Lately we've had so many heavy issues to deal with, both here on the forum and in real life, that I got to thinking of something escapist, where the bad guys are totally imaginary. Probably my favorite of Agatha Christie's detectives is Miss Marple. I just finished rereading all of her short stories (helpfully collected in one paperback volume) and went on to re-watch a lot of the filmed versions of the mysteries shown here in the U.S. on PBS. (A lot of them are on YT.) There have been three Marples on TV, and each of them is an interesting actress with a different take on the role. I think in all of the three Marple series, the stories seem to be set in the 1950s, which is true to some but not all of Agatha Christie's books. (The book Marple has a long career!)
Joan Hickson: She was the original TV Miss Marple, personally approved by Agatha Christie and even Queen Elizabeth II (when she gave her an OBE). Born almost in the Victorian era, in 1906, Hickson was already in her late seventies when she started playing the role and played it into her eighties. She was probably closest physically to Miss Marple, with a very Victorian look and a vague manner, and the purest, most upper-class accent of the three ladies. (The other two speak proper theater-standard English, but Hickson's vowels sound like the radio speeches given by the Queen herself.) Hickson's mysteries were the most faithful to the original books. It turns out that her series was the only one done by the BBC; the other two Marples were cast by ITV, a British commercial network, and they took more liberties. More about that later. Someone writing about the three Marples said that Hickson was the one you could imagine giving orders to a servant.
Geraldine McEwan: McEwan is a generation younger than Hickson (born 1932). She's also an accomplished actress with broad experience, even some years in the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has a rather fey look about her and seems less imperially reserved than Hickson. This gives her an engaging warmth. The producers gave her a backstory of a brief love right before World War I (of course, he died in the War) and a stint as an ambulance driver during that war. The effect is to make her seem more engaged with life than Joan Hickson's Marple (and maybe more than the Miss Marple of the books as well). With McEwan's series, the producers (now ITV, remember) began tinkering with the plotlines and even inserting Marple into stories that were not written as Marple stories. Purists object to this, of course, but the productions are still very good.
Julia McKenzie: McKenzie is almost a decade younger than McEwan. She has a sturdier figure and a brisk demeanor, and she's what the Brits call "tweedy." This means that she usually wears tweed suits and comes off as a very efficient person with a gift for administration, like a school headmistress or the chairwoman of some important local organization. McKenzie has stage, film, and TV experience like the other two, but she has an extra talent: she's an incredible singer, known for her performances in Sondheim musicals. How is it that this woman is not the toast of two continents?
Anyway, is anyone else a Marple fan, and can you choose a favorite interpretation, or do you like aspects of them all?