The Anatomy Of a Murder (1959)

The Anatomy Of a Murder is a 1959 English film about a courtroom drama where a small-town lawyer Biegel (James Stewart) fights against a city lawyer to save the life of an army man who has killed his wife’s rapist.

The Anatomy Of a Murder (1959) Review-DVD-Trailer-Ratings

The Anatomy Of a Murder is a 1959 English film about a courtroom drama where a small-town lawyer Biegel (James Stewart) fights against a city lawyer to save the life of  an army man who has killed his wife’s rapist. The  question answering between the lawyers and the witnesses, and the defense lawyer’s and the public prosecutor outwitting each other sets you right on the hook all the time. Watch the trailer of “The Anatomy of a Murder” online from youtube and receive special online deals from CalcuttaTube movie store.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) DVD Release-Review-Ratings
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) DVD Release-Review-Ratings

CalcuttaTube Movie Rating: 4.5/5
Anatomy of a Murder – Critic’s review

The Anatomy Of a Murder (1959)A classic court room drama by director Otto Preminger

The story for the film is originally adapted from the novel ‘Anatomy of a Murder‘ by Robert Traver, which was the pen name of the Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker  by Wndel Mayes for the film.

Actors: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden
Director: Otto Preminger

The film starts with Paul Biegler (James Stewart), a lawyer,  modest both in life and profession gets murder case. His friend Parnell  MacCurthy (Arthur O’Connell), who is attached to alcohol than anything else in the world, asks him to take the case. And Bigler is more successful at fishing than at practicing law. He has not paid his secretary Mrs. Maida Rutledge (Eve Arden) for a while and when he fires her, she replies back that she is not going anywhere until she is paid.

[ReviewAZON asin=”0752856162″ display=”inlinepost”]The murderer Biegler is going to defend is an army man, Lt. Fredrick Manion (Ben Gazzara), who has murdered a man named James Quill for raping his wife Laura (Lee Remick). As Paul meets Laura, he discovers that she is a bit unusual in her ways. Laura does not act like a decent married woman and has flirtatious ways of talking and being around men. The more we see Laura, we are shocked that she does not even have any set back of the rape. She is a woman who is not scared of men and the way she carries herself is more to catch their sight. Laura also tells Paul that her husband wants her to dress like that, but at the same time he gets mad if any other man pays her any attention. Laura talks to Paul about her clothing the night she was raped, her panties, her bare legs that did not have any pantyhose, and to Paul’s utter discomfort asks him if he thinks that she needs a girder. Barnes Quill, the man who raped her, has left a nasty scar down her eye. When Paul sympathizes with her about the scar that makes her wear a sunglass every time, she comments that Paul should see what Barney has done all over her body – she has bruises everywhere. She does not look the bit anxious about her husband’s temporary imprisonment till the trial is over. She is seductive with Paul in his office, outside the prison in his car. She holds Paul’s hands and he has to restrain her by saying that her husband watching her from the window above. And to the amazement, she continues to have fun even when her family is under trial. Paul drags him out of the bar, where she has bee drinking and dancing with other men, and strictly imposes on her to stay away from all trouble and dress like a decent married woman until the case is been through.

Fredrick is Laura’s second husband. She got bored of her first husband, because he did not like to move all round the country just she did when she was a little girl. Laura is much given to boredom and restlessness. Whenever she would get restless, she would come out of her little trailer in the middle of the night. The same thing happened the night she was raped. She went out to the Thunder Bay Inn at night, and having fun with herself and other men round her. Barney has come and told him that there were bears outside in the woods, and she better get into his car to go home. But he did not take her home right away. They went pass their home, when Barney told her coldly that she was going to rape her. Then he tore off her panties and did what he quite wanted to. Laura also had with her the little pet dog, which Barney threw out of the window. Crying for help did not do Laura any good in the middle of the woods. Then Barney brought Laura back near her trailer and raped her once more. And when she could get away from Barney and come back home, her husband was waiting for her. He was asleep when Laura has left, and now seeing her coming from the direction of the lover’s alley, and not the main road, he gets mad. When Laura tells her about the rape, he makes her swear that she was not lying. And then he leaves with his gun. Fredrick goes to the Thunder Bay Inn, coldly shoots Barney and comes back. Then he goes to the police station and surrenders.

Among all this hustle, Laura has volunteered to take the lie detector test to prove to her husband that she was not guilty. When the cops take her husband in custody, she calls Paul to fight his case. But they do not have enough money to pay him right off; though they promise Paul to pay him later once Lt. Manion gets out off jail.

Paul goes to met several people at the Thunder Bay Inn, one of them being Mary Pilant (Kathryn Grant). She is a nice young lady, whom Barney has brought with him from Canada. On interrogating, she tells Paul that Barney was a nice man whom everyone liked. But she does not help him more with further questioning.

