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Anatomy of a Murder

  • Drama
  • 1959
  • Otto Preminger
  • 153 mins
  • 12A

Summary

Classic courtroom drama, starring James Stewart, Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara. When an army lieutenant is held for the killing of a bartender, his defence is "justifiable homicide", on the grounds that the man had viciously assaulted and raped his wife. Paul Biegler is the lawyer hired to defend him.

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Review

A star rating of 5 out of 5.

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.

How to watch

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Credits

Cast

rolename
Paul BieglerJames Stewart
Laura ManionLee Remick
Lt Frederick ManionBen Gazzara
Parnell McCarthyArthur O'Connell
MaidaEve Arden
Claude DancerGeorge C Scott
Mary PilantKathryn Grant
Judge WeaverJoseph N Welch
Mitch LodwickBrooks West
Alphonse PaquetteMurray Hamilton
Dr SmithOrson Bean
Dr HarcourtAlexander Campbell
Mr LemonRuss Brown
Dr DompierreHoward McNear
Sergeant DurgoKen Lynch
SuloJohn Qualen
Pie-EyeDuke Ellington

Crew

rolename
DirectorOtto Preminger

Details

Theatrical distributor
BFI / NFT
Released on
2005-04-15
Available on
video and DVD
Formats
Black and white
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