Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder

Otto Preminger (1959)

153min
12A Certificate
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Review

Our Score
This is probably the greatest courtroom drama ever made and it features James Stewart's finest screen performance. Controversial in its day for using words such as "panties" and "spermatogenesis", Otto Preminger's film enthrals for nearly three hours as its story about a rape and murder unfolds. As hick lawyer (and jazz fan) Paul Biegler, Stewart is drawn into the case, suckered by it, and comes up against big-town prosecutor George C Scott. Their courtroom duels and stunts are mesmerising, revealing an America leaving its traditional moral values behind; this is the America not of apple pie but of Lolita. The judge, by the way, is played by Joseph N Welch, a Boston lawyer and outspoken critic of the McCarthyist witch-hunts, who got the part after Spencer Tracy and Burl Ives turned it down. That Stewart's character loves jazz was a neat excuse to bring in the great Duke Ellington to write the soundtrack; Ellington even appears in one scene in a club, playing a duet with Stewart. The film is based on a novel by Robert Traver, the pen name of retired judge John D Voelker.

Summary

An Army officer is accused of murdering a bartender, whom he claims he killed because the man raped his wife. He turns to a tenacious lawyer to get him off the hook, but the attorney faces a challenge because the prosecution alleges the defendant killed the barman because he was having an affair with his wife. Otto Preminger's courtroom drama, starring James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick and Eve Arden.

Cast & Crew

Paul Biegler James Stewart
Laura Manion Lee Remick
Lt Frederick Manion Ben Gazzara
Parnell McCarthy Arthur O'Connell
Maida Eve Arden
Claude Dancer George C Scott
Mary Pilant Kathryn Grant
Judge Weaver Joseph N Welch
Mitch Lodwick Brooks West
Alphonse Paquette Murray Hamilton
Dr Smith Orson Bean
Dr Harcourt Alexander Campbell
Mr Lemon Russ Brown
Dr Dompierre Howard McNear
Sergeant Durgo Ken Lynch
Sulo John Qualen
Pie-Eye Duke Ellington
Director Otto Preminger
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Other Information

Language: EnglishBlack and whiteTheatrical distributor: BFI / NFTAvailable on: video and DVDReleased on: 15 Apr 2005
Drama