Fooling around with Tyrone, Noël and Marianne:
Billy Wilder directs this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution, a courtroom drama concerning a man on trial for the murder of an old woman – did he do it? What’s up with his wife? Will his lawyer’s nurse catch him smoking? As with Christie’s stageplay, The Mousetrap, upon the film’s conclusion, the audience is kindly asked to refrain from revealing its twists and revelations, but we at Eavesdropping at the Movies respect no such requests. Spoilers within.
Charles Laughton is pleasingly hammy, Marlene Dietrich composed, and Tyrone Power a loud, sweaty, stressed out mess – and somehow mostly in the background, despite his central role as the accused murderer. We discuss their performances and characters, the pleasures and methods of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, and Wilder’s direction, which hopes, in that classic Hollywood style, to render technique invisible. Witness for the Prosecution is an engrossing mystery filled with interesting bits of business that enrich its characters, and a classic.
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Two observations on Hitchcock’s Saboteur: it seems a main root of much 80s Action/Spectacle cinema: stereotypical characters in one high concept set-piece after another, the main purpose of each to convey humour, suspense, excitement and/or surprise. One is left without much at the end but has had great fun getting there. I loved the theatricality of the opening doors at the factory, like a curtain at the start of a play. My other observation is that Robert Cummings’ eyelashes are filmed so as to rival Tyrone Power’s.