed, being deemed by many to be the best drama ever made. Small-time lawyer as well as ex-prosecutor James Stewart living in Northern Michigan takes on a twisted case through a tangle of violation and murder, as he defends an Army Lieutenant, Ben Gazzarra, accused for murder, as he is suspect to have killed a man who raped his philander wife, Lee Remick.

    Cynical and provoking portrayal of the criminal court focusing the interplay among the various courtroom roles. The movie gets an exciting battle of wits between the obstinate lawyer Stewart and the clever prosecutor George C Scott. At the time the film was very controversial and explosive due to engaging stuff and strong language, though tame by today's standars. Based on actual events, in fact it was written by judge Robert Traver, author of a notorious bestseller. Terrific acting by James Stewart as brilliant, slow-talking advocate at law picking his way determinedly who faces George C Scott as the intelligent prosecutor who attempts the suspect to be condemned at whatever means. Special mention for Lee Remick as the explosive and hot spouse, Arthur O'connell as the friendly old colleague who is instantly likeable, Eve Arden as the madure, wisecracking helper and Joseph Welch as the sympathetic but rigid judge .

    Evocative and perfect cinematography in black and white by Sam Leavitt, being shot on location in upper Michigan. And appropriate and jazzy soundtrack by Duke Ellington who appears himself along with Stewart playing piano. The motion picture was stunningly directed by Otto Preminger who made several successful and classy movies such as : Fallen angel, Daisy Kenyon, Forever amber, Whirlpool, Angel face, The moon is blue, Carmen Jones , Court martial of Billy Mitchell, The man with the golden arm, Saint Joan, Bonjour Tristesse, Exodus, The cardinal, Advise and consent, Hurry sundown, Bunny Lake is missing, In harm's way, The human factor, among others. Rating 8/10 Better than average. Highly watchable courtroom drama.
  • The legendary James Stewart has worked for several of Hollywood's most legendary directors including Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock but his films for them can not reach the level of this 1959 Columbia Pictures release that he did for Otto Preminger. Stewart gives his all time greatest performance in a gem of a courtroom drama that is often overlooked. Released on the heels of several other courtroom drama classics such as "Twelve Angry Men" and "Witness For The Prosecution", "Anatomy Of A Murder" tells the story of a small town Michigan lawyer (Stewart) who takes on the case of an army officer who is standing trial for murdering a man who he believes had raped his wife. A little risque and controversial for its time but still a classic and time has served it well. A triumph for all of the talent involved.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The sly old German, Preminger, proves a hard nut to crack today as in 1959 when the film was first issued. This is a denunciation of the trial-by-jury system, and apparently continues playing on today's viewers the same tricks it played its original ones. A gin-drinking, tough, cold blooded beast of an army veteran, beats his wife black when he catches her cheating with the local barman, shoots the offender and forces her to swear on the rosary (she's a guilt ridden Catholic because she's divorced, and clings eagerly to her creed's symbols) to lie to the authorities, claiming she's been raped by her lover, so her brute of a husband manages to obtain an "exception" as "temporarily insane" (an 1885 case is unearthed to sustain the claims of his defense) and get away with the murder. Which he does, helped by a former prosecutor (Stewart) whose place is been held by "an inferior mind" today and needs to prove to the others and himself he's not finished. Helped also by a judge whose lenience is established once he understands the defense attorney to be an equally passionate fisherman as he. Time and again the jury is advised to "disregard" what they have heard, whenever – and it is very often – the defense systematically overrules court procedure and creates impressions that favor the accused – indeed this is a recurrent instance during that long trial. Everybody (but the average viewer!) is from a certain point on quite sure that the decorated soldier (excellent Gazzara) is guilty as charged, that his wife (equally excellent Lee Remick) is a loose morality woman, indeed a charming little harlot, that the murder has been one of cold premeditation and everybody is lying. But the system is such that impressions carry the day. This is a masterpiece of concealed realities and guilty consciences. As the defense lawyer and his "assistant" (his crony, a sympathetic old drunkard, as keen for success as is Stewart's lawyer) bless and praise juries while waiting for the verdict, as Stewart's faithful and likable secretary longs for victory only because she needs to see her long overdue paycheck made out to her, from the fee her employer is due to collect, Preminger is going all out to denounce the fallibility of the system in the most understated and at the same time the most deafening manner. I am amazed so few seem to realize this and lay instead the (great) value of that masterly directed, played and photographed film only to it's faithful, humorous, well paced and exciting depiction of the trial. This is a definite masterpiece of irony and hidden contempt, a movie angry as it is soft spoken and caressing both the public's sensibilities and the system's watchdogs – apparently very stern during the late 50s.
  • It's hard to think of any film that can surpass Otto Preminger's superb courtroom drama. Having seen this film countless times now, I'm hooked, each time I see it. Usually I find most courtroom dramas not all that fascinating. Most of them work up to the point they enter the courtroom, after which most of the sparkle disappears.

