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Film / Miss Marple

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Between 1961 and 1965, MGM made four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. Each film in the series was directed by George Pollock and featured scripts written by David Pursall and Jack Seddon. Although none of them bore any resemblance to the books on which they were based, each of them had their redeeming charms and to this day all of the films have their loyal following of fans.

The films in the series are:

  • Murder, She Said (1961)
  • Murder at the Gallop (1963)
  • Murder Most Foul (1964)
  • Murder Ahoy! (1964)

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Tropes that apply to the series as a whole:

  • Adaptational Badass: The title character herself. Margaret Rutherford's take on the character got far more involved with the day-to-day investigations than her literary counterpart, often going undercover or otherwise enmeshing herself with the suspects.
    • Even beyond that, Rutherford!Marple was apparently a champion rider and won awards for small arms (pistol shooting) and fencing as a young woman, and hasn't lost a step as an older one.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Miss Gilchrist in the book becomes Miss Milchrest in the movie.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Somehow, Inspector Craddock never learns to trust Miss Marple from movie to movie, and in each one is just as annoyed as the previous at her "meddling". It's particularly noticeable in Murder Most Foul.
  • Bitter Almonds:
    • In Murder Most Foul, Miss Marple detects the presence of cyanide because of the smell.
    • In Murder Ahoy!, she rules out cyanide because the snuff she suspects someone was poisoned with lacks the smell.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: One of Miss Marple's favorite tactics.
  • Canon Foreigner: Mr. Stringer, Miss Marple's friend and fellow murder mystery enthusiast, was an invention of the series.
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  • Celebrity Paradox: Agatha Christie apparently lives and writes novels in the movieverse, as well.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Miss Marple herself. Yes, you read that right. In the climactic sword duel in Murder Ahoy!, she uses her environment to get an advantage against her opponent, including slamming doors and trying to throw objects. As she's aware she's outmatched, she also calls for backup as she goes rather than trying to get herself out of trouble.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul were based on Hercule Poirot novels, and Murder Ahoy! was a completely new plot.
  • Dude Magnet: Downplayed example with the titular character herself, who despite being in her seventies attracts two marriage proposals during the series. And then there's Mr. Stringer; see 'Ship Tease' below.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: In Murder at the Gallop, frightened Miss Milchrest gives Miss Marple information regarding the murder of Mr. Enderby, and Miss Marple asks her if she's told anyone else the information. This is a subversion because Miss Marple is the detective investigating the murder and Miss Milchrest is the murderer trying to throw Miss Marple off track.
  • The Joy of X: Murder Most Foul is the earliest prominent example of a string of works with titles of the form "Murder Most X".
  • Large Ham: A few characters, but none so much as Lionel Jeffries' Captain Sydney De Courcy Rhumstone of Murder Ahoy!, a character with extreme interest in naval matters who always seems to be about three seconds away from starting to scream at the top of his lungs and whose facial expressions must be seen to be believed.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Miss Marple herself, who in this series has experience as a fencing and shooting champion in her youth to go along with her sharp mind. In a realistic take on this trope, however, she appears to be out of breath after doing particularly physical stunts and relies on the backup from her younger, fitter police allies to handle criminals.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: An apparent rule for officers and staff on the HMS Battledore in Murder Ahoy!, who are not allowed "hanky-panky" between the sexes by the board of trustees. No less than five are dating, engaged, or in love triangles.
  • Lighter and Softer: The tone of the films was much more whimsical and comical than the Marple novels themselves, something Christie herself voiced a dislike for.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Murder most foul" is a quotation from Hamlet.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates
  • Mystery Magnet: No matter what activity she is undertaking, Miss Marple always stumbles across a murder.
  • Police Are Useless: With Miss Marple's increased competence, the police seem to suffer a bit by comparison, with characters on the force failing to discover murders, preparing to apprehend the wrong suspect, etc.
  • Rogue Juror: In Murder Most Foul, Miss Marple is the only juror who believes a suspect is innocent and causes a hung jury. She then goes to examine the case herself.
  • Ship Tease: Occasionally, Miss Marple and Mr. Stringer appear to be flirting, such as when he attracts the attention of a woman he'd been sent to distract and Miss Marple teases him over it. Every movie ends with the two driving off together in various vehicles; Murder, She Said even ends with the two driving off in a car on which a mischievous boy has just placed a "Just Married" sign!
    • Probably a justified example given Margaret Rutherford and Stringer Davis, the two actors portraying the characters, were a married couple in real life!
  • The Watson: Mr. Stringer. He's a fairly independent version of the trope, often pulling evidence while Miss Marple is undercover.

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