Stewart Takes on Anatomy of a Murder

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After shooting The FBI Story, James Stewart began work on Anatomy of a Murder for which he would received his last Academy Award nomination.

Stewart said, “I think a lot of us have a secret desire to be a lawyer . . . or some kind of investigator who asks questions and slowly unravels the truth.”

1. Stewart really wanted to do the part.

Before filming began, James and his wife went on a safari holiday in India. But every night, he’d stay up to go over his lines, just to make sure he was prepared. He said, “There was an awful lot of dialogue . . . long monologues . . . which I was kind of used to doing but not so many in one film. And as you get older it isn’t so easy to remember all those lines. But this was a challenge for me.”

2. Another actress had Lee Remick’s part first.

Lana Turner was originally cast in the role. However, director Otto Preminger and Turner had a falling out. Apparently, Preminger felt she was too old for the part – since she was thirty-nine playing the wife of a twenty-three year old Ben Gazzara. Remick said, “Working with Jimmy was a wonderful experience.”

3. Stewart fans were shocked.

Some viewers were concerned that their favorite actor – known for films like It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – would star in a movie whose plot included discussions on rape. In fact, Stewart’s father even dealt with customers who came into his hardware store to tell him that his son was in a “dirty picture”. James later said, “I was puzzled why so many people thought Anatomy of a Murder was in bad taste. I never understood why some people thought it was offensive. I thought we handled the whole thing very delicately.”

4. Everyone liked working with Stewart.

In fact, Preminger, who had the nickname “Otto the Ogre” due to his sometimes-temperamental behavior, was on his best behavior during the shoot. “I learned so much from Stewart,” said George C. Scott, who was impressed that the veteran actor professionalism. Ben Gazzara said, “Stewart was totally concentrated on this character, totally immersed in it. I watched in awe.”