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Witness for the Prosecution (Dec-1957)

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: Harry Kurnitz; Larry Marcus; Billy Wilder

From a play: Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie

Musical Score: Matty Malneck

Producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.

Keywords: Mystery, Courtroom

Tyrone Power plays Leonard Vole, accused on circumstantial evidence of murdering a wealthy widow he had known only a short time but who had bequeathed him a fortune. Charles Laughton is Sir Wilfrid Robarts, barrister in poor health who only one day out of the hospital has agreed to take up his case; Marlene Dietrich is Christine, his wife and star witness for the prosecution. First rate courtroom drama; nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Henry Daniell
5-Mar-1894 31-Oct-1963 British-American character actor
Marlene Dietrich
27-Dec-1901 6-May-1992 The Blue Angel
Elsa Lanchester
28-Oct-1902 26-Dec-1986 Bride of Frankenstein
Charles Laughton
1-Jul-1899 15-Dec-1962 Island of Lost Souls
Ruta Lee
30-May-1935   Former hostess, High Rollers
Una O'Connor
23-Oct-1880 4-Feb-1959 Googly-eyed character actress
Tyrone Power
5-May-1913 15-Nov-1958 Witness for the Prosecution
Torin Thatcher
15-Jan-1905 4-Mar-1981 The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
Norma Varden
20-Jan-1898 19-Jan-1989 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Ian Wolfe
4-Nov-1896 23-Jan-1992 Bedlam


Tyrone Power   ...   Leonard Vole
Marlene Dietrich   ...   Christine
Charles Laughton   ...   Sir Wilfrid
Elsa Lanchester   ...   Miss Plimsoll
Una O'Connor   ...   Janet
John Williams   ...   Brogan-Moore
Henry Daniell   ...   Mayhew
Torin Thatcher   ...   Mr. Myers
Philip Tonge   ...   Insp. Hearne
Ian Wolfe   ...   Carter
Francis Compton   ...   Judge
Norma Varden   ...   Mrs. French
Ruta Lee   ...   Diana


Review by Mark J. Shallow (posted on 12-Dec-2008)

That reliable cinematic workhorse, the courtroom drama, is admirably showcased in this film version of Agatha Christie's hit play. The genius of Billy Wilder, who directed, is plainly evident throughout. Despite the unlikely histrionics at the very end of the film, Wilder and his players capture and hold the audience's attention. There could never have been an instance of more felicitous casting than Charles Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Robards. Though much-maligned during his career for chewing the scenery, here his characterization sparkles with incisive wit and cunning as the aging lion brought into the arena one more time. The byplay between himself and his real-life wife, Elsa Lanchester, who plays his delightfully nagging nurse, reverberates with a sort of venemous charm that is impossible to dislike. Marlene Dietrich, as the wife of the accused murderer, is the epitome of continental hauteur, and the fencing between her and Laughton has a compelling edginess to it. The only flaw in this otherwise brilliant film is the casting of an Anerican actor (Tyrone Power) as the man charged with murdering his wealthy benefactress. This was the last film for the former Fox star, and he seems distinctly out of place among his European counterparts. He was an odd choice to play Leonard Vole, given the fact that Christie wrote the character as being British.

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