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.
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