Hickson Vs all the other Jane Marples



  • MarcWatson-GrayMarcWatson-Gray Dundee City, United Kingdom
    Do you think Miss Marple was frustrated at life (The Joan Hickson versions) ?
    By that i mean.. I think ( judging by the comments above with regards to her character and intelligence eg: Mind like a bacon slicer/masculine brain ) that had Miss Marple been born in another era,she would have been able to achieve so much more.Say for example.Had she been a Police officer,she would surely have had a few promotions.But she lived her life in a village as a spinster......Was she happy with her life ?..Maybe by being "unofficial" it gave her an edge on things that the police could not have.....????
  • I think, Marc, that that is an crucial point you make, and, personally, I think that that Miss Marple would have been frustrated with her life. As she got older, she would be less inclined to be held back by what people would think of her. She would go up to a self-important Chief Inspector, and urge her views on him, prepared to be talked about as an interfering woman. She must have gained confidence from having the good opinion of great people such as Sir Henry Clitheroe, and this blessing must have compensated for the fact that she had not had the opportunity to express her talents earlier on in life. Interestingly, in The Moving Finger, there is Aimee Griffiths who expresses resentment at not having been supported by her father to train as a doctor, and Miss Barton has always longed to go on a cruise, and finally gets her wish realised. Agatha Christie was aware of the frustrating limitations restricting the lives of her older female characters. Mr Pye calls Emily Barton and her deceased sisters as relics from the Victorian age, which, possibly, would apply also to Jane Marple.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Yes As she gets older she does seem to have got frustrated in life, not being able to tend to her Garden must have really upset her and she would be astute enough that however much Raymond and his wife don't see it they do patronize her a lot and as she got older she would realise she would have to put up with more of the 'Miss Knight's' of this world and even the 'Cherry's of this world don't really understand Miss Marple, Thank goodness for her though for having the idea of saving Miss Marple from Miss Knight and thank Goodness for Dermot, Dolly and Bunch.  
  • Been on a Marple binge recently and wanted to add my two cent!
    I grew up with the books, but never saw any adaptation before the movie with Liz Taylor & co...
    Joan Hickson, I always loved, because I felt she was the part, but left it at that for a long time.
    But as I said, I dove back in the knitting sleuth recently, and rewatched those TV films again, with all three actresses (I'm going to say something to offend all british people here: Not seen any of Rutherford films, do not know who she is. Well, I'm French!)
    One thing that sets Hickson above others is class, I think.
    I'm not speaking about the quality of acting here. I'm sure every actress did their best with what the screenwriters provided, which was one of the MAJORS dark points for Mc Ewan version: One does NOT changes the plots that way, dammit!
    No, I'm speaking literally social class: Miss Marple may be an aged spinster, but she is still upper social class in a time when that mattered A LOT.
    This was totally forgotten in the ITV versions. Can you imagine the latest two Miss Marple training a maid?
    I sure can't... No offense, but Julia McKenzie, in her Marple get up, makes me think more of a housekeeper or head cook, and McEwan...Have no words. She certainly nailed the frumpy part, but she took it a bit too far...Aged hippie is more what comes to mind, especially in the body in the library (although I LOVED Lumley as Dolly Bantry in that)...She looks completely out of place in that posh Hotel!
    Most people that don't like Hickson say that she was too dour, not kind as AG said Miss Marple was.
    Probably true. I think she is more in keeping with the period, though: People had a different view of what kindness was, then, and it could  be reserved...It often was, especially amidst a certain class: One did NOT show their sentiments on one's sleeve, it was very bad manners!
    And one, but maybe the most important point why I think Joan Hickson is the best: The Nemesis part of Miss Marple.
    That Hickson got with absolute perfection. You watch an episode, and she get that looks in her eyes. It never lasts long, but for a small moment there's total ruthlessness in her expression, and seeing it, you sorta know that s***t is going to go down.
    This is the main reason Joan Hickson will always be THE Miss Marple for me: None of the others got it.
    And on a side note...I adore the Inspector Slack/ Mis Marple interactions in the Joan Hickson series! Always so much fun when he sees her!