    That's definitely not the case in this film. The writing is just as riveting (I don't think it's dated, and in a way, every film is dated) as it was back then and the film is greatly boosted by a fantastic cast led by Stewart in perhaps the best role of his career and that says something. It's a long film (160 min) but I never even notice the lengthy running time. It could go on for two hours more as far as I'm concerned.

    The film is set in Thunder Bay in Northern Michigan, a town that lives mainly of tourism and the nearby army base. Stewart plays Paul Biegler, an easy-going small town Michigan lawyer at the dawn of his career, who likes to spend his spare time going fishing and play a tune on the piano once in a while to relax himself. One day, he is called by a young woman (Lee Remick) to defend the case of her husband, an army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara), who is accused of murdering the rapist of his beautiful seductive wife. He decides to take the case, but the prosecution calls in reinforcements from Lansing in the person of big-city prosecutor George C. Scott, who claims it's a case of cold blooded murder. The unfolding of the story with captivating new insights after each new witness and several surprising twists and turns will have you glued to your seat.

    The courtroom theatrics are outrageous and they would probably never be allowed in a real courtroom, as the two lawyers try everything, even the lowest tricks in the book, to make their case. The cross-examinations are riveting and at times very funny. Preminger mainly uses long takes without too much cross-cutting and close-ups and in every take there's something droll, like the courtroom scene where George C. Scott continuously tries to block the view between Stewart and Remick, when he questions her on the stand. Strangely enough, when Stewart bursts out in protest about this behaviour, it becomes even funnier, when the two lawyers start bickering at each other in high fashion.

    Arthur O'Connell is simply fantastic as Stewart's alcoholic sidekick, and Eve Arden is equally memorable as his cynical lace-tongued secretary hoping to receive her long-due paycheck with this case. Real-life judge Joseph N. Welch is a marvel to watch in his role as Judge Weaver. Welch got most famous in real life, because he stood up against communist witch hunter senator McCarthy during the Army hearings and told him on live television, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

    Duke Ellington provided the score and also makes a brief appearance behind the piano in a nightly bar scene.

    This is as good as it gets, extremely well written, superbly acted, directed, scored, every minute of it is supremely entertaining. A completely winning combination.

    Camera Obscura --- 10/10
  • petra_ste21 September 2016
    Warning: Spoilers
    James Stewart plays Biegler, attorney of Manion (Ben Gazzara), charged with the murder of a man who reportedly raped Manion's wife Laura (Lee Remick).

    The plot could have made for standard genre schlock (think Joel Schumacher's A Time to Kill), but Anatomy of a Murder is sly, ironic, rich in psychological detail and characterization, focusing on the chess-like courtroom tactics between Biegler and the prosecutor (George C. Scott).

    A lesser, more obvious movie would have made the defendant a sympathetic, righteous avenger and his wife as pure as the driven snow; here they are both unsavory, untrustworthy types. And Biegler is not a man on a mission, just a professional who tries to do his job at the best of his considerable abilities. Stewart is wonderful, of course, and the rest of the cast is on par.

    9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***Possible slight spoiler***

    This movie still ranks as my all-time favorite. Let me admit now - I am a lawyer, but I saw this movie long before I became one. I love it for several reasons. Yes, of course, it takes liberties with the law, but it also admits to many of the courtroom tactics/theatrics that are still in use today, and admitted to them at a time when people still liked to think of the law as a noble profession.

