8.4/10
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275 user 101 critic

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 6 February 1958 (USA)
Trailer
3:09 | Trailer
A veteran British barrister must defend his client in a murder trial that has surprise after surprise.

Director:

Billy Wilder

Writers:

Agatha Christie (in Agatha Christie's international stage success), Billy Wilder (screen play) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Popularity
3,325 ( 172)
Top Rated Movies #66 | Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

Ailing barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts is thrust back into the courtroom in what becomes one of the most unusual and eventful murder case of the lawyer's career when he finds himself defending Leonard Vole, a man being tried for the murder of a wealthy woman. With Robarts choosing to represent him, the two find themselves up against Leonard's cold-hearted wife, Christine - who, in a surprising turn of events, chooses to appear in court against her husband. Written by Kyle Perez

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Once in 50 years suspense like this! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Marlene Dietrich and Billy Wilder enjoyed a long-running mutual admiration society. She praised him repeatedly as both an artist and a human being, calling him the kindest, sweetest man she had ever known. And he once said of her, "If we had to invent someone to be the ideal woman...we would have to invent Dietrich." She threw herself into the part with gritty determination, approaching it, Wilder said, "as if she thought her career depended on it. See more »

Goofs

The witness Janet McKenzie testified that October the 14 was a Friday. The film is set in 1952; if the year of the murder was 1952, October 14 was a Tuesday or if 1951, October the 14 was a Sunday. The last year October 14 was on a Friday before 1952 was 1949. See more »

Quotes

Christine Vole: He is not my husband. Leonard and I went through a form of marriage in Hamburg, but, I had a husband living at the time somewhere in East Germany in the Russian zone.
Sir Wilfrid: Did you tell Leonard?
Christine Vole: I did not! It would have been stupid to tell him. He would not have married me and I would have been left behind to starve in the rubble.
Brogan-Moore: But, he did marry you and brought you safely to this country. Don't you think you should be very grateful to him?
Christine Vole: One can get very tired of gratitude.
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Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Version of The Witness for the Prosecution (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

I May Never Go Home Anymore
Music by Ralph Arthur Roberts
Lyrics by Jack Brooks
Sung by Marlene Dietrich (uncredited)
Reprised a cappella by Tyrone Power (uncredited)
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User Reviews

 
Another triumph for cinematic genius Billy Wilder!
3 February 2005 | by The_VoidSee all my reviews

Billy Wilder is a director with an understanding of cinema that is almost unmatched throughout the medium's entire history - that's why his films are always so good. Witness for the Prosecution is yet another highlight in the great director's history, and it proves that courtroom dramas can be both riveting and a great opportunity for some first rate comedy. Wilder's film features one of the most well paced plots I've ever seen in a film, and it's a plot that includes some very finely tuned twists. Towards the end, Wilder bombards us with twist after twist, each one both making sense and topping the one before it. In a time when people are impressed by films such as 'The Sixth Sense', Billy Wilder still shows us how to skilfully attribute a twist into a film's plot. The plot itself follows the story of Sir Wilfrid Robarts; an ace defence lawyer that has been told that his health won't allow him to tackle anything more than mundane cases, but is brought back into the fray when a case involving the murder of an elderly woman comes into his hands. Wilfrid must now juggle the case and his health as he attempts to keep the young man from being sent down.

Like all Wilder films, this one is a very pleasurable viewing. Wilder manages to find a middle ground between substance and entertainment, and so this is a film that will please fans of both aspects. The film is deliriously entertaining throughout, with some truly great lines of dialogue (most of which is very quotable) and every twist adds a new level to the story. The substance comes from a multitude of angles, and themes of love, health, sacrifice and most notably, justice, are all more than prevalent. The acting is certainly of note in Witness for the Prosecution. Charles Laughton is absolutely sublime as the undermining and stubborn Wilfrid Robarts; his performance is very strong, and makes up the backbone of the film. The main supporting performance comes from Marlene Dietrich. I'm not a big fan of hers; despite having a great pair of legs, she just doesn't do anything for me, but in this film she brings sufficient coldness to her character and really makes it her own. The final main performance comes from Tyrone Power; he isn't as great as the other two, but does enough with his character to ensure he's believable. Highly recommended viewing!


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

6 February 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Witness for the Prosecution See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$7,693
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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