Otto Preminger: Anatomy of a Murder

For June we are looking at the films of Otto Preminger, who enjoyed a career in Hollywood spanning five decades. Across nearly 40 feature films, Preminger displayed virtuosity in many genres (film noir, historical epics, courtroom dramas, musicals) and came to be known for pushing boundaries of what was deemed acceptable at a time when Hollywood needed it the most. Whether casting Frank Sinatra as a drug addict (The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955), giving a screen credit to blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (Exodus, 1960), or acting under Billy Wilder for Stalag 17 (1953) or as Mr. Freeze in the 60s TV show Batman with Adam West, Preminger could be relied upon to be up to something interesting.

Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959, USA, 161 minutes)

Nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and two Best Supporting Actors, Anatomy of a Murder was a huge box-office success and, in the words of Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch, "one of the great American movies" and "the most poised work" of Preminger's career. Jimmy Stewart plays a cagey small-town lawyer; Ben Gazzara is the volatile soldier who's accused of murder; Lee Remick is Gazzara's dreamboat wife; and George C. Scott drips vitriol as the prosecuting attorney. The judge is played by real-life lawyer Joseph Welch, who as special counsel to the U.S. Army in 1954 asked Senator Joseph McCarthy "have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last"? All of them (except for Stewart) appear here in major roles for the first time. The landmark Grammy-winning jazz score was written by Duke Ellington, who also appears in the film.

Anatomy of a Murder is available to stream on the subscription services DIRECTV and TCM (subject to change). Alternatively, it can be rented digitally on most platforms for $3-4.

With a free post-film discussion on June 24 at 7:00 p.m. from Robert Garrick, who has presented films for Cinema St. Louis for many years. He is an attorney and a former contributor to the film blog.

Register for this Zoom event here.

Thursday, June 24 at 7:00pm

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