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WE never really understood the meaning of the title when the film first
hit the movie houses. Of course; that was 1959 and "we", being the
'Editorial We', were a most definite pre-adolescent 13 years old and
understood little. No matter how "grown-up" and sophisticated we may
have thought of ourselves, we were scarcely little more than children
STARTINGLY true, yet some way so very amusing is the glaringly inept misconceptions that were so rapidly cultivated in our little heads. Having read somebody's movie review of it in THE CHICAGO American that the story revolved around a most delicate subject, namely R-A-P-E; many of us (the "Editorial Us") and our peers mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that 'ANATOMY' in the title referred to the female form.
WELL, that was then.
THIS is now and we've just viewed the film, beginning to end and uninterrupted. We now know just a tad more about life than we did during those days of nearly half a century ago. This period has been time well spent in rendering our understanding to fully spread and mature. We hope that this will also apply to the rest of our intellectual and emotional makeup.
SO it has come to pass that today's special guest of honor, Otto Preminger 's ANATONOMY OF A MURDER (Carlyle Productions/Columbia Pictures, 1959) we are presented with a fine drama that makes high grades in all areas on its report card and more than passes in all areas. In the film, we have a rare combination of realism and artistic license; dramatically driven sequences counter-balanced with characterizations that could come right out of life.
PERHAPS Mr. Preminger's approach was predicated by his own life experience with not American Jurisprudence; but with the behaviour of people caught up in a crime anywhere. People are people and react in some universally similar manner; their particular cultures notwithstanding.
MR. PREMINGER'S father had been the Attorney-General to Emperor Franz Josef von Hapsburg in his role of dual Monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Whereas we don't know if the Elder Preminger had young Otto (Ain't he cute?) study law in preparation of following in Herr Preminger's foot-shtops or not; however it is reasonable that the young Master Preminger was indeed familiar with the rudimentary practical application of law, at least as a family's livelihood.
OUTSTANDING is the cast that the director has to work with, he manages to get the very best from all involved. Stem to stern, each and every performer gives the best that they have in them; culminating with what can only be described with one superlative after another; all being fit to be elevated to the best examples of type casting available. As top quality each characterization is, there is an amazingly uniform sort of calm and balance maintained throughout its nearly 2 ½ hours on the screen.
MR. JAMES STEWART heads up a fine cast, yet fails to "Star" in his lead; for in the best Shakespearian Tradition. "The Play is the Most Important Thing." All others featured make the most of their screen time and manage to contribute their maximum to the final product. This none too shabby a cast includes: eyeful Lee Remick (Woo,woo,woo,woo!), a young Ben Gazarra, Eve Arden ("Miss Brooks" herself in a sort of Della Street-esquire portrayal), Murray Hamilton, brilliant George C. Scott (pre THE HUSTLER & PATTON), Arthur O'Connell ('Grandfather' from Central Casting), jack of all trades Orson Bean, Ken Lynch (eternally the Cop); as well as veterans such as Jimmy Conlin, John Qualen and Joseph Kearns.
THE whole story is done in a ground-breaking manner; having the discussion of Rape as an on screen topic. The production team manages to pave the way for more serious topics to follow. For example, prior to this Film, the word "Sperm" wouldn't be used unless it had "Whale" following it in a sentence; as in: "Avast! Tis the Great Sperm Whale, Moby Dick!" WE are furthermore treated to the Original Score composed by none other than Duke Ellington; who makes an uncredited and all too brief an appearance as a Cabaret Key Board, Honky-Tonk type piano player-singer, The theme and the incidental music are the ultimate ingredient in knotting the whole masterpiece together.
OUR ("my") own experience as a Chicago Cop for 35 years stands as a testimony to another aspect of this Otto Preminger.all time masterpiece; that being a work of fiction which is truly grounded in a reality. Without this anchoring in a world that at least could be, the story and film, could well be relegated to the status of "B" Movie Pot Boiler.
NOTE: This is the first time in a month of Sundays that Schultz and myself didn't have a Footnote for your edification and enjoyment.
