It's Britain, 1953. Upon his return to work following a heart attack, irrepressible barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts, known as a barrister for the hopeless, takes on a murder case, much to the exasperation of his medical team, led by his overly regulated private nurse, Miss Plimsoll, who tries her hardest to ensure that he not return to his hard living ways - including excessive cigar smoking and drinking - while he takes his medication and gets his much needed rest. That case is defending American war veteran Leonard Vole, a poor, out of work, struggling inventor who is accused of murdering his fifty-six year old lonely and wealthy widowed acquaintance, Emily French. The initial evidence is circumstantial but points to Leonard as the murderer. Despite being happily married to East German former beer hall performer Christine Vole, he fostered that friendship with Mrs. French in the hopes that she would finance one of his many inventions to the tune of a few hundred pounds. It thus does ... Written by
Harry Kurnitz never worked with Billy Wilder again after this film and explained why in 1964, saying the typical Wilder collaborators "have a hunted look, shuffle nervously, and have been known to break into tears if a door slams anywhere in the same building. ... (Wilder) is a fiend at work." See more »
Both Sir Wilfred and Mr. Myers introduce evidence directly to the court themselves, which is against courtroom procedure. Sir Wilfred, for example, trumps Inspector Hearne's testimony by directly revealing Leonard Vole's blood type, instead of properly calling a witness with personal or professional knowledge of it. 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 »
To see "Witness for the Prosecution" for the first time in 2008 is a jolting surprise. Nobody could do it better than Billy Wilder did in 1957. A man accused of murder, Tyrone Power, the weakest link in this terrific chain. Sir Wilfred is called to defend him, he is played by the extraordinary Charles Laughton, but he's just out of hospital - he wasn't dismissed he was expelled - and due to doctor's orders he's not to take any criminal cases. He finds Power charming and personable enough but he's not going to risk his life to save his until Marlene Dietrich makes her entrance - and what an entrance! How marvelous that what amounts to a bit of Agatha Christie's usual fare becomes such an entertaining and at times right down riveting piece of film-making.
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