It's Britain, 1953. Upon his return to work following a heart attack, irrepressible barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts, known as a barrister for the hopeless, takes on a murder case, much to the exasperation of his medical team, led by his overly regulated private nurse, Miss Plimsoll, who tries her hardest to ensure that he not return to his hard living ways - including excessive cigar smoking and drinking - while he takes his medication and gets his much needed rest. That case is defending American war veteran Leonard Vole, a poor, out of work, struggling inventor who is accused of murdering his fifty-six year old lonely and wealthy widowed acquaintance, Emily French. The initial evidence is circumstantial but points to Leonard as the murderer. Despite being happily married to East German former beer hall performer Christine Vole, he fostered that friendship with Mrs. French in the hopes that she would finance one of his many inventions to the tune of a few hundred pounds. It thus does ... Written by
Elsa Lanchester used to delight in broadcasting Marlene Dietrich's secrets. Although Dietrich was never secretive about her famous "tape lifts," Lanchester detailed their use to anyone who would listen (One of the most avid listeners was Charles Laughton, who urged a make-up man to steal one so he could try it). The lifts were stuck to the side of Dietrich's head where she wanted skin to be lifted. Then the long threads hanging from them were woven into hair at the back of her head, forcing the tabs to pull the skin very tight. A wig then covered the network of tabs and threads. Lanchester joked that Dietrich wouldn't dare to pull or twist her face for fear of loosening a lift. In the film, one can see how Dietrich rarely breaks the cold passiveness of her expression and moves her whole body rather than her head. See more »
(at around 9 mins), inside his chamber, Sir Wilfrid lights his cigar and Leonard Vole locks the door to make sure that Miss Plimsoll can't enter the room and catch him smoking. But at 14.56 minutes, Sir Wilfrid leaves his chamber without first unlocking the door. See more »
I'd better take that thermos of cocoa with me. It helps me wash down down the pills.
Let me see. My learned patient is not above substituting brandy for cocoa.
[opens thermos and smells]
Sniff, sniff. It is cocoa. So sorry.
If you were a woman, Miss Plimsoll, I would strike you.
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As the end credits appear on screen, an announcer's voice is heard: "The management of this theater suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture you will not divulge to anyone the secret of the ending of Witness for the Prosecution." See more »
To see "Witness for the Prosecution" for the first time in 2008 is a jolting surprise. Nobody could do it better than Billy Wilder did in 1957. A man accused of murder, Tyrone Power, the weakest link in this terrific chain. Sir Wilfred is called to defend him, he is played by the extraordinary Charles Laughton, but he's just out of hospital - he wasn't dismissed he was expelled - and due to doctor's orders he's not to take any criminal cases. He finds Power charming and personable enough but he's not going to risk his life to save his until Marlene Dietrich makes her entrance - and what an entrance! How marvelous that what amounts to a bit of Agatha Christie's usual fare becomes such an entertaining and at times right down riveting piece of film-making.
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