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
At previews, audience members received, and were asked to sign, cards that read, "I solemnly swear I will not reveal the ending of Witness for the Prosecution." 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 »
But this is England, where I thought you never arrest, let alone convict, people for crimes they have not committed.
We try not to make a habit of it.
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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 brilliant work in the legendary career of Billy Wilder. The director signs a cinematic adaptation of this Agatha Christie story: actually it is really as if the camera went on stage for filming the play. But the film is passionating and exciting, there's no time to get bored.
Another thing we shall not forget is that Billy Wilder is European. He manages to keep the spirit of the film very British, with lots of humour and sarcasm. Compared to films like this one, "legal" movies from John Grisham's novels are empty and meaningless, without soul.
Mr.Wilder is the director, we know; we have Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich: what a cast! Add a superb black and white cinematography... The result is amazing, with a film where dialogues are flawless and carry everything.
Times are different now, but the atmosphere and the taste of movies like this one are impossible to find in contemporary films.
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