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.