MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.
Anatomy Of A Murder (1959, 160 minutes)
My old man was an attorney who handled a few high-profile murder cases that made headlines in the San Francisco Bay Area. He didn’t care much about movies, but he admired Anatomy Of A Murder as an accurate portrayal of less than savory courtroom proceedings.
Cruising with the top down in his 1950 Pontiac Chieftain, Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) turns right at the sign that says Iron City and makes it back to his Michigan home from a fishing trip just as the local bar is closing. He brings his fishing tackle into the house that also serves as his law office, dumps two fat trout from his creel into the kitchen sink, runs cold water over them and checks for phone messages impaled on a deer’s antler in the mud room.
Just as his pal Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) stumbles into the kitchen from that same bar, Biegler returns to the trout he’s already gutted, wraps them in wax paper and stores them in the fridge. As Biegler hands the old man a bottle of red wine in a brown paper bag, he sits down at the upright piano and pecks out a few jazz chords. “Paulie, it’s a fact. Since Mitch Ludwig beat you out for the office of public prosecutor you haven’t been worth salt for peanuts.” says McCarthy as he opens the bottle and begins to pour. “Not that I don’t understand how you feel. A man loses an office he’s held for a long time, he feels his community’s deserted him.” Biegler smiles from the piano bench, “None but the lonely heart shall know my anguish, counselor.”
The phone rings, just as McCarthy pulls a heavy volume from Biegler’s law library for tonight’s reading of heroic legal decisions. “I may have a client,” says Biegler, answering the phone. “Mr. Biegler, I’ve waited all afternoon for your call,” says an anxious Laura Manion (Lee Remick), the subject of Biegler’s lone message. “Well, I just got home, Mrs. Manion,” replies Biegler. “If that’s from Thunder Bay and she wants you to represent her husband, tell her you’ll take the case,” urges McCarthy breathlessly.
“Have you read about my husband?” she asks from a pay phone, with pool balls cracking audibly in the background. “Yes, a little,” says Biegler evasively. “Will you defend him? He’s in the county jail. Will you see him?” “I guess I could see him. Let’s make it 10:00 o’clock tomorrow morning.” After hanging up, Biegler quizzes McCarthy about his new client. “A man named Barney Quill raped Mrs. Manion, and her husband, a lieutenant in the Army, goes to Quill’s place and plugs him five times, which causes Quill to promptly die from lead poisoning. If you hadn’t been fishing in some god-forsaken backwater, you’d know all about it.”