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This book and film were so important to me as I was growing up. I think the book was the first truly adult novel I ever read. The book was around 600 pages and I couldn't put it down. When the movie came out I saw it with my friends. They didn't get it. This is a taut courtroom drama with a cast of characters that we grow to love or hate. The crime itself is quite foggy. It involves the revenge killing of a man who supposedly raped the defendant's wife. Lee Remick is the consummate party girl, married to a military man. This also throws a little monkey wrench into things. JImmy Stewart is the wisecracking attorney who is confronting an equally colorful prosecutor. There are numerous twists and turns that need to be watched. We are never sure of Ben Gazzara's innocence or guilt or that of his wife. That's what propels us forward. I watched this film at least ten times and I find it fresh and relevant even today (I just watched it on TCM a few day's ago). If you've not seen it, sit down and be entertained.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Laura Manion (Lee Remick) comes home and tells her husband that
she has been raped, he instantly goes and kills the man who raped his
wife. Paul Biegler (James Stewart) a humble small-town lawyer, is asked
to defend him. Biegler originally wants to plead guilty, but soon
discovers the idea that they might have a shot for insanity. But this
case will not be an easy one. Biegler finds himself up against the
State's Deputy Attorney General (George C. Scott), and Biegler must
search everywhere for evidence to prove that Laura was raped, and
possibly win the case.
Anatomy of a Murder was one of the most brilliant courtroom dramas I have ever seen. The story was pretty similar to a lot of movies such as these, but the direction by Otto Preminger was fantastic. Despite the long length of this film, unlike many courtroom dramas Anatomy of a Murder really keeps you interested throughout the entire film. The screenplay was also very good. I laughed out loud several times in the film, and I can tell you there is no better battle then James Stewart and George C. Scott for a courtroom drama.
The acting was superb by everyone. I found no one in the film to be a bad actor, and I really loved some of the performances. James Stewart delivered one of the best I have ever seen him. I still believe that It's a Wonderful Life was his career performance, but this was definitely up there in his best. This is one of the only films I have seen with George C. Scott, but he was amazing in this film. The most interesting parts of the film was hearing James Stewart and George C. Scott yell "objection!" every single time one of them would say something.
Overall, Anatomy of a Murder is probably the greatest, or at least one of the greatest, courtroom dramas I have ever seen. With perfect direction, and great acting by some of the greatest actors ever, this movie quickly became one of my favorites in film history.
An Army Officer murderous coldly the rapist to his wife. After being
arrested, is brought to trial, where they reflect all types of human
emotions, from the jealousy rabies. One of the films of trials more
acclaimed in the history of cinema
Magnificent judicial drama, one of those films with force, staggering precision and longevity. A special indent blending his part of intrigue, its share of comedy and its part of drama... Particularly in the dose fair and appropriate. A script full of deception, double senses and looks a dash of those who are few.
Magnificent interpretation of James Stewart, in his role as a lawyer brazen, in the courtroom, but always unsure of itself. The more than two and a half hours of film, after a long and meticulous introduction of the main characters, we wrapped in the growing tension of the judicial process, with witnesses, interrogations and fierce mourning dialectic between the defense, the prosecution and the judge, scattered throughout with steps and sound dose of humor. But, ultimately, the virtue of the content of the film is in your story, in the intricacies judicial, in the treatment of the characters and in the doubts raised about the effectiveness against the duality of the truth and falsehood, more than any other thing, but arrive at any time to lift if the accused (Ben Gazzara) and its seductive wife (Lee Remick) deceive us or are sincere It is precisely this ambiguity which gives the film of one of its best charms leaving at the end something to think about.
Duke Ellington, in addition to get a small cameo in this movie ingeniously led by Otto Preminger, knew give the background music appropriate to the history with the composition of jazz ending taking this year the Grammy..
James Stewart plays a lawyer trying to build a defense for a man who's
committed a murder. The details of the crime remain fuzzy, and as a
viewer you're never quite sure which way the verdict will swing.
