Witness for the Prosecution

D: Billy Wilder
United Artists (Arthur Hornblow, Jr.)
US 1957
114 mins


W: Billy Wilder, Harry Kurnitz & Larry Marcus [based on the stage play by Agatha Christie]
DP: Russell Harlan
Ed: Daniel Mandell
Mus: Matty Melneck

Charles Laughton (Sir Wilfrid Robarts), Tyrone Power (Leonard Vole); Marlene Dietrich (Christine Vole), Elsa Lanchester (Miss Plimsoll), John Williams (Brogan Moore)

Agatha Christie's stage play is brought to the screen with some style and panache by director and co-writer Billy Wilder, who puts the main focus on the trio of main characters rather than the courtroom scenes, which only come in the latter half of the movie.
Charles Laughton plays ageing, sickly barrister Wilfrid Robarts, who is approached by Leonard Vole, a desperate man who is facing a murder charge following the death of a wealthy heiress who he embarked on a romantic tryst with.
His guilt looks even more likely when it emerges he is the beneficiary of the woman's estate, but upon interviewing Vole's German wife and finding her untrustworthy, agrees to take on the case.
Marlene Dietrich steals this movie with her shady portrayal, setting up an unexpected twist as the proceedings unfold, while Charles Laughton is also fantastic as the haughty lawyer.
Billy Wilder has shades of Alfred Hitchcock with the delivery of this film, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in a particularly strong year.
It's not quite as good as many other courtroom drama pictures, but is still certainly worth a watch for fans of the genre.

Charles Laughton in Witness for the Prosecution
Charles Laughton in Witness for the Prosecution