Paul takes the case and after the preliminary investigations he does as a lawyer, the court room trial starts in front of the visiting judge (Joseph Welch) that covers the rest of the film. Paul and Macurthy walk in the direction to prove that Fredrick was under the irresistible impulse, and could not be made responsible for his actions. Lt. Manion has to go for psychological testings and the doctors and psychologists are called by the law as witnesses along with everyone else related to the case.  LAura acts as Paul has told her to. And once she is in the witness box, facing the bitter askew questions of the prosecutor, she probably realizes that she is in trouble. She is even blamed o put up the whole thing, since the doctors examining her found no sings of her being raped, and as she told the police that Barney Quill has tore off her panties,  it was never found anywhere. She is asked uncomfortable questions where the prosecutor proved her to be a woman without much respect for her marriage. And it is discovered that her husband did not have much trust in her too, who often would beat her. Een though there were no pathological signs of  her being raped, Paul establishes that a completion of the forced sex is not necessary to be a rape.

There seemed a higher chance that Lt. Manion cold-bloodedly murdered Barney, as he had enough time to go and call the cops, but he did not. Instead he was in his senses enough to get a gun, go to his wife’s rapist and murder him. The witnesses at the Thunder Bay Inn say he was very calm at the time of murder and after that. But Paul calls in Dr. Smith, who examined Lt.Manion, and proves that the accused was under the irresistible impulse, even though he looked normal to the others. And even if he not got the gun, he would have done it anyway. But all along Fredrick seemed a hot-tempered high strung man, who may have murdered someone cold bloodedly. This feeling lingers for some time with the audience esp. when Mr. Dancer shows that the soldier under trial has a good army record of killing men, and we see him getting into brawls with other prisoners at the jail.

The examining and cross-examining of the Mr. Biegler and the Mr. Dancer, the prosecutor from the city, is extremely enjoyable. Anything can happen, and things at times look in favor of the prosecutors, since they are all more given to their profession, and Paul having with him Mr. McCarthy as his associate. And the waiter at the Thunder Bay Inn says everything that does not make Laura look any good. She has come to the court in long skirts and big glasses with a big hat that has hidden her long hair, and pantyhose to hide her bare skin, and probably girders too, as Paul as asked him to do, but her past did not leave her. Some of the evidences tell the judge how she normally dressed like in tight skirts and sweaters to show her bodyline and moving her hips, taking off her shoes in the inn like a bad-girl.

During the trial, Mc. Carthy goes to Canada to learn some background about Mary, and learns that Mary is no other than Barney’s daughter! Paul goes back to the Thunder Inn to meet Mary and apologies for saying rude things about Barney, not knowing before that she is his daughter. He at the same time leaves some passes for Mary to come to the court to the trial. Mary comes to the court the next day, when Laura is being cross examined by the prosecutor about her stolen panties. The story takes a turn here. When Paul is looking for Mary in the afternoon session, she is gone! But to our surprise she comes back with Laura’ s panties, that she was wearing at the time she was raped. Mary previously found them in the inn with Barney’s laundry and did not know the importance of them till she heard about them that morning. She is the last moment witness that saves Lt. Manion. And Mr. Dancer asks Mary if she has been Barney’s mistress who wanted to save Manions out of jealously, she tells the whole town for the first time that Barney was her father. She has got more moral strength than she looks she has!

Paul Biegler wins the case, which he actually need to, and the next morning when she goes to the Manions’s trailer with McCarthy to get some professional fees that the couple owed them, they are gone!! As Laura has told the evening before, Fredrick has always been very lucky – he somehow got everything he needed.


  • The characters are all real life ones. And hence they are all more humans, than heroes. Even the negative character Barney Quill, is a loving father to Mary Pilant, the rape victim Laura Manion is a flirt, Lt. Manion who murders his wife’s rapist is a wife-beater himself.
  • And for Paul Biegler, he is a good man and can be even a better lawyer, but cannot take care of his business. He can show the humanity and also the weakness to employ his alcoholic friend Parnell McCarthy as his assistant. Paul enjoys fishing trouts more than practicing law, and ends up without paying his newspaperman and milkman. He is a perfect bachelor who is stunned by the sexual appeal of Laura, but can overcome her seductive powers when situation demands.
  • Mrs. Maida Rutledge is strong lady who works for Paul even though he has no money to pay her. But at the same time he cannot fire her until he pays her off.
  • The other characters that are short but sweet are of Mary Pilant, and Dr. Smith (Orson Bean).
  • Joseph N. Welch’s role as the visiting judge is realistic, being a lawyer by profession. The accepted the role of the judge in the film, because that was ‘the only way he could ever become a judge’ and won the Golden globe nomination for best-supporting actor.
  • James Stewart is brilliant. And so is Lee Remick.
  • The film looks into every single detail of the courtroom with the vision of a justice – the writer of the original story, that makes the film so perfect. And scriptwriter did an excellent job in making the conversations are extremely enjoyable with certain portions being quotable, like Paul Biegler telling Mary Pilant – “People are not just good or just bad. But people are many things.” “People love things and other people.” “Everybody loves  or some one. Me, I love fishing and an old guy with the name of Parnell” These are just a couple, And there are so many of the small conversations all over the film!

The film was nominated for seven academy awards, including the best film in 1959.
Movie Review by: Shrabanti Basu, CT Reporter, USA

[ReviewAZON asin=”B00004TJKI” display=”fullpost”]

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