BASED ON THE SHORT STORY BY
SCREEN ADAPTATION BY
ARTHUR HORNBLOW JR.
TRAILERS & CLIPS
|WITNESS FOR THE PROSEUCTION (1957)
Originally a short story by Agatha Christie, who then adapted it into a play which held successful stints in London and Broadway, Witness for the Prosecution is now best known as a highly entertaining court room drama adapted to the big screen by co-writer/director Billy Wilder.
Set in England after WWII, Witness… stars Sir Charles Laughton as famed barrister Sir Wilferd Robarts, who has just been released from hospital after suffering a heart attack. Disregarding doctor’s orders, the cantankerous lawyer takes on a big case (to the dismay of his private nurse, played by Elsa Lanchester), defending American WWII veteran Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) who is accused of murder.
The only person who can provide an alibi is his German wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich). But when she agrees to be a witness for the prosecution, Robarts must use all of his skill to prove his clients innocence.
The first half of the film firmly sets the characters background and motives, often with the use of a flashback. The second half stays in the court room, and proves to be an exciting court room romp which engrosses the viewer with its high melodrama and dialogue driven scenes.
Laughton is simply amazing as the grumpy lawyer with the bum ticker and a swig of brandy on the side, portraying both power and fragility while shooting off humorous one liners and constantly putting his nurse in her place, who is played by the wonderfully irritating star of the Bride of Frankenstein and Laughton’s wife, Elase Lanchester.
Marlene Dietrich plays the role of an ice queen very well, however Tyrone Power is over the top when compared to his classically trained English co-stars.
A tightly wound mystery, Witness for the Prosecution features nicely placed twists, and a cracker of a conclusion, which (although over stepping its bounds) does come as a genuine shock, especially during our time when twist endings have become passé thanks to Primal Fear, The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense.