Monday, April 9, 2007

Even Agatha Got No Respect

by Julia Buckley
At left: Agatha Christie's beloved Torquay.

I suppose all writers like to speculate about their books as films--that is, who would play the roles of these characters who were born of our imaginations? It's a fun exercise, but I learned recently that even the great Agatha Christie was not entirely satisfied with the casting of her characters. I was reading a favorite book of mine--a picture book called In the Footsteps of Agatha Christie (Trafalgar Square Publishers, 1995), which takes the reader on a visual tour of Agatha's favorite places. The accompanying text is written by Francoise Riviere.

Riviere at one point discusses Agatha's attitude toward film:

"For a very long time Agatha Christie nursed great reservations about cinema. Over the years she nevertheless sold the film rights to some of her books, which were translated with varying degrees of success to the screen. The only real success, to my mind, remains the Hollywood adaptation of Ten Little [Indians], directed by Rene Clair in 1945 under the name And Then There Were None.

The Miss Marple films directed by George Pollock in the 1950's and 1960's provoked the displeasure of Agatha, who declared the actress Margaret Rutherford, with her determinedly comic rendering of the character, 'not much like Miss Marple' and also reputedly said, 'to me she's always looked like a bloodhound.' The two women later made their peace and Agatha even dedicated one of her books to Miss Rutherford."

The book goes on to discuss further blockbuster hits made from Christie's works: Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and The Mirror Crack'd--not to mention the many television adaptations which happened after Christie's death in 1976. At that time, Christie's works were the most read after Shakespeare and The Bible.

How ironic, then, that even someone with the audience of Agatha Christie couldn't command a say in the casting of her films, and that the REAL Miss Marple was only certain in the mind of the woman who created her.

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