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|Index||178 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I seem to have a somewhat different take on this movie than many.
People are very hung up on the apparent moral ambiguity of the
characters and ultimately, the movie. But I don't think that's the main
point. This movie isn't really about whether or not the defendant is
actually guilty or innocent.
The movie is really *about* Jimmy Stewart's character, Pauly, the lawyer. The whole deal here is that he *used* to be the prosecutor, but got voted out, and has now become a defense lawyer who isn't trying very hard to be a defense lawyer. He has no clients or cases to speak of and doesn't really seem to care, spending most of his time fishing. His friend chides him for it, recognizing how hard it is for him to have been booted out like that, but that none-the-less he's got to get on with being a lawyer. A *defense* lawyer, not a prosecutor, with the key inherent difference: a prosecutor can afford to be moral, concerned only with guilt and innocence, whereas a defense lawyer has to provide the very best defense possible for his client, innocent or not. That's his job, and you can't make any bones about it. His friend has to remind Pauly about that after the first meeting with the defendant lieutenant.
And so, the *real* issue is not, was the guy guilty or not; the real issue is: can Pauly really step up to the plate as a good defense attorney, and win a case where he *does* have to fudge, does have to use courtroom shenanigans, does have to overlook the moral ambiguity of his client and his wife. In short, does have to go all out to win the acquittal of a man who he probably has his own doubts about. To tell *this* story, of course the people and the facts of the case *do* have to be rather ambiguous. But the ambiguity isn't the point of the story. The role of a defense lawyer is. (and any one of you who ever for any reason needs to *hire* a defense lawyer will be very glad of that).
So in the end, the importance of the jury's verdict is not on whether or not the Lt. goes free, but simply on whether or not Pauly won the case. Having won the case, he's shown himself that he can do it, and so he doesn't even care that much when he finds that his client in the end has skipped town and stiffed him. Because he's clearly ready to get down to really being a lawyer, rather than a fisherman with a legal shingle out front. Really, the guilt or innocence of the client is just this movie's MacGuffin. That doesn't mean that all these other issues aren't interesting and thought-provoking. They're simply not the point of the movie.
Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder features a cast of some big stars
(Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott), and some notable character players
(Ben Gazarra, Lee Remick, the underrated Murray Hamilton and Orson
Bean), but the real big attraction for audience's is its 100% absorbing
story and whole lot of characters (and, sometimes, those aforementioned
actors playing them). It might remind some younger viewers of Law &
Order, with it bearing a resemblance to Dick Wolf's show that is beat
for beat as its sole fixation on the Facts In The Case. But unlike L&O,
where any characterization is pretty much one-dimensional, Anatomy of a
Murder is chock-full of development on the personalities, even for
characters that appear on the witness stand for no more than five
Preminger also has the daring to add some touches of comedy, or at least some (for the time) risqué humor and language that rises it not simply above other more standard pictures, but into a realm of truth that reflects what it's like to be in a court-room for a case such as this (i.e. when the judge addresses the courtroom about the use of the word "panties", he's also addressing the audience- don't giggle, it's a serious word... even if you might giggle for it being almost self-conscious). The premise itself, 'the core' of it for lack of a better term as from what Stewart's lawyer uses at one point, is something out of vintage L&O: an ex army lieutenant (Gazarra) with a possible penchant for tempers and jealousy, kills a man who raped his wife one night driving her home from a bar. Guilty of the murder? Not quite, says Stewart's defense attorney and jazzman Biegler, who goes for the temporary insanity defense.
But past this premise, Preminger crafts a fascinating study of how character reflects everything during a trial, including (maybe even especially) that of the attorneys in question, who start to "provide the wisecracks" as the Judge says in deadpan. At first the case looks open and shut, but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye, and not just in the traditional form of a courtroom drama where there's a last-minute twist and some surprises in store for the jury and other attendees in the courtroom. And, sure, there is the former of those, but everything builds up not based solely on the facts, but on what is revealed, the underlying tension and anxiety for all parties involved. Stewart, of course, is up to task in one of his quintessential performances. But least not forget Gazarra in a role that should've nabbed him an Oscar, and for Remick who's Laura is both sultry and vulnerable. And who can't love seeing Hamilton (the mayor from Jaws) on the stand, or George C. Scott give a somewhat subdued portrayal that provides one of the slickest, most cunning prosecution parts in movies. He literally oozes his character's big-city gumption.