The film seems to capture the whole trial experience, from preparing a case to swearing in the jurors to cross-examining witnesses to objecting to lines of questioning to meeting informally in the judge's chambers, etc. Neither side is the "bad guy", they're just doing their best to play the game and outsmart each other. It's about strategy. (After jurors are asked to disregard Stewart's objectionable questioning, the defendant asks Stewart how people can just forget something they've already heard. "They can't," he replies.)
The movie isn't a typical melodramatic courtroom spectacle; it manages to carry a more enjoyable light-hearted air, with some bits of humor. The acting is good and the characters are unique. Jimmy Stewart's easygoing lawyer character is a fisherman and a jazz enthusiast. The judge is even-tempered and personable and loves the legal process. Lee Remick plays a wife who doesn't like being tied down. George C. Scott plays a cunning big city lawyer brought in to assist the D.A. Eve Arden (Principal McGee from "Grease") plays Stewart's secretary. The music (where it appears) is done by the great Duke Ellington, who also cameos as a jazz pianist.
Made in 1959, the film surprised me with some of its content. Talk of sexual matters, casual treatment of rape (a main plot point) and some PG-13 words. I'm curious how this film would've been rated back in the day.
At 2 hours and 40 minutes, this film might be longer than you're willing to spend watching a trial unfold, so keep that in mind. But it's not your typical legal drama, and has a certain character all its own.
I was going to start this analysis of this penultimate courtroom
picture by saying that Anatomy of a Murder is not just a courtroom
drama, a murder thriller, or even a character study, and that it
encompasses all of the aspects of life from which those things come in
drama, and maybe I would have been right. But even if I am, I could
construct an examination more simply by just saying that it is a
courtroom drama that goes beyond what most courtroom dramas envision as
the call of duty. Its long-drawn-out sequences of extreme tension seem
to inconspicuously grow from expository scenes that lounge casually
like a Cassavetes film, like the first fifteen minutes with Jimmy
Stewart and Arthur O'Connell.
What I like about Otto Preminger is that he is relentless, and in 1957, that was surely clear as day to anyone walking into the local movie house. There is a glaring reality to his work, even The Man With the Golden Arm, which seems to unravel from the perspective of Sinatra's intoxicated character in a sort of surreal way but still feels like the most honest depiction of life itself. Perhaps Anatomy of a Murder is the same sort of aesthetic, a world depicted from the perspective of its protagonist, Jimmy Stewart, who unlike Sinatra's Frankie Machine is a clear-headed, seasoned and taurine realist.
Lee Remick plays the flirtatious wife of a very young Ben Gazzara, who is charged with murder for shooting a barkeeper who allegedly raped her. Her character's purpose is to cause internal conflict within Jimmy Stewart's defense attorney by endangering their case with her exhibition and flirtation, all rooted from how stunningly drop-dead sexy she is. But the movie has nothing to do with that. That's all Lee Remick. I had a hard time getting up when the movie was over because my loins were parched and blistered with heat, or maybe that was my hand working on its own. Everything in the movie is as real as if it were happening in your living room.
The great Duke Ellington not only wrote the jazz score, but appears for a moment playing the piano in a club with Stewart and ostensibly playing himself! And he is given one awesomely infectious period line: "You're not splittin' the scene, man?" And there's a superb performance as the presiding judge, shrewd and cunning in a rather humorous way, by Joseph N. Welch, the Boston attorney who shattered Joseph McCarthy on TV in 1954.
Complementing the drama in the intriguing and truly perplexing ambiguity of the defendant and his wife, there is the geniality and earthy wisdom of Stewart and O'Connell. O'Connell is a clever but boozing Irishman of great presence, and he and Stewart both have had it up to here with people's crap, and they do not see much reason to repress that sensation. George C. Scott, as the prosecution attorney, has the suave menace that really reminds you that he is quite a terrific actor.
