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Dame Margaret Rutherford played Agatha Christie's meddling but lovable sleuth Miss Marple in four movies during the 1960s. Murder Ahoy (1964) was the third film of the series to be released, though it was actually the final one filmed. Murder She Said (1961) came first, followed by Murder At the Gallop (1963), with Murder Most Foul (1964) rounding out the series.
In Murder Ahoy, which had the distinction of being the only one of the four films based on an original script and not one of Christie's stories, Miss Marple investigates the murder of a charity trustee aboard a floating home for boys. As was often the case, Rutherford's real life husband, Stringer Davis, appears with her in the film. In Murder Ahoy he plays Mr. Stringer, the helpful librarian who frequently comes to Miss Marple's aid.
Surprisingly, Rutherford didn't want to play Miss Marple to begin with. In fact for several years she dismissed the idea, saying she wasn't interested in murder stories. But in 1960, MGM purchased the rights to all of Christie's stories for three million dollars, at first with the idea of creating a television series. Eventually, a movie series was decided on and director George Pollock tried once again to convince the reluctant Rutherford to take the role. Pollock sent Rutherford the script for Murder She Said and promised that Miss Marple would be a helpful character, one who took a gamesman-like approach to crime solving instead of focusing on the morbid details. Rutherford finally agreed.
Later on she would find out that Agatha Christie had actually been against the casting. Christie had nothing against Rutherford as an actress, but apparently she had based Miss Marple on an aunt who in no way resembled Rutherford. No matter, the two soon met and became admirers of each other's work. Christie would eventually dedicate the book The Mirror Cracked From Side to Side to Margaret.
Rutherford's career had already spanned some thirty years before she stepped into Miss Marple's memorable shoes. Her screen career began in 1936 with a role in the British film Dusty Ermine. She followed that with appearances in everything from the Nazi thriller The Yellow Canary (1943) to a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1952). Prior to Miss Marple, Rutherford's defining role came in 1946 as an eccentric medium in Blithe Spirit (1945).
Between Christie films in 1963, Rutherford won an Oscar® and a Golden Globe for her performance in The V.I.P.s. And in 1967, that honor was followed by another, when Queen Elizabeth made her a Dame.
Producer: Lawrence P. Bachmann
Director: George Pollock
Screenplay: David Pursall, Jack Seddon
Production Design: Sydney Streeter
Cinematography: Desmond Dickinson
Costume Design: William C. Andrews
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Original Music: Ron Goodwin
Cast: Dame Margaret Rutherford (Miss Marple), Lionel Jeffries (Capt. Sidney de Courcy Rhumstone), Charles Tingwell (Detective Inspector Craddock), William Mervyn (Cmdr. Breeze-Connington), Joan Benham (Matron Alice Fanbraid), Stringer Davis (Mr. Stringer),
BW-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Stephanie Thames