Chock-full of snappy dialog that doesn't feel like it's been written for the usual MOVIE crowds (i.e. it is still a movie, but there's a lot that doesn't feel forced or contrived), and scenes that deliver on shifting tones between comedy and melodrama on a dime, Anatomy of a Murder is a near masterpiece. It even goes so far as to appear to have a happy ending, and then give just the hint of ambiguity, or inasmuch that we as the audience, unlike the jury, can't be totally sure what the outcome really is. It has its cake and eats it too, all to one of the great jazz scores in cinema by Mr. Ellington.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film is about a lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) who takes the
case of a Lieutenant in the Army Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) who
shot and killed a bartender by the name of Barney Quill who his wife
(Lee Remick) said raped her. It seems like a no win case because there
is a witness to the murder and the Lieutenant only has his wife's word
that she was raped. Stewart must show that the Lieutenant was temporary
insane, a task that is not made easy by the overzealous of the
What Otto Preminger does with this film is give no affirmative answer at the end of it, it is left up to the audience to decide what is the truth and he doesn't tell the audience one side is lier's and the other isn't, there is evidence that supports both the rape happening and the Lieutenant being temporary insane when he killed Quill and evidence that contradicts the story the Lieutenant and his wife has given the court.
The supported evidence is the bruises the wife had after the attack. Tourists heard the screams. The police believed the wife. The police saw car tracks and dog tracks where the wife said the attack happened. Also, they find where her glass case fell, near to the rape. She took a lie detector test. Her ripped panties are found in the laundry, right next to Quill's room. The doctor can't be certain, one way or the other that she was raped. At that time 1959, it was hard to determine this especially with a mature married woman. The Army doctor said Manion was temporary insane. The dead man was a very good marksman and had guns behind the bar.
The evidence that doesn't support the wife and Manion is there were no witnesses to the rape. The wife's conduct before and after the rape, she is very flirty. She wore tight clothes and seemed to touch the dead man in some sexual way. When she is telling Stewart her story, there is no emotion, she is not upset talking about it. There are the hidden looks between the husband and wife that seem to say there is more to the story then they are telling. The wife is obviously scared of her husband and she has been hit by her husband before. She swore on a crucifix so her husband would believe her and that seems to say that he didn't believe her before she swore on it. The prosecution doctor says Manion wasn't temporary insane and the eye witness backs this up by saying he was calm and cool when he killed Quill and even threatened him. Manion is clearly jealous of men who show his wife any attention.
In the end, Manion is found Not guilty but there is no overall thing that says what truly happened and it makes a refreshing difference that the audience watching the film has to think what might have been the true events.
I don't agree this was James Stewart's last best film, he carried on his stealer performances in other films and TV roles after this film. Lee Remick is brilliant as Laura Manion who has two sides to her personality, she likes men and can come across as a tigress and then she has a vulnerable side who is lonely at times. George C. Scott has a small role as a state Attorney who is trying to help the prosecuting attorney convict the Lieutenant.
The music fits so well with the film, music by Duke Ellington who plays a cameo in the film as Pie eye.
The film keeps the audience guessing and makes you pay attention throughout to get you to think and decide what you believe. I can understand why the film was considered racy at the time because it mentions sperm, contraceptive, climax, penetration, bitch and slut and it shows the ripped panties but it is pretty tame compared to the films that have followed such as The Accused but I say well done to all the people who worked on it as they didn't try to shy away from any aspect of the rape and that must have been a hard thing to do with the society being what is was when the film was being made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
i've now seen this movie about half a dozen times,and still enjoy it immensely.James Stewart gives a fine performance as country lawyer Paul Biegler who uses every trick in the book(mostly legal)to outfox the city slickers.the story itself seems like something out of everyday life,with the usual vagaries among the various characters.yes,Lee Remick's character seems to be overblown at times,but even the prosecution mentions her attractiveness at one point.as with most of the other parties involved,she comes across as neither entirely good or bad,but simply human.this film is over 21/2 hours but even with the deliberate pacing it seems to fly by.the jazz score by Duke Ellington seemed out of place(although i liked it)and began a trend in seemingly serious films(e.g.In Cold Blood)there was much controversy upon it's release,probably about the frank sexual language,but also about it's somewhat cynical view of our legal system.of course this is all passé nowadays but doesn't really matter.this is a film whose weaknesses are easy to overlook because of the passionate performances from everyone.i find this one guilty by reason of inspiration.