    The performances in this movie are incredible - Jimmy Stewart is the very picture of subtle humor and cynicism. Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara are perfect. But I'd like to point out two oft-overlooked performances that really shine. Arthur O'Connell's portrayal of Parnell develops beautifully over the course of the film as he comes to believe in himself again. My favorite character is Maida, played by Eve Arden. She's wry, she's funny, she mothers Paul and Parnell, and it's clear to everybody that not only couldn't they survive without her, but she's also the smartest one of them all.

    I could spend a great deal of time on territory others have covered - the soundtrack, the filmmaking, the courtroom scenes, the performances. But instead, I'll focus on my favorite thing. The story is my favorite. Not because it was groundbreaking or shocking - but because of its point of view. Everything you see and know in the movie is through the eyes of Paul Biegler. Through the entire courtroom battle, all the interviews with the Lt. and with Laura Manion, every strategy scene, straight through to the end, you only know what Biegler knows. You never see the usual "flashback" scene to what "really" happened that night, and it would cheapen the film if you did. Biegler never knows if the outcome of the film is the "right" one, or if anyone told the truth at all. This same POV means that you never see any aspect of the events that lead to the trial - the murder, the alleged rape, etc. Nor does the viewer ever meet Barney Quill, thus never allowing the viewer to base an opinion of the events on Quill's "character" - just the same way as Paul Biegler cannot.

    That POV aspect is the thing that makes this film my favorite of all time. It's why I've seen it dozens of times, spent a year tracking down the videotape (before they rereleased it) and have the poster hanging in my living room. See it. Trust me.
  • Calysta10 January 2000
    I'd made up my mind in less than ten minutes about "Anatomy of a Murder". It did not have the ongoing twists like "Witness for the Prosecution", character oriented or plot driven. Nor was it a movie with the compelling, issue ploughing story line like "To Kill a Mockingbird". At the same time, it lacked historical interest, but the incredibly dramatised realism of "Judgement at Nuremberg".

    Instead, I thought, a film with a two and a half hour run time, and I hate sitting in front of movies running longer than two hours as it is!

    I found it, but it took me a while to realise the one great asset this movie had. Jimmy Stewart.

    Without a doubt, this engrossing movie about rape, murder and law evoked memories of a Jimmy Stewart seen twenty years earlier in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington". The small town, humble, idealised man who triumphs over the hard headed city men. In a sense, almost the "It's a Wonderful Life" of 1959 with no angels, no attempted suicides, no wonderful, sentimental, reminding message of what life is about.

    One of the best things about the movie is the Duke Ellington score. The brass jazz sounds against the actual darkness of the plot completely and totally surprised me, it being so different to the usual dark sombre tones, screeching string instruments trying to stir suspense in the audience.

    Supporting cast is great. Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Arthur O'Connell and George C. Scott all put in great performances. But I enjoyed Jimmy very much as the fisherman, lively, wise cracking lawyer.

    Otto Preminger directed "Laura" fifteen years earlier. Seems a bit like similar plot lines. Beautiful woman caught up in murder, men lusting after beautiful woman, continual plot turns and all the rest. But Preminger directed this film well.

    What did I find by the end? I found some of the the sarcastic suspense in Jimmy and the film, similar to Billy Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution". The drama was just as alive as it was with "Judgement at Nuremberg". I found myself pulled in as much as I was with "To Kill a Mockingbird". In short, I really recommend this film to everyone who enjoys a few thrills and suspense.

    In fact, I liked it so much, I'm going to read the book.

    Rating: 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Most of Preminger's films haven't aged well, but this one still works, thanks mostly to the casting of Jimmy Stewart and Geroge C Scott. Stewart, much like Henry Fonda in "12 Angry Men", commands the stage. He's an iconic actor, and every moment he's on screen tingles with a sort of fun electricity.

    But the problem with old crime films and courtroom dramas is that they've now been done to death. Every TV show, from "Law and Order" to "Columbo", has squeezed the life out of the genre. Most of these TV shows offer far cleverer scripts.

    "Anatomy of a Murder" still packs a punch, though. It's filled with a nice sense of sexuality, a riveting trial scene and some pretty risqué dialogue. The script, which focuses on rape, sexual assault and abuse, was very daring at the time. Preminger even sly acknowledges that his film was uncomfortably near to violating the Production Code by having his characters debate the proper way of referring to a pair of panties in court. Is this allowed, they ask, or is it going over the top?

    The plot is the usual murder mystery fare, but there's a nice sense of ambiguity. Nothing is clearly resolved, and the moral waters are very murky. In the end, we aren't quite sure whether justice has actually been served.

