A quick Sunday blog as here in Australia, a new adaption of Agatha Christie's Witness For The Prosecution hits the screens.
As a long-time fan of Agatha Christie (thanks Mum), I have read all her books, plays, short stories, and seen many of her works translated onto the screen, whether as a film or TV series. But one of my all-time favourite films was, and still is, Witness For The Prosecution - the Billy Wilder version starring Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. I have this on VCR and DVD.
Synopsis: young man, older woman, murder. Most of the drama takes place in the court room or the offices of legendary barrister, Sir Wilfred Robarts (Laughton). It is suspenseful, dramatic, sometimes entertaining (due to Wilder's direction) - and nothing is revealed until we reach the climatic end.
Now the novel was originally published in January 1925 as Traitor Hands before being re-published in 1933 as part of stories before being expanded on by Christie in 1953 for the play version.
Witness For The Prosecution (1953 play)
The play opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theatre, New York City on 16 December 1954, starring:
Witness For The Prosecution (1957 Film)
This 1957 film version was presented as a typical courtroom drama with film noir elements directed by Billy Wilder, set in the Old Bailey in London. The film, based on the play of the same name by Agatha Christie, deals with the trial of a man accused of murder. The first film adaptation of this story, it stars Tyrone Power (Leonard Vole), Marlene Dietrich (Christine Vole / Romaine), and Charles Laughton (Sir Wilfrid Roberts), and features Elsa Lanchester (Miss Plimsoll - she was also Laughton's wife, starring in many films together). Also look out for Una O'Connor (Janet - I loved her in the Flynn version of "Robin Hood" and also in "The Informer"). The 1957 film was adapted by Billy Wilder from the play of the same name.
Side note: Billy Wilder was responsible for such hits as "Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment", "Double Indemnity", and of course - "Sunset Boulevard". You can view Wilder's extensive filmography HERE.
Then there is the 1982 film version, which is considered to be more faithful to the original story, starring:
- Ralph Richardson as Sir Wilfred Robarts
- Deborah Kerr as Miss Plimsoll, the nurse
- Diana Rigg as Christine Vole (Romaine)
- Beau Bridges as Leonard Vole
- Donald Pleasence as Mr. Myers, the prosecutor
And now to the 2016 mini-series which was adapted by Sarah Phelps and directed by Julian Jarrold This version is again based on Agatha Christie's original short story. The cast this time around are:
- Toby Jones as John Mayhew
- Andrea Riseborough as Romaine Heilger
- Kim Cattrall as Emily French
- David Haig as Sir Charles Carter
- Billy Howle as Leonard Vole
- Monica Dolan as Janet McIntyre
There is no Sir Wildred in this rendition - there is only John Mayhew with Sir Charles Carter prosecuting. And, according to the tabloids, "The biggest coup of the BBC's festive adaptation was that not only did it revert to Christie's original twist, but added considerably to it, making for a far more emotionally ending […which…] transformed a tale of moral turpitude and greed into something of much greater depth and contemporary resonance."
Whichever version of the story, whether film, play, mini-series, I highly recommend tracking down a copy for yourself. You won't regret it.
See also: Agatha Christie's - Witness For The Prosecution