Shock Value in Television adaptions or honesty ?

MarcWatson-GrayMarcWatson-Gray Dundee City, United Kingdom
A friend of mine recently commented on the ( very obvious) gay and lesbian characters  in the Marple television adaptions.(The body in the library.The moving finger)
He feels that this was another attempt by producers to be more P.C. and appeal to modern viewers or a bit of shock value.
i pointed out that in the books there are some hints at a characters' sexuality.
Can anyone name any characters that they feel were Gay or Lesbian ?
Did Agatha Christie (In your opinion) draw a pretty good all 'round representation of the people of Britain in her books,given the restraints of the times ?
Does it really matter ? (As regards to the stories)
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Comments

  • AnubisAnubis Ontario, Canada
    I don't know if it was meant for shock value. I think it was just an acknowledgement of how things really were. It think in earlier days there were some situations that might be known, but wouldn't be acknowledged in books. And in the early part of the last century, gay sex was punishable by fine or imprisonment, so people wouldn't draw too much attention to it. I don't know off-hand any characters who were obviously gay, but that always used to be a comment that some people would make about HP himself. In the adaptations, he quite obviously isn't, but as the following dialogue from Mrs. McGinty's Dead, in which a play director tries to persuade Ariadne Oliver that her fictional detective should have a love interest shows, AC herself was aware of the situation: "Sven Hjerson never cared for women," said Mrs Oliver coldly. "But you can't have him a pansy darling."
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I think to Change Body In The Library and others Producers are trying to appeal to people who like to use the word "relevant", this is a mistake, The Producers should have Faith in the Book or not buy The Rights to it, there is a lot of things on British Television that say what Producers want to convey without using Adaptations of Books that don't have those issues, I wouldn't say I would go for Honesty EVERY time as I liked The fact that Hastings was in Murder In Mesopotamia and he, Miss Lemon and Japp were in Evil Under The Sun but Honesty should win the Vast majority of Times.
  • edited July 2015
    I think for "A Murder Is Announced", for the Geraldine McEwan version, I think it was unnecessary to have Hinch and Murgatroyd kiss or hold hands because if you read the book or even watch the Joan Hickson film, you can kind of tell that there is a good possibility that they are "probably" both lesbians..... maybe not. Things that seem black and white may not be black and white at all and we all know how Agatha Christie is good at using this motif. The book and the Joan Hickson film didn't have to show kissing or holding of the hands to make a/the point.... that is whether the point was made as to whether these two women are romantically involved. If that was the point made between the two, so be it. But it's the subtlety that is what makes the reader and the viewer turn to the book/film again and again. Maybe that is why Christie fans constantly wonder what is "really" going on between Hinch and Murgatroyd and along with a great mystery and other intriguing supporting characters in the story, the fans repeatedly watch and read this story. In both the book and Hickson film there is a sort of mystery between Hinch and Murgatroyd. The McEwan film takes away the mystery and the subtlety and conclude that yes, these two women are romantically involved. And that is one of the reasons why the Joan Hickson film will stand the test of time and will remain the most watchable in the eyes of Christie fans unlike the McEwan one. It keeps you guessing (I mean both Hinch and Murgatroyd that is). Subtlety in the world of film, in the hands of a director will make the film more watchable and will not undermine the viewers intelligence (the dumbing down which I think the newer adaptations of Christie's stories are doing). The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement because I think viewers (like me) like to explore, to think, to dig deep and find things for themselves (even things that the film maker probably didn't envision!), even if they didn't catch or find it upon a second, third, or even sixth reading or watching. (*They need to take a lesson from Alfred Hitchcock and his films* B-)) As I said, the book and the Hickson film makes you wonder: are they or aren't they?
  • MarcWatson-GrayMarcWatson-Gray Dundee City, United Kingdom
    Yes subtlety in all areas of human interaction is preferable and more intriguing in either a book or a movie and you are correct also in that due to subtlety'I have picked up more meanings in both books and movies the second,third...etc...etc time i have looked at them.
