Not nearly as any books get recorded on CD these days as are recorded to Audiobooks that can be downloaded. So every now and then, even though I have quite an impressive waiting list at the library, I find myself without a CD in the car (I know, horrors, right?) l When this happens I just peruse the CD shelves at my local library. This is how I found Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie.
I’ve said here before that I read all of Agatha Christie’s books when I was in high school. I need to amend that; I read all of Agatha Christie’s novels in high school. And of course high school was a long time ago so when I first watched the movie version of Witness, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t one of her novels. It’s one of her short stories.
As I often enjoy books more than the movies made from them, when I pulled the CD off the shelf I was wondering how this dynamic would play out. I adore the Witness for the Prosecution movie made in 1957 with Charles Laughton, Elsa Lancaster, Trevor Howard and Marlene Dietrich. Great acting, good story, nice denouement and fabulous courtroom scenes.
If I’d had my wits about me I would have made the leap that a short story would need fleshing out to make a full movie. But I don’t always have my wits about me, so I was surprised to find that the movie had taken “fleshed out” to new levels. The Charles Laughton and Else Lancaster characters and all their action and dialog were complete embellishments as was about half of the courtroom scenes. And the short story ending was a little more open-ended than the movie.
So I’m sure you’re all saying “VS will never watch this movie again. She’s outraged that Hollywood would take such liberties with one of her favorite authors.” It’s what I thought I would be saying about now. But I’m not. The movie does not mess with the actual story – it’s completely intact – the additional characters, dialog and scenes actually support the story. Apparently Agatha Christie did not mind the additions and, of course, the movie was released to international acclaim.
The rest of the stories are fascinating, very unlike her novels. No suspicious deaths, no big long list of suspects with motives and opportunities. But great stories that capture the imagination. I’m about half way through the CDs and am manufacturing reasons to get in the car right now, so I can keep listening.
Have you ever had to give testimony in court? Or been on a jury?