  • Dear Picasso, I would like to say how much I admire you command of English in view of the fact it is not your first language. I totally agree with your analysis, and choice of the lens of 'class'. I'd like to contribute that I have wondered whether the time during which the Hickson tv dramas were made was a time in history when British society was, in essence, the same as the one Christie wrote about. (were the Hickson dramas made in the 1980s, or 1990s?)  Perhaps there's been a schismic social upheval, starting in about 2000, and nobody knows how to act her characters any more. In the Hickson Marples, no one needed to have a nervous breakdown or be an alcoholic (see Tuppence in circa 2007 'Pricking of my Thumbs - ITV) to express an inner life.   Has lots of tv and media made all of us different animals ? 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    Subtlety is now Frowned upon, and no longer are we allowed to that for them and this for that group, everything has to please everybody which is why you have Homosexuality where it wasn't meant to be and we can't imagine people sleep together we have to see them come out from Bed Clothes, the best people for the job are not chosen for roles they are suited for because they wont put bottoms on the sofa so we have people while they are Brilliant should not be told they can play Miss Marple.

  • Thank you, Griselda! I learned English young, and do read a lot in it, so that helps.
    The Hickson dramas where done between 1984 and 1992, so it may have some import on how the characters where portrayed.
    And oh God! (Insert facepalm here) "Pricking of my Thumbs" was a disaster! I watched it like one watches an incoming train wreck as the episode proceeded to destroy one of my favs AC character...You may find it funny that we French did actually do a quite decent movie with that one...With no Miss Marple in sight!
    To expand on my previous comment, AC said Miss Marple was "born" at 65, for the first novels which are timed just after WWII.
    That places her birth date around 1880, and in her twenties at the Paris 1900 world expo, as depicted in "They do it with Mirrors".
    She's also not a working woman, and has means (even if limited) of her own...
    So, not gentry per se, but closer to it than to the working class... Very much like AC own upbringing.
    I think the values of those times would have been closer to Jane Austen, than the ones we hold now and that we do indeed have problems relating to this, since we forget, for example, that homosexuality was a criminal offense till 67...
    Not that it didn't exist, but it was not talked about, even if people of upper classes where less likely to be pursued about it.
    So, the couple in "A murder is announced" may, or may not have been lesbians ( a lot of war widows and single women pooled ressources by living together)... It wasn't to be singled out, that's all.
    I still think the later episodes tried too hard to modernize what has no need to be modernized, and that's where they fail, in a way. The fifties are now History to us, and that is how it should be depicted... Not trying to drag a world that is now gone kicking and screaming in the modern days!
    (And not, I do repeat NOT by butchering AC books by adding Characters where they shouldn't be, or CHANGING THE PLOT, Dammit! )
  • Hi Picasso, I think the first Marple novel was about 1934, but essentially, village life in 1934 would have been very similar to how it would be in 1946, so that pre and post war era is her heyday.

    Sleeping Murder was so well directed and cast starring Joan Hickson. Gwendoline was Australian, and therefore subtly different to the English characters. The distinction worked well. Her husband was caring but sensible. A great touch giving Helen's brother a Scottish accent to bring out subtleties in the part - a certain brusqueness and reserve. There was no need then to make them totally different to how they were in the book.  I am forced to think that directors of our day do not read. It isn't a inability to enjoy Agatha Christie which has come across in more recent productions, but an inability to persevere at reading a book. (Quite a few Christie directors are not very familiar with her work before they get a chance to adapt it. )There are hints and style features which build to give a whole picture in a book. Perhaps in their lives screenwriters and directors are surrounded by people who storm in to Chelsea cafes and announce, "I've arrived! I'm different, and interesting and avant garde. I want to be king pin!" Perhaps directors think that all real people are like that. It must be a pain if you are asked to do a book which has been faultless on screen the last time. You've got no option but to do it whacky and off-beat. It would never do to compromise your reputation by seeming to be learning from and following somebody else.
  • I think that what I was getting at was that the Hickson productions followed the format of a book - not just the book. The building  up of impressions, the telling of the story, the balance is all subtle and carefully worked, over time, to give a sense of place, people, relationships and atmosphere. Themes are built up gradually. Yes, some of the order of events was changed, but the basic director's craft was to tell a story the way a book does it. The key feature of more modern productions, for me, is that characters are treated as individuals on their stage, building up to their own destiny. The subtle but definite sense of a  social network and hierarchical social order is missing. The effect is totally contra to Agatha Christie's technique. We live in an individualistic age, and maybe that is why characters are now given such egocentric personalities in the recent productions.
