The Witness for the Prosecution

4 Favourites

Agatha Christie's most celebrated courtroom drama - Leonard Vole stands trial for the murder of his beneficiary, and even his wife insists he is guilty...

"Justice has been done and has been seen to be done. We nod approvingly, at which moment Mrs Christie says in effect "Oh, so you thought that did you?" and with an unforeseen twist of the cards lets us see how wrong we were."

The Guardian, 1953


About this story

First released

January 1925 (short story in Flynn's Weekly, UK)

Genre

  • Murder Mystery, 
  • Thriller

Formats

  • Film, 
  • Short Story, 
  • Radio, 
  • Play, 
  • TV

Murder methods

Setting

  • Court room

Not previously known for her courtroom dramas, Witness for the Prosecution has become one of Agatha Christie most adapted and best known stories. Since its first publication as a short story in the UK collection The Hound of Death in 1933, it has been adapted for film multiple times, as well as TV and radio.

It was published in the US in the collection of the same title in 1948. The following year the first film adaptation was made, directed by John Glyn-Jones for UK TV. In 1953, persuaded by Peter Saunders (who also produced The Mousetrap) Agatha Christie returned ...

Read more

Not previously known for her courtroom dramas, Witness for the Prosecution has become one of Agatha Christie most adapted and best known stories. Since its first publication as a short story in the UK collection The Hound of Death in 1933, it has been adapted for film multiple times, as well as TV and radio.

It was published in the US in the collection of the same title in 1948. The following year the first film adaptation was made, directed by John Glyn-Jones for UK TV. In 1953, persuaded by Peter Saunders (who also produced The Mousetrap) Agatha Christie returned to the text and adapted it for the stage, writing the play in less than three weeks! She changed Romaine Vole's name to Christine and changed the ending - Christie felt theatre needed something more visually dramatic and violent. The play opened in London in October at the Winter Garden Theatre, and by 1954 Witness was one of three Christie plays running simultaneously in the West End, a feat which she was the first female playwright to achieve.

In 1957 an American film version was made, starring Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton, and directed by long term Agatha Christie fan Billy Wilder. It was a high budget production, one scene involving the reveal of Deitrich's famous legs, 145 extras, 38 stuntmen and $90,000. The final credits ran with a request that viewers keep the plot twist a secret, as the posters said: "You'll talk about it, but please don't tell the ending."

Another TV adaptation was made in 1982, again in the US, starring Beau Bridges and Diana Rigg. In 2002, a Russian language version was made, titled Свидетель обвинения, followed in 2005 by a Marathi language version, Khara Sangaycha Tar. A Japanese version was also made in 2011.



Christie reading list

stacked christies 300 2.png

Download our checklist of all the stories Agatha Christie wrote. Have you read them all?

Download the reading list

Other stories you may like...