Truth can be more deadly than fiction
“Anatomy of a Murder” may be best known as the movie on the big screen, but it is based on the true story of a small town murder and the subsequent trial. The movie started as a book, whose author, John Voelker, writing under the pen name of Roger Traver, served as the defense attorney for the actual trial that the story is based on.
The true story happened in 1952, when a tavern owner was shot and killed by an enraged man. The man’s wife had come home claiming to have been raped and abused by the owner of the small town tavern. The author of the book, John Voelker defended the husband, who was eventually found not guilty due to temporary insanity.
Setting the stage
The real murder took place in the small town of Big Bay in Marquette County, Michigan. It was here, at the Lumberjack Tavern, where the killing took place. The tavern is still standing today and the current owners take delight in the infamous history of their establishment. In addition to the name of the movie on the front of the building, they also have a replica of the cutout of a victim’s body, which is commonly associated with movie’s logo.
The memorabilia doesn’t stop at the exterior of the building. Inside there is another victim cutout set on the tavern’s floor in the exact spot where the real victim’s body fell after the shooting. But the retelling of the tale, doesn’t stop there. The walls are also lined with clippings from newspapers and photos of the events. Not to mention that, the tavern has several scrapbooks filled with images concerning the murder, some of which may not be suitable for the faint of heart.
Keeping the murder alive
Most of the movie is focused on the trial that took place after the murder. Much of that courtroom footage was actually filmed in the city of Marquette, Michigan at the Marquette County Courthouse. Even today, the courthouse has an impressive display in the lobby spotlighting photographs from scenes that were filmed in the courthouse. There is also a section focusing on John Voelker who was on hand as an adviser during the filming of the movie.
There are many other sites in Marquette where the cast and crew of the film were known to have visited or resided for a short time. Though some of these locations are still intact, many have changed and require some imagination to remember them as they once were. But one thing is certain, Marquette County not only remembers its famous history but is making sure that the story and the movie will live on.
Dennis McCann, Journal Sentinel – http://www.jsonline.com/features/travel/34099364.html
(Marquette, Michigan remembers “Anatomy of a Murder”)
Internet Movie Database – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052561/
(Anatomy of a Murder)
State of Michigan -http://www.michigan.gov/documents/hal/lm_Anatomy_of_a_Murder_Reading_Guide_246094_7.pdf
(Anatomy of a Murder – Reader’s Guide – 50th Anniversary Celebration)