This is a brilliant film from Preminger; however, wrongly qualified as a "mystery"; while in fact it is closer to film noir. You've got a case of supposed rape, a trailer-thrash slut of a wife, and a dark suave husband who couldn't be trusted. The wife, "raped and bruised" by a bartender she fooled around with, the jealous husband kills him in rage, and a naive lawyer takes upon his defense. The film doesn't keep you guessing too much - do not expect twists and turns. The pleasure is elsewhere. The music by Duke Ellington adds greatly to it; you will even see him appearing. And I just loved a final line (remember, "gentlemen drink gin"): "I knew there was something wrong with that guy. I've never met a gin drinker yet you could trust!". 10 out of 10.
*** This review may contain 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.
Clearly, Preminger intended this film to be morally ambiguous; the less than
sympathetic accused, his slatternly wife etc. As other reviewers observed,
the film's treatment of sensitive issues/taboos were quite groundbreaking,
perhaps not so apparent in this modern day & age when such issues are so
The film is almost procedural in its courtroom scenes, hence the film's length which perhaps hinders its overall dramatic intensity. The drama revolves less around a simplistic portrayal of good & evil, but is about the cynical uses/abuses of the legal system. I liked the manner in which the lawyers, both Beigler (Stewart) and Dancer (George C Scott) raise questions that are dubious, are warned by the Judge and apologise profusely for their indiscretions, only to reveal that this is a key technique used to plant doubt into the jurors' minds.
However, I found too many anomalies in the film. Laura Manion (Lee Remick) plays a woman who has allegedly been raped yet a few days later, her character is flirting with every man around. The plot slips into the proceedings doubts' such as the location of the rape, a known lovers-lane'. Yet I found Remick's depiction of a rape victim slightly disturbing. It is clear that rape victims suffer from shock and mental trauma, often withdrawing into themselves. Watching Remick, one is reminded of Jodie Foster's much more emotionally charged portrayal as a victim of a sex assault in the Accused'. However, the lack of flashbacks in this film work to its advantage and maintain its air of ambiguity.
My second main criticism is that Beigler is never really certain about his client's innocence and whether anyone told the truth at all. The end is ironic after Manion (Ben Gazzara) exits suddenly, by saying that he had an irresistible urge to leave', a witty play on the Army psychiatrist's explanation for his crime. In the film, James Stewart's character never really confronts the moral doubts that he maybe defending a man who is less than innocent. Perhaps we are expected to view Stewart's lawyer as a professional, like a doctor, both of whom treat cases with professional detachment.
The film's performances are outstanding including the supporting roles. I expect Stewart's role as a jazz-loving, idiosyncratic lawyer must have shocked his fans with his home-spun image suddenly confronted with the issue of rape and explicit post-mortems. I particularly liked George C. Scott, a complete contrast to Stewart's home-spun folksiness. Intense & belligerent, the courtroom scenes really do come alive when he cross-examines the witnesses. His expression of sudden disbelief after a key revelation one that literally ends his case is great to behold.
This is another one of these Liberals' favorites for several reasons. -
ahead of its politically- correct era, actually - in which the writers
conveniently overlook justice in favor of style with the
let's-sympathize-with-the-criminal mentality. It also had a topic and
some language that was new and "daring" for its era, which gained it
more favor from the critics. Today, this would be like a Disney movie.
It's a courtroom drama film that lasts almost three hours, but in its day did such a good job of entertaining and shocking people that time was not a problem. I mean, audiences back then were not used to hearing details of women's panties! The story bogs down, panties aside, big-time in the middle, which was tolerated 50 years ago but wouldn't be today.
I found it fascinating, myself, but that was years ago. You can thank great acting and an interesting script for that. What it lacks, of course, is credibility (and justice).....but, hey, it's just a movie, right?
Jimmy Stewart and George C. Scott are terrific as competing attorneys. Liberal Hollywood always takes the side of the accused so you know Stewart's role is going to be the likable one, a la Perry Mason, Matlock, Atticus Finch, etc. Nonetheless, acting from everyone in here makes you riveted to the screen. The language also was quite shocking for a 1959 film, in addition to rape details. A few examples were hearing the words "bitch" and "sperm."
