Sir Wilfrid Robarts is a is the Defence Barrister of Leonard Vole in the Stage Play and the Films of Witness for the Prosecution. He is not a character in the original short story but was rewritten from a similar person in the Short Story called Sir Charles.
- In the 1953 stage play, 1953 teleplay and 1957 film the character is named Sir Wilfrid Robarts.
- In the 1982 film the character is renamed Sir Wilfred Robarts.
Short Story Version
Sir Charles is only seen at the trial, after Romaine gives her statement he remarks that he has nothing to help Vole his only theory was that a Nephew is his only other suspect. However after letters revealing Romaine’s cheating is discovered Sir Charles exposes her as a liar saving Leonard Vole.
In the play’s revisit Christie renames Sir Charles, Wilfred Robarts and makes him the major player witnessing everything. He is an older man that comes back to his office after he had a heart attack, he hears the case, speaks to Leonard Vole just before he is arrested for the crime. When he speaks to Romaine, he is surprised by her unfazed behaviour, he does let her know that her testimony won’t helped Leonard. At the trial Robarts goes through the Prosecution with a fine tooth comb, he remarks about old cases that relate to the current, helps the naive Vole with his statement, he proves Janet McKenize couldn’t hear Vole’s voice as she is deaf, but when Romaine comes with her statement of Vole guilt he is horrified. As Robarts prepares to the fact that Vole will hang, but then Romaine dressed as a Scarred Woman comes in revealing Romaine secret love letters proving Vole’s innocence, with this he accuses Romaine despite the Prosecuting Lawyer’s request not to. Vole is found innocent and acquitted, but Robarts still feel that something is wrong, when Romaine comes in she reveals that she was the scarred woman and faked the letters to save Leonard who is guilty, Robarts is furious and Vole tries to pay him off but as he vows that he will find a way to get Vole. But he watches justice happened when Vole reveals he’s seeing someone else and Romaine stabs him.
In this version there are changes to Robarts despite being faithful to the play.
- The first change is that Robarts is that he has a Private Nurse called Miss Plimsoll that is very protective of her ward, however Robarts refuses to relax he convinces his doctor to let him do. Robarts ignores everything she tells him not to and snuggles Brandy into the Courtroom through Mayhew swapping the flask after Plimsoll approves the “Cocoa”.
- After that when Robarts cross exams Leonard and Christine Vole he wears a monocle that flashes the Sunlight into the faces of the person while Leonard passes by doing nothing, Christine reacts to cover her face meaning she is lying. As Miss Plimsoll is watching the trial she chats to Diana.
- Robarts goes to Euston Station to met the Cockney Woman who gives him the letters.
- After the trial and The Voles confessions, Robarts and Plimsoll watch Leonard reveals his true nature as Diana is his other woman and Robarts dangles his monocle, the light hits the knife Leonard used and Christine stabs him.
- When Plimsoll reveals that Leonard is dead, Mayhew enters and Plimsoll explains to him what happened, but Robarts changes the word “kill” to “execute”. But rather than go on the cruise Plimsoll tells Robarts he has to save Christine and allows him to do what he wants.
Robarts was played by Charles Laughton and Plimsoll by Elsa Lanchaster.
In this version Robarts and Plimsoll reappear but their scenes are copies from the earlier movie, the only difference being that Robarts meets the Cockney Woman in the slums like Mayhew did the book.
Robarts was played by Sir Ralph Richardson and Plimsoll was played by Deborah Kerr.
2016 TV Miniseries
In the series the part goes back to the story version, his name is Sir Charles Carter. In this version he appears in the courtroom after Romaine’s added details to the prosecution he tells Mayhew that anything he could use against the witnesses is too weak, however after exposing Romaine’s true character with the letters he follows it with the other witnesses, questioning if the Solicitor heard Emily French tell Leonard anything about the will, which he didn’t and that Janet McIntyre believed she saw Vole when she saw what she wished to see when she argues Sir Charles sees the officer that interviewed her directing her not to, which he uses as proof she was coached to say everything.
He was played by David Haig
- Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were husband and wife in real life.
- Laughton faked a heart attack to convince himself that he could play a recovered man with one, he did it while at home with Lanchester and a friend.
- Laughton was also Hercule Poirot in the stage play Alibi.
- The Monocle is based on Laughton’s lawyer Florance Guedella who famously use it while cross-examining witnesses.
- The moment when Robarts dangles his monocle and it reflects sunlight on the knife that Christine uses to kill Leonard is questionable if Robarts did it on purpose or not.
- Witness was the last Television role for Sir Ralph Richardson.
- Plimsoll was the TV debut of Deborah Kerr.
- David Haigh was also Agatha Christie’s Marple Murder is Easy.