For a change of pace how about my recent Preview of Agatha Christie's Marple - Series 6
that I have titled Julia McKenzie takes a last stand as (Miss ) Marple.
The DVD has not been released in the USA...but is available for Region 2 on Amazon UK. (By the way, if you want to add the complete Hickson, my favorite portrayal, to your collection...be sure you order the UK Amazon collection which contains all twelve adaptations of the Miss Marple
Agatha Christie's Marple, Series 6
Masterpiece Mystery (PBS) has just announced that it will air the three episodes of Agatha Christie's Marple
- Season 6 on Sundays beginning in September of 2014. (The season was available for UK television viewers in January 2014). Season 6 may be the final season of Marple on Mystery. After the sixth series aired, BBC announced they had acquired the rights for the production of Agatha Christie adaptations, suggesting that ITV/WGBH would be unable to make a seventh installment. The three episodes starring the robust and ill-dressed Julia McKenzie as the spinster sleuth are as follows:
First up is an adaptation of the only full-length remaining Marple novel of twelve for Mystery, A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY (1964) filmed in Cape Town, South Africa with beach scenes shot at Boulders Beach, a sheltered area known for its African penguins. Supporting cast includes Antony Sher as Jason Rafiel, Oliver Ford Davies as Major Palgrave, and Robert Webb and Charity Wakefield as the owners of the hotel. As the Christie plot goes, Miss Marple has suffered a bout of ill health and has been afforded a vacation in a warmer climate by her favorite nephew. Bored and longing for something exciting to happen, she listens to another guest, a retired detective, tell a rather unusual story about a man who got away with murder more than once. Before he fishes from his wallet a photo of the man, he suddenly stops and changes the subject abruptly. The next day, when one of the maids finds the detective dead in his room, Miss Marple stops her knitting, suspects murder, and interviews the British owners of the hotel and the other guests...including tycoon Jason Rafiel who is confined to a wheelchair suffering from a weak heart; Jackson, his nurse-masseur-attendant-valet; and Esther, his secretary.
A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY has been adapted for television two other times. In 1983 for American viewers, CBS's Goodyear Theater presented the tale which starred Helen Hayes as Miss Marple and Barnard Hughes as Mr Rafiel. A BBC TV adaptation in 1989 starred Joan Hickson as part of the series Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, with Donald Pleasence co-starring as Mr Rafiel. Both Hayes and Hickson wore the traditional elderly spinster costumes of the times including appropriate headgear.
The second episode is "Greenshaw's Folly," the last short story of six in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées, a collection first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in October of 1960. The Folly is a large English estate that was built in the 1860s or 1870s by an eccentric botanist who made an immense fortune but had little idea of architectural style. Christie's essential story is maintained with some embellishments from characters from "The Thumb Mark of St. Peter," a story from a collection first published in 1932. Miss Marple sends an old family friend and her son for refuge from an abusive husband to the labyrinth estate for the care and employment by the elderly Miss Katherine Greenshaw, the last surviving Greenshaw. Miss Marple uncovers the past and present secrets of the estate and its owners and uncovers a murderer, too.
And finally in episode three, a dramatization of Dame Christie's ENDLESS NIGHT, published as a novel in 1967 and one of her favorite tales of psychological suspense. Again, the setting is an English estate, a modern dream house built for a young penniless lad by his wealthy American wife. Told by the lad in first person narrative, Christie's novel contains a most devious plot device that only occurs in one other Christie tale. Miss Marple is nowhere to be found in the pages. (Dame Christie will no doubt roll over in her grave every time this episode is shown.) You may want to prepare for this episode by reading the original novel and considering a viewing of Endless Night
, a 1972 full-length film starring Hywel Bennett, Hayley Mills, Britt Ekland, and George Sanders (in his last role).
You may have noticed that all three of this season's episodes were adapted from novels and a story first published in the 1960s...tales written when Christie was in her seventies. Directors and screenwriters have been playing with images of Miss Marple and distorting the plots since British stage actress Gracie Fields was Miss Marple in a 1956 play titled "A Murder is Announced." There can be some comparison in this latest portrayal to an early one: Julia McKenzie has the same toad-like stature (an older woman's well-rounded torso with thin short legs) as the quirky 70 year-old Margaret Rutherford who wore her own costumes and had her husband inserted as a reoccurring character "Mr. Springer" in her four comedic films beginning with MURDER SHE SAID in 1961. Rutherford's films, of course, bore little resemblance to the Christie novels.
If you are a true fan of Christie's beloved character, rest assured that you are in good company. Dame Christie herself was very vocal in her disapproval of several of the early Miss Marple depictions. She had portrayed her in the novels as a prim and birdlike elderly woman in tweed suit, hat and sensible shoes: a perfect description of Joan Hickson. (Christie once remarked "Someday I would like you to play my Miss Marple" to a young Joan Hickson who was then playing a bit part in the Rutherford film MURDER SHE SAID of 1961.) Hickson can be seen in all twelve of the Miss Marple novels in BBC's Agatha Christie: The Miss Marple Collection [1984
] on dvd.