Events Explore 'Anatomy of a Murder' After #MeToo

Actors Lee Remick and George C. Scott in a courtroom scene from "Anatomy of a Murder" (IMDb photo)

A series of three events at Northern Michigan University will commemorate the 65th anniversary of Anatomy of a Murder by re-examining the film through the lens of the “Me Too” movement.

A screening will take place at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7, in Mead Auditorium. Film scholar Christian Keathley from Middlebury College will deliver an April 8 keynote address, “Scene/Unscene: Enigmas of Plot and Character in Anatomy of a Murder,” and participate in an April 9 roundtable discussion of how #metoo has impacted understanding of the film. Both events begin at 5:30 p.m. in Art & Design 165.

NMU Associate Professors Caroline Krzakowski and Anna Zimmer were compelled to organize an interdisciplinary exploration of the topic after watching the movie with their husbands.

“We were excited because we live here in Marquette, where parts were filmed, and I had never seen it before,” said Zimmer, who teaches German literature. “While we can certainly celebrate the success and artistry of the film, we were all a little shell-shocked by how it represented a victim of sexual assault. The female character, played by Lee Remick, was a key witness at the murder trial, but almost became cross-examined herself. Her experience of violence is erased in the trial and in the film. And language that was being utilized to describe her and what she was wearing is what we're still hearing today. Women are grappling with some of the same issues in 2024 that they confronted in 1959.”

Anatomy of a Murder was based on the 1958 best-selling novel of the same name written by the late Michigan Supreme Court Justice and Ishpeming native John D. Voelker under the pen name of Robert Traver. The book was based on an actual court case in which Voelker was asked to defend a man accused of murdering the owner of the Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay. The six-day trial ended with a verdict of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

“It's difficult for undergraduate students to figure out what to make of a book and film like that today because of the misogynist references,” said Krzakowski, a member of the English faculty. “In our teaching, Anna and I both have to reckon with books and texts that are uncomfortable for all kinds of reasons. We like to delve into that and help our students and our community talk about what is not often discussed. Me Too has changed the lens we look through in gauging how women are portrayed and treated.”

Guest film scholar Keathley is the Walter J Cerf Distinguished Professor of Film & Media Culture at Middlebury. At the roundtable, he and the following NMU faculty and staff members will view and discuss various segments of the film: Krzakowski; Zimmer; Gabby McNally from Art & Design; Tim O'Neill from History; and Dan Truckey from the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center.

“We really wanted to bring in a scholar from outside NMU to look at Anatomy of a Murder because of its strong U.P. connection,” Krzakowski added. “But we also have a lot of experts on campus who can contribute to an interdisciplinary discussion about the film and bring it to a broader audience. All events in the series are open to the public.”

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Around NMU