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Law and Popular Culture

A Course Book (2nd Edition)

Series:

Michael Asimow and Shannon Mader

Both law and popular culture pervade our lives. Popular culture constructs our perceptions of law and changes the way that players in the legal system behave. Now in its second edition, Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book explores the interface between two subjects of enormous importance to everyone – law and popular culture.
Each chapter takes a particular legally themed film or television show, such as Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking, or Law and Order, treating it as both a cultural text and a legal text.
The new edition has been updated with new photos and includes greater emphasis on television than in the first edition because there are so many DVDs of older TV shows now available.
Law and Popular Culture is written in an accessible and engaging style, without theoretical jargon, and can serve as a basic text for undergraduates or graduate courses and be taught by anyone who enjoys pop culture and is interested in law. An instructor’s manual is available on request from the publisher and author.
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2. The Adversary System and the Trial Genre: Assigned Film: Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

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2

The Adversary System and the Trial Genre

Assigned Film: Anatomy of a Murder(1959)

2.01 Anatomy of a Murder—The film and the book

We might have chosen many films to launch the course—and many instructors will make other choices.1 We chose Anatomy of a Murder because we think it is the best courtroom movie ever made. Anatomy is one of a group of outstanding films made between the late 1950s and early 1960s that are sometimes called the golden age of legal films.

Everything about Anatomy of a Murder is memorable: the tense courtroom drama, the stunning jazz score by Duke Ellington (who also played Pie-Eye), the direction of Otto Preminger, the crackling screenplay by Wendell Mayes, and even the clever “anatomy” titles at the beginning by Saul Bass. The performances of James Stewart (Paul Biegler), Arthur O’Connell (Parnell McCarthy), Ben Gazzara (Lt. Manion), George C. Scott (Claude Dancer), and Lee Remick (Laura Manion) are all outstanding. Indeed, Stewart, O’Connell, and Scott were nominated for Academy Awards, and the film was nominated for seven Oscars altogether, although it didn’t win any. Most of all, we see a striking picture of the adversary system at work (see ¶2.04.2).

The film was adapted from a bestselling 1958 book by John D. Voelker (under the pseudonym of Robert Traver). Voelker was appointed to serve on the ← 23 | 24 → Michigan Supreme Court three days after the...

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