When it was made, "Anatomy of a Murder" had a cast of all-stars, some of whom have faded into obscurity. The judge, for example, Joe Welch, was the attorney at the Army-McCarthy hearings who punctured McCarthy's balloon once and for all and afterward enjoyed a brief career in films. Jimmy Stewart and George Scott are, perhaps, the only stars of the time whose reputations endure. But Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara and Eve Arden were also well-known in their day, and each of them displays the talent that made them box-office attractions. The strength of the cast is what elevates this fairly routine crime and court-room drama into the classic category. Stewart, the shrewd folksy lawyer for the cucumber-cool defendant, Ben Garzarra, Scott as the "big-time" co-prosecutor from Lansing, Lee Remick as provocative sex symbol and rape victim, Eve Arden as the wise-cracking secretary all handle their parts with aplomb, and the score by Duke Ellington, who makes a cameo appearance, is also wonderful. Shot in black and white by Otto Preminger, a big-time director (not one of my favorites), this film has a faintly musty aroma. However, it serves as a reminder of what Hollywood films were like a half-century ago, and they were pretty darn good. It might want to make you see more of them.
Now this is a classic courtroom dramas unlike the modern battles where
there are professional law firms, team of lawyers ,big money involved,
repeated rehearsal of the witness and the panache.
The story is about a lawyer Paul Biegler played by James Stewart who on recommendation of his mentor and friend takes the case of an army man who has been convicted of killing a bar owner on the context of bar owner having raped his wife. The viewer doesn't see the murder and the circumstances but all facts are revealed through the engaging courtroom battle between biegler and a big city lawyer Claude Dancer played by George Scott.
The classic courtroom set up and the verbal battle between the two lawyers is the highlight of the movie. The way james stewart engages the courtroom through his recital, dramatics and wisecracks is worth repeated viewings. One who has a penchant for exciting courtroom battles will be gratified after watching it.
Although AFI lists this one at # 7, i will rate this one highly than to kill a mocking bird, the verdict.
This is the greatest court room drama ever made. Generally, I would not
make such a bold statement, but this film is fantastic. The best part
is that it is based on a true story. John Voelker (pen name Robert
Traver) was the defense attorney in the case the book and film "Anatomy
of a Murder" is based on. Voelker managed to get a not guilty verdict
for a lieutenant in the military accused of killing a saloon keeper
based on temporary insanity. This case to this day is folk lore in the
Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I'll go into the plot briefly (I want you to see this movie for yourself rather than give a detailed account). Paul Biegler (James Stewart) is a former Prosecutor now in private practice. He is hired by a Mrs. Manion (Lee Remick) to defend her husband Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara) for murder. Lt. Manion shot and killed a bar keeper named Barney Quill who had allegedly raped Mrs. Manion several hours prior to the shooting.
What makes the film work is the interplay between each character. Biegler is in the middle, but constantly has Mrs. Manion, Lt. Manion, Parnell (an old attorney friend), his secretary, the District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General, or Judge to play off of. Stewart does a great job of balancing these conflicting personalities with Biegler's own.
The cast in this movie is superb. James Stewart, Lee Remick, Arthur O'Connell, George C. Scott, Eve Arden, and more. Otto Preminger does a fantastic job of directing an already great production. Voelker (who served on the Michigan Supreme Court) wrote an intricate and legally savvy book, which is followed closely in this film. However, the story shows legal and ethical questions in an easy to understand light. Even though there is some content that only a lawyer could truly appreciate, anyone can understand what is going on and sense the suspense. Add great actors and great direction to an excellent book and you've got a classic. To boot, Duke Ellington performed a great soundtrack for the movie that adds so much atmosphere to the film.
The movie was filmed in Marquette County, Michigan at the courthouse where the actual trial happened. Being a young lawyer practicing in the Upper Peninsula, I someday hope to try a case in that courtroom.
On the humorous side, the door that the judge in the movie opens in the corridor to reveal a law library is actually the men's room.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It has been awhile since I saw this movie, but several pieces of it are
ingrained within my memory.
The realism of the last scene make this movie a legal drama that is worth watching for lawyers. The protagonist played by Jimmy Stewart, a shrewd country lawyer up against the big city prosecutors, fights hard for his criminal client. He studies the laws and makes a very hard to win defense based on a new and novel legal defense: "temporary insanity".
Stewart counsels his client and does a good job portraying how real lawyers interact with criminal clients. In the end, after winning a victory that seemed hopeless, the client leaves without paying his bill--depicting a typical real world ending to a hard fought case.