I really enjoyed the film. Lots of suspense. Don't expect to see
everything resolved at the end. You will never know if the defendant is
guilty or innocent. You have to guess, just like the jury, and his
lawyer. You'll never know if the defendants wife was raped. You'll have
to guess, just like the jury. My guess is that most people will go with
the verdict anyway, thats part of the realism and what makes the movie
Don't expect to feel good about the verdict. It's not predictable or politically correct. But its an damn good movie that you'll enjoy watching.
The acting and casting were very good. It's in black and white but the camera shots were superb. Needless to say the directing was very good. Every scene has a purpose and builds into the plot. I gave it 9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Actually, it's a tie between this and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Of
the two, this one is more believable with strong performances all
around with special mention to George C. Scott.
Preminger was second only to Billy Wilder as far as turning out masterpieces in the 1950's. Interesting, this same year Wilder also made a court drama in which a guilty man was successfully acquitted through strong efforts by the counselor to that counselor's dissatisfaction of the outcome. That film was Witness for the Prosecution that starred former Stewart's co-star Marlene Dietrich.
I would have loved seeing Eve Arden better showcased but Lee Remick did just fine as the female lead. The screenplay was strong and nothing said in the court room hit a false note. And it's great to see Joseph Welch, who helped bring down Joseph McCarthy, a judge. James Stewart must have been open minded in helming this; it's been noted that he was a staunch Republican and made general in the arm forces.
I'm also a big fan of Duke Ellington and it's a pity he didn't score more pictures. The movie reveals that Stewart himself was a pianist, playing some Ellington like tunes while waiting for a verdict. Preminger was wise though, that no music was played during the long courtroom scenes. I had the most fun seeing Scott and Stewart verbally sparring with each other.
Kudos all around.
Director Otto Preminger had his hands full with such a large ensemble cast of notable actors fro this film. Jimmy Stewart stars in his fifth and final Academy Award nominated performance as a defense attorney defending a man accused of killing a tavern owner who he believed to have raped his wife. Ben Garzara is the man accused and Lee Remick is his wife. George C. Scott is the prosecuting attorney in his Academy Award nominated performance. Arthur O'Connell as an alcoholic attorney was also nominated along with Scott for Best Supporting Actor. rounding out the cast are Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, Orson Bean, Brooks West, Murray Hamilton and Duke Ellington who also scored the film's music. This film was also nominated for cinematography for Sam Leavitt and Editing for Louis Leffler who both had worked on films before with Preminger. It was also nominated for it's screenplay by Wendell Myers and for the big Oscar for Best Picture of 1959. It lost in all seven of it's nominations and lost out to the Epic Ben Hur in five of the categories it was nominated in. Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker who wrote under the pen name of Robert Traver wrote the successful novel that this film is adapted from. Volker had been a prosecuting attorney in Marquette County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where this was filmed on location. The story is based on a true murder story that took place in the area in 1952. At 160 minutes this runs a little long and the screenplay could have been trimmed and tightened to two hours but this is a good courtroom drama and I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Anatomy of a Murder" is an excellent motion picture that showcases one
of James Stewart's finest performances. His character - Paul Biegler,
attorney at law - is a modest, small-town, cigar-chomping gentleman
who, as established in the film's opening, spends a great deal of time
as an expert fisherman and an accomplished jazz pianist. But underneath
this seemingly easygoing and uncomplicated exterior lies quite a
brilliant steel-trap legal mind, ready to take on a challenge and
refusing to accept any nonsense from anybody. The end result is a
more-than-convincing characterization of a lawyer, thanks to James
Stewart's tireless work ethic as an actor. (Please DO NOT read the next
few paragraphs if you have not yet seen this movie.)
