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Remind Me


Witness for the Prosecution was one of three movies directed by the prolific Billy Wilder in 1957. The other two were Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper and The Spirit of St. Louis starring James Stewart as Charles Lindbergh.

Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton were husband and wife in real life. It was their eleventh and last film together.

Dietrich had delighted Laughton in the 1930s by declaring she would rather play a love scene with him than with anyone.

On its initial release in selected theaters - as the end title appeared - an announcer's voice requested patrons not reveal the movie's secret and spoil it for those who hadn't seen it.

This was Tyrone Power's last movie. Wilder originally wanted Kirk Douglas and also sought William Holden for the role of Leonard Vole. At various points Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, and Glenn Ford were all considered. But producer Edward Small tempted Power into a two-picture deal. The actor agreed to play the less showy part in Witness for the Prosecution and settled for the lead role in Small's production of Solomon and Sheba (1959). While on location in Spain, Power suffered a heart attack on the set of the biblical epic and died after filming nearly half the movie. Yul Brynner was brought in as his replacement and re-filmed most of Power's scenes. You can still see Power in long shots.

Ava Gardner was once considered for the role of Christine, and she said she would do it, if only for the chance to work with Wilder. But the director favored his old friend, Marlene Dietrich, over Gardner. The producers of Witness for the Prosecution were also interested in Rita Hayworth for the Dietrich part but Wilder was firmly opposed to this as he thought she was incapable of handling the role.

Designer Alexandre Trauner was once honored at the Telluride Film Festival for his distinguished body of work, which began in France in 1934 and ended with his last film The Rainbow Thief (1990). He worked on eight Billy Wilder films and won the Oscar for The Apartment (1960). He also had a small role in Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957) and was an uncredited producer of Irma La Douce (1963). Trauner's most famous work apart from Wilder includes The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Round Midnight (1986), and the French classic Children of Paradise (1945), a risky undertaking for Trauner, a Jew working undercover in Nazi-occupied France.

Una O'Connor, who lays the snipish housekeeper in both the stage and film versions, appeared with Laughton in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) and The Canterville Ghost (1944). She also had a role in Lanchester's most famous film (in which the latter appeared as both Mary Shelley and the monster) - Bride of Frankenstein (1935). And she appeared with Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933) and with Tyrone Power in Lloyds of London (1936). Witness for the Prosecution was her last film.


Sir Wilfrid (Charles Laughton): "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind finely."

Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester): "Teeny weeny flight of steps, Sir Wilfrid, we mustn't forget we've had a teeny weeny heart attack."

Sir Wilfrid: "If you were a woman, Miss Plimsoll, I would strike you."

Servant: "Sorry, Sir Wilfrid, but Miss Plimsoll has issued an ultimatum. If you are not in bed in one minute, she will resign."
Sir Wilfrid: "Splendid. Give her a month's pay and kick her down the stairs."

Christine Vole (Marlene Dietrich): "I never faint because I am not sure that I will fall gracefully, and I never use smelling salts because they puff up the eyes."

Janet McKenzie (Una O'Connor): "Perhaps you can help me, your Lordship. Six months, I have applied for my hearing aid and I am still waiting for it."
Judge (Francis Compton): "My dear Madame. Considering the rubbish that is being taught nowadays, you are missing very little."

Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power): "But this is England, where I thought you never arrest, let alone convict, people for crimes they have not committed."
Sir Wilfrid: "We try not to make a habit of it."

Sir Wilfrid: "I am constantly surprised that women's hats do not provoke more murders."

Cockney Woman (displaying her scarred face to the prosecutor): "Wanna kiss me, ducky?"

Compiled by Rob Nixon