Shades Of Words

Witness for the Prosecution


Winters force one indoors and the best way to avoid the piling housework is to curl up in front of the television and watch old movies. Thought Netflix is currently crumbling on new streaming content, it does have a good variety of older movies. When I say old, I mean of the black and white variety and nothing more sophisticated than that!

The 1957 version of the Agatha Christie short story “Witness for the Prosecution” ends with the following message before the credits role in

“The management of this theatre 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.”

Even though over 50 years have passed since the release of the movie, I will try to adhere to the request so as to not ruin the movie for people who haven’t seen it yet.

The story is based in London, where for some weird reason almost everyone speaks with an American accent. Sir Wilfred Robarts (Charles Laughton), barrister in His Majesty’s court, is just recovering from a heart attack when he is requested to prove the innocence of Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power). Vole is accused of murdering a rich widow Mrs. Emily French and the circumstantial evidence against him is heavy. His wife, a German woman, also abandons him on his arrest and the man is completely at despair.  Surrounded by a fretting nurse, Robarts dives into the investigation because he sincerely believes in his client’s innocence. What follows is an hour long. riveting court room drama that keeps you hooked with it’s unending twists and turns.

Directed by the Academy Award winning Billy Wilder, the movie has his stamp all over it. It’s shot primarily indoors and heavily driven by character performances. The dialog is sharp and exceedingly witty.  As I researched for this review, I learnt that Wilder has also directed Sunset Boulevard and Some Like it Hot, two of my all time favorite movies and I am now going to watch all of his movies. I love the work of directors whose movies are less gimmicky and heavily reliant on individual performances.  Sometimes, these days, when I watch a newly released movie, I find myself exhausted as my eyes adjust to the 3D and the fast changing landscapes. I fear that movies are not made to tell good stories anymore, but to create maximum visual impact.

Laughton is immensely likable as the worldly-wise but slightly petulant barrister. Though this was Power’s last film before he died of a heart attack at the age of 44, his performance though convincing, is not entirely memorable.  I think after Laughton, the star of the movie is Marlene Dietrich , who plays the role of the cold and calculating wife of the accused. Oh how she makes you hate her! And what wonderful screen presence! And how can one forget the hilarious performance by Elsa Lanchester, who plays the barrister’s strict –to-the-point-of-annoying nurse. Their banter brings all the laughs in the movie.  She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in this movie.

Witness for the Prosecution is a classic courtroom drama, shot expertly and intelligently. Definitely worth watching !


Author: Vipula

Before talking about who we are, we’d like to tell you a bit about how and why Shades of Words came into being. It all started with the idea of “A place where we could share with likeminded people about things we enjoy. From books to music to movies to travel; Shades of Words was to be a place about the best of our experiences” We thought about why should anyone read us? The answer was that whatever we review would be a mix of our experience of the thing along with interesting and useful information about it. So in case you are reading us regularly or even checking us out once in a while then we have succeeded in our efforts someway somewhere. Who are we? Known as Kapil Sood and Vipula Gupta, we thought of Shades of Words on one fine Sunday afternoon. Tired of writing interesting RFP’s and project documentation; we decided to give this a shot. Yes! We work in Indian IT industry. Cupid struck us while were innocently slogging together on the highly intricate job of formatting and beautifying documents! And since then, we have been working together to establish Shades of Words as a place that we can claim as ours. (Because buying a house is still years away!) What else? Kapil also writes some blogs which you can read here and here.

6 thoughts on “Witness for the Prosecution

  1. My Lord, I must protest –
    not everyone spoke with an American accent –

    certainly not the head judge-
    not Sir Wilfred’s solicitor Brogan-Moore, and not the Nurse Janet (Uma O’Connor). Not even Torin Thatcher.

    Aside from that, this was a fine review – thanks.


  2. JMM – thanks for dropping by and yes in all fairness you are correct. However , when the movie started everyone in the opening frames seemed to be in American accent and I think I stopped paying attention after that. But I have updated my post to say ‘almost’ everyone 😉
    Thanks for the feedback.

  3. I think I have finished watching almost all of AC’s Poirot & Miss Marple.
    I am going to watch this after reading your review.

  4. @Prasenjeet – Oh I love the Poirot series too. This is actually an American movie based one of her short stories. You should check out..its very good

  5. Well reviewed. You didn’t mention the funny dialogue exchanges and repartee’s throughout the movie. Although, that can be attributed to British humor and thus expected, but the dialogues were fun.

  6. @Kapil – thanks for your comment. I did talk about the witty dialogues but yes the movie was quite full of it . It was very funny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s