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
According to Variet, the producers stationed guards at the doors to the soundstages. It was also said that at a command performance in London, Arthur Hornblow had managed to get the royal family to sign pledges that they would not divulge the film's surprise ending to their subjects. 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 »
As the end credits appear on screen, an announcer's voice is heard: "The management of this theater suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture you will not divulge to anyone the secret of the ending of Witness for the Prosecution." See more »
This is one of the best "trial movies" ever made. It's an outstanding film that is just as good today as it was almost 50 years ago when it was released in the theaters. The shocking ending caused quite a stir back then, too.
The only part of the movie I thought looked dated and unrealistic was Tyrone Power's character being able to interrupt the trial with outbursts and not be reprimanded for it. There is no way that would be tolerated, at least today.
Otherwise, it's a pretty solid film with a good cast that includes two fascinating characters played by actors who know how to entertain: Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich.
Laughton, who plays Power's defense attorney, grabs the spotlight in the story but Dietrich almost steals the movie in her role as Power's wife. Laughton's dialog is terrific throughout, bringing a number of laughs to this serious film. He's just a joy to watch. Dietrich is even more riveting but just doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of screen time as Laughton.
Not to be overlooked is Elsa Lanchester, playing Laughton's nurse. She, too, demonstrates her comedic talent and significantly adds to the fun of watching this film.
If you like some fine drama, storyline twists, a little humor thrown in and great acting and dialog, this is a classic film to check out.
51 of 60 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?