Witness to the Prosecution (1957)
Directed by: Billy Wilder | 116 minutes | drama, thriller, crime | Actors: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, John Williams, Henry Danniell, Ian Wolfe, Torin Thatcher, Norma Varden, Una O’Connor
The Mother of All Court Films, that is how one can call the film ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ in these times suffering from language inflation. Director Billy Wilder is one of the great masters of old Hollywood and, like George Stevens and Howard Hawks, a man of many genres. We mainly know John Ford from his westerns, we associate Alfred Hitchcock with thrillers and if we want to pin Wilder to a genre, then it should be comedy. Wilder gave the world films such as ‘Some Like it Hot’ (1959), ‘The Apartment’ (1960) and ‘The Seven Year Itch’ (1955) and showed with those films that he could put his genius at the service of screenplays by other artists. geniuses like Charles Brackett and IAL Diamond.
Wilder was an Austrian refugee who went to Berlin as a journalist and learned the film trade there. For example, he contributed to one of the masterpieces of the German silent film, ‘Menschen am Sontag’ (1930). He learned the trade from people like Erich Pommer and Ernst Lubitsch and fled to Hollywood when the specter of Nazism became visible. became. In Hollywood, in addition to the comedies mentioned, Wilder also made important films such as ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950), ‘Five Graves to Cairo’ (1943), ‘Ace in the Hole’ (1951), ‘Double Indemnity’ (1973), ‘The Lost Weekend’ (1945), ‘Stalag 17’ (1953), ‘Sabrina’ (1954) and ‘Irma la Douce’ (1963). It is difficult to express a preference for the best Wilder of all time within this list, but with the re-release of ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ the film lover can consider himself lucky.
The film is supported by the performances of two of the greatest in the history of cinema: Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. Laughton is a party in itself as the grumpy lawyer and is constantly chased by a pushy nurse who doesn’t like his unhealthy lifestyle. In reality, actress Elsa Lanchester was Laughton’s wife, which makes the acted out suspense even more entertaining. La Dietrich as Christine Helm plays herself in a sense, a German woman in a suspicious Anglo-Saxon culture. The supporting roles are also heavily occupied with Una O’Connor most notable as the deaf housekeeper.
‘Witness for the Prosecution’ offers, as befits classic court dramas, the necessary unexpected plot twists, sharp dialogues and ingenious defenses. But like, for example, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ (1962), ‘Twelve Angry Men’ (1957) and ‘A Few Good Men’ (1992), the lawsuit is ultimately just a stepping stone for another development, that of the individual within the system, in which vanity, overestimation, ambition and passion play a major role. Mandatory cost!