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Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Unrated | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | September 1959 (Austria)
In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his case?

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Writers:

(screenplay), (based on the novel by) (as Robert Traver)
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Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Asst. State Atty. Gen. Claude Dancer
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Russ Brown ...
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Brooks West ...
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Det. Sgt. James Durgo
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Dr. Dompierre
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Dr. W. Gregory Harcourt
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Storyline

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 alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Last year's No.1 best-seller ... This year's No.1 motion picture. See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

September 1959 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Anatomie eines Mordes  »

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shooting was completed in just two months. See more »

Goofs

When McCarthy is driving back at night, his car is shown approaching a fork in the road, with a large white sign in the area where the road divides, and taking the left-side (from the driver's viewpoint) fork. The shot immediately shifts to McCarthy in the car, driving, squinting ahead, passing other cars whose horns are heard and headlights seen. The scene then shifts again, back to the very same shot of the car approaching the same fork in the road, even though by then the car would have been well beyond this area, having already passed it several moments earlier. See more »

Quotes

Parnell Emmett McCarthy: Did you give the lieutenant the Well-Known Lecture?
Paul Biegler: If you mean, did I coach him into a phony story, no.
Parnell Emmett McCarthy: Maybe you're too pure, Paul. Too pure for the natural impurities of the law.
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Connections

Featured in Hidden Values: The Movies of the Fifties (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Does Guilt Or Innocence Actually Matter To The Court System?
24 April 2005 | by (Biloxi, Mississippi) – See all my reviews

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


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