    Premminger - usually a very flat director - maneuvers his camera with skill during the courtroom sequences, juggling angles and making the most of the small spaces. Architecturally, it's not as brilliant as what Lumet did in "12 Angry Men", but it's still pretty entertaining.

    But the film's real star is Jimmy Stewart. Stewart plays the usual country lawyer archetype, but though he appears easy going, he reveals some impressive fangs when challenged. It's a far cry from Capra's small-town lawyers. Issues are never clear-cut, characters are always morally ambiguous, and everyone seems to have a nasty streak.

    7.5/10 - I generally don't like Otto Preminger, but this film held my interest. It's not as good as Lumet's "12 Angry Men" or "The Verdict", but it still works, thanks largely to the ever reliable Jimmy Stewart.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    !!!Warning: Major Spoilers but reading this review instead of seeing this completely boring film will save you 159 minutes!!!

    This movie could have been good. It had the amazing Jimmy Stewart. It also had that great sound track provided by Duke Ellington. But never the less I couldn't help but feeling kind of board. Maybe it was because the film was completely the opposite of what I expected. With a title like, "Anatomy of a Murder", and Jimmy Stewart, (Star of many Hitchcock classics) I thought it was show us, well, A MURDER. Instead the film picks up a few days after the event it self and is just a trial movie from start to finish. This still could have been the makings of a good movie. Stewart defending an innocent man with huge amounts of evidence stacked against him would have been a good way to go, even if not a very original trial movie. Instead they have a some sleazy Jerk named Manion, who lives in a mobile home and is unkind and unappreciative of his gorgeous wife. Manion shot a bar owner with a dozen witnesses, because the guy had raped his wife. This was obviously not a good thing of the bar owner to do, but Manion kills the bar owner hours after the event because he says, "I have the unwritten law on my side." So he thought he could do it in cold blood and get off scot free. So Jimmy tells Manion he can only get of if he actually committed the murder while insane.

    So Manion fabricates a lie that he went temporarily insane. Manion goes to see an army psychiatrist to add some weight his lie. He lies to the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist says Manion had an "unavoidable urge" to kill the man. The rest of this overly long movie is the trial. In which Jimmy calls up a bunch of witnesses in order make the jury somehow thing that this dirt bag deserves to not be punished for his crime. Then at the end of the movie (160 of the longest and most boring minutes of my life later) Manion is declared "Not Guilty" by a jury that has been lied to immensely.

    Then Masion Repays Jimmy Stewart by.............Driving off in his Mobile home with his wife with out paying Stewart a dime. He leaves' Stewart a note: "I had an ‘unavoidable urge' to leave." Masion may have Committed a felony by lying under oath during his trail, but at least he can joke about it. Besides, what is the reason they made this film? To teach us that you can abuse the legal system in order to not be punished for your crimes? All and all the movie is pretty slow and boring and pointless. if you like Jimmy Stewart and want to see him in a movie were a your actually get to SEE a murder, instead of just hearing about it for two hours and 40 minutes, see the brilliant Hitchcock film ‘Rope'.
  • preposterous4 March 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I'm not crazy about this film. Despite the fact that it seems to get a good rating from everyone else, it doesn't work for me in a number of ways, numerous enough to begin counting.

    1) The Jazz. It's noisy, brash, and unpleasant. Reminds me of Orson Welles' movie with Vivian Leigh, and I wasn't crazy about the sound in that one either. And speaking of the music, it's so obvious that Jimmy Stewart is miming at the piano. He isn't even trying. Music is just the beginning of misses for this movie tho.

    2) It's never entirely clear what happened. I have to surmise that Lieutenant Manion struck his wife out of jealousy that she'd returned home having been with the bar owner and presumably Manion killed him as part of that same rage, but it's not clear to me that this is true. Therefore, it's not really clear to me what this movie is about. I prefer the ambiguity of the Big Sleep (which was already pretty ambiguous before a series of edits made it almost indiscernable). The diff is that in the Big Sleep, I felt like even if I didn't understand the exact turn of events, the characters were deeper and there was more to grab onto.

