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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Miss Marple

Just a little plug for At Bertram's Hotel, the 1987 BBC production of the Agatha Christie book, starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

To those of you who instinctively recoil at that thought of all the implied Anglophilia, all I can say is, give it a chance. The Anglophilia in this particular episode is actually played up and made part of the plot.

It would be easy to assume that Christie, who lived from 1890 to 1976, is now dated. But her observations about human nature were acute, and human nature has not changed over the generations. An example: she understood sociopathy before the psychologists even had a name for it.

The unique appeal of Miss Marple, in case you're unfamiliar with her, is that she is an unassuming, slightly dowdy little old lady whom nobody notices at first. She is surrounded by the rich and the titled, the strong and the beautiful, the tough and the cynical. But she outdoes them all simply by being more observant and insightful.

We can all imagine that we have a little of Miss Marple in us, and that's partly what made Agatha Christie the bestselling author of all time.

Joan Hickson was the perfect Miss Marple: she radiates intelligence, which is what you need to do if you're going to play a little old lady with a giant IQ. Hickson, with her owlish gaze, seems to peer right into people's hearts.

There have been other Miss Marples. Geraldine McEwan was the latest; but having a former cutie in the role just never felt right:

Hickson was undoubtedly far closer to what Christie had in mind when she created the character. Give it a try, you'll see what I'm talking about.

(Whatever you do, don't wait for the big budget Hollywood production which will inevitably star Angelina Jolie as a butt-kicking babe who solves crimes by seducing and then beating a confession out of the criminals.)

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