Britain, 1953. Upon his return to work following a heart attack, barrister takes on a murder case,. The case is defending American war vet Leonard Vole, a poor, out of work, struggling inventor who's accused of murdering his middle-aged lonely and wealthy acquaintance, Emily French. The evidence is circumstantial but points to Leonard as the murderer, butr the csse has constant revelations.Written by
Production began before the leads were even cast. See more »
Early in the courtroom scenes witnesses are seated in the hallway outside the courtroom door on a bench. This has a backdrop painted to look like a longer hallway. At the end of the trial when the courtroom is emptied the hallway is shown as being narrower with no bench. See more »
Before the film begins, a message appears onscreen saying that to avoid ruining the effect of the surprise ending, patrons should not take their seats during the last few minutes of the movie. See more »
In a recent biography of Billy Wilder, Agatha Christie is quoted as saying that this was the best adaption of her work ever done on the screen. I can't praise Witness for the Prosecution any higher than that.
Tyrone Power in his farewell film plays Leonard Vole who befriends a dotty old widow played by Norma Varden. She even rewrites her will leaving him the bulk of a very large estate. When she's murdered, Scotland Yard arrests Power.
Power's solicitor Henry Daniell retains a dream team for defense of John Williams and the recently recovered Charles Laughton. Laughton is recovering from a heart attack and against medical advice plunges into the case. Laughton also has to deal with the efforts of his assigned nurse Elsa Lanchester to keep him following doctor's advice.
The original play this was taken from concentrated completely on the Power character and the machinations of his wife. Wilder built up the character of the nurse and barrister Sir Wilfred Robards so that they almost equaled the screen time of Mr. and Mrs. Vole. So much so that Charles Laughton was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957, but lost to Alec Guinness.
Marlene Dietrich plays Mrs. Vole. She's a war bride over from Germany and she's got her own agenda going. Her performance and what her character does is the key to the whole film. Dietrich probably would have gotten an Oscar nomination herself, but due to the fact that if her performance was hyped up for Academy consideration, the element of surprise would have been lost in the film. Wilder in fact apologized to Marlene for that.
The Anglo-Saxon legal system's goal is justice. Justice is served though not quite in the way it usually is in Witness for the Prosecution.
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