Friday, August 24, 2012

Anatomy of Murder Walking Tour - Marquette, Ishpeming

One of the main claims to fame of Marquette, Michigan and its neighbouring community of Ishpeming is its association with the acclaimed 1959 movie Anatomy of Murder starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott.  A comprehensive self guided "Anatomy of Murder Walking Tour" takes you to relevant sites used while filming the movie.

The book from which the movie was developed was based on a real murder that happened in the nearby town of Big Bay and the author was the actual defense attorney from the resultant trial.  When an army lieutenant found out that his wife had been beaten and raped by a bar owner, he took off with a gun and killed the assailant.  This case was noted for one of the early pleas of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.  The author/defense attorney, John D. Voelker (writing under the pseudonym Robert Traver) went on to become a Michigan supreme court judge.

One of the stops on the walking tour in Ishpeming was John Voelker's childhood home.  This was used as the location of the defense attorney's (played by Jimmy Stewart) law office.  A photo of Voelker standing in his office is printed on the walking tour brochure.

The Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library is the setting for a scene where Jimmy Stewart's character researches law precedences.  He leans over the railing from the second floor as he reviews actual law books which were shipped in from Northern Michigan College to set the stage.  It was thrilling to see those railings up close and image the scene.  The library has a rounded entrance way with majestic columns and a magnificent stain glass ceiling inside.

Still in Ishpeming, the Butler theatre on Main Street was one of the venues for the world premiere of the movie.  It's beautiful facade is still intact and there are plans to restore the interior as well.  Congress Pizza was frequented by Voelker who was a good friend of the owner, and currently houses a small museum of Voelker memorabilia.  Jack's Tee Pee Bar was originally called Nault's bar and provided the setting for the opening scene of the movie when Jimmy Stewart's character first learns about the murder.  Mather Inn provided accommodations for the cast during the filming of the movie.   Duke Ellington composed the musical score for the movie on the Inn's piano.

The courthouse used to film the trial scenes from Anatomy of a Murder is located in Marquette. The neo-classical styled Marquette County Courthouse was built in 1902 and was the location where the trial took place for the real murder that inspired the book and movie.   It is also known as the location where President Theodore Roosevelt won a libel suit against George Newett, the publisher of the Ishpeming newspaper, over an article that accused the president of "getting drunk .. and not that infrequently".   Towards the end of the trial, Newett retracted his claim and so Roosevelt withdrew his request for damages.  The Jury awarded Roosevelt 6 cents, the price of a newspaper.

Where Book World now stands in Marquette was the former location of the Nordic Theatre which held the world premiere of Anatomy of Murder simultaneously with the Butler Theatre in Ishpeming.  Before the premiere, many of the actors imprinted their hands and feet in wet cement blocks and autographed them.  Until recently, these slabs were installed as part of the sidewalk in front of the Nordic Theater/Book World.  They were removed to prevent deterioration and it is unknown whether they will be reinstalled.  Photos and a news article about the process are displayed in the Marquette County Courthouse.

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