Cast & Crew
Amateur detective Miss Marple, the only member of a jury to vote "not guilty" in a murder trial, decides to find the real culprit on her own when a mistrial is declared. Along with her companion, Mr. Stringer, she searches the home of the victim, a former actress, and is led to a foundering repertory company headed by Driffold Cosgood. Posing as an actress, Miss Marple is accepted into the troupe by Cosgood, who believes she may be able to help the company out of financial straits. Miss Marple receives no help in her investigations from Inspector Craddock, who is convinced of the guilt of the accused, a lodger in the victim's home; but her suspicions gain credibility when one cast member is poisoned and another is gassed with cyanide. Later, almost at the cost of her life, she discovers that the murderer is actor Bill Hanson, whose mother, a former member of the theater company, was hanged for murdering her husband; the victim, it is revealed, had been blackmailing Hanson.
Lawrence P. Bachmann
J. B. Smith
A. W. Watkins
Murder Most Foul
Agatha Christie didn't agree. She had modeled Miss Marple after a favorite aunt, a "fragile, pink and white lady," as Rutherford later recalled. And Christie didn't think the large, ungainly Rutherford resembled Miss Marple at all. Moreover, Rutherford didn?t want to do it. "I never found murder amusing , I don't like anything that tends to lower or debase or degrade," she explained. Both ladies were eventually persuaded. They met, ended up becoming fast friends, and Christie dedicated one of her books, The Mirror Crack?d, to "my friend, Margaret Rutherford."
Agatha Christie is inarguably the world's most successful mystery author. With 79 novels and over a dozen screenplays to her credit, she is the third best-selling author behind the Bible and Shakespeare. Her stories have been widely interpreted on screen and television, but the creation of such memorable characters as Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple is one of the biggest keys to her success. The inimitable Detective Poirot solves the crimes in over forty of her novels, while Miss Marple appears in twelve. It is Miss Marple who is the star of an installment of four films released during the 1960's.
Between 1961 and 1964, MGM made four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford at their British studios. In all four, the role of Mr. Stringer, the local librarian and Miss Marple's partner in crime detection, is played by Rutherford's real-life husband, Stringer Davis. Murder Most Foul (1964) was the third made, and the last released. Like Murder at the Gallop (1963), it was actually based on an Hercule Poirot novel (Mrs. McGinty's Dead), rather than a Miss Marple story. It also co-starred Ron Moody as Clifford Cosgood, a theatrical character desperately searching for investors for his next production. Moody is best remembered for his portrayal of Fagin in Oliver! (1968).
Murder Most Foul begins with Miss Marple as the sole juror holding out for acquittal in a trial. A mistrial is declared. Miss Marple sets out to find the real killer, and the search leads her to a theatrical repertory company. The comic highlight of the film is Rutherford auditioning for the company with a performance of the poem, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew", one of Rutherford's favorite pieces. Once, she had to be dissuaded from performing it at a women's prison. "It was a good, bloodcurdling bit, which I thought the poor women would enjoy as they must have been disillusioned by the men in their lives," she said. That kind of dotty logic might not be exactly Miss Marple's style, but it's part of what made Margaret Rutherford such a blithe spirit, and one of the most beloved British character actresses ever. She broke into mainstage and screen relatively late in her career and quickly established her acting prowess with her 1941 stage performance in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, which led to the film version in 1945. Her portrayal of Madame Arcati, the off-center psychic, would not only be one of her signature roles, but also established the standard for the character in future productions. Clearly Rutherford was beloved by her peers and she was eventually awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1961. She later won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The V.I.P.s (1963), and in 1967 was knighted into dame-hood.
Agatha Christie herself would be named a Dame three years later in 1971, but at this point her accomplishments must have seemed old hat for the writer. After all, her play, The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952, remains the longest continuously running show in theatrical history. Her books have sold over 100 million copies. And when your greatest competitors are God and the Bard, the greatest mystery is--what's next?
