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Witness for the Prosecution

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Overview

Having just recovered from a heart attack, fabled British barrister Sir Wilfred Robards Charles Laughton has been ordered by his doctor to give up everything he holds dear-brandy, cigars and especially courtroom cases. Robards' already shaky resolve to follow doctor's orders flies out the window when he takes up the defense of Leonard Vole Tyrone Power, a personable young man accused of murdering a rich old widow. The case becomes something of a sticky wicket when Vole's "loving" German wife Christine Marlene ...
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Overview

Having just recovered from a heart attack, fabled British barrister Sir Wilfred Robards Charles Laughton has been ordered by his doctor to give up everything he holds dear-brandy, cigars and especially courtroom cases. Robards' already shaky resolve to follow doctor's orders flies out the window when he takes up the defense of Leonard Vole Tyrone Power, a personable young man accused of murdering a rich old widow. The case becomes something of a sticky wicket when Vole's "loving" German wife Christine Marlene Dietrich announces that she's not legally married to Robards' client-and she fully intends to appear as a witness for the prosecution! At the close of this film, a narrator implores the audience not to divulge the ending; we will herein honor that request. A delicious Billy Wilder mixture of humor, intrigue and melodrama, Witness for the Prosecution is distinguished by its hand-picked supporting cast: John Williams as the police inspector, Henry Daniell as Robards' law partner, Una O'Connor as the murder victim's stone-deaf maid, Torin Thatcher as the prosecutor, Ruta Lee as a sobbing courtroom spectator, and Charles Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester as Robards' ever-chipper nurse a role especially written for the film, so that Lanchester could look after Laughton on the set. And keep an eye out for that uncredited actress playing the vengeful-and pivotal-cockney. Adapted by Wilder, Harry Kurnitz and Larry Marcus from the play by Agatha Christie, Witness for the Prosecution was remade for television in 1982.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Witness for the Prosecution is multi-faceted director Billy Wilder's stab at the courtroom genre, and he handles it with aplomb. Reworking Agatha Christie's stage play, based on Christie's own short story, Wilder retools the play in order to develop a humorous subtext in the interplay between the physically fragile defense attorney (Charles Laughton) and his overbearing but well-meaning nurse (real-life wife Elsa Lanchester). Laughton and Lanchaster have great chemistry and give fully realized performances that transcend the limitations of the genre. Wilder also jiggers Marlene Dietrich's role, wife of the accused, to make use of moments from her personal life, particularly the wonderful "Berlin cabaret" flashback sequence. The twists and turns of the plot are allowed to emerge unobtrusively in this methodically paced drama, and while the finale stretches credulity in order to circumvent the inevitable Production Code restrictions, Wilder's film is a completely satisfying experience anchored by a handful of memorable performances, including the last in Tyrone Power's illustrious career. Witness for the Prosecution was nominated for six Academy Awards, but ran up against David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai juggernaut, and was shut out.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/22/1994
  • UPC: 027616251732
  • Original Release: 1957
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Tyrone Power Leonard Stephen Vole
Marlene Dietrich Christine "Helm" Vole
Charles Laughton Sir Wilfrid Robarts
Elsa Lanchester Miss Plimsoll
Una O'Connor Janet MacKenzie
Torin Thatcher Mr. Meyers
John Williams Brogan-Moore
Henry Daniell Mayhew
Ian Wolfe Carter
Francis Compton Judge
Norma Varden Mrs. Emily French
Philip Tonge Inspector Hearne
Ruta Lee Diana
Molly Roden Miss McHugh
Ottola Nesmith Miss Johnson
Marjorie Eaton Miss O'Brien
J. Pat O'Malley Shorts Salesman
Technical Credits
Billy Wilder Director, Screenwriter
Howard Bristol Set Decoration/Design
Jack Brooks Songwriter
Emmett Emerson Asst. Director
Ernest Gold Musical Direction/Supervision
Russell Harlan Cinematographer
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Arthur Hornblow Jr. Producer
Joe King Costumes/Costume Designer
Harry Kurnitz Screenwriter
Fred Lau Sound/Sound Designer
Matty Malneck Score Composer
Dan Mandell Editor
Lawrence B. Marcus Screenwriter
Gus Norin Makeup
Harry Ray Makeup
Ralph Arthur Roberts Songwriter
Ray Sebastian Makeup
Edward Small Producer
Alexandre Trauner Art Director
Agatha Christie Source Author
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great Cast, Great Direction.

    A magnificently done film. Dietrich is superb. Charles Laughton is magnificent. The direction is great. The ending a fantastic twist.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews