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Anatomy of a Murder, produced in 1959 is an American trial court drama film directed by Otto Preminger and written by Wendell Mayes based on the novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney.
The plot of the film follows lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart), who is one day called to defend the loutish US Army Lieutenant Frederick "Manny" Manion (Ben Gazzara), who was arrested for first degree murder, having killed innkeeper Barney Quill. Manion does not deny the murder, which was committed when his wife Laura (Lee Remick) claimed to have been raped by Quill. The story follows Biegler's attempts to justify Manion's actions in court, opposed by a prosecution team headed by assistant Attorney General Claude Dancer (George C. Scott, appearing in only his second film.)
Tropes associated with this work:
- Animated Credits Opening: Designed by Saul Bass, one of Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock's frequent collaborators.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: Paul Biegler never said, "Now, I'm no big city lawyer" or "I'm just a simple country lawyer." His actual line is, "I'm just a humble country lawyer trying to do the best I can against this brilliant prosecutor from the big city of Lansing."
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Mr. Biegler is called that by Laura.
- Courtroom Antic
- Deadpan Snarker: Judge Weaver
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Discussed in the scene where Judge Weaver and the lawyers are trying to come up with something to say in the courtroom besides panties:
Dancer: When I was overseas during the war, Your Honor, I learned a French word. I'm afraid that might be slightly suggestive.
Judge Weaver: Most French words are.
- Heroes Gone Fishing
- Inherently Funny Words: "There's a certain light connotation attached to the word 'panties.'"
- Insanity Defense
- Ironic Echo
- The Judge: Played by Joseph N. Welch, a real-life lawyer most famous for his Take That against Senator Joseph McCarthy ("Have you no sense of decency, sir?") during the 1954 Senate subcommittee hearings investigating McCarthy's accusations of Communists in the U.S. Army. Welch joked that he took the movie role because it was the closest he'd ever come to being a judge.
- Karma Houdini: Manion, arguably.
- Simple Country Lawyer: Paul Biegler. He actually invokes the trope at one point.
- Surprise Witness
- Take That: Judge Weaver's speech introducing the word "panties" in the courtroom is arguably a Take That against both the Hays Code and the audience:
Judge Weaver: For the benefit of the jury - but more especially for the spectators - the undergarment referred to in the testimony was, to be exact, [the victim's] panties. (courtroom spectators laugh for several seconds; the judge then restores order) I wanted you to get your snickering over and done with. This pair of panties will be mentioned again in the course of this trial, and when it happens, there will not be one laugh, one snicker, one giggle, or even one smirk in my courtroom. There isn't anything comic about a pair of panties which figure in the violent death of one man and the possible incarceration of another.