Otto Preminger sued Columbia Pictures and its TV subsidiary Screen Gems when it sold this film in a package of 60 films to television for $10 million. In New York, ABC interrupted the 160-minute film 13 times with 36 commercials. Preminger was furious that his film was being mutilated and took them to court in a highly publicized case. He lost.
The part of the judge was offered to both Spencer Tracy and Burl Ives, but instead went to Joseph N. Welch who was a lawyer in real life who had represented the U.S. Army in the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.
The part played by Lee Remick was first offered to Lana Turner, who agreed to take it on the condition that she would wear gowns designed exclusively by her personal couturier, Jean Louis. When director Otto Preminger objected that such gowns were not suitable for the role, Turner turned down the part. Columbia was ready to give in to Turner's demands but Preminger resisted and gave the role to Remick, then almost a beginner.
Otto Preminger originally wanted Lee Remick for the part of Laura because he had been impressed with her debut in A Face in the Crowd (1957) and knew that she could play a young sultry woman (even though she was eight months pregnant when Preminger approached her for the role). A few weeks later he called to tell her that he had given the part to Lana Turner and instead offered her the smaller role of Mary Pilant, but Remick boldly refused. Later, on an especially hectic day she received a call saying that she did indeed have the part of Laura because Turner turned it down, she thought it was a joke and hung up. It took another phone call to convince her.
The "law library" in the courthouse was actually filmed in the Carnegie Public Library in Ishpeming, MI. The door that was opened in the courthouse, which is in Marquette, was the door to the men's restroom. The movie was filmed on location in Marquette County, MI.
Along with Glory (1989), Crimson Tide (1995), Independence Day (1996), and The Dark Knight (2008), this is one of only five films whose purely orchestral soundtracks won the Grammy Award for Best Score despite not being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
The interior of Barney Quill's bar is not a movie set. It's the interior of the Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay, MI, and is the place where the actual murder on which the novel and film are based took place in 1952. This is believed to be first time a movie was filmed at the actual scene of the crime.
The fact that James Stewart's middle name is Maitland and the judge who was replaced by Judge Weaver was Judge Maitland is coincidental; Judge Maitland was mentioned in John D. Voelker's (Robert Traver's) novel "Anatomy Of A Murder," which preceded the movie and its casting.
When Judge Weaver first introduces himself to the courtroom, he says he is "sitting in temporarily while your good judge Maitland is recovering from a severe illness." Maitland is James Stewart's middle name.
The murder took place at Thunder Bay Inn, on the south shore of Lake Superior. The movie came out 11 years before there was a city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore, which was formed in 1970 by the merger of Fort William and Port Arthur.
James Daly replaced Pat Hingle in the role of Mitch Lodwick after Hingle was injured in a fall down an elevator shaft. Daly then left the production to appear in a Broadway play and was replaced by Brooks West, the husband of Eve Arden, who appeared as Maida Rutledge in the film.
Chuck Ramsay, a sportscaster on WBAY in Green Bay, WI, played a small part as an orderly. Whenever the station ran this film on its late-night schedule, it was always billed as "starring Chuck Ramsay".
The police car sitting in the parking lot of the jail is a 1959 Edsel sedan. Few Edsels were used as "official" vehicles by local or state governments, especially law-enforcement agencies; it was more common to find a Ford, Chevy or Plymouth used by those agencies.
The bartender's name at the place where Parnell is drinking at the very beginning is Toivo, and the guard's name at the county jail is Sulo. Both of these names are Finnish. The movie is set in Michigan, which has a large Finnish population after lots of people emigrated from the Nordic countries into the US and Canada from the late 19th century until the mid 20th century. Finnish names usually don't really have a specific meaning, but Toivo means "hope" and Sulo is probably derived from the word "suloinen", which means "sweet", "charming" or "adorable".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
"Anatomy of a Murder" is a faithful recreation of an actual 1952 murder case in which the defense attorney was John D. Voelker, who wrote the original novel under the pen name Robert Traver. The specifics are the same: an army lieutenant, Coleman Peterson, shot a barkeeper, Maurice Chenoweth, whom he accused of raping his beautiful and often flirtatious wife. The lieutenant pleads not guilty by reason of temporary insanity and a psychiatrist testifies that he suffered an "irresistible impulse." The jury acquits him and the couple then skips town in their mobile home without paying the legal bill, with Peterson leaving a note that he'd had an "irresistible impulse" to leave.