The Many Faces of Miss Marple

At the last count five different actors lent their respective talents to Agatha Christie's famous spinster sleuth, Miss Marple. Christie was very vocal in her disapproval of the various choices although a comment she would make to one young actress would proved to be quite prophetic.

The first Miss Marple was played by British stage star Gracie Fields in a US TV play entitled "A Murder is Announced" in 1956.

The character wasn't revived again until 1961 when MGM splashed out on the wonderful and highly popular "Murder, She Said" starring Margaret Rutherford. The film took great liberties with the original book ("4.50 From Paddington") and did not meet with Christie's approval. The tone was overall far more jolly and humorous than the darker novel and the following three films "Murder at the Gallop" (1963), "Murder Most Foul" (1964) and "Murder Ahoy" (1964) became increasingly silly, if still rather fun. Despite her hatred of the MGM films Christie still became great friends with Rutherford and dedicated a Miss Marple book, "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side" to her.

A British film adaptation of that book by EMI was made in 1980 entitled "The Mirror Crack'd" starring Angela Lansbury. This remarkably stodgy movie was made even more ridiculous by the fact that Lansbury was obviously too young for the role.

The same comment could hardly be made of that grand dame of American theatre Helen Hayes, who appeared in the mildly entertaining "A Caribbean Mystery" (1983) and at the age of 85 in the dreary "Murder With Mirrors" (1985).

The ultimate Miss Marple was played by Joan Hickson in the long running BBC TV series (1985-1992). Ultimate not only because most fans thought so, but because 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.