Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A veteran British barrister must defend his client in a murder trial that has surprise after surprise.

  • Britain, 1953. Upon his return to work following a heart attack, barrister takes on a murder case,. The case is defending American war vet Leonard Vole, a poor, out of work, struggling inventor who's accused of murdering his middle-aged lonely and wealthy acquaintance, Emily French. The evidence is circumstantial but points to Leonard as the murderer, butr the csse has constant revelations.

  • Ailing barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts is thrust back into the courtroom in what becomes one of the most unusual and eventful murder case of the lawyer's career when he finds himself defending Leonard Vole, a man being tried for the murder of a wealthy woman. With Robarts choosing to represent him, the two find themselves up against Leonard's cold-hearted wife, Christine - who, in a surprising turn of events, chooses to appear in court against her husband.

  • When Leonard Vole is arrested for the sensational murder of a rich, middle-aged widow, the famous Sir Wilfrid Robarts agrees to appear on his behalf. Sir Wilfrid, recovering from a near-fatal heart attack, is *supposed* to be on a diet of bland, civil suits. But the lure of the criminal courts is too much for him, especially when the case is so difficult: Vole's only alibi witness is his wife, the calm and coldly calculating Christine Vole. Sir Wilfrid's task becomes even more impossible when Christine agrees to be a witness not for the defence but for the prosecution.

  • Leonard Vole is an unemployed inventor, his latest contraption being a new-fangled egg beater. He is married but through a chance encounter, became friendly with a rich widow, Emily French. When Vole is accused of her murder, his solicitor refers the case to a brilliant barrister, Sir Wilfrid Robarts to lead the defense. Robarts believes his client to be innocent but his alibi rests on the testimony of Vole's wife, Christine. As the jury would expect a wife to defend her husband, he decides not to call her as a witness. He is surprised however when she is called as a witness for the prosecution. As luck would have it, he comes into possession of letters that seriously discredits her testimony. There is, however, a far more devious plot being hatched, one that even the great Robarts cannot fathom.

  • When the efficient but bitter and stubborn barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts returns to his office in London recovering from a heart attack, he is invited to defend Leonard Stephen Vole, who is the prime suspect in a murder case. Leonard is a former soldier that fought in World War II and is married with his beloved German wife Christine Helm Vole. He is unemployed and accused of seducing and murdering the wealthy middle-aged single woman Emily French to inherit 80,000 pounds. His unique alibi would be the testimony of Christine, which would not be accepted by the court, since she is his wife. Along the trial, Christine is surprisingly called to testify in court by the prosecution, when secrets about their lives are disclosed.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • A few years after War War II, in London, Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), is accused of murdering a rich widow, Emily French (Norma Varden), who has recently changed her will and bequeathed him a substantial sum of money.

    Sir Wilfred Robarts (Charles Laughton), a skilled lawyer who has Just be released from hospital, is asked to defend Vole. Sir Wilfred's doctor has instructed him to avoid excitement. After his hand-picked replacement barrister expresses doubt over Vole's innocence, Sir Wilfred decides to handle the case himself, despite protests from his nurse (Elsa Lanchester).

    After a conversation with Mrs. Christine Vole (Marlene Dietrich) and assessing her attitude, Sir Wilfred decides not to call on her to testify in defense of her husband.

    In the courtroom, Christine Vole surprisingly appears as a Witness for the Prosecution. A parade of circumstantial evidence points to Vole being the likely murderer. Christine's testimony does not provide an alibi for her husband.

    All seems lost as the defense concludes its case. But a late night phone call reveals new evidence that Christine wrote letters to an anonymous lover named Max about purposely denying her husband an alibi to get her freedom. This evidence changes the jury's opinion and Leonard is acquitted. However, Sir Wilfred suspects something is amiss with this sudden reversal and dramatic convenient evidence.

    All is revealed in the last dramatic court scene, as Christine admits to deliberately sabotaging her own testimony with the letters, to get her guilty husband freed. But in the penultimate twist, Leonard shows his true stripes and reveals his intention to leave his "wife" for a younger woman. Christine seizes the knife used as evidence of an accidental cut causing Vole's bloody jacket and, in full view of Sir Wilfred, his nurse (Miss Plimsoll), and the other woman, stabs Leonard, killing him. Miss Plimsoll cancels Sir Wilfred's planned trip to Bermuda and announces he will defend Christine Vole in her trial for murder.

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