And people hate lawyers for wanting to get paid up front...
Very taut and classy courtroom drama that is realistically ambiguous: the storyline under the hood is for the viewer to puzzle out. George C. Scott plays a shrewd hired gun sort, a prosecutor from state AG's office, specifically brought in to buttress incompetent local DA. He is a wonder to behold. The reaction that quietly plays out on his face in key scene when a witness gives surprising and devastating testimony belies the seismic emotions underneath. (We remind ourselves here that a lawyer should never ask a question that he doesn't already know the answer to.) You will want to freeze frame and slow mo your tivo as I did...One weakness is redemption theme as alcoholic old law partner (played by Arthur O'Connell) finds renewed purpose in his first ever "big murder case"; this was bit hokey, as was later similar attempt in 'The Verdict'. This is a small defect in an otherwise grownup, entertaining and memorable movie.
Charlie Chaplain lost the Best Actor Oscar in 1941 to James Stewart. To
see Stewart in action here will tell you why he won that Oscar and was
nominated for four more.
This is probably the best courtroom action you will ever see with Ben Gazzara on trial for murder after his wife (Lee Remick) was supposedly raped. With Arthur O'Connell and Eve Arden assisting him, Stewart goes up against George C. Scott in the courtroom.
He does that "little country lawyer" bit so well and, in a fishing metaphor, gently trolls his fly to snare the opposition into doing exactly what he wants.
Plenty of laughs in the tale of a couple that deserve each other.
The performances in this film are enthralling. Mr. Stewart carries the
greatest weight, but everyone is fantastic. Each character has a subtle
interest/need, which just captivated me.
As the film begins, we see Lawyer Stewart's less-than-perfect dwelling, which includes an unpaid secretary and a drunken law partner. Ms. Remick arrives to seductively request Lawyer Stewart represent her husband, who she says has been jailed for murdering her rapist. Watch how Stewart evaluates her performance. Would you take this case?
I can't say more! It's difficult to say something (or, something new) about a film so great since it has not been seen by every reader here...
I think it's interesting to consider: each of the characters needs something... watch them, as they watch each other, evaluate these needs. Their needs are often selfish. The movie says something about the law, and life. Don't think it's pretty.
Director Otto Preminger and this ensemble were never better.
********** Anatomy of a Murder (7/1/59) Otto Preminger ~ James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell
ANATOMY OF A MURDER is a riveting and powerful courtroom drama that still makes for mesmerizing entertainment even though its 1959 release was eclipsed by BEN-HUR being released the same year. I saw this film for the first time about a year ago and still found it fascinating from start to finish. Otto Preminger, a director who was known for pushing the dramatic envelope, mounted this superb drama about a laid back, unassuming country lawyer who decides to defend a soldier who has been accused of murdering a man who tried to rape his wife. Preminger assembled a first rate cast here, featuring actors at the peak of their careers as well as future stars who show here why they became stars. Ben Gazzara exudes a quiet intensity as the soldier on trial; Lee Remick (replacing Lana Turner) lights up the screen as his sexy, nubile young wife; George C. Scott is electrifying as the prosecuting attorney; Arthur O'Connell is the defense attorney's leg man; Joseph Welch as the Judge; Eve Arden as a wisecracking secretary, and towering above them all is James Stewart, in a powerhouse performance, as Paul Biegler, the small town attorney whose laid back persona belies his brilliance as a defense attorney. Preminger brings us a very adult (for 1959) drama that still packs a wallop today, accentuated by a jazzy music score by Duke Ellington and an effective screenplay by Wendell Mayes. A true classic...they don't make 'em like this anymore.
This is the kind of movie that once you start watching it, like a good
book, you can't stop. It has major star power with James Stewart,
George C Scott, Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Jack Albertson, & others. It is
directed by Otto Preminger, one of the name directors of this era
though he never quite rose to the status of a Hitchcock, his films were
generally better than most.
What hooks you is the courtroom scenes. The Judge & Stewart, Scott, et. AL. really do well in the court scenes. Some folks say that this film was the model years later for Paul Newmans The Verdict & in a way you could understand this film that way.
It is above Newmans effort in some ways. It takes a higher road than the latter film. To me Stewart & Scott both seem to work very hard acting like lawyers in this film. The story does hook you & that is enough.
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