Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara), a lieutenant in the army, is arrested for the murder of a bartender, Barney Quill. He claims, in his defense, that the victim had raped and beaten up his wife Laura (Lee Remick). Although Laura supports her husband's story, the local paper has reported that the police surgeon can find no evidence that she has been raped. Manion is defended by Paul Biegler (James Stewart), a humble small-town lawyer and recently deposed district attorney. During the course of interviews, Biegler discovers that Manion is violently possessive and jealous, and also that his wife has a reputation for flirting with other men. Biegler realizes that the prosecution will try to make the court believe that Laura had been drunk and was picked up by the bartender and then her husband killed him and beat her up when he discovered they had been together. Manion pleads "not guilty" and Biegler, who knows that his case is weak, tries to find evidence that will save Manion.Written by
James Stewart's father was so offended by the film, which he deemed "a dirty picture", that he took out an ad in his local newspaper telling people not to see it. See more »
When Paul Biegler talks to Laura in his office, he opens the cigar box, sees that there are no more cigars in it and puts it back on the table. In the next shot, Laura is seen talking. In the following shot, the cigar box is missing from the table. See more »
Look, Laura, believe me, I don't usually complain of an attractive jiggle, but just you save that jiggle for your husband to look at, if and when I get him out of jail.
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I'd made up my mind in less than ten minutes about "Anatomy of a Murder". It did not have the ongoing twists like "Witness for the Prosecution", character oriented or plot driven. Nor was it a movie with the compelling, issue ploughing story line like "To Kill a Mockingbird". At the same time, it lacked historical interest, but the incredibly dramatised realism of "Judgement at Nuremberg".
Instead, I thought, a film with a two and a half hour run time, and I hate sitting in front of movies running longer than two hours as it is!
I found it, but it took me a while to realise the one great asset this movie had. Jimmy Stewart.
Without a doubt, this engrossing movie about rape, murder and law evoked memories of a Jimmy Stewart seen twenty years earlier in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington". The small town, humble, idealised man who triumphs over the hard headed city men. In a sense, almost the "It's a Wonderful Life" of 1959 with no angels, no attempted suicides, no wonderful, sentimental, reminding message of what life is about.
One of the best things about the movie is the Duke Ellington score. The brass jazz sounds against the actual darkness of the plot completely and totally surprised me, it being so different to the usual dark sombre tones, screeching string instruments trying to stir suspense in the audience.
Supporting cast is great. Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Arthur O'Connell and George C. Scott all put in great performances. But I enjoyed Jimmy very much as the fisherman, lively, wise cracking lawyer.
Otto Preminger directed "Laura" fifteen years earlier. Seems a bit like similar plot lines. Beautiful woman caught up in murder, men lusting after beautiful woman, continual plot turns and all the rest. But Preminger directed this film well.
What did I find by the end? I found some of the the sarcastic suspense in Jimmy and the film, similar to Billy Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution". The drama was just as alive as it was with "Judgement at Nuremberg". I found myself pulled in as much as I was with "To Kill a Mockingbird". In short, I really recommend this film to everyone who enjoys a few thrills and suspense.
In fact, I liked it so much, I'm going to read the book.
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