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Friday, September 11, 2015

Anatomy of a Murder

Based on the novel of the same name by Robert Traver (the pseudonym of Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker), Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 courtroom drama directed by Otto Preminger and starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott.
Paul Biegler (Stewart) is a small-town lawyer who agrees to take on the defence of Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara), who has been arrested for the murder of bar owner Barney Quill. Lt. Manion admits to the crime, even though he does not recall it, and claims he killed Quill because the bar owner raped his wife, Laura Manion (Lee Remick). Facing the defence is big-city hot-shot prosecutor Claude Dancer (George C. Scott) and Biegler decides that the best defence is to try to persuade the jury that his client suffered from temporary insanity or "irresistible impulse", causing him to forget his actions.
A film that pushed the envelope (as director Preminger had a tendency of doing), with its themes of rape and legal ethics when it was released in 1959, Anatomy of a Murder is a detailed and deliberate courtroom drama and one of the most realistic films of its kind. With a script by a real-life Supreme Court Justice, skilled direction by Preminger and a great cast, including George C. Scott's first substantial movie role, Anatomy of a Murder is a true classic of the genre, which clearly blurs the line between good and bad and refuses to provide any easy answers or solutions. The film also benefits from a fantastic title sequence by Saul Bass and a great jazz-score by Duke Ellington, who also briefly appears in the movie. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, four Golden Globes and three BAFTA Awards (all including Best Film and Actor), although ultimately winning none. James Stewart did manage to win Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival that year.

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