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Anatomy of a Murder More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

This film needed an editor......

Author: buzzerbill ( from Atlanta, GA
1 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gregory, the movie cat, had the same mixed feelings about this film as I did. He yawned and left after 15 minutes, his whiskers twitching in boredom. However, he did return for the last hour or so and purred intermittently. A solid 6 from both of us.

There are a few reasons about why this film just doesn't quite work. I'll get the first out of the way quickly--the score. Somehow, jazz for a rural courtroom drama just seems wrong--and like most jazz, it's a cacophonous noise. However, realizing that this is in part my idiosyncratic reaction, that just looses 1 point of 10.

The rating of 6 builds up from the performances--particularly James Stewart, as good as he ever has been (except perhaps for Vertigo). Joseph Welch, as the judge, and Arthur O'Connell, as Stewart's colleague, both provide textbook examples of superior character performances. Lee Remick enjoys a star turn as the wife who may (or may not?) have been raped; Ben Gazzara is solid as the murderer who may, or may not, have been acting under "irresistible impulse"; and George C. Scott gives a memorably showy performance as a reptilian prosecuting attorney. And how can you not love Eve Arden, even if she were only to read the phone book?

And the gap? Frankly, the film is just plain too long and the pacing too languid. Much of the first hour seems like filler. The trial, which occupies the last hour and forty minutes, is far better, but still is more than a little prolix.

I'm not going to comment on some of the attitudes towards the attitudes towards rape; they are of their time and need to be seen as such without pious feminist posturing.

Call this one a near miss. When you watch, be forewarned. If only you could filter out the soundtrack.....

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Please Be Honest

Author: Brenda19138 from United States
20 September 2008

I read something on this site about Jimmy Stewart being a racist. Well I would like to know what he was doing in Anatomy of a Murder sitting and talking with the very African-American Duke Ellington! If people are going to go on these sites I would appreciate it if they would tell the truth. Jimmy Stewart was no more a racist than I am. They said he went into a producer and said, "Do we have to act with these n-----?" Or something of that sort.

Apparently this could have never happened. It could not have happened if he is patting Duke Ellington on the shoulder like they are the best of friends. Is there a way this site can be monitored so that lies like this don't get written?

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Stylish, Filled With Strong Characters; Realistic, Fascinating Courtoom Drama

Author: silverscreen888
27 August 2005

This film is about sensational case tried in a rural courtroom. Robert Traver, real name John D. Voelker, had been a D.A. in an upper Michigan area populated by ethnic types such as Finns, Poles, etc. he wrote several popular books, "Small Town D.A.", "Laughing Whitefish", and this, his masterpiece. In this famous best seller he envisioned himself as Paul "Polly" Biegler, a man defeated for a political office and eager to try a sensational case. He is enjoying fishing with his old friend, but when an opportunity comes, he seizes it, after asking some penetrating questions. The case is peculiar because the man accused seems so calm, self-possessed; yet his defense has to be temporary insanity or impulsive loss-of-control. There is some evidence to suggest his wife is promiscuous, and that he, a man with a temper, might have been the one who damaged her before killing her sexual partner rather than the case being a rape. This is an old-style film, meaning highly-competent, movie narrative, complete with discoveries, insights, strong characters, interesting motivations and courtroom pyrotechnics. It is one of three Otto Preminger films that were shockers, by far the most successful. The difference here is the very fine cast. James Stewart was the attorney, Arthur O'Connell his skilled but alcoholic partner and Eve Arden his dynamic secretary. The opposition in the courtroom were Brooks West, Arden's husband in real life, and George C. Scott, in his first major role; the arrested man was Ben Gazzarra, his wife Lee Remick, the judge real-life jurist Joseph N. Welch. Also showing well in this powerful aggregation were Kathryn Grant, Orson Bean, Murray Hamilton, Howard McNear, Ken Lynch, Ross Brown, John Qualen, Irv Kucinet and Joseph Kearns. Technically, this B/W drama is first-rate all around, I suggest. With a script by Wendell Mayes that follows the novel closely, it boasted cinematography by Sam Leavitt and music borrowed from Duke Ellington who also appeared briefly; Boris Leven designed the stylish production; Howard Leven was the set dresser. The subject matter of the case was explicit for its time; so was the suggestion that Stewart took the case knowing his client was probably guilty and the incident perhaps not a rape at all. The language was unusual for its time; and the case's effect non the local area was magnified because the accused was a serving military officer. it has been suggested lee Remick is played against a pseudo-Christian standard, the one that was applied to Hollywood situations before the 1960s secretly; the rule was any woman that had or invited sexual relations outside of wedlock had to come to a bad end. Here the implication is that if Remick had not had sex with someone other than her husband, she wanted to do so. So the defense is as much of her rights to equal legal liberty with any male as about the truth of her assertion., at least in plot terms. The device of employing a "big city" type like Scott as Stanley Dancer brought in to oppose Biegler (Stewart) is an interesting one; we have spent time in the small town, so we resent his intrusion along with Stewart. the film is in no way dated; it is about a time when adults were a lot more intelligent, less cynical, and more confident their fellows' abilities to control themselves, male or female. The time of the film, 1959, made it a precedent-setting and very-often-copied sort of movie. it is long at 160 minutes but I suggest never flags and is never less than fascinating.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

