Anatomy Of a Murder

It’s odd that I’ve never actually seen this film because it has one of the best soundtracks ever. Duke Ellington, a wise elder by this time in his career, wrote the music for Otto Preminger’s Anatomy Of a Murder along with longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn. It’s a courtroom drama starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, and George C. Scott in one of his very first roles. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, at least for now.

This is the first big Hollywood picture with a score from black composers, and what an impression it makes. This is Ellington and Strayhorn at their most mature and subtle, with decades of experience crafting evocative sound poems. While the harmonies here are never unfriendly, they’re unexpected and original enough to provide thesis material for a legion of music theory majors. You can listen to the whole thing on Spotify.

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