Paul Biegler's monumental task in "Anatomy of a Murder" is to defend a lieutenant in the United States Army named Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara), who is on trial for murdering a bartender who apparently raped his wife Laura (Lee Remick). This becomes a challenging case for Biegler, who surmises that his client is a violent, abusive husband, and that Laura is morally unstable and flirtatious with other men, thus possibly enticing the otherwise likable bartender to rape her. In spite of the fact that Biegler has his doubts about the moral character of Lt. Manion & his wife, Biegler is still determined to crack the case and get Manion out of jail.
Director Otto Preminger could not have chosen a better cast for "Anatomy of a Murder." Two up-and-coming actors in particular absolutely loved working with James Stewart and appreciated his professionalism; they are Ben Gazzara as the not-very-likable defendant Lt. Manion, and George C. Scott as the sharp-minded attorney general Claude Dancer, serving as the prosecutor. Not to mention Lee Remick as the slinky, voluptuous Laura Manion; Eve Arden as Biegler's somewhat sharp-tongued & witty secretary Maida; Arthur O'Connell as Biegler's alcoholic-turned-sober law associate Parnell McCarthy; Kathryn Grant as the sad-faced Mary Pilant, who unwillingly becomes the ultimate source of help for Biegler; and a non-actor named Joseph N. Welch, a real-life Boston lawyer (famous for speaking out against Senator Joseph McCarthy) who does a fine acting job as the presiding magistrate. Also, watch for Joseph Kearns (Mr. Wilson in the "Dennis the Menace" TV series) in a small role as commercial photographer Lloyd Burke.
My favorite moments from "Anatomy of a Murder" include the following. Some of Biegler's more dramatic moments in the courtroom include his analogy about separating "the core from an apple without breaking the skin" (in order to introduce the story about the rape), his outburst at prosecutor Mitch Lodwick (Brooks West) for supposedly turning a cross-examination into a high school debate, and his tension-building interrogations of the annoyed bartender Alphonse Pacquette (Murray Hamilton), nearly resulting in a blowup. The temperamental Lt. Manion displays his fury at the prosecution's hastily placing upon the witness stand one of his cell mates, who may or may not be lying about personal conversations he's had with Manion. In one of the lighter moments in the courtroom, Biegler shows the court Laura's little dog Muff, who carried a flashlight in its mouth on the night of the rape & murder; Muff clearly "doesn't know who his enemies are" as he runs, with the flashlight, towards Mr. Dancer and jumps on him. At a dance hall shortly before the beginning of the trial, Biegler, after spotting the tipsy Laura dancing with another soldier, seizes his opportunity to scare some discipline into Laura, escorting her out of the hall and driving her home. Incidentally, the leader of the jazz quintet, with whom Biegler sits in, is arguably the greatest American composer & bandleader of the 20th Century: Duke Ellington! Bearing the character name of Pie Eye, Ellington wrote a fantastic music score for this courtroom drama. (Some have debated as to whether Ellington's score fits the movie, but author Jonathan Coe accurately described the score as "weirdly appropriate.")
To summarize, "Anatomy of a Murder" is a fine, entertaining, and riveting courtroom drama with superb acting, fine direction, suspenseful moments, and a great music score. Not to mention that the film contains some of the finest work of my favorite actor Mr. James Stewart.
The most enjoyable of all courtroom melodramas and one of Preminger's
very best films. "Anatomy of a Murder" has a sleazy, trashy pulpiness
from start to finish; it's morally ambiguous and all the better for it.
It's full of sly jokes and delights in shocking us, not by the mention
of panties and sperm, which proved controversial on it's release, but
in having A-list actors such as James Stewart mouthing these potential
Stewart is superb as a small-town lawyer taking on a murder case he doesn't appear to have a hope of winning. A hot-headed young lieutenant has coolly blown away the man his wife said raped her. As this troublesome couple Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick exude a natural sexiness and both display a comic edge their later work lacked. Indeed the whole cast, including newcomer George C Scott, are first-rate and the inclusion of real-life lawyer Joseph N Welch as the judge anchors the film in a believably legalistic world. The brilliant black-and-white photography is by Sam Leavitt and Duke Ellington composed the excellent jazz score.
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