Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 American courtroom crime drama film. It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver. Voelker based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney.
The film stars James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, Brooks West (Arden's real-life husband), Orson Bean, and Murray Hamilton. The judge was played by Joseph N. Welch, a real-life lawyer famous for berating Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy Hearings.
This was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to address sex and rape in graphic terms. It includes one of Saul Bass's most celebrated title sequences, an innovative musical score by Duke Ellington (who plays a character called Pie-Eye in the film) and has been described by a law professor as "probably the finest pure trial movie ever made"
Anatomy of a Murder is noteworthy for being one of the first films to extensively feature jazz in the musical score – the entire musical soundtrack was composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and played by Ellington's orchestra. Several of the Ellington band's sidemen, notably Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, Russell Procope, and William "Cat" Anderson, are heard prominently throughout the film, and Ellington himself appears briefly as "Pie-Eye," the owner of a roadhouse where Paul Biegler (Stewart) and Laura Manion (Remick) have a confrontation.
Despite being heard "in bits and pieces" the score "contains some of his most evocative and eloquent music… and beckons with the alluring scent of a femme fatale." Including small pieces by Billy Strayhorn, film historians recognize it "as a landmark — the first significant Hollywood film music by African Americans comprising non-diegetic music, that is, music whose source is not visible or implied by action in the film, like an on-screen band." The score avoids cultural stereotypes which previously characterized jazz scores and "rejected a strict adherence to visuals in ways that presaged the New Wave cinema of the ’60s."
The soundtrack, containing 13 tracks, was released on May 29, 1959. A CD was released on April 28, 1995, and reissued by Sony in a deluxe edition in 1999.