Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anatomy of a Murder

This movie was something of a surprise for me. Although its star and director are A-list, and it was nominated for seven Academy awards back in 1959, I had never seen it before. In part because of its star (Jimmy Stewart), I thought it would be a fairly formulaic courtroom drama. In some ways it is, but it has some noir undertones, excellent characters, and nice subtle acting by Stewart and a great supporting cast including Ben Gazarra, Lee Remick, and George C. Scott.

Especially cool is the soundtrack, by none other than Duke Ellington. The Duke himself has a cameo appearance as a piano player in a local jazz club.

I cared less for the actual trial histrionics than the scenes with Stewart and his associates outside the courtroom. But the way the case is played out is surprisingly blunt about various aspects of the crime, and there are unexpected bits of seedy humor. The way Remick's alleged rape is dealt with made me cringe at times--a key point becomes whether or not she was wearing underwear at the time, implying that if she wasn't she clearly deserved anything she got. But the short sidebar among the judge and lawyers (all male, of course) about what term they should use in referring to Remick's panties is a nice, funny touch.


Blogger Quippled said...

I will have to re-watch; I remember the discussion about the panties, and that it was in its way one of the turning points in American cinema. Very frank. But Jimmy Stewart like many others in Hollywood (at the time) was very bright and intelligent. I think it sort of made Preminger's career. I remember as a kid hearing his name mentioned with reverence, but then the later stuff I saw wasn't quite so good. Looking at his credits on imdb, I should say In Harm's Way was also a really excellent movie. But notice, Bunny Lake Is Missing among his credits, and noteworthily this travesty has appeared earlier in Dignity's history - it did have the Zombies in it though, and I've started listening to at least a couple of their hits...

9:07 PM  
Blogger Ambivalent_Maybe said...

The film my memory will probably always associate with Preminger is The Pawn Broker, which is unfortunate because it was directed by Sidney Lumet, not Preminger. But for some reason my brain is very persistent in linking Preminger and Pawn Broker.

6:26 PM  

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