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
Less than two months after "Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie had a London premiere, it opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theater on December 16, 1953 and ran for 645 performances. Una O'Connor reprized her role in the movie. See more »
(at around 9 mins), inside his chamber, Sir Wilfrid lights his cigar and Leonard Vole locks the door to make sure that Miss Plimsoll can't enter the room and catch him smoking. But at 14.56 minutes, Sir Wilfrid leaves his chamber without first unlocking the door. 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 »
I first saw this movie about 15 years ago and loved it. I just watched it on VHS and was captivated all over again. Agatha Christie's story, Billy Wilder's screenplay and direction, and the four main leads all get it right. Charles Laughton is absolutely superb, and Elsa Lanchester is a perfect foil.
Agatha Christie's story has more twists and turns than a roller coaster and this provides a strong foundation for the movie. But the actors give life to the characters. I haven't seen the 1982 version, but I'll admit to a bias for Marlene Dietrich. She and Tyrone Power pull just the right punches.
It's a mystery, of course. But a top notch one. So if you want only to dabble in the genre, this is the one to try. (If you like mysteries, it goes without saying that you must see it.) Moreover, this is one B&W movie for people who don't like B&W movies.
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