Friday, March 5, 2010

Witness for the Prosecution (1957) with Marlene Dietrich

Oh, how I love a classic b&w film.

In my film adaptation class this week, we watched Witness for the Prosecution (1957) starring Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and this lady from Mary Poppins!

I first saw this film a few months ago on PBS. Completely random. I think it was right after my husband and I rid ourselves of cable TV, so there wasn't much to choose from, and I was folding laundry at the time, so I really just needed some background noise. I fortuitously landed on PBS just in time for their Sunday movie, and almost immediately, my ears perked up and I dropped my socks.

The language! So witty. The content! So irreverent. The characters? Each one memorable, straight down to the butler. I ended up watching the whole thing without any idea what the movie was even called. And then when it was over, I was even more tickled when the credits began to "roll" and an authoritative, manly voice told me not to blab about how the movie ends to my friends so as to spoil their enjoyment. Precious!

I would venture to say that director Billy Wilder is my all-time favorite director. (And I'm sure all my film-student peers would be rolling their eyes about now. Because EVERYONE likes Billy Wilder. To say he's your favorite director is like saying Psycho is your favorite Hitchcock film. But I...uh....haven't EVER said that......EVER......err......)

Anyway.........back to Wilder........

Some Like it Hot
Double Indemnity
Sunset Boulevard
Love in the Afternoon
Stalag 17
The Seven-Year Itch


(do you need me to keep going?)


And Wilder not only directed classics, but he wrote screenplays, too, and THAT's what I typically love about his films. The banter between his characters is quick-paced, intelligent and ALWAYS pushing the envelope.

This particular film is based on an Agatha Christie short story, which she later rewrote as a play (it hit Broadway only a few years before the film came out). But the ending is different in all three versions! Twist upon twist upon twist. If you're not familiar with the story at all, then you may not see the ending coming (I didn't). But even if you've read Christie's work(s), the highlights of the film are the performances by Laughton (the barrister), Dietrich (the enigmatic German), and the supporting cast.

If you've never seen a Billy Wilder film --WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???!?!-- watch this film.
If you enjoy quirky detectives like Nero Wolfe or a good courtroom drama a la Perry Mason, watch this film.
If you have a pulse, please just watch this film already.


  1. So is this little feature your ploy to get people to help you write your thesis? LOL I like this since I'm a total old movie moron so now if Jamie suggests a movie to watch I might have at least heard of it!

  2. ahh, you've caught me! :) Well, really, it's more the fact that we only have to write one short paper in this class, and I'm a dork student who wants to do more!