Set in London in 1952, Witness of the Prosecution (1957) was directed by Billy Wilder and based on a play by Agatha Christie. Famous barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts, who is recuperating from a heart attack, agrees to defend Leonard Vole, who is accused of murdering Mrs. French, a wealthy middle-aged widow in her home. Robarts takes pride in his reputation as “champion of the lost causes”, and plenty of circumstantial evidence exists against Vole, including a motive: Though married, he frequently visited with the victim, who had apparently fallen in love with him and left him GBP 80,000.00 in her will. In addition, Vole had visited with French just before she was killed. The only alibi Vole can provide is based on his wife Christine's testimony. This is something, although a wife's testimony does not count too much in a British court.
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Things take an unexpected turn when Christine Vole, who is a German immigrant, appears as a witness not for the defense but for the prosecution! In addition, Robarts and his assistant are astonished to learn that Christine's marriage to Vole is null and void as she already was married when she met him, and her former husband is still alive in Germany. But this gives them a new idea for a defense strategy: They must try to undermine Christine's testimony by disclosing her questionable character in court. In this way, by exposing Christine's putative moral flaws, they hope to manipulate the jury's sympathy with her accused husband. In doing so, they can utilize prevailing prejudices against strangers – in particular Germans – within post-war British society to demolish Christine's reputation.
Ultimately irrelevant issues are thus successfully brought up in court to distract the jury from the actual facts of the case and the overwhelming evidence against the defendant.
The review of this Movie prepared by Dorothea Lotter
This clever courtroom drama, directed by Billy Wilder at the height of his fame, is based on an Agatha Christie novel-turned-play.
Esteemed barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton in an Oscar-wining role) agrees to represent a man being tried for murder in a London court. The defendant, a handsome ex-pat American named Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), is accused of killing a wealthy spinster for her money. Testifying against Vole is the victim's maid and Vole's own wife, a former showgirl(Marlene Dietrich). Things look bad for Vole until a surprise witness showsup who may be able to provide the an alibi for the defendant.
Between the dramatic bits, there is comic interplay between Sir Wilfrid, who has a heart condition, and his nurse, played by Laughton's real-life wife Elsa Lanchester, over the barrister's refusal to heed her sound medical advice.
The review of this Movie prepared by Elana Starr
Tyrone Power's final film, “Witness For The Prosecution” is a 1958 courtroom thriller, which ends with the appeal, “please don't reveal the ending to anybody.” And Billy Wilder's riveting screenplay should indeed be examined from beginning to end.
Leonard Vole (Power), a charming but unemployed inventor, carries on with Emily French, a widow who, when murdered, leaves her sizable estate to him. Lacking an alibi, Vole is the prime suspect and pleas to his wife (Dietrich) to testify for him. He retains the brilliant but ailing Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton) who postpones a vacation to defend him in a case he “can't win.”
What follows is tense courtroom drama filled with powdered wigs, “m'lord's,” and an ongoing gag about Sir Wilfred's cocoa. Through flashback, we learn how Vole met both women and how damning the case against him is; until a mysterious cockney hag introduces physical evidence which changes everything. From then on, every unpredictable twist is plausible and satisfying. The ending, which will provide Sir Wilfrid with an opportunity to try yet one more case before retirement, most certainly should not be revealed since it has a craftiness which will have you thinking for days.
The review of this Movie prepared by Angry Jim Magin