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Laramie Movie Scope:
Anatomy of a Murder

Complex murder case

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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Anatomy of a Murder – (1959, b/w) Country lawyer Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart), who enjoys and plays jazz on the piano, with assistance from his alcoholic associate Parnell Emmett McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) and efficient secretary Maida Rutledge (Eve Arden) accepts the case of Army Lt Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) who shot to death Barney Quill, owner of the Thunder Bay Bar, because his very attractive wife Laura Manion (Lee Remick) claimed Barney raped her. The case is full of imponderables and conflicted characters: Lt Manion has a history of jealousy and bad temper; Laura acts and dresses like a tart, but she passed a polygraph test (not admissible as evidence in court); Barney’s bartender Alphonse Paquette puts up a defensive version of events favoring his former boss; and Mary Pilant (Kathryn Grant), the bar’s manager and suspected mistress of Mr Quill, is hiding a secret.

Relying on a Michigan-state precedent from the 1880s and a military psychiatrist’s diagnosis of “dissociative reaction” (aka irresistible impulse), Biegler defends Lt Manion as having been temporarily insane. The local prosecutor Mitchell Lodwick (Brooks West) gets considerable help during the trial from the formidable Assistant State Attorney General Claude Dancer (George C. Scott) and their own expert in psychology. The trial, presided over by the dispassionate Judge Weaver (Joseph N. Welch – in real life a judge who had become known for his supervision of the McCarthy hearings) who often has to warn Biegler to curb his passionate outbursts and wisecracks, weaves a complex story, both revealing (the frequent mention of “panties” during the examinations of witnesses was daring at the time) and concealing the truth. Duke Ellington provided the soundtrack and a brief appearance as Pie Eye sharing a piano duet with Stewart.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)