Author Topic: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV  (Read 5540 times)

Becke Davis

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Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« on: December 12, 2019, 01:19:35 pm »
Books will always come first with me, but occasionally I enjoy watching mysteries on TV.  This might be considered blasphemy, but I almost like David Suchet's Poirot better than the original. There have been several actresses portraying Miss Marple, Joan Hickson will always be the real Miss Marple to me.


Hugh Fraser is brilliant as the kind but clueless Captain Hastings, and I think Zoe Wanamaker is great as Ariadne Oliver.

On the big screen, I like the 1974 version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

What are your favorites?


JRob

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2019, 06:38:46 pm »
I never saw any of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries.

I liked the Albert Finney Death on the Nile movie though.

Becke Davis

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2019, 07:14:15 pm »
I never saw any of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries.

I liked the Albert Finney Death on the Nile movie though.

Wow, you must be about the books, hard core! I generally prefer Miss Marple to Poirot, but David Suchet really brought him to life for me. He's fussy but not annoying. I think Ariadne Oliver's opinions about her own detective might mirror Christie's feelings about Poirot. I don't know what Agatha Christie thought of the portrayals of Poirot during her lifetime, but I think she would have given David Suchet the nod.

Denise

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2019, 01:31:19 pm »
I never saw any of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries.

I liked the Albert Finney Death on the Nile movie though.

Actually, that was Peter Ustinov in Death on the Nile. Finney only portrayed Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. Ustinov made three or four movies. Finney resembled Poirot very well, and did a good job. Ustinov didn't look anything like Poirot, but his performances were wonderful.

The David Suchet series, which covered ALL of the Poirot novels and short stories, was the definitive portrayal. He looked and acted so much like Poirot in the books. I find it jarring to see him in anything else, with his normal English accent! I would put this series on a par with the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series; they were both fantastic.
"Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."  "An admirable exercise, my friend. Continue it." - Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

Denise

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2019, 01:51:01 pm »
... I generally prefer Miss Marple to Poirot, but David Suchet really brought him to life for me. He's fussy but not annoying. I think Ariadne Oliver's opinions about her own detective might mirror Christie's feelings about Poirot. I don't know what Agatha Christie thought of the portrayals of Poirot during her lifetime, but I think she would have given David Suchet the nod.

Believe it or not, I read that Christie's favorite portrayal of Poirot was by Tony Randall in The ABC Murders! I don't think I've ever seen that one, though. Of course, we've all heard that she hated Margaret Rutherford's portrayal of Miss Marple (and one of those movies wasn't even based on one of the novels), but at the same time admired and was friendly with Rutherford.

So many actresses have portrayed Miss Marple! Both in movies and on TV. The Joan Hickson series was very good, but the other series have not treated the stories well, with many changes. They're still fun to watch, though. I was most excited when Geraldine McEwan was going to play her, because I think she resembles Miss Marple the most (remember that, in the books, she is tall and thin; most actresses have been on the shorter side), and I just love McEwan, anyway. But the writers for that series should be shot! They did the most egregious things I've ever seen, including setting it in a different time period and inventing a backstory and old love affair for Miss Marple. The worst was when one of the episodes was By the Pricking of My Thumbs, taking a Tommy and Tuppence novel, inventing marital problems for Tommy and Tuppence, and inserting Miss Marple (instead of Tommy) to solve the mystery with Tuppence. They played similar tricks with the Julia McKenzie series that followed. Why do they need to mess with the originals so much when it comes to Miss Marple?

Yes, Agatha Christie definitely used Ariadne Oliver as a mouthpiece to express her own feeling about a number of topics - having to appear in public and at events, dramatic (mis)adaptations of her work, and her feelings about her detective.  You probably remember the essays I wrote for the B&N Mystery Forum about Mrs. Oliver, who is one of my favorite Christie characters (and I like Zoe Wanamaker, but she doesn't resemble Mrs. Oliver physically). I'll go hunt them up and copy/paste that one here.

Ariadne Oliver – the Voice of Agatha Christie

The most fascinating thing about Ariadne Oliver is how she allows Agatha Christie to express her attitudes and frustrations about being a famous author. Is it a coincidence that they share a first initial? Christie was a very shy woman, and hated making public appearances and speeches, and Mrs. Oliver shares her feelings. Even the common occurrence of meeting someone who loves her books causes a painful awkwardness: “And then people say things to me – you know – how much they like my books, and how they’ve been longing to meet me – and it all makes me feel hot and bothered and rather silly. But I manage to cope more or less.” In Elephants Can Remember, Mrs. Oliver goes to a literary luncheon, and acquaintance after acquaintance expresses surprise at having read about it in the paper, since she never went to that sort of thing. “He [Poirot] knew Mrs. Oliver’s embarrassing moments. Extravagant praise of her books always upset her highly because, as she had once told him, she never knew the proper answers.”

