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
The plot deals with Charles Laughton's character recovering from a severe heart attack while defending Tyrone Power's character. In reality, this would be Tyrone Power's last complete film - he would die of a heart attack while on the set of his next film less than one year after release of this one. See more »
In the first courtroom scene, the clerk twice states that the murder of Emily Jane French occurred in "the county of London". The County of London was known to both Sherlock Holmes and Horace Rumpole. It was run by the London County Council from 1889-1965, was comprised of over two dozen boroughs (Hampstead to Greenwich to Chelsea), and much to Leonard Vole's chagrin, was home to the Central Criminal Courts, the Old Bailey. In 1965, the County of London became the larger, Greater London, which it still is. Administered by the Greater London Council from 1965-86, it has been run since 2000 by the Greater London Authority, headed by a directly-elected mayor and assembly. For reasons of tradition and vested interest, the old City of London, now a square mile of banks, brokerage houses and the Tower, remains a separate entity. 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 »
Another triumph for cinematic genius Billy Wilder!
Billy Wilder is a director with an understanding of cinema that is almost unmatched throughout the medium's entire history - that's why his films are always so good. Witness for the Prosecution is yet another highlight in the great director's history, and it proves that courtroom dramas can be both riveting and a great opportunity for some first rate comedy. Wilder's film features one of the most well paced plots I've ever seen in a film, and it's a plot that includes some very finely tuned twists. Towards the end, Wilder bombards us with twist after twist, each one both making sense and topping the one before it. In a time when people are impressed by films such as 'The Sixth Sense', Billy Wilder still shows us how to skilfully attribute a twist into a film's plot. The plot itself follows the story of Sir Wilfrid Robarts; an ace defence lawyer that has been told that his health won't allow him to tackle anything more than mundane cases, but is brought back into the fray when a case involving the murder of an elderly woman comes into his hands. Wilfrid must now juggle the case and his health as he attempts to keep the young man from being sent down.
Like all Wilder films, this one is a very pleasurable viewing. Wilder manages to find a middle ground between substance and entertainment, and so this is a film that will please fans of both aspects. The film is deliriously entertaining throughout, with some truly great lines of dialogue (most of which is very quotable) and every twist adds a new level to the story. The substance comes from a multitude of angles, and themes of love, health, sacrifice and most notably, justice, are all more than prevalent. The acting is certainly of note in Witness for the Prosecution. Charles Laughton is absolutely sublime as the undermining and stubborn Wilfrid Robarts; his performance is very strong, and makes up the backbone of the film. The main supporting performance comes from Marlene Dietrich. I'm not a big fan of hers; despite having a great pair of legs, she just doesn't do anything for me, but in this film she brings sufficient coldness to her character and really makes it her own. The final main performance comes from Tyrone Power; he isn't as great as the other two, but does enough with his character to ensure he's believable. Highly recommended viewing!
49 of 60 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?