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Anatomy of a Murder More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Preminger's masterpiece of courtroom dramas

Author: MovieGuy109 from United States
13 September 2011

Anatomy of a Murder-****-A Masterpiece- Directed by: Otto Preminger, Written by: Wendell Mayes, Robert Traver (Novel), Starring: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, George C. Scott, Orson Bean, Murray Hamilton.

Otto Preminger's challenging and provocative courtroom drama stars Stewart as a defense lawyer defending a man (Gazzara) who murdered another man after his wife accused the victim of raping her. Complications are soon to develop in the courtroom as Stewart faces his attraction to his client's wife, a fierce prosecutor, and a layed-back judge.

What Preminger has crafted is a potent piece of entertainment and a multi-layered story from Traver's novel enhanced by strong performances. Stewart gives another fine effort as the lead character, who anchors our attention throughout. Scott and Gazzara are also great in early efforts, but it is real life judge Welch who gives the film the authenticity and credibility it desires.

Preminger's storytelling is long, but thought-provoking and fascinating, with more insight into the murder trial than most courtroom dramas boast. Duke Ellington takes a rare job in the music department and scores a hit with his jazz score, however it is the performances that give this film the power it possesses.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: Yara Saeed from Cairo
16 June 2011

The movie's happens in a small city during the late 1950's, where a lieutenant kills a man for raping his wife and asks James Stewart in the role of Paul Beigler, a lawyer, to defend him.

At first I didn't understand what was going on and that was for 10-15 mins maybe and then it became really interesting. I thought the story wasn't the greatest suspense ever, but the acting and the sequence of event kept it exciting.

The acting was really really good, thumbs up for James Stewart and Lee Remick (the raped wife). And I think I am falling in love with black and white movies, I am crazy about the lighting and use of shades. Although the movie is mostly set in the courtroom, the script of the trial is quite interesting, it keeps you wanting to know how will the prosecutor deal with the witnesses and what will happen next. It's simply a classic investigative movie, with a subtle sense of humor.

I also absolutely loved Lee Remick's fashion, this outgoing over the top (back then) clothes with high heels and the wavy hair, she is spectacular and is really pretty too.

You know what else was really interesting, it's the soundtracks, it old funky jazz, very cool, my favorite was actually the beginning with all the old cartoonish graphics, really enjoyable (a little pink panther kind of music).

Let's move to what I didn't like, I thought the movie is way too long 2:40! some scenes were kinda useless. I also wanted to leave the courtroom a little more and that's why I don't have a favorite scene. Also the ending is waaaaay too expected, it killed my buzz.

All in all it's a nice interesting movie, not sure how memorable it is, but it's exciting and funny. Would definitely recommend it.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Not really about guilt or innocence

Author: Qanqor from United States
9 June 2008

*** 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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

one fine courtroom drama: epic, cool, extremely well-plotted and acted

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
9 March 2008

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 minutes.

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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

irresistible impulse

Author: tomloft2000 from United States
7 February 2007

*** 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 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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Not a mystery:)

Author: Diana Chavdarova from Sofia, Bulgaria
22 January 2007

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.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Morally ambiguous courtroom drama

Author: nqure from North Wales, UK
22 March 2002

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 commonplace.

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.

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10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

The Good & Bad Of 'Anatomy Of A Murder'

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
8 August 2007

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.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Ultimate Movie Review! - - @tss5078

Author: Tss5078 from United States
10 May 2015

One night in 1959, Laura Manion (Lee Remick) returns home and tells her husband that she's been raped. Enraged, he husband grabs a gun and kills the man she accused of the crime. When arrested, Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) claims that he didn't remember any of it, but nobody really believes his story. His wife turns to a relatively unknown country lawyer for help, and after meeting with the Manion's, Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) agrees to take the case. It's never clear whether or not even he believes his client's story, but either way, Biegler is determined to get the man exonerated. Many law professors consider this film to be the most accurate depiction of a trial ever fictionalized on film. Likewise, the Academy was also very impressed, giving Anatomy of A Murder seven Oscar nominations, but does the film really stand the test of time? For 1959, the Manion's were as promiscuous and dysfunctional a couple as could be on film, however in 2015, they are rather tame. That's not the only thing that gets lost in time, as the laws surrounding the insanity defense have also changed, making the whole premise around this trial more than somewhat outdated. This film simply doesn't have the impact in 2015, that it did in 1959, but that doesn't mean it's not entertaining. Jimmy Stewart stars as Defense Attorney, Paul Biegler, who unfortunately isn't the most interesting man in the world. He's a very bland character, without much depth, but he is an intelligent lawyer, who finds every trick and loophole in the book to defend his client. Jimmy Stewart was a tall lanky man with a strange voice, who I thought was a natural when it came to physical comedy, but Stewart preferred to play a more intelligent character, especially later in his career, and Paul Biegler is a textbook example of that. Anatomy of A Murder is on almost every top 100 list you can find, and in it's time it absolutely belonged there, but by 2015 standards, it's very long, tame, and outdated, despite the excellent story and depiction of a courtroom.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Sophisticated courtroom drama

