Witness for the Prosecution

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Witness for the Prosecution is a 1957 American courtroom drama film based on a short story (and later play) by Agatha Christie dealing with the trial of a man accused of murder. This trial film was the first film adaptation of the story, stars Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, and Charles Laughton, and features Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's wife. The film was adapted by Larry Marcus, Harry Kurnitz and the film's director Billy Wilder.

Witness for the Prosecution was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Charles Laughton), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Elsa Lanchester), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, and Best Sound.

Contents

Plot

Sir Wilfred Robarts (Charles Laughton), a master barrister in ill health, takes Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) on as a client, over the protestations of his private nurse, Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester), that the doctor had told him to stay away from criminal cases. Vole is accused of murdering Miss Emily French (Norma Varden), a rich, older woman who had become enamored of him, going so far as to make him the main beneficiary of her will. Strong circumstantial evidence all points to Vole as the killer.

When Sir Wilfred speaks with Vole's German wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich), he finds her rather cold and self-possessed, but she does provide an alibi. Therefore, he is greatly surprised when she is called as a witness for the prosecution. While a wife cannot testify against her husband, it is shown that Christine was in fact still married to another man when she wed Leonard. She testifies that Leonard admitted to her that he had killed Mrs. French, and that her conscience forced her to finally tell the truth.

During the trial (in the Old Bailey, carefully recreated by Alexandre Trauner), Sir Wilfred is contacted by a mysterious woman, who (for a fee) provides him with letters written by Christine herself to a mysterious lover named Max. This correspondence gives her such a strong motive to lie that the jury finds Leonard not guilty.

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