    I do enjoy the dialogue of whom are described in some stories as"The lower classes" They remind me of some of the old Ealing comedy characters.Lines such as
    "I Can't say as i ever set eyes on him" or I says to .Auntie,she's got no right to be gettin' herself involved in that which don't concern her".............Great stuff !!
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    It is not necessary to see Miss Hichcliffe and Miss Murgatroyd hold hands or kiss because the Writing was so good, There is a lot to be said for letting the Audience wonder which is something Television doesn't let us do these days which is a great shame as it makes the piece all the more powerful and I don't know about anyone else but I get the impression things are spelt out because the Writers and Directors are lacking in imagination and assume the Viewers are stupid, mind you if people think it brilliant to have things spelt out to them and enjoy seeing things that aren't in the actual book well maybe they are.
  • landt2016landt2016 Southampton, UK
    I know I'm replying to a really old thread :smile: The thing I find most interesting about Hinch and Murgatroyd is the reaction to the death- in all of the television adaptations, I think the Hickson version of A Murder is Announced is the only time anyone really shows grief or a desire to find out who did it. There's no shying away, muttering about scandal- she's distraught and she wants to know who did it. FWIW I think they probably weren't just friends but I don't think it was necessary to draw it so obviously in the McEwen version.
  • edited April 2016
    As I mentioned in another thread, women friends cohabiting often resulted from a social and/or economic need - e.g., with a farm or even a farmyard, with one woman alone she could never be away for more than a few hours between feeding times; Socially, one woman alone would be suspected of being immoral if she ever had a male visitor in the house (even a doctor). Women sharing housing appear in other writers' series: e.g. two junior lecturers in "Rest you merry" by Charlotte MacLeod, Grizel and her friend towards the end of the "Chalet School" series, and others. I agree that in the case of "A murder is announced" the "are they - aren't they" question adds to the interest, but what is never in doubt is the strong connection and affection between Hinchcliff and Murgatroyd.

    The only case I remember where LGBT orientation is directly mentioned is at the beginning of "A Caribbean holiday" Where MM's nephew Raymond finds her a house sitter, who will be very careful of the house. "He's queer" is actually a kind of recommendation, homosexual men being considered the best house-carers.
  • I think the Hickson version of A Murder Is Announced best portrayed Hinch's grief over Murgatroyd's death the best. Very good acting from Paola Dionisotti as Hinch.
  • landt2016landt2016 Southampton, UK
    ...women friends cohabiting often resulted from a social and/or economic need - e.g., with a farm or even a farmyard, with one woman alone she could never be away for more than a few hours between feeding times; Socially, one woman alone would be suspected of being immoral if she ever had a male visitor in the house (even a doctor). Women sharing housing appear in other writers' series: e.g. two junior lecturers in "Rest you merry" by Charlotte MacLeod, Grizel and her friend towards the end of the "Chalet School" series, and others.

    It happens a few times in other Agatha Christie stories too- Third Girl of course has a flatshare, as does the Third Floor Flat, and Dumb Witness and a Murder is Announced have ladies' companions. And there are lots of elderly sisters living together- the Pale Horse and Dumb Witness (though the sisters in that one have already died).
  • edited April 2016
    landt2016 said:
    ...women friends cohabiting often resulted from a social and/or economic need - e.g., with a farm or even a farmyard, with one woman alone she could never be away for more than a few hours between feeding times; Socially, one woman alone would be suspected of being immoral if she ever had a male visitor in the house (even a doctor). Women sharing housing appear in other writers' series: e.g. two junior lecturers in "Rest you merry" by Charlotte MacLeod, Grizel and her friend towards the end of the "Chalet School" series, and others.

    It happens a few times in other Agatha Christie stories too- Third Girl of course has a flatshare, as does the Third Floor Flat, and Dumb Witness and a Murder is Announced have ladies' companions. And there are lots of elderly sisters living together- the Pale Horse and Dumb Witness (though the sisters in that one have already died).