Mrs. Oliver also expresses Christie’s frustration at people correcting her. “As a matter of fact I don’t care two pins about accuracy…I don’t see that it matters if I mix up police ranks and say a revolver when I mean an automatic and a dictograph when I mean a phonograph…” At one point she refers to an actual experience of Christie’s: “…that’s where I made a blowpipe a foot long and it’s really six feet…someone wrote from a Museum to tell me so. Sometimes I think there are people who only read books in the hope of finding mistakes in them.” The real novel referred to here is Death in the Air (aka Death in the Clouds).

And when she talks about her detective, just substitute “Belgian” for “Finn”, and you’ll get a picture of what Christie really thought about Poirot. “I only regret one thing, making my detective a Finn. I don’t really know anything about Finns and I’m always getting letters from Finland pointing out something impossible he’s said or done.” “Of course he’s idiotic. But people like him.” “And they say how much they love my awful detective Sven Hjerson. If they knew how much I hated him! But my publisher always says I’m not to say so.” She really lets her feelings out in this tirade: “How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.” What an irony that Ariadne Oliver and Hercule Poirot are close friends!

One of Christie’s pet peeves was the dramatization of her stories and she expresses this in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead by having Mrs. Oliver work with a young dramatist. “But you’ve no idea of the agony of having your characters taken and made to say things that they never would have said, and do things that they never would have done. And if you protest, all they say is that it’s ‘good theatre.’” In Robin Upward’s treatment, the elderly vegetarian Finn is transformed into a young meat-eating Norwegian!  Many of us fans who have seen the many adaptations of her work can share Christie’s and Mrs. Oliver’s annoyance!

We also get glimpses of Christie’s creative process. Mrs. Oliver often complains that she thinks of so many things at once that she can’t make up her mind (Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks shows how true this was of Christie). “I’ve got any amount of ideas. In fact that’s just the difficulty. It always is my difficulty. I can never think of even one plot at a time. I always think of at least five, and then it’s agony to decide among them.” She sometimes admits that she finds writing hard work and even boring, easier to think up ideas than to write them down (although she still feels much more comfortable writing than speaking). And, to avoid complaints about inaccuracies, “It’s safer, I think, to stick to what you know…People on cruises, and in hostels, and what goes on in hospitals, and on parish councils – and sales of work, and music festivals, and girls in shops, and committees and daily women, and young men and girls who hike round the world in the interests of science, and shop assistants -” Luckily for us, Agatha Christie (and Ariadne Oliver) knew about an amazing variety of things!
"Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."  "An admirable exercise, my friend. Continue it." - Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

Becke Davis

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2019, 01:53:08 pm »
I never saw any of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries.

I liked the Albert Finney Death on the Nile movie though.

Actually, that was Peter Ustinov in Death on the Nile. Finney only portrayed Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. Ustinov made three or four movies. Finney resembled Poirot very well, and did a good job. Ustinov didn't look anything like Poirot, but his performances were wonderful.

The David Suchet series, which covered ALL of the Poirot novels and short stories, was the definitive portrayal. He looked and acted so much like Poirot in the books. I find it jarring to see him in anything else, with his normal English accent! I would put this series on a par with the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series; they were both fantastic.

Oops, I missed that, Denise. Peter Ustinov starred in six Christie adaptations: https://www.cozy-mystery.com/blog/agatha-christies-hercule-poirot-movies-with-peter-ustinov.html

I've only seen one or two of these. If they are available on Netflix, Acorn or Britbox, I may check them out.

Albert Finney, who died in February of this year, was only in Christie's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS - I thought he was very good, although he didn't match my mental image of Poirot.

Denise

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2019, 02:05:30 pm »
Wow, six! I'm sure I've seen them all, but didn't realize there were so many. The ones that come to my mind first are Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, and Appointment with Death. I see the others were made for TV, but I'm sure I still saw them (especially Dead Man's Folly; I think Jean Stapleton played Mrs. Oliver in that one). I generally only remember Tony Curtis from Murder in Three Acts.

From Wikipedia: In half a dozen films, he played Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot, first in Death on the Nile (1978) and then in 1982's Evil Under the Sun, 1985's Thirteen at Dinner (TV movie), 1986's Dead Man's Folly (TV movie), 1986's Murder in Three Acts (TV movie) and 1988's Appointment with Death.
"Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."  "An admirable exercise, my friend. Continue it." - Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

Becke Davis

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2019, 02:49:41 pm »
... I generally prefer Miss Marple to Poirot, but David Suchet really brought him to life for me. He's fussy but not annoying. I think Ariadne Oliver's opinions about her own detective might mirror Christie's feelings about Poirot. I don't know what Agatha Christie thought of the portrayals of Poirot during her lifetime, but I think she would have given David Suchet the nod.

