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
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?
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