Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Dame Rutherford

SiddharthaSSiddharthaS Michigan, United States

Miss Marple's ability to draw parallels between the characters around the murder with personalities she has met in the past confers a unique but unfair advantage to her over the reader.  In a way it is like the "woman's instinct" that Agatha Christie's caricature of herself, Ariadne Oliver, lays her stock on, confidently suspecting each of the characters in turn, of being the perpetrator.  Only, Miss Marple's first instinct invariably turn out to be correct.  

Contrast this with other Christie mysteries, specially those starring Hercule Poirot.  He has access to no information other than what the reader also has.  Yet Poirot alone draws the correct interpretations and arrives at the solution to the mystery.   That is why I believe Hercule Poirot mysteries are more fair to the reader than Miss Marple's.  And that is why I like Poirot better than Miss Marple.  

BTW, Christie has dedicated one of her mysteries ("The Mirror Cracked" ?) to Margaret Rutherford, "in admiration".   Was this because AC was happy with MR's portrayal of MM?  IMO Dame Rutherford's robust personality and her adventurous portrayals could not have been more in contrast with Jane Marple's slim, gentle, and "fly on the wall" personality portrayed in Christie's books.   Rutherford's performances as Miss Marple were more like caricatures, and not convincing at all, as far as I am concerned.  


  • I believe AC said that she was not happy with Margaret Rutherford's portrayal of MM. She actually said that in her opinion, Joan Hickson (who played a minor role, that of the cook, in Margaret Rutherford's "Murder, She Saw" - her version of "The 4.50 from Paddington) would make a good MM. AC didn't live to see it, but Joan Hickson went on to be the most definitive MM in movies.
  • MichelaMichela Lombardia, Italy
    I've never seen Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple and I have to say that in my mind the only Miss Marple was Geraldine McEwan. BUT I loved MR playing this role. She's completely different, but totally convincing as Miss Marple to me.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I am confused, First you say you have never seen Miss Marple in The Role then you say you LOVED her in the Role, BTW I totally disagree with you about Geraldine McEwan in the role but I assume she was the first person you saw in the role so maybe it is understandable.
  • MichelaMichela Lombardia, Italy
    Sorry, I'm not English, I'm not mothertongue. I meant to say I've never seen Margaret Rutherford before. Anyway, you say "I totally disagree with you about Geraldine McEwan in the role but I assume she was the first person you saw in the role so maybe it is understandable": NO, She was not the first person I saw in the role. As I wrote, in my mind she is the only Miss Marple. I don't see where is the problem. It's my personal feeling. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    There isn't a problem I was just saying I disagree, I much prefer Joan Hickson in the Role but her Mannerisms in her portrayal are for me the best in all the Actress's I have seen play the part, In my Head she looks more like Maggie Smith, Angela Thorne or Patricia Garwood but none of them have played Miss Marple.
  • AnubisAnubis Ontario, Canada
    It is interesting to see the character Joan Hickson played in Murder, She Saw, because that character is so slatternly and lower class — so completely different from the refined Miss Marple that she played later on. It show what a good actress Joan Hickson was. I gather AC didn't originally like MR in the role, but they did become friends.
  • I don't think it's Geraldine McEwan's fault that her portrayal of Miss Marple was so bad. She was, indeed, a great actress and will  be missed by many people, myself included.  She had to act with the script that the producers, director and the writers gave her.  The  productions were bogus. Those things happen sometimes in show business and there isn't much else you can say about.
  • can a moderator tel me why I have to sign in everytime I come onto this site?
  • I enjoyed Geraldine McEwen's work as MM. 
  • I think in some ways that Geraldine McEwen did bring out some of the nuances which were apparent in the novel - and absolutely, she was being directed and being told how to be. In Murder at the Vicarage, the novel, there is a definite suggestion which becomes an undercurrent that the characters knew the SPOILER ALERT female murderer very well: she was one of their circle. That was what made the whole affair so extraordinary for the vicar, the narrator. His little community had this drama built on passion, and frustration at one man's unsympathetic behaviour.  In the novel, the presentation gives the suggestion that the style of friendship would have been a formal one - neighbours met in church, and greeted each other conventionally in the street - but, conveyed in little things characters say, is the sense that behind the forms, there would have been genuine concern and affection. Geralding McEwen brings out these feelings  of compassion in the way in which she deliver her dialogue. In the same vein, I thought that she conveyed compassion very well in By the Pricking of my Thumbs ( we all know she wasn't in that novel - only the tv version).
  • Just thinking, that there is a major point of difference between Poirot and Miss Marple, Miss Marple knows the murderer and characters quite well, in a number of mysteries, (The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side, Murder at the Vicarage, the short stories) whereas Poirot rarely does. He's practically always the outsider, knowing maybe one person who has been around a murder a very little bit. On the other hand, Poirot very often knows the detective in charge really well, and there is a sort of bond and sharing of impressions and gut feelings about the crime. (Not that Poirot really had gut feelings). The reader, therefore, comes at the mystery from a different perspective in each case. 
  • Griselda, I don't quite agree. While MM occasionally knows the victim (e.g. in The Murder in the Vicarage and some of the short stories, I don't remember any incidence of her knowing the murderer except in perhaps in MITV - but because of her amateur status and the "prying old lady" look, she often gets to know the murderer very well by the end. The difference lies in method - MM is like the organizational counselor who is part of the organization and not only suggests a change but accompanies it all the way, while HP is like the ones with a posh office and chrome letter paper who come in, look around, interview a few people and give a recommendation like a judgement. I think I've made it clear which kind I prefer... and which detective!