    But in those stories we never suspect that the two companions that live together are lesbians whereas in A Murder Is Announced we have our suspicions. I think what makes our antennas go up and make us wonder "are they, aren't they" is the fact that Hinch & Murgatroyd seem like stereotypical lesbians. Hinch is described in mannish terms and has the more dominant personality whereas Murgatroyd is described in stereotypically feminine terms  One thing that comes through loud and clear is that Miss Hinchcliffe and Miss Murgatroyd seem like stereotypical lesbians. "Hinch" is described in mannish terms and is dominant while Murgatroyd is described in stereotypically feminine terms and is silly and seems like she needs to be taken care of. I don't get that from other lady companions that we meet in other A.C. stories, even from Miss Blacklock and Dora Bunner who are in the same novel as Hinch & Murgatroyd. 
  • I think that one element which I picked up on in A Murder is Announced is that Hinch was very physically strong and capable and played a role on the homestead or small farm that a man might have played. I just sense this in a way. She isn't silly and incapable as is the Major or Colonel's wife. The way she talks to Murgatroyd is a little bit teasing and domineering, reassuring and gruff, much in the manner that men are portrayed in cinema films and in novels at around that time in history. I sense that there may have been in their relationship something of dominant and then a more fragile one, in the pairing. What strikes me, is that in their female world, they might have mistrusted men. They might have felt that it would have been likely to have been  a trigger-happy former soldier had got involved in the murder at Miss Blacklock's house. To have the perfect understanding the pair had, and then to find that it was another women had carried out the murder... this must have shocked Hinch, and made her wonder what kind of an unnatural fiend the woman was. The way they call each other by their surnames hints to me of a friendship forged at boarding school, where surnames often were used between girls - even as they were in boys boarding schools. They may have developed their closeness years earlier. Their relationship parallels Miss Blacklock's with Bunny, and reveals, by contrast, its limitations, because of Miss Blacklock's self-serving character. I think that before the spotlight was put on sexual matters in the 1960s, that it was no big deal to form friendships without even considering sexuality. People didn't look to define themselves by their sexuality - preference or persona, or attractiveness - in any case. For many people, it may have been considered a part of reproduction, and not really anything to think too much about. I've read and seen on tv, commentary about famous Victorian bachelors, and the point was made that their was no issue of homosexuality in choosing to remain a bachelor. It was more a lifestyle choice, and a preference for clubs and male habits, over domestic softness with a wife. Apparently a fair few explorers were bachelors, and some did go on to marry, but in the fifties. The bachelors of AC I can think of are Captain Trevelyan and Major Burnaby in The Sittaford Mystery; Poirot himself. I don't really count Mr Satterwaite as he had been disappointed in his youth.
  • Griselda said:
    The way they call each other by their surnames hints to me of a friendship forged at boarding school, where surnames often were used between girls - even as they were in boys boarding schools. They may have developed their closeness years earlier. 
    We don't really know how Hinch & Murgatroyd met but that is a good observation and it's possible that they did strike a friendship when they were younger. 

    Or it's possible that the two were lesbians. I don't think A.C. was ignorant of homosexuality and of course it existed even in the 1950's. It's possible that A.C.'s intention was to have 2 lesbian characters in the book but put them in a way in which it won't seem so obvious ---in other words she used it subtly, enough so that she could get away with it.  
  • I think you are right, ChristieFanForLife that they are presented as a lesbian couple, but in a subtle way. The relationships within the novel are interesting. The Blacklock sisters and Bunny have their own respective reasons for not marrying. There are many different interesting marriages, failed or succeeding, sought and fought for (the writer and Philippa)  not quite managed (Jullia and the nephew). Belle and whats-his-name Goedler - touched by misfortune, but happy. All are human; all affected by the war. Maybe Hinch's character is affected by the war: women took on the work of the men who'd gone to fight. (Maybe a reason for the adoption of male practices, with the surnames, etc) All the stories are human, flawed, pitiable and moving,except for the murderer, who, in spite of her ordinariness - and niceness, is inhuman at her core. The other relationships serve to emphasize her otherness. I wonder if AC met a set of people like this lot. They are a bit like, in concept, the set in Mrs McGinty's Dead, because there is the same sense of their coming from all walks of life, and the times and the growing up of new extensions to the village making it difficult to really know people.