This story might have inspired all the "insanity pleas" that became popular afterward. If so, the film provided a negative service to this country. No one ever points out in the movie that - rage or not - you can't grab a gun and shoot somebody you're angry with and get away with it! Sometimes, that seems to be the message here.....that, somehow, that's okay. Well, as we know, it is permissible if your trial is in California.
Ben Gazzara plays "Frederick Manion," the accused and a very fortunate man. His flirtatious wife "Laura" (Lee Remick) claims she was raped. She isn't our normal idea of an innocent victim, and she's one that's hard to evoke sympathy from, but that's part of the dramatics. By the way, speaking of dramatics, Lana Turner was supposed to play that role but reportedly got into a big tiff with director Otto Preminger and left the project. (The two wound up slapping each other, reportedly.)
Back to the story: "Manion" says he was in a "trance" when he killed the guy and I guess that's good enough to believe if you talking to a jury filled with morons or you have the wonderful and always witty Jimmy Stewart defending you.
We also get the normal Hollywood exaggeration of the good-guy defense attorney doing all this work out of the goodness of his heart or for just a minimum fee. (I've never heard of one real-life lawyer like that. They want the money - all of it!) And we get longtime alcoholic who can suddenly stop his habit and help the defense attorney. You can nitpick this film to death with all the legal proceedings that would never be allowed, but are in here for dramatic reasons, but you can do that for almost any movie.
One other reason this film gets rated so highly by Left Wing critics is that the man who played the judge in the film was Joseph Welch, who was the actual judge who asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy if "he had no shame," making him instantly a hero to all Hollywood Liberals and film critics forever, all of whom hate McCarthy and his anti-Communism stance.
Believability and bias aside, it's still an entertaining film, especially for one so talky, and is recommended for people who love courtroom dramas and don't care how long it goes on, and appreciate acting at its best.
I don't see the point of a movie that goes to great lengths to tell a
story that says nothing. When you have the money to give attention to
great production values and employ a top-notch cast, why would you
waste it on a pointless story? I was only mildly entertained by this
film, mostly thanks to Jimmy Stewart and his as-per-usual impeccable
acting, but when the ending came and there was no payoff, I found that
what little entertainment present was not satisfying enough to make up
Good ol' Jimmy Stewart is Paul Biegler, a lawyer that was recently ousted from his position as district attorney by some younger blood. Biegler comes upon the case of Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), accused of murdering the man that raped his wife (Lee Remick), and Biegler, hesitant at first, decides to take it, defending Manion with an insanity plea. This insanity plea could have led to some good drama, indicting the justice system as containing too many loopholes for guilty men. Instead, the movie continues the story without focusing on this and misses the chance to make the point.
Here at the beginning, the movie shows promise. The actors prove to be very good from the very start. Stewart, who was often unjustly accused of lacking versatility, is actually quite different from the George Bailey everyone knows; the difference in Stewart's characters is always subtle, but it's there nonetheless, and he received an Oscar nomination for his subtlety. Here he seems weathered and jaded, but still good-natured and sensible. Lee Remick begins the movie wonderfully as a carefree femme fatale who doesn't properly react to her husband's incarceration. The scenes between Remick and Stewart are the best in the movie as she flirts with him and seemingly looks to seduce him; however, the film doesn't follow through on this, as with so many other things. Halfway through the movie, the script seems to forget that Stewart and Remick had such good chemistry and removes from our sight any juicy scenes with the two of them.
The trial part of the movie is entertaining enough, even though it falls into the cliché of overly loud laughter from the court audience whenever the judge or attorney makes a joke, but it still left me longing for more. George C. Scott, who was nominated for an Academy Award inexplicably, adds barely anything to the movie. Scott is definitely a great actor (see Patton), but he's greatly underused here as the lawyer the district attorney brings in to help with the case. All he manages to get across is that his character is a snob.
And then at the end of the trial, the ruling is given and that's that. Is it too much to expect something more from a movie? I understand there are movies that are made specifically for entertainment, but this is not one of them- there is nothing so entertaining here to rest an entire movie on it. I know it's adapted from a novel so I don't really know if the author of the book is to blame or the filmmakers, but it doesn't really matter who's to blame- the movie still isn't good.
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.
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