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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)

A small town Michigan lawyer (James Stewart) takes on a controversial murder case. A Lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) in the U.S. Army killed a tavern owner after his wife (Lee Remick) claimed the bar owner raped her. A ground breaking film in its day (words like rape, sperm and panties were not the norm for movie dialog), Otto Preminger's film remains a superior example of the courtroom drama. Based on the novel by Robert Travers, the book was based on an actual case in which the novel's author was the defense attorney. The author's legal expertise lends an authenticity to the film which is often sorely lacking in films of this type. The defense lawyer played by Stewart is often unethical and his behavior in the courtroom inappropriate but his job is to get his client off anyway he can and the film shows this, warts and all. It's one of Stewart's better performances but the film is graced with several excellent performances including Remick and George C. Scott who received his first Oscar nomination for his work here. It's a long film (2 hours, 40 minutes) and perhaps Preminger could have trimmed some of the unnecessary fat but you won't be bored. The score is by Duke Ellington and the imaginative titles by Saul Bass. With Eve Arden, Arthur O'Connell, Kathryn Grant, Murray Hamilton, Orson Bean and as the Judge, Joseph N. Welch (an attorney during the McCarthy era HUAC hearings) whose lack of acting experience is apparent.

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