  • edited April 2016
    Wow, Griselda, I love discussing Agatha Christie's books with you. You have such a passion and in-depth knowledge and understanding of the books and characters and it's refreshing to have those kinds of discussions with someone. I hear so many critics criticize negatively about Agatha Christie's characters and how they lack depth, how they are just merely stock characters but if they look at her characters more carefully they will see they do have depth and that these characters are all pulled from Christie's observation of human nature. The depth comes from relationships and we see that in The Hollow. When Hinch is inconsolable and filled with a desire for revenge, we see a side of Hinch's character -- we see a woman who IS human, a woman who shows a soft and vulnerable side, a woman despite her manly exterior has a heart that cared for her friend though at times saw her friend as rather silly and needed a good talking to every now and then. Unlike the murderer who is inhuman at her core, Hinch is human at the core.  
  • Thank you so much, ChristieFanForLife, my fellow enthusiast! It is wonderful to know like-minded readers, who have the same wish to uncover more depths of truth about Agatha Christie. What we share, it seems, is an openness towards knowing that Christie perceived more than the common person, and together we fans are  surprised again and again by what she has seen in human nature that we might have missed on the first read.
  • Griselda, I felt differently from you about Miss Blacklock. I think actually she was quite an ordinary woman, not very moral but not wicked either to begin with. Her first misdeed - taking on her sister's identity in order to inherit, must have seemed as no more than downloading a movie or a computer program illegally nowadays. After all, she was not defrauding her friend Belle, and she had never known the young people whose inheritance she was claiming. Once she had gotten this far, and then was recognized by Rudi. she would have needed a very strong moral character to expose herself and face the consequences. I'm not justifying the murder by any means - I'm just saying she is not a monster, no more unpleasant than the Major's wife or Phillipa's employer. As a matter of fact, MM mentions this case in "4.50 from Paddington": "just a weak amiable character who wanted a great deal of money. Money that that person wasn’t entitled to, but there seemed an easy way to get it. Not murder then. Just something so easy and simple that it hadn’t seemed wrong. That’s how things begin… But it ended with three murders."
  • Miss Marple said that Miss Blacklock was "just a weak amiable character". I'm guessing that she was a woman who in the beginning would never commit the kind of atrocities that she did but somehow allowed greed to overtake her which then lead to desperation and when desperation took hold of her she committed murder, even killing innocent Dora Bunner. 


     
  • I suppose if you think about it, the fiendish aspect is told in the conceiving of that ambitious and dastardly plan to get rid of Rudi. That plan has the hallmarks of someone not quite normal: a sociopath, perhaps. The plan is audacious. It relies on none of the guests seeing what is going on. The ear has to bleed enough. Rudi mustn't turn, or shout a name. The police have got to not find something odd with angles. Most people wouldn't think they could do all of that, but sociopaths are quite good with the moment, and of understanding in a cool, detached, other way what the majority of people will do, reflex-like, when lights go out, there is a 'drama' so to speak, a pantomime which makes the ordinary person want to behave like a child again, and to be led, to some extent. From what I remember, Lettie wasn't due to inherit the enormous sum until after Belle died, so she could have done something different. She could have pretended to be undergoing a religious transformation, and say she wanted to go to join a retreat to be spiritual, and quite anonymous and non-contactable, henceforth. She could say she no longer wanted the money. How odd to reach sixty or so and to require that much money to necessitate taking such risks.
  • Agatha Christie wrote - I think in AMIA , and about L Blacklock, that amiable people are often treacherous. It could be that their niceness leads them to promise too much to people and then to have to lie about why they can't deliver, but I also think their very niceness could be secondary to their treacherousness - in chicken and egg terms. If they don't have firm moral beliefs, they might adopt a jolly, friendly, pleasing tone because they know it will be acceptable, and what is most likely to win favours. From experience, I  think that this type of amiable person is often lazy - and that might be the root cause of their deceit: they know they don't want to work hard enough and with enough detachment from the pleasures of the self to actually make money or create what they want. They are opportunizing for a way of getting what it is they want. 
