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Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 6 February 1958 (USA)
A veteran British barrister must defend his client in a murder trial that has surprise after surprise.

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Writers:

(in Agatha Christie's international stage success), (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Top Rated Movies #72 | Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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Francis Compton ...
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Once in 50 years suspense like this! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

6 February 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Testigo de cargo  »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Charles Laughton appears as himself, talking directly to the audience, in the lengthy 4 minute trailer. See more »

Goofs

At one point in the movie they receive a phone call from the "witness" and there is an American-made Western Electric "Model 500" Key System phone in the background. See more »

Quotes

Brogan-Moore: Touching isn't it? The way he counts on his wife.
Sir Wilfrid: Yes, like a drowning man clutching at a razor blade.
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Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Perry Mason: The Case of the Final Fade-Out (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

I May Never Go Home Anymore
Music by Ralph Arthur Roberts
Lyrics by Jack Brooks
Sung by Marlene Dietrich (uncredited)
Reprised a cappella by Tyrone Power (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Goal Is Always Justice
6 March 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

In a recent biography of Billy Wilder, Agatha Christie is quoted as saying that this was the best adaption of her work ever done on the screen. I can't praise Witness for the Prosecution any higher than that.

Tyrone Power in his farewell film plays Leonard Vole who befriends a dotty old widow played by Norma Varden. She even rewrites her will leaving him the bulk of a very large estate. When she's murdered, Scotland Yard arrests Power.

Power's solicitor Henry Daniell retains a dream team for defense of John Williams and the recently recovered Charles Laughton. Laughton is recovering from a heart attack and against medical advice plunges into the case. Laughton also has to deal with the efforts of his assigned nurse Elsa Lanchester to keep him following doctor's advice.

The original play this was taken from concentrated completely on the Power character and the machinations of his wife. Wilder built up the character of the nurse and barrister Sir Wilfred Robards so that they almost equaled the screen time of Mr. and Mrs. Vole. So much so that Charles Laughton was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957, but lost to Alec Guinness.

Marlene Dietrich plays Mrs. Vole. She's a war bride over from Germany and she's got her own agenda going. Her performance and what her character does is the key to the whole film. Dietrich probably would have gotten an Oscar nomination herself, but due to the fact that if her performance was hyped up for Academy consideration, the element of surprise would have been lost in the film. Wilder in fact apologized to Marlene for that.

The Anglo-Saxon legal system's goal is justice. Justice is served though not quite in the way it usually is in Witness for the Prosecution.


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