Believe it or not, I read that Christie's favorite portrayal of Poirot was by Tony Randall in The ABC Murders! I don't think I've ever seen that one, though. Of course, we've all heard that she hated Margaret Rutherford's portrayal of Miss Marple (and one of those movies wasn't even based on one of the novels), but at the same time admired and was friendly with Rutherford.

So many actresses have portrayed Miss Marple! Both in movies and on TV. The Joan Hickson series was very good, but the other series have not treated the stories well, with many changes. They're still fun to watch, though. I was most excited when Geraldine McEwan was going to play her, because I think she resembles Miss Marple the most (remember that, in the books, she is tall and thin; most actresses have been on the shorter side), and I just love McEwan, anyway. But the writers for that series should be shot! They did the most egregious things I've ever seen, including setting it in a different time period and inventing a backstory and old love affair for Miss Marple. The worst was when one of the episodes was By the Pricking of My Thumbs, taking a Tommy and Tuppence novel, inventing marital problems for Tommy and Tuppence, and inserting Miss Marple (instead of Tommy) to solve the mystery with Tuppence. They played similar tricks with the Julia McKenzie series that followed. Why do they need to mess with the originals so much when it comes to Miss Marple?

Yes, Agatha Christie definitely used Ariadne Oliver as a mouthpiece to express her own feeling about a number of topics - having to appear in public and at events, dramatic (mis)adaptations of her work, and her feelings about her detective.  You probably remember the essays I wrote for the B&N Mystery Forum about Mrs. Oliver, who is one of my favorite Christie characters (and I like Zoe Wanamaker, but she doesn't resemble Mrs. Oliver physically). I'll go hunt them up and copy/paste that one here.

Ariadne Oliver – the Voice of Agatha Christie

The most fascinating thing about Ariadne Oliver is how she allows Agatha Christie to express her attitudes and frustrations about being a famous author. Is it a coincidence that they share a first initial? Christie was a very shy woman, and hated making public appearances and speeches, and Mrs. Oliver shares her feelings. Even the common occurrence of meeting someone who loves her books causes a painful awkwardness: “And then people say things to me – you know – how much they like my books, and how they’ve been longing to meet me – and it all makes me feel hot and bothered and rather silly. But I manage to cope more or less.” In Elephants Can Remember, Mrs. Oliver goes to a literary luncheon, and acquaintance after acquaintance expresses surprise at having read about it in the paper, since she never went to that sort of thing. “He [Poirot] knew Mrs. Oliver’s embarrassing moments. Extravagant praise of her books always upset her highly because, as she had once told him, she never knew the proper answers.”

Mrs. Oliver also expresses Christie’s frustration at people correcting her. “As a matter of fact I don’t care two pins about accuracy…I don’t see that it matters if I mix up police ranks and say a revolver when I mean an automatic and a dictograph when I mean a phonograph…” At one point she refers to an actual experience of Christie’s: “…that’s where I made a blowpipe a foot long and it’s really six feet…someone wrote from a Museum to tell me so. Sometimes I think there are people who only read books in the hope of finding mistakes in them.” The real novel referred to here is Death in the Air (aka Death in the Clouds).

And when she talks about her detective, just substitute “Belgian” for “Finn”, and you’ll get a picture of what Christie really thought about Poirot. “I only regret one thing, making my detective a Finn. I don’t really know anything about Finns and I’m always getting letters from Finland pointing out something impossible he’s said or done.” “Of course he’s idiotic. But people like him.” “And they say how much they love my awful detective Sven Hjerson. If they knew how much I hated him! But my publisher always says I’m not to say so.” She really lets her feelings out in this tirade: “How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.” What an irony that Ariadne Oliver and Hercule Poirot are close friends!

One of Christie’s pet peeves was the dramatization of her stories and she expresses this in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead by having Mrs. Oliver work with a young dramatist. “But you’ve no idea of the agony of having your characters taken and made to say things that they never would have said, and do things that they never would have done. And if you protest, all they say is that it’s ‘good theatre.’” In Robin Upward’s treatment, the elderly vegetarian Finn is transformed into a young meat-eating Norwegian!  Many of us fans who have seen the many adaptations of her work can share Christie’s and Mrs. Oliver’s annoyance!

We also get glimpses of Christie’s creative process. Mrs. Oliver often complains that she thinks of so many things at once that she can’t make up her mind (Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks shows how true this was of Christie). “I’ve got any amount of ideas. In fact that’s just the difficulty. It always is my difficulty. I can never think of even one plot at a time. I always think of at least five, and then it’s agony to decide among them.” She sometimes admits that she finds writing hard work and even boring, easier to think up ideas than to write them down (although she still feels much more comfortable writing than speaking). And, to avoid complaints about inaccuracies, “It’s safer, I think, to stick to what you know…People on cruises, and in hostels, and what goes on in hospitals, and on parish councils – and sales of work, and music festivals, and girls in shops, and committees and daily women, and young men and girls who hike round the world in the interests of science, and shop assistants -” Luckily for us, Agatha Christie (and Ariadne Oliver) knew about an amazing variety of things!