Director: George Pollock
Producer: Lawrence p. Bachmann, Ben Arbeid
Screenplay: David Pursall, Jack Seddon, based on the novel, Mrs. McGinty?s Dead, by Agatha Christie
Editor: Ernest Walter
Cinematography: Desmond Dickinson
Art Direction: Frank White
Music: Ron Goodwin
Principal Cast: Margaret Rutherford (Miss Marple), Ron Moody (H. Driffold Cosgood), Charles Tingwell (Detective Inspector Craddock) Andrew Cruickshank (Justice Crosby), Megs Jenkins (Mrs. Thomas), Stringer Davis (Mr. Stringer).
BW-91m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Margarita Landazuri & Eleanor Quin
Murder Most Foul
The Agatha Christie Miss Marple Collection - Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in 4 Films on DVD
To order The Miss Marple Collection, go to
The first film, Murder, She Said, is the only one based on a Miss Marple novel (The 4:50 from Paddington). Miss Marple sees a murder being committed on a train running on a parallel track, but when the police fail to turn up any sign of a body and see no case to pursue, Miss Marple decides to take the case on herself. She determines that the only place along that particular stretch of railway that a body could've been tossed from the train without being seen is at Ackenthorp Hall. She manages to get a job as a maid at the Hall, and soon discovers the body in sarcophagus, which brings in Instpector Craddock (Charles Tingwell) and his men. But it's Miss Marple along with her sidekick Mr. Stringer (Striger Davis, Rutherford's real-life husband. Ironically, Joan Hixson, who would later become known as the definitive Miss Marple on the long-running BBC series, has a small part as a maid.
Murder at the Gallop is based on the Hercule Poirot novel After the Funeral. The not-so-unexpected heart attack of a rich man is written off as death by natural causes until Miss Marple discovers that the diseased had a pathological fear of cats, and someone had hidden a cat in the man's house so that he would come on it unawares. Once again the police have no intention of looking into Miss Marple's theory, so she checks into the Gallop Hotel, a horse riding establishment where all of the dead man's heirs are staying, and launches her investigation. But before long there are more deaths. Murder at the Gallop guest stars Robert Morley as the head of the family, who ends up hoping that Miss Marple will permanently keep her saddle at the Gallop.
Murder, Most Foul is also based on a Hercule Poirot novel, Mrs. McGinty's Dead. Miss Marple serves on a jury where she is convinced that the accused is not guilty – of course, the other eleven jurists feel otherwise. When the trial ends in a hung jury and the trial rescheduled, Miss Marple is on the move to solve the case. She traces McGinty's connections to a theatrical company that had just past through town. The struggling company, run by Driffold Cosgood (Ron Moody), is all too happy to take on a wealthy novice who wants to act (namely, Miss Marple). No sooner is Marple on the scene than the cast members start dropping off one by one. To solve the murders, Miss Marple must figure out the identity of an illegitimate child of a former actress. The cast includes Francesca Annis, who would later star in the series Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence: Partners in Crime.
The last film in the set, Murder Ahoy, finds Miss Marple appointed to the board of a school for wayward boys that is housed on the frigate The Battledorn, which is moored in the harbor. At their first meeting, one of the other board members takes a sniff of snuff and promptly drops dead. In the confusion that follows the snuff is stolen from the box. The board member had been upset about something he'd discovered on visiting The Battledorn, so Of course, Miss Marple decides to pay the Battledorn a visit herself, and once there finds that everyone on board appears to have a secret...and some of those secrets will lead to murder.
The four Rutherford Marple movies may not come close to representing Agatha Christie's creation, but they are delightful, entertaining films in their own right, best enjoyed if you don't actually think of them as true Miss Marple adaptations.
Warner Bros.' new set offers four splendid transfers, stuck from source material that in remarkable crisp and clean condition. The audio is also in excellent condition, with no sign of deterioration and crystal clear tone quality. The disc includes the trailers for all four films.
For more information about The Miss Marple Collection, visit Warner Video.
by Fred Hunter
The Agatha Christie Miss Marple Collection - Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in 4 Films on DVD To order The Miss Marple Collection, go to TCM Shopping.
Like Murder at the Gallop (1963), this movie was adapted from a Poirot novel, not a Miss Marple Novel.
The last shot indicates that there was going to be another Miss Marple film, "Murder without End." However, it wasn't made and this became the last of the series. Margaret Rutherford did reprise her role for a cameo in Alphabet Murders, The (1965).