  • I agree with you - the connection between amiability and laziness - or rather lack of responsibility for one's actions - is very real.
  • The idea of the crime reminds me of the theme of Christie's Peril at End House. A sociable person wants money. The surprising thing is how they are scheming and thinking of what to do to bring off their scheme. SPOILER. Assumed identity is key. I enjoy Peril at End House. I like the involvement of Poirot with the murderer. I admire the plotting and the twists and turns. Poirot is completely baffled at one stage, and this gives rise to a greater than normal examination of his detecting methods and thought processes. Hastings is in this one, of course, which adds to the humour and getting to know Poirot. The settings are sunny and the description makes me want to be there. The house probably still exists, I think, or, anyway, was based on a real place. The reason I think that not many posters have said they like this work is because of the characterisation of the circle of main players. They are outside the normal middle-aged respectable retired people Christie usually deals with, and don't really come across as real people - in my opinion.
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    I agree with [email protected] I think Peril at End House portrays a different kind of the usual characters. They seem a little more superficial and vain.
    I also lije Peril at End House. and I think the tv adaption is very well done.
  • I'd like to see the television adaptation again. I only saw it once. It did capture the feel of the era, I completely agree.
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    edited May 2016
    @Griselda, I hope you watch it soon. I think, as I said, one of the best adaptions (tv). It's very faithful.
    And great performances! I wil never forget Poirot/Suchet's  face when he solves the crime. The moment he realizes who the murderer is! It's amazing!
    You'll enjoy a lot (one more time)!


  • What I love about Peril At End House (the film) is that it's faithful to the book and it's a prime example of how to adapt a Poirot book onto the screen. I love the locations, the sets, direction of the film, and David Suchet as Poirot is in his prime here. We see the Poirot that we all know and love whereas in the adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express we miss a lot of the sparkle, charm humor, and wit that Poirot usually exemplifies. And Polly Walker as Nick Buckley played the role perfectly!
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    I agree, @ChristieFanForLife . On the other hand, "Cards on the Table" is a perfect exemple of NOT  to do it! Dreadful adaption. Cards is one of the best stories, but its adaption was awful! They changed the plot so much that it's hard to find something that resembles the story, except for the bridge game and the murderer! Even the motive is different!
  • I think that Peril at End House is quite an involved sort of plot, and if they did it for a film they could have their dramatic moments without having to ruin the whole tale by changing it around. There is quite a lot of the 'modern' sort of problems in it  - drug abuse and addiction. The directors will love that, and there's a good victim of modern life in the friend character.  The setting would look lovely and lend itself to sales of the episode/film rights around the world. I think directors could legitimately make more of some characters, such as the solicitor cousin. They could make him nice and personable, and have him like a key character advising the police. There'd still be plenty of alternative suspects to keep us guessing. They could make a bit more of going up in a plane, and some dramatic/humorous moments therein. It should be possible, following the David Suchet series lead, to make a lot of the humour with the dialogue with Hastings. Lots of scope for a new Poirot actor to develop the role - as Hercule nearly doesn't solve this one. I think ditto for Three Act Tragedy. It is long - so more could be made of it than the tv Suchet adaptation had time for.
  • Griselda, in my opinion if it's not broke why fix it? I think Peril At End House was great the way it was and I don't think nothing needs to be explored or probed much further. That was the problem with the Murder On The Orient Express film with Suchet. They felt the need to probe into the motive of the murder with it's ethics and morals and it just didn't come out right. 
  • I agree. I'm just expecting that any director would want to change things. I think that it is quite a lesser known mystery, and, for that reason, there is no reason to make the story different, as a straight retelling would thrill viewers, many of whom would not know the story.
  • @Griselda: you point out that in Peril At End House it deals with drugs and addiction. If anyone filmed this story today on the big screen or even the small screen, they probably would overdramatically overplay the drug bit. I remember in the Suchet version of Death On the Nile they had Linnet Ridgeway sniff what I think was cocaine or something like that. And Linnet in the book never did such a thing! Wonder why did they did that in the film? 
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