Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara), a lieutenant in the army, is arrested for the murder of a bartender, Barney Quill. He claims, in his defense, that the victim had raped and beaten up his wife Laura (Lee Remick). Although Laura supports her husband's story, the police surgeon can find no evidence that she has been raped. Manion is defended by Paul Biegler (James Stewart), a rather humble small-town lawyer. During the course of interviews, Biegler discovers that Manion is violently possessive and jealous, and also that his wife has a reputation for giving her favors to other men. Biegler realizes that the prosecution will try to make the court believe that Laura was the lover of the bartender and than Manion killed him and beat her up when he discovered them together. Manion pleads "not guilty" and Biegler, who knows that his case is weak, sets his assistants to try to find a witness who will save Manion. Written by
The part of the judge was offered to both Spencer Tracy and Burl Ives, but instead went to Joseph N. Welch who was a lawyer in real life who had represented the U.S. Army in the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. See more »
When Biegler returns to his house at the start of the film, McCarthy points to the United States Supreme Court reports and asks if they should read "a little Chief Justice Holmes", and Biegler also refers to "Chief Justice Holmes". Oliver Wendell Holmes was an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, never Chief Justice. (He was, however, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachussetts before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.) See more »
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.
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