very good, with minor flaws

Author: JamieWJackson from United States
30 June 2003

I loved the characters of this film; every one of them was interesting, except for one: the prosecuting attorney. This guy was portrayed as being virtually incapable of doing anything right. I didn't buy that; if he were so inept, why would he ever have been hired in the first place? Good grief, your average debate team member from a high school could handle himself better than _that_. Otherwise, though, the cast was fabulous; I wanted to know them all better. The only other character who gave me any cause to grumble was George C. Scott's, who was generally wonderfully snaky, but when he became practically terrified of what to do with a little dog when it jumped up on his lap, I had to say, now come on guys... just because he's the emotional/dramatic "villain" character here, that doesn't make him inhuman. It's hard to believe that bit was based on reality; it felt extremely Hollywood, and clashed badly with the rest of the film, which really drew me in.

As far as the plot goes, I ended up being terribly confused as to what had actually happened in the original situation. The trial resolved nothing for me, really. At first that irritated me, but now I wonder if that was the intent of the author/director all along. If so, I suppose it was brilliantly executed. ;-)

8/10 for me, despite the fascinatingly anachronistic hubbub over the word "panties".

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Good, with few drawbacks

Author: Rachel-20 from California
4 May 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


This movie did not fulfill a single one of my expectations, although I don't mean that in a necessarily negative way. It was just different from what I anticipated when I began watching. I figured on a straightforward courtroom drama where everything is much more clean-cut than it is in real life. Well, that's not what you get with this movie. The people are human; the situations are ambiguous, and you don't end up necessarily rooting for anyone, let alone for the person you thought you would root for (that would be Jimmy Stewart and his client). Here we have a lawyer, played masterfully by Stewart, who actually doubts his client's case, and yet defends him, which is a surprising bit of realism; a husband who's terribly jealous either of the rape or the affair (or both?) of his wife; a wife who goes around "free and easy" (or "free and sleazy" as the case may be) -- but does she deserve to be raped? DOES she get raped? Who beat her? And then the end is a shock, in that it's NOT the end. It's not typical Hollywood, and at first I didn't like that, but I think I'm changing my mind. This may just ruin me for typical courtroom dramas. :)

Another "undecided": the music. At times I loved it, and at others it was definitely a negative distraction from the movie.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The prosecution would like to separate the motive from the act. Well, that's like trying to take the core from an apple without breaking the skin.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
18 September 2009

Bachelor lawyer Paul Biegler is hired to defend Lt. Frederick Manion, who has admitted murdering the man who raped his wife. The defence,? that Manion acted during temporary insanity.

Few, if any courtroom dramas have the panache, daring and outright quality that Otto Preminger's genre bar raiser Anatomy Of A Murder has. Hiring Wendell Mayes for screenplay duties and entrusting the role of Biegler to James Stewart, Preminger's picture is still today influencing as much as it enthrals.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by John D. Voelker {alias Robert Traver}, Anatomy Of A Murder is based around the real life 1952 Big Bay Lumberjack Tavern murder trial in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Choosing to shoot much of the film up in that neck of the woods, Preminger was determined to add authenticity to his excellently structured story. With some scenes even shot a short walk away from the actual Lumberjack Tavern in the Thunder Bay Inn. Aiding the authenticity is that Preminger cast Joseph N. Welch, a real life lawyer, in the role of Judge Weaver {tho Burl Ives and Spencer Tracy did turn down the job first}. Welch had made a notable name for himself when representing the U.S. Army in hearings conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

A number of things make Anatomy Of A Murder a classic among classics. From the snazzy Saul Bass opening title credits and the Duke Ellington jazzy score, it's clear this is no ordinary movie. Preminger had to fight tooth and nail with the Hays Code Censors to get his film the way he wanted, the result of which brings frank and daring dialogue featuring words such as "panties," "rape," "contraceptives" and "spermatogenesis". But perhaps most notable, and something of a masterstroke from big Otto, is that we are never shown the crime or influential points of reference. While you will search in vain for shots of the jury reactions during the trial. We as the viewers are part of that jury, much like them we are in the hands of the lawyers and witnesses, only difference being that we are privy to character back story with the principals. Yet it actually makes things harder for us such is the performances from the cast.

