Billy Wilder directs Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich in this Agatha Christie courtroom drama where a recuperating barrister, an oily husband and his unpredictable German wife engage in a battle of wits.
A wonderful filmed play embellished by Wilder’s satirically astute sense of impropriety. There’s three fantastic star performances here; Laughton’s wiley but mischievous blowhard, his real life wife Elsa Lanchester as his harried nurse (the perfect comedy foil) and Dietrich. She feels a little underused in the first two acts (and the film sags a little during the court case) but once the third act twists start unspooling at an overwhelming pace she takes centre stage. At previews, audience members received, and were asked to sign, cards that read, “I solemnly swear I will not reveal the ending of Witness for the Prosecution.” Even the Royal Family who attended the U.K. premiere where sworn to secrecy in a nice bit of marketing hyperbole. The still genuinely clever big reveals are now 65 years old but I won’t tell either.
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