The wheels of justice grind slowly
Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) is an aging barrister recovering from a heart attack. Against the advice of doctors and his nurse, played by Laughton‘s wife Elsa Lanchester, Sir Wilfrid decides to defend Leonard Vole. Vole (Tyrone Power) is on trial for the murder of a wealthy widow. His wife, Christine (Marlene Dietrich), is his only alibi, but Sir Wilfrid doubts whether she is telling the truth.
Witness for the Prosecution received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actor (Laughton), Best Supporting Actress (Lanchester), Best Editing (Daniel Mandell), Best Sound (Gordon Sawyer). It didn’t win in any category.
In casting the roles of Leonard Vole and Christine Helm, United Artists producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. wanted an actor and actress for both Witness for the Prosecution and their next film, Solomon and Sheba (1959). William Holden was the first choice for Leonard, but he was unavailable. Billy Wilder and Arthur Hornblow then went to Tyrone Power who turned down the part. Other actors considered for the role included Gene Kelly, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, and even Roger Moore. Eventually, Tyrone Power accepted the role when he was offered both Witness for the Prosecution and Solomon and Sheba for $300,000 each. Before he could complete Solomon however, Power (1914-1958) had a fatal heart attack and was replaced by Yul Brynner. Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth were also considered for the role of Christine Helm.