    3) Parnell's character is pedantic and tiresome, and only grows more so by the end, with his oration about juries;

    4) It's not clear to me how the prosecution failed to expose Manion's poor character to the jury. The prosecution barely asked him any questions save two. Manion should have been grilled. He should have been induced into a fit of anger, and the prosecution should have been able to clearly link it to his violent feelings for his wife. There relationship was a sham, and it's surprising to me that the prosecution couldn't reveal that.

    5) I don't understand the pivotal scene where Mary Pilant admits finding white panties. Exactly what would torn panties be doing in the laundry? I can think of two reasons: 1) her father put them there

    because he had done nothing wrong, or 2) someone else put them there as a frame. The prosecution did not pursue either idea carefully enough.

    6) Jimmy Stewart had a whole fridge full of fish. Was his intention to throw a buffet, because fish only keeps 2-3 days in a fridge.

    So these are just things off the top of my head, but there were more inconsistencies which bugged me. I'd say this film was not carefully planned. However, it does have Jimmy Stewart and George Scott in it. Murry Hamilton was also a strong point.

    There are some things going for this film, but it's too hastily conceived to be one of my favorites. Still, I watch it from time to time.
  • rabrenner7 January 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    Classic courtroom drama. Jazz playing, fly fishing small-town lawyer Jimmy Stewart must defend slimy army lieutenant Ben Gazzara against murder charges. With an all-star cast, including Lee Remick as Gazzara's sexpot wife, Eve Arden as Stewart's wisecracking secretary, Arthur O'Connell as his lovable but alcoholic partner, and George C. Scott as the icy assistant district attorney. Plus a jazzy score by Duke Ellington, who appears as "Pie Eye" in the movie (Stewart and the Duke play a duet!), and the cutest little flashlight carrying dog.

    *** SPOILER ALERT *** It's interesting that Stewart gets Gazzara off on a temporary insanity defense. You still root for Stewart to win, but I doubt a movie with this premise could be made today. The temporary insanity defense has fallen into ill repute, to say the least, and I'm skeptical that a sympathetic audience could be found.
  • jacobfam7 February 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    This movie puts its audience in the same untenable position as the jury, forcing the viewer to decide for himself what really happened. There is no irrefutable truth or incontrovertible evidence, there is only opinion. We are left with our personal interpretation of the facts of the case (such as they are), the behavior and motives of the people involved, and the sleight of hand of the attorneys, but we are never shown proof that we have interpreted any of it correctly.

    The elements of the story beg for interpretation--rape or adultery, crime of passion or premeditated murder, protective husband or vicious wife-beater, aloof inmate or cocky creep, scheming arsonist or truthful stoolie, lost panties or planted evidence, good guy lawyer or calculating cynic....By trial's end we don't have the whole story, we have unanswered questions. We have a case of colossal ambiguity.

    Do we also have reasonable doubt? How would we, how could we render a verdict? That question is the essence and purpose of this film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched this film for the first time yesterday. To be honest, I had never even heard of it before, despite being a big Jimmy Stewart fan. After watching for the first hour and a half, I was still wondering where this movie had been all my life. James Stewart gives a wonderful performance as a brilliant small-town lawyer, a cross between Perry Mason and Ben Matlock. The courtroom duels between Stewart and prosecutor George C. Scott are wonderful. A very young Lee Remick is excellent as the sex-starved tramp of a wife to Ben Gazzara - a precursor to today's Desperate Housewives perhaps? In addition, the film is directed by the legendary Otto Preminger, best known to those of my generation as Mr. Freeze on the old BATMAN show. So why isn't this film better known? The answer is simple - the ending is terrible. You keep waiting and waiting for all the loose ends, all the characters, all the drama to be wrapped up in one slam-bang finale, a la WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Sadly, none of this occurs. This film left me feeling empty and cheated. I guess it is never a waste of time to spend almost 3 hours watching Jimmy Stewart at his mid-career best, but this was a one-shot deal for me. I won't watch it again and do not recommend it - unless you turn it off right before the end and just imagine what COULD have happened.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ANATOMY OF A MURDER was Otto Preminger's attempt to relate a subject hinted about in motion pictures, but rarely gone into great detail. The subject was rape and it's consequences, and how the rape victim frequently found herself under attack in our law courts when the issues of the case hinged on her moral innocence or guilt.

