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
Unsure if he could convincingly play a man with a heart condition, Charles Laughton staged a heart attack in the pool one day at home. His wife, Elsa Lanchester, and a houseguest panicked and pulled him from the water, at which point he explained his trick. Lanchester's reaction has not been recorded. 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 »
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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