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Anatomy of a Murder

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Merely the best courtroom drama ever committed to film, with its lively theatrics tempered by sober and unbudging moral ambiguity. It is hardly less remarkable as perhaps the most mature consideration of rape (least polemical, least hysterical) ever put on film. And in the semi-retired asexual backwoods lawyer who really prefers fishing and jazz, James Stewart has one of the best roles of his career, and would have a clear claim on the best male performance of the year (1959) if Gary Cooper hadn't also had one of his best roles in The Hanging Tree and Robert Mitchum hadn't had one of his best roles in The Wonderful Country and Robert Ryan hadn't had one of his best roles in Odds Against Tomorrow. The casting is inventive all down the line, notably including Arthur O'Connell as Stewart's alcoholic fishing partner and one-time mentor, Eve Arden as his long-suffering secretary, Joseph Welch (the liberal hero of the Army-McCarthy hearings) as the witty judge, and Orson Bean as an unprepossessing (no beard, no German accent) Army psychiatrist. With Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott; written by Wendell Mayes; directed by Otto Preminger. (1959) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated NR | 2 hours, 40 minutes
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