Thank you, thank you! I have the text for most of the posts authors contributed to the 120th Agatha Christie Birthday Celebration, but posts like your - ones that were posted directly on the BN.com forum - were archived by Barnes & Noble. And since most of the people there who worked on the forum are no longer at BN.com, I'm not sure how I would go about accessing them.

I was very surprised to hear that Agatha Christie liked Tony Randall's performance as Poirot. I haven't seen it, but it's hard to imagine the actor who portrayed Felix Unger in THE ODD COUPLE as Poirot. (Although, Felix was pretty finicky.) I do remember that Agatha Christie was good friends with Margaret Rutherford and her husband Stringer Davis, but that she didn't like the movie adaptations. I thought they were a little goofy - I might have enjoyed them if they were anything but Christie stories.

I wonder what she would have thought of the star-studded TV adaptation of THE MIRROR CRACK'D, which featured Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple. The cast included Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Geraldine Chaplin and a young Laurence Fox. The latter is the son of William Fox (better known as James Fox) and nephew of Edward Fox. He played Hathaway in the MORSE spin-off, Inspector Lewis. (Which I love.)

I think Agatha Christie, who was notoriously shy, would have been appalled by social media.

JRob

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2019, 11:17:23 am »
I never saw any of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries.

I liked the Albert Finney Death on the Nile movie though.

Actually, that was Peter Ustinov in Death on the Nile. Finney only portrayed Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. Ustinov made three or four movies. Finney resembled Poirot very well, and did a good job. Ustinov didn't look anything like Poirot, but his performances were wonderful.

The David Suchet series, which covered ALL of the Poirot novels and short stories, was the definitive portrayal. He looked and acted so much like Poirot in the books. I find it jarring to see him in anything else, with his normal English accent! I would put this series on a par with the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series; they were both fantastic.

Oops, sorry for my mistake on that Denise. I did see both of those movies though and loved them. Completely forgot about Ustinov though.

And I agree about Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. His is the definitive portrayal for me.

Becke Davis

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2019, 04:54:47 pm »
I'm with you - Jeremy Brett is the definitive Sherlock Holmes. Although Basil Rathbone's vintage movies are very cool, too.

Denise - Forgot to respond to your Miss Marple comments. I loved Geraldine McEwan in MULBERRY, but I was appalled by the liberties that were taken with the stories she starred in. I watched one episode, and swore off them for good.

What about Tuppence and Tommy? My personal favorite for Tuppence is Francesca Annis. James Warwick doesn't quite have her sparkle, but I like him well enough.

I think it's interesting that in the books Tommy is a carrot-top, but not in any of the TV adaptations.

And I'm going to have to add another book to my Top Ten list - which now puts it up to Top 17, I think. I really liked N OR M.

Denise

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2019, 02:48:37 am »
I also loved Mulberry (too bad it was canceled before they could come to an ending, but the logical conclusion could have been very sad, too). Also loved McEwan and Prunella Scales (aka Sybil Fawlty) in Mapp and Lucia.

I really like Francesca Annis, but I felt she seemed a bit too sophisticated for Tuppence. I don't think I've ever seen anybody else play Tuppence, who is one of my favorite Christie characters. James Warwick was fine, and Albert was very well-cast. I know there's a newer series, but I've never seen it.
"Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."  "An admirable exercise, my friend. Continue it." - Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

Becke Davis

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Re: Agatha Christie on the Big Screen and on TV
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2019, 04:55:46 pm »
I also loved Mulberry (too bad it was canceled before they could come to an ending, but the logical conclusion could have been very sad, too). Also loved McEwan and Prunella Scales (aka Sybil Fawlty) in Mapp and Lucia.

I really like Francesca Annis, but I felt she seemed a bit too sophisticated for Tuppence. I don't think I've ever seen anybody else play Tuppence, who is one of my favorite Christie characters. James Warwick was fine, and Albert was very well-cast. I know there's a newer series, but I've never seen it.

As to the newer series, be glad you haven't seen it. I was only able to stomach one episode. This review says it all: https://bookriot.com/2015/07/29/dammit-tommy-bbc-messed-latest-agatha-christie-adaptation/

While it's possible viewers who aren't familiar with the books might enjoy this show, to me it was like they stuck two random actors with the names Tuppence and Tommy and just made it up as they went. (Go ahead, Becke, tell us what you REALLY think.) (Sorry about whining...)