Three of the male cast garnered Oscar nominations for their work in the film. James Stewart rewarded Preminger's faith with a fabulous show, his Biegler is gritty and determined, yet engagingly off beat as well. Up against him in the prosecution is a powerful and convincing George C. Scott as Asst. State Atty. Gen. Claude Dancer, whilst Arthur O'Connell as Parnell Emmett McCarthy delivers a memorable performance of substance. But it's with the warring Manions that the piece, played by Ben Gazzara as Frederick {tough, slick and shifty} and Lee Remick as Laura {slutty and duplicitous} achieves its crucial intrigue. Both actors are so good we all are not sure quite what to believe. With the intrigued capped off by a tantalisingly brilliant finale that drips with ambiguity and cheek.

The film was also nominated for awards in the departments of adapted screenplay, cinematography and editing. That it won none is irrelevant {this was the year that Ben-Hur swept the board}, because Anatomy Of A Murder's lasting legacy is that it is still today held up as one of the genre's leading lights, and then some. 10/10

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Wears surprisingly well

Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
22 August 2002

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

Otto Preminger, who produced and directed this fine courtroom drama starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, George C. Scott and Ben Gazzara, had a knack for translating best-selling mid-cult novels to the screen (The Man with the Golden Arm (1955); Exodus (1960); Advise and Consent (1962) and others) usually in a nervy manner, sometimes heavy-handed, sometimes pretentious, but always worth a look. Part of his secret was star power. Like Hitchcock, he liked to go with big names supported by fine character actors.

And part of his secret was his long experience in both the theater and films going back to the silent film era. He knew how to put together a movie. But more than anything it was his near-dictatorial control over the production (something directors seldom have today, and never in big budget films--Preminger's were big budget for his day) that allowed him to successfully capture the movie-going audience at midcentury.

This and Laura (1944) are two of his films that go beyond the merely commercial and achieve something that can be called art. Seeing this for the first time forty-three years after it was released I was struck by the fine acting all around and the sturdy, well-constructed direction. James Stewart's performance as the Michigan north country lawyer Paul Biegler might shine even more luminously than it does except for a certain performance by Gregory Peck three years later as a southern country lawyer in the unforgettable To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Lee Remick, in a frank, but imperfect imitation of Marilyn Monroe, co-stars as Laura Manion, the wife of army Lt. Frederick Manion (Gazzara) whom Bielger is defending on a murder charge. The defense is temporary insanity because the man he shot raped his wife. Bielger slyly gains sympathy for his client by deliberately allowing it to come out that Laura is sexy and flirtatious enough to drive any man crazy. Indeed, he tricks the prosecution into doing his work for him. George C. Scott plays Claude Dancer, a big city prosecutor, with snake-like precision while Gazzara manages to combine introspection and cockiness as the young lieutenant. Fine support comes from Eve Arden (best known as Our Miss Brooks on TV and in the movie of that name) as Biegler's loyal secretary and Arthur O'Connell as his alcoholic mentor. Kathryn Grant, who gave up a promising film career to marry Bing Crosby and have children, has a modest role as the murdered man's daughter.

I've seen many courtroom dramas, some real, some fictional, since this film first appeared, but I have to say it stands up well. The action (for the most part) feels realistic and the tension is nicely created and maintained.

The resolution is satisfying and the ending is as sly and subtle as any country lawyer might want. Incidentally, if this movie had more total votes cast at IMDb, it would rank in the top one hundred of all time, which is where it belongs.

See this for James Stewart whose easy, adroit style under Preminger's direction found full range. Although he gave many fine performances, I don't think Stewart was ever better than he was here.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

It's Okay If You Can Stand the Torture

Author: Casablanca3784 from 15th Row Orchestra
2 February 2013

This picture was nominated for seven Oscars. I would have nominated it for one more--the most boring picture of 1959. 2.5 hours of black and white boredom despite the always remarkable Jimmy Stewart but I will say this: the real Joseph Welch, the lawyer who got crazy Sen.Joe McCarthy in front of millions of TV watchers and disemboweled him, was an absolute pleasure to watch.A terrific actor and a terrific American. This film was all about missing panties which self-admittedly Lee Remick wore but not always. By the way, the film does not deal with the garment industry but rather with sexual violation. Ben Gazzara shoots and kills a bar owner who raped his wife; clear cut premeditated murder but Ben can't remember "nuthin.'Jimmy Stewart is a laid back lawyer having a miserable practice who's called on to save the day. George C. Scott is great as a hotshot prosecuting attorney but alas...the movie was the lousiest courtroom drama I ever saw.

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12 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Completely overrated

Author: abum190 from United States
31 December 2006

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 for it.

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.

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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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