Witness for the Prosecution
This 1957 courtroom-drama, based on an Agatha Christie story, starts out slow, but really packs a punch! The stars are Tyrone Power (playing against type), Marlene Dietrich (very compelling), and Charles Laughton (providing most of the humor). There is a lot of dialogue, but it’s very well-crafted. Famed London lawyer Sir Wilfrid (Laughton) takes on the case of Leonard Vole (Power) mainly because he’s intrigued by Vole’s German wife, Christine (Dietrich). Leonard, charming yet jobless, is the prime suspect in the murder of a wealthy widow he befriended. Christine, who is cold and clever, doesn’t act like the typical worried wife. Sir Wilfrid tells Christine that a woman w/ her personality won’t be seen sympathetically by the jury. I don’t want to give too much away, so check out this film for yourself.
The Fifteen Streets
Some dreams do come true in Catherine Cookson (1906-1998) novels, but not w/o hardship and loss. This TV movie, based on her most popular novel, was filmed on location and looks very authentic. If you want to read the book, it’s suitable for both young adults (junior high age) and grown-ups. Since Cookson herself grew up in a working-class/Catholic/Northern community, she truly knows her characters. Despite being born illegitimate and poor, Cookson pulled herself up into middle-class respectability- becoming a teacher, novelist, and eventually- dame of the British Empire.
At the turn of the 20th century, hard-working dockworker John O’Brien (Owen Teale) meets independent-minded Mary Llewellyn (Clare Holman), the teacher of his little sister Katie. John and Mary are both concerned about young Katie’s future; she’s a bright/curious child who dreams of being a teacher. John fears the family will not have enough money to pay for such training.
John’s younger brother Dominic (Sean Bean) causes a lot of trouble in the family and community. While John is sober and fair-minded, Dominic loves drinking and fighting. Mr. O’Brien also likes to drink; he’s angered by the fact that he’s getting old and not being chosen for work as much. Mrs. O’Brien is pregnant at the start of the story w/ her sixth child.
Love doesn’t come smoothly for John and Mary. The Llewellyns live in a middle-class house with fine furnishings; the O’Brien’s live in a small rowhouse near the docks. However, they both share a love of words and a deep physical attraction. They meet secretly, knowling that their courtship is out of the norm in their community.
Sean Bean plays the villain Sir Robert Lovelace in this 1991 TV miniseries based on a Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) novel. The daughter of an 18th century (recently) wealthy family, Clarissa Harlowe (Saskia Wickham), is known for her piety, obedience, and beauty. But unlike most young women, she wants to remain single, quite satisfied w/ her books and female friends for company. In time, her family plans to marry her off to Mr. Soames, a man she finds repellant b/c of his looks and manners. Clarissa, feeling desperate and friendless, runs off with Lovelace, the handsome/ill-reputed nobleman who’d been sending her secret letters.
Lovelace, a known womanizer, pretends to seek redemption by reading the Bible and spending time w/ Clarissa. His real goal is to wear down her virtue. He comments to his best friend that he’s “never known a virtuous maid to hold out more than a month.” But Clarissa won’t be had so easily! Lovelace also wants to take revenge on James, Clarissa’s cold-hearted older brother.
Though James, as well as his sister Arabella, are rather one-dimensional villains, Clarissa’s best friend Anne is a n interesting character. She’s a smart and sarcastic woman w/ a steady beau, but she doesn’t respect or love him. She keeps him waiting, wondering if marriage is the right choice.