Author: Scott44 from United States
3 August 2014

***User reviewer telegonus ("Gray Anatomy", telegonus from brighton, ma, 15 July 2001) and Camera Obscura ("Absolutely first-rate courtroom drama, fascinating all the way", Camera Obscura from The Dutch Mountains, 8 January 2007) both have good summaries.***

"Anatomy of a Murder" (1959, Otto Preminger), a desk-slapping courtroom drama, is as compelling as it is ambiguous. Set in a small town in Michigan, it connects very well with rural, patriotic America. (Characters routinely take country detours with their dialogue.) Despite the lack of mystery in who killed who, "Anatomy" is one of cinema's greatest trial films.

Everyone agrees that Army Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) shot and killed a barman because he believed the latter had raped and assaulted his flirtatious wife, Laura (Lee Remick). However, we are never made completely certain she was raped. Nor are we entirely sure that Lt. Manion wasn't the one who beat his spouse. Because many of the key details are unresolved we feel like jurors unsure of who is lying. Also, by deciding whether an Army Lieutenant was insane when he committed murder we are participating in a specialized legal point. This is a sophisticated law movie despite the country bumpkin backdrop.

One of the (much-discussed) characteristics of Otto Preminger's visual style is the unusual absence of cutaways. By never seeing a close-up of someone in the courtroom reacting to the current testimony, the audience is denied an obvious clue about what participants are really thinking. The effect works here, elevating our interest with the rapid-fire legal exchanges. (I wonder if any real trial in history ever had so many objections by counsel. Also, would Biegler not be disbarred immediately for uttering so many slanderous accusations about his legal rivals?)

A recurring theme is the idea of a substitute. Examples abound, such as the knowledge that the judge (Joseph N. Welch) is filling in for the sitting judge (who is ailing). There are two prosecutors for Michigan. Laura wears a hat for half the trial until she is asked to remove it, exposing her bountiful hair. Biegler's colleague and buddy Parnell (Arthur O'Connell) morphs from being a drunk and emotional wreck to sobriety and being of value to a law firm. There is Biegler's surprise at the boyish appearance of the Army psychologist. Jimmy Stewart and Duke Ellington both sit and play the same piano, etc. The appearance of so many substitutes parallels our feelings towards Lt. Manion. As we learn more about the Manions, we begin to consider the possibility that the husband is a cold manipulator using the insanity defense for convenience only.

Jimmy Stewart's portrayal of Paul Biegler is a tour du force. The rest of the cast is also superb. Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick are very effective and believable as small-town provocateurs. George C. Scott makes Claude Dancer, the Assistant State's Attorney, seem sufficiently formidable. Eve Arden is very good as Biegler's street-wise secretary. O'Connell portrays the self-pitying Parnell amiably. While Ken Lynch (as a Detective) has a small role, both he and Murray Hamilton as (Alphonse, the bartender) are both superb, scene-chewing character actors in all their films. Duke Ellington's jazzy score is excellent.

By the way, almost every character relishes tobacco. (Jimmy Stewart's cheroot is likely announcing his presence very effectively.) It seems legitimate to opine that while audiences viewing "Anatomy" 55 years after its release are more focused on the health risks of smoking, we have lost the depth of appreciation that Americans used to have regarding courts of law.

Cinephiles should take a break from cleaning freshly-caught trout and return to the revival theater that shows this first-rate courtroom drama. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, if we don't believe in justice for dirt-balls we don't believe in it for anyone.

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