Just recently, one of my very favorite actresses took a stab at portraying one of the most famous cozy mystery characters of all time… Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Geraldine McEwan (the particular actress) brings a fresh portrayal of Miss Marple with almost the same mischievous glint in her expressive eyes as she displayed while portraying E. F. Benson’s Lucia. (That last sentence will probably only make sense to those of you who have been lucky enough to see the first season of Mapp and Lucia… another cozy, although not a mystery, production.)
In 2005, Great Britain (a Granada production) gave us yet another wonderful “television event.” For the purposes of this review, I will refer to these shows as the “Miss Marple”series… Yes, I know that before McEwan we had Margaret Rutherford, Helen Hayes, and Joan Hickson, amongst several other actress who portrayed Miss Jane Marple, but for the purposes of this blog, McEwan is Miss Marple.
Hmmm… “McEwan is Miss Marple.”
I have read reviews that state… essentially… that McEwan is NOT Miss Marple. I have to say that I strongly disagree. I think that McEwan puts into the Miss Marple character the same patient grace that she seems most capable of conveying. She is able to smile demurely while delivering a quick-witted come-back which her targeted person thinks is simply an observation. She is absolutely delightful as Miss Marple. So delightful, that I can imagine Agatha Christie saying “Yes, by gosh, she’s got it!”
As usual, we get the beautiful backdrop of quaint villages, whether they are Miss Marple’s very own St. Mary Mead, or another locale where Miss Marple is visiting. We have all of the obligatory eccentric characters and the gorgeous wardrobe is of course, authentic to the period. The series delivers just what we expect from the PBS imported British “Mystery! programmes.”
Series 1 includes: The Murder at the Vicarage (1930), with another one of my very favorite “British exports”… Sir Derek Jacobi. And, for all of you Ballykissangel fans out there… You will be delighted to see your favorite priest (Stephen Tomkinson) as the police inspector, who as usual, sees beyond Miss Marple’s elderly lady façade. Also presented in series one are: The Body in the Library (1942) with the phenomenal Joanna Lumley, A Murder is Announced (1950), and 4:50 from Paddington (1957), which all of you Christie fans might know as What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!
Series 2 includes: Sleeping Murder (1976), By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968), The Moving Finger (1943), and The Sittaford Mystery (1931) I have to admit that I did not care for By the Pricking of my Thumbs at all. Miss Marple seems totally superfluous in this Tommy and Tuppence “movie.” And, since I never cared for that particular Christie series, it stands to reason that I didn’t like this show. I felt like McEwan’s talents were being wasted by having her play second fiddle to an alcoholic Tuppence.
Series 3 includes: Towards Zero (1944), Nemesis (1971, At Bertram’s Hotel (1965), and Ordeal by Innocence (1958). While I haven’t seen the third season of these shows, I am a little concerned that Ordeal by Innocence and Towards Zero are not Miss Marple books. I sure hope that Miss Marple isn’t again used as a secondary character as she was in the second season’s By the Pricking of My Thumbs!
All in all, if you are looking for a really fun time, these “movies” might be exactly what you want!
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