  • AnubisAnubis Ontario, Canada
    Very interesting and perceptive comments, Griselda. I have just finished reading Poirot and Me, by David Suchet, and it is intriguing to read about the "behind the scenes" debates. In one scene, Mr Suchet, as Poirot, has to sit down on a bench. Mr Suchet places a handkerchief on the bench first, because this is what the "real" Poirot would have done. The director insisted that Mr Suchet should not do that, because it is silly. The argument went all the way up to the head producer, who, in this case, agreed with Mr Suchet.
  • Oh, I remember that! I also remember it made me smile, as it was such a "Poirot" thing to do!

    Obviously Mr Suchet was right.
  • Yes, it sounds very like the director was thinking of what he would do, rather than what Poirot would do. It's mad, if you wore a linen suit in the days before synthetic fibre/linen mix, wouldn't you put a handkerchief down? Even I would do this, if I was wearing work clothes, and the bench was dirty or a bit damp. Poirot could hardly go and seek admittance into a posh hotel to sidle a meeting with a suspect with a big damp patch on the seat of his trousers. Mind you, I think we've made a mistake drawing attention to this anecdote, because if one of the directors who gets commissioned reads this forum to try to save themselves reading the book, and thinking, you know what might happen next. YES, I'm, afraid it's unavoidable now you've drawn attention to it. Poirot will be given an OCD condition/diagnosis in the next dramatisation, and Hastings will counsel him about what in his childhood led him to be paranoid about dirt. Perhaps boldened by Miss Marple's revelations in the Murder at the Vicarage dramatisation, they will decide to give her a nymphomaniac complex and attachment to affairs with married men. That will make AC up to date and relevant!!The abiding thought on the part of directors seems to be that they must get an enormous syringe and inject a king-size dose of 'coolness' in to everything Agatha Christie. They just must live in a different world to the rest of us.

  • Amos_SpitalhatchAmos_Spitalhatch Hamilton , New Zealand
    Joan Hickson is the perfect Miss Marple. To see any other actress in the part, one is constantly reminded that they are playing at being Miss Marple. Joan Hickson IS Miss Marple. I forgive Margaret Rutherford - she's gorgeous in any part.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I forgive Margaret Rutherford to because She was a Brilliant Actress and The Films are quite fun, I also forgive Angela Landesbury because I like The Film and Adore Angela Landesbury and MSW but although I like SOME of the Episodes of MARPLE I hate what ITV did with the part and hate the fact they chose 2 Brilliant Actresses who for wrong for the Role.
  • That reminds me - has anyone seen the movie "Caribbean Holiday" with Helen Hayes as Miss Marple? I have it but have had difficulty getting into it - any opinions?
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    It's Fine, Nothing Special, Nothing Offensive, Helen Hayes was an obvious and Good Choice for an American Miss Marple, I think this is the better of the 2 Films where she played Miss Marple , I would quite happily watch this if it was on and given the Choice of this or most of the ITV Marple Series I would watch this, not as good as Angela Landesbury in the role though IMHO and IMHO she isn't as good as MR.
  • Thanks Tommy. I think I'll make an effort to watch it.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I hope you enjoy it, I once saw a Film where The Man who plays Jason Raphael in A Caribbean Mystery was playing Chesterton's Father Brown.
  • Wow! I'd love to see that!
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    It is called Sanctuary of Fear and probably set in America
  • aggierocksaggierocks Ipswich uk
    I'm late arriving here but I go along with Joan. She's the closest. But no one has been a complete match to the miss m in my head. She should be soft and FLUFFY!!!!!!  I agree with all comments about overly robust major stars being chosen. Tho I adore Maggie smith I feel she would be no better. What brilliant and pertinent remarks the French commentor made (Picasso).  I think aggie would roll in her grave (which I have been to) if she knew the half of it.  For shame.  This is a lady who went ballistic over suggested cover art that showed Poirot naked!  (As Hercules). What would she make of what's been done lately to her creations.  Artists don't have to endure their paintings being repainted. But...... I'm a purist.  I wish her grandson would protect her more.  
  • I wish her grandson would protect her more.  