  • I suppose you're right, but she would have mixed socially with  a few murderers, eg in Murder is Announced, before the crime, and would kind of had a personal impression of them. Apart from in Murder of Roger Ackroyd, was Poirot ever a neighbour or friend of a murderer? I like your analogy!! I suppose I ought to ask, was AC like Miss Marple, do you think, as I'm not sure she was like Ariadne Oliver. PS, did AO ever solve a mystery on her own without Poirot? I don't think she did, and I think I've read them all.
  • Griselda. Call me CT. New to  your site so go easy on me. I am not as precise or in depth about her stories as you but I will try. What is your preference... the book or the tv adaptatations?
  • To be honest I had not heard of Geraldine before she got the MM role. Apparently she was a big noise in fifties English films. Certainly would have been a beauty in her prime.  
  • In my view Margaret Rutherford was the best Marple. I would have thought she would have been fairly close to the Marple Christie wanted as she was the first to portray her on screen.
  • edited December 2015
    Griselda - no, AO never solved a mystery on her own as far as I know. CT - most viewers agree that Joan Hickson was the "Miss Marple" closest to the book character, on the screen. However, from what I've seen here, some people like other Actresses for the role, particularily Geraldine Euen - could it be because MM's original character is rather dated, belonging to a more traditional, paternalistic society? I can't quite see AC's MM, or Joan Hickson's portrayal of her, fitting into a modern society. However I personally prefer Joan Hickson - perhaps because I'm fairly old myself (63). At the same time I do feel that the twittering, fluffy, economically dependent old lady probably should be a thing of the past. 

  • We are similar age ..Can I call you Tali? I picked up my first AC novel when I was at boarding school and was instantly hooked...Agatha and The Beatles...kept me sane in that place. When was your first taste of Agatha?
  • CT148CT148 Sydney
    edited December 2015
    I did post this elsewhere. Not sure where exactly. David Suchet was the quintessential Poirot in my view. When on set he was closest to Agatha's description of Poirot in her books.." a short,dapper man with an egg shaped, balding dome and a wispy, dark moustache turned up at the ends". Or words to that affect. David Suchet was also the consumate Poirot. He lived the part. Why not.. he played him for almost 30 years. He owes Agatha Christie his career.
  • CT, of course you can call me Tali - that's my name! Here in Israel we barely use last names. 
    My first encounter was as a teen, visiting a friend. I was an awful snob, and when she offered me the book I slapped it across the room. (She was a niece of a friend of my mother, and I spent several visits with her - looking back, I can't understand why they had me back after the first visit). But later I read it. I didn't like AC at first - the writing seemed shallow to me, because of the simplicity of the language. Only when I grew up did I learn to appreciate her. 
  • SiddharthaSSiddharthaS Michigan, United States
    I though David Suchet was the best Poirot ever on the screen whether big or small.  He had obviously studied the character very well, and internalized Poirot's personality.  The only thing in Suchet's portrayal that I could not reconcile with was the way his Poirot sometimes walked: in short crisp steps, with hands held closely next to his chest, almost as though he feared toppling over.  I though it made him look a bit "effeminate" for want of a better word.  Poirot was never a macho man, but despite his senior age, small frame and extra polite mannerisms, he was not that frail either despite his aversion to being exposed to the elements ... or was he?  Would love to have some pointers or references justifying/supporting what I found incongruous and puzzling.       
  • Ditto. I missed a lot of the quality in AC when young. Then again, she wasn't young when she wrote most of her novels, so maybe we've just grown older and into the kind of perspective on people that she would have had.
  • Tali. I also read other kids adventure stories such as the Secret Five or the Bobbsey Twins but found AC better. I suppose the others were fluff compared to AC. Required  bit more thinking. A good way I found to escape the tedium of boarding school.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Miss Marple must have known the SPOILER ALERT!!! Murderer(s) in MATV  as they weren't as one must have been there a long time and The other must have been there a while
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I think Poirot just knows the Murderer in Three-Act Tragedy (Or is that the ITV Adaptation?)
  • You are correct, Tommy - he does know him.
  • Aside from the disregard for the original plots of Mrs. Christie, what irritated me the most about Geraldine Mc Ewen's Miss Marple was the way the production presented her.

     She looked like a bag lady who got her clothes at the Salvation Army. Everyone knows how important appearance was to Miss Marple. Despite her age she was very careful about how she did her hair and the clothing that she wore.

    These productions were a travesty to the literary legend of Miss Marple.
  • Yes, I agree. I am sure that the estimable Geraldine McEwan had been directed to play Miss Marple as a scatty, unconventional type, but it wasn't satisfying, however much heart and soul I felt she put into the effort. I can't see such a careless character being a Nemesis. From where, I ask myself, would come the motivation to pursue a killer and seek justice? Geraldine McEwan's Marple seems a pacifist, an alternative thinker who would probably like to blame the crime of a killer on some big abstract idea, such as supernatural forces of nature. This characterisation was too playful for me......and as for the fabricated illicit wartime romance the directors gave her - let's not mention it !!!  
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