As we wrote in this space last week, cremations and funerals, while keeping up with the times, in many ways have not really changed.
Memorial services may feature less traditional rites, music may be reflective of this time, and willingness to cremate vs. bury have all undergone a metamorphosis — but fundamentally, the meaning of the procedures are consistent with the past.
Here at Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory in Lewisville, Texas we offer the same respectful and affordable cremations as we always have. Working with local funeral directors, we conduct our business in accord with time honored practices.
One of the dynamics about cremations that has never changed, and we see it still every week, is that lost loved ones are most remembered by their families and friends for the spirit with which they lived their lives. Those who live on in the hearts of future generations do so because of who they were.
Such is the case with artists of all kinds — painters, sculptors, composers, even filmmakers.
That comes to mind because Turner Classic Movies recently showed “Anatomy of a Murder,” the 1959 gem from director Otto Preminger.
It happens that Preminger died today, April 23, 1986 — he was cremated and laid to rest some 32 years ago.
While the crusty, autocratic mogul may be personally forgotten, a handful of his films (including “Anatomy”) will never be.
Based on an actual murder which took place on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and re-captured in a bestselling book written by Paul Voelker (millions of copies sold), “Anatomy” is considered to be one of the best courtroom dramas ever done.
Preminger assembled a cast and crew that today would be rated as a “dream team.” James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott, Eve Arden, Arthur O’Connell and Orson Bean were the featured players; the redoubtable Duke Ellington composed the classic jazz score (it won three Grammy’s), while also doing a star turn as a roadhouse band leader; and, Saul Bass, perhaps the iconic movie poster artist, created one of the most enduring film logos ever.
To top it off, the film — both interiors and exteriors — was filmed on location in Ishpeming and Marquette, Michigan. This kind of detailed location work was not common in its day, but Preminger was correct in pushing the studio into doing so. There is a gritty intensity that could only be found in real courtrooms and bars, not on Hollywood sound stages.
Although he was more craftsman than stylist as a director, Preminger coaxed, or at least partially influenced, several noteworthy performances from his stars. Stewart’s essay of the country lawyer Paul Biegler is often considered, along with his role in “Vertigo,” to be his finest work. Ditto for George C. Scott — as the appropriately named Claude Dancer, he oils his way around defense witnesses with the finesse of a veteran prosecutor.
Given that Preminger frequently filmed envelope-pushing material, “Anatomy” was considered ahead of its time. Filmed from March to May of 1959 (the bare trees in the film only serve to underscore the isolation of the setting), the movie opened to solid reviews and box office.
Despite the deaths of the principals and the passage of time, “Anatomy” is not a dated, period piece. Our recent viewing confirmed that it is an intact, fully realized production which gives an ever-fresh perspective on the issues it tackles.
The Upper Peninsula communities of Ishpeming and Marquette still remember the notoriety they received because of “Anatomy.” A recent telephone call to the local Grove Press confirmed that walking tours of the filming locations still is taking place. As to the locations themselves, we were assured that “almost everything is still there.”
“Anatomy of a Murder” is an example of how works of art seem to have lifespans all their own — lifespans that outlast their creators.
Again, funeral, cremation and burial rituals may change over time, but their purpose remains constant. The same can be said of loved ones — what they do with their lives is what we remember. In some instances, it can be a well-made work of art that withstands the test of time.