    I agree. Agatha Christie's daughter, who has been deceased for years, not only protected her mother and her work but she was picky over the film adaptations from the books and how they would be adapted. What I don't like what A.C.'s grandson Mathew is doing is he's just allowing bad film adaptations to pass through the radar onto the screen. I like the videos that Mathew posted on this website concerning his mother and her work and I would love to see more of that and even videos about his opinions and analysis from the books. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I was thinking that a good introduction for the site would be a LIKE button because I agreed with ChristieFanforLifr's comment about Matthew Pritchard, then I saw that this site has one, I don't so much want what was asked for in the 2nd part of the Post, I know this might seem odd on this thread I just wanted to show my approval of what was said about Rosalind and Matthew.
  • Aside from the travesties and liberties that have taken place to the changes in characterization and plot, can anyone pinpoint a difference between the Miss Marple episodes with Joan Hickson versus the ones with Geraldine McEwan/Julia McKenzie? 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I don't quite know what you mean ChristieFanForLife, What else is there apart from the Traversties and Liberties there is no difference between the Joan Hicksons and McKewan?McKenzies, Do you mean in the ITV version of A Murder Is Announced Bunch doesn't appear and Miss Marple is Miss Murgatroyed's Visitor? Do you mean in the McKewan version of 4.50 From Paddington Eastley is an American? Do you mean in The McKewan version of Nemesis there is only 1 Solicitor and 2 Sisters who in the Mckewan version are Nun's Please be more specific.
  • I think, ChristieFanForLife, that Jullia McKenzie externalises more of her feelings, of awkwardness, worry, being moved, finding something ironic. She is more modern, I think, but I've really thought about your question today, and I think that she did try to act it as Joan Hickson did, and based on the direction from the books, but that she just can't do that Victorian -originating reserve and decorum. She's just a different generation, and it might have been too difficult because all the actors over-doing it around her would make her have to fit in with them. I think she thought about the part and what was in the books, but Geraldine McKewan tried to go off the wall and be zany, slightly hippyish, and a free spirit who doesn't care for convention. I'd have to watch some episodes again to be exactly sure of what else, stylistically, was different.
  • Please be more specific.
     I was trying to see if you guys would guess the right answer. What I was looking for was in terms of the "pacing" of the episode (ex: pacing of the scenes and as the film as a whole) 
  • I think the pacing issue is related to the character of Miss Marple. In the original stories, we meet Miss Marple as an old lady, typical of her generation - doing her shopping, doing some gardening, training her maids, collecting for charity, and of course always with knitting in her hands, but not doing anything strenuous, and thinking slowly and talking "scattily" - not very precise or logical, so that others find it hard to follow her thoughts. Joan Hickson portrays her exactly like that. The modern interpretations are more sprightly, more energetic, more precise - so the "pacing" also speeds up. I like the original stories and the Joan Hickson interpretations, perhaps because they take me back to my childhood when my grandmother was like that - slow moving, talking calmly and not cleverly but very wise, and always busy in her placid manner - she managed to crowd twice as much achievement into a day at age 80 than I did at age 30!
  • If I remember correctly, the Hickson episodes were stretched out over two or three weeks, whereas the more recent Miss Marple versions were just one night.  There were different expectations as far as the pacing because of the ways that the stories were presented on television, although I can't say that I noticed anything being rushed along in the newer versions.
  • edited April 2016
    About the pacing of the Joan Hickson episodes, I believe that what made those interpretations so good, aside from the fact that they were faithful to the books, are that the directors of those films weren't afraid to take their time on screen within certain scenes. The scenes in those films went at a leisurely, unhurried, relaxed pace. Not too slow but at the right speed for the story being told and the style being used to tell them. As taliavishay-arbel said:
    I think the pacing issue is related to the character of Miss Marple. 
    And that is true but I think that the difference in pacing in the Joan Hickson episode versus the new Miss Marple films is a reflection of the times. I noticed in many films today (whether on the big or small screen) the leisurely, unhurried, take your time approach within scenes are gone. And sometimes there are scenes that makes me scratch my head and wonder why it's even there because it went by too fast and it appeared awkward and useless. Actors are not given the opportunity to take their time and explore the moment in a scene. Now the pacing of scenes are sped up and honestly it can take away the opportunity for an actor to give a fine, detailed memorable performance. Overall, I think the acting in the Hickson episodes were way better than the acting presented in the newer Marple films and one of those reasons is due to pacing. And I think in an Agatha Christie mystery, scenes need to be at a leisurely pace, allowing the viewer to take in the whole scene, noticing anything that might stand out even if it's subtle. I'll provide an example of good versus bad pacing of a certain scene in A Murder Is Announced (the Hickson versus the McEwan versions) in another post. 
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