Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot

Victoria here.  Kristine did a post on the wonderful actress Margaret Rutherford on August 17, 2010, and it got me thinking. Which actress is my favorite Miss Marple?  And which is my favorite Hercule Poirot.

Here is a link to a blog post from a Marple fan, in the Birdie’s Nest.

I saw the Margaret Rutherford films at an impressionable age, I suppose. She looked nothing like I had imagined Jane Marple from the novels, but she was a delight.  All four of the films made by MGM between 1961 and 1964 were black and white, which means they probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve.  My favorite is the first one, Murder, She Said, based on the Christie’s novel 4:50 from Paddington.  It was a wonderful vehicle for Rutherford, a blend of commedy and suspense (if I recall it correctly).

Joan Hickson

 Geraldine McEwan

Julia McKenzie
Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple

Some of the more recent Miss Marples have looked the part more than Rutherford, but I wasn’t entranced with any of them above the others.  Each one — Hickson, McEwan, McKenzie — had some positive attributes, but I was always afraid Hickson would collapse in her fragility, McEwen to me was still Mapp and Lucia, and McKenzie was too sacchrine. Was it just me, or did she lack the edge?? Or maybe it was the  poor quality of some of the scripts. I think they were often far from Christie’s style in the latest episodes.

I was surprised at how many actors have played Hercule Poirot, including Tony Randall (1920-2004) in The Alphabet Murders (1964).  For the last few years, the role has been magnificently filled by David Suchet.  Occasionally I see him in some other part and it shocks me to see him without the well-waxed mustache.
David Suchet as M. Hercule Poirot
However there were two more of my faves who played the little Belgian detective with the big ego. In 1974, Albert Finney starred in Murder on the Orient Express, and he was terrific.

Albert Finney as M. Hercule Poirot

This production had an all-star cast, with many of the leading lights of British stage and screen. I think I have watched it at least ten times.

And I am sure none of us could ever forget Peter Ustinov’s (1921-2004) performance in 1978’s Death on the Nile.  Ustinov is one of my favorite actors ever.  I think of him as Nero in Quo Vadis? or as the Prince Regent in Beau Brummell (1954).

Peter Ustinov and Stewart Granger in Beau Brummell
 Death on the Nile was a bravura performance for Ustinov, who had many great roles in his career.  Playing Prinny wasn’t one of them. The movie was dreadful — twisted history, indeed, But I must say I thought Ustinov probably nailed the character of the spoiled and self-obsessed Prince.  And Stewart Granger is extemely decorative.
David Suchet

I am sure that all of us, however, think mostly of David Suchet when we think of Hercule Poirot, since he has done more than sixty films and television programs.  And though he has had a distinguished stage and screen career, playing such diverse figures as Sigmund Freud, Edward Teller, Robert Maxwell, Baron Stockmar, and Cardinal Wolsey, his legacy will no doubt be as his alter ego, Hercule Poirot.

I admit I love the Christie’s films and tv programs, probably more than I do reading the novels.  Aaarrggh!  What an admission for a person like me who can hardly bear most of the Jane Austen productions (except for the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice and the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility). I would almost always rather read a book than see a film or tv, but perhaps mysteries are an exception, especially the ones by Agatha Christie. So bring ’em on!

4 thoughts on “Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot”

  1. David Suchet is THE perfect Hercule Poirot. He looks the part. Which is why I never liked Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, who was described as a rather delicate old lady. This most recent actress, Julia McKenzie, comes closest to Christie's description of Miss M.

    And, does anyone else notice how much Margaret Rutherford resembles Agatha Christie herself?! It just hit me!

  2. Every time I read a Poirot novel, Peter Ustinov comes to mind. I think that his interpretation is closer to the literary Poirot than any other actor. Finney was a bit too broad in his portrayal of a character who was non-English. And as much as I love Suchet, his Poirot doesn't seem to have the self-deprecating sense of humor found in the novels and in Ustinov's performances. Also, Suchet's Poirot tend to be a little anal at times in his habits.

  3. I've only read three novels and all three have been fantastic. I absolutely adore Miss Marple's 'nosiest', but I admit, I simply cannot read books with her in. M. Poirot is always David Suchet to me. Though I did like the original Murder on the Orient Express. I also like reading the books without the detectives in, it can be interesting. Especially And then there were none. Great read.

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