    The story takes place in the upper peninsula of Michigan, near a resort town. There is a military base nearby, and Ben Gazzara is a lieutenant there married to Lee Remick. It is the second marriage for both of them. Remick is extraordinary pretty, and her best features are highlighted by the tight fitting casual clothes she wears. She also is aware of how attractive she is to other men than her husband.

    One night, while Gazzara is sleeping after dinner, Remick goes to the local bar for some fun (austensibly drinking and playing pinball). She is playing it with the bar owner, who subsequently gives her a car ride home. Except for her pet dog, nobody witnesses what happens in the car - her story is that the man raped her twice, and she ran home and told her husband. Gazzara, one hour later, goes to the bar and shoots the owner five times.

    Was there a rape? The police made a cursory examination, and find that while there are some signs of a struggle, there is no trace of sperm. Remick's panties are missing, but they may just have been hidden by her. She did have some bruises (including one of her eye), but they could be due to a beating from anyone else. Gazzara is arrested and charged with the murder. And Remick calls in Jimmy Stewart.

    He was the former District Attorney for the town, but has been recently defeated after ten years of service. His staff consists of Eve Arden, and (when he sober) Arthur O'Connor. Stewart has handled prosecutions, and has never handled any criminal defense. He would not only face the current District Attorney (Brooks West) but an additional big city prosecutor (George C. Scott - in his first major movie role). Stewart finds that aside from the ironclad case the prosecution has, the lack of evidence conclusively showing a rape, and the time issue of one hour between said rape and the killing, prevent him putting forward a defense of temporary insanity. He also finds that both Gazzara and Remick are difficult figures to fit into a "respectable" couple image for what he has to do.

    There had been plenty of first rate courtroom dramas in previous years in the movies, such as THE STORY ON PAGE ONE and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, but nothing had been so carefully shown as this case was. The tactics of both defense and prosecution are demonstrated, with the careful maneuvering of questions and answers, and the attempt to probe for weaknesses in each other's cases. And Scott's cross-examination of Remick, bringing out her somewhat promiscuous character, reminds us of what usually happened (and still does) in rape cases.

    The character of the wise judge in the case was played by Joseph Welch, the Boston legal whiz who smashed Senator Joseph McCarthy to kindling very quietly and with dignity in 1954 at the Army-McCarthy hearings on television. Here, in his only movie role, Judge Welch shows the same courtly calm and dignity that adds to the sense of reality of the film.

    Well acted and directed this film has to be on anyone's list of top ten court room films.
  • Watching "Anatomy of a Murder" is as intriguing as watching "Anatomy of a Traffic Ticket". I wanted to like this film. After all it has a great cast based on a provocative novel at the time. The problem is it's slow, illogical, and no twist and turns to make the two plus hours invested worthwhile. It ends on a whimper with the only response that is appropriate is "huh?" or "Is that all there is?". Lee Remick is perfect as the horny slutty wife of military man, Ben Gazaarra. He also is well cast. George C. Scoot fares better as a member of the prosecution team than Jimmey Stewart does as the poor as a church mouse defense attorney. Jimmy does his "Mr. Smith Goes to Wasington" act and it gets very close to over the top at times. And the verdict simply does not pass the smell test. As piece of nostalgia this certainly is of interest. After all, it was a time when the word "panties" was risqué' in films. Yet when all is said and done it is a pedantic court room drama with lots of court room and little drama.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Easy going, with a pace so gentle you might think you were watching ducks walking across a highway (all done deliberately, BTW) this is one of the greatest films of all time. Preminger, love him or hate him, not only knew his way around a camera, he knew his way around an audience too. Jimmy Stewart, at the peak of his craft (well before he had to "re-invent" himself a bad guy in westerns to stay in the biz) comes across as someone you went to school with, but forgot the name. He is so easy to identify with that you immediately start to see the whole film, the whole narrative, through his eyes. Which is precisely what Preminger intended. Lee Remick, short and sharp-featured, someone you might not notice in a crowd, shows the world the true meaning of "charisma" and steals every scene she is in. Only a star of this magnitude could say the word "panties" on screen and still make viewers blush decades into a new century. And Ben Gazarra, also at the peak of his craft (long before he started doing it "for the money," like his work in Road House) fights Remick for audience attention on a scene by scene basis, and often wins. Wow. Seriously. Wow. Watch it six or seven times if you like. It never gets old.
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