If we live long enough, we will have the unenviable experience of being told by the doctor to give up something we love. For you it might be junk food. For me, it might be alcohol or jogging.
Either way, we will have a tough decision to make. Do we listen? Do we change our ways?
What’s more important: to live a longer life? Or to live MY life?
When we meet famed London barrister Wilfred Robarts, he has already made his decision.
In the first scene, Sir Wilfred (Charles Laughton) is on his way back to the office for the first time in months. He was just discharged from the hospital and he’s still recovering from a heart attack.
Wildred’s full-time nurse Ms. Plimsoll makes the rules very clear: no drinking, no smoking, and no high-stress cases. Wilfred plans on flouting every rule.
“Witness for the Prosecution” is an absolute delight. It is two great movies in one package.
Movie one is the hilarious battle of wills between Sir Wilfred and Ms. Plimsoll (played by Laughton’s real-life wife Elsa Lanchester). Wilfred uses every manner of subterfuge to sneak cigars and sips of brandy.
Movie two is a delicious, surprise-packed courtroom drama. Sir Wilfred can’t resist taking the hopeless case of Leonard Vole: an unemployed American accused of murdering his rich widow friend.
All the circumstantial evidence points to Vole. The widow had just added him as sole beneficiary of her fortune. To wily Wilfred, it is a joyful challenge to keep Vole from the hangman while also sneaking shots in court.
Writer/director Billy Wilder takes the fun to the next level when Vole’s mysterious German wife takes the stand as a … witness for the prosecution. Christine Vole (Marlene Dietrich) shocks everyone when she declares under oath that her husband came home that night with blood on his jacket and confessed the murder.
For a film about sickness, mortality, and death, it wouldn’t make sense for it to be filled with young pretty actors. And, surprisingly, it isn’t. “Witness for the Prosecution” is made by middle aged people for middle aged people.
In Hollywood, middle aged women are usually relegated to playing the mom of the pretty ingenue. In this movie, older women run the show. Elsa Lanchester matches wits with Charles Laughton at every turn. And 56-year-old Marlene Dietrich is magnetic, enigmatic, and sexy.
“Witness for the Prosecution” is a gem. It’s funny and entertaining from start to finish. And it’s a powerful argument to ignore your doctor’s advice. Sir Wilfred isn’t afraid of dying; he’s afraid of quitting the things he loves and missing out on all the fun.
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