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Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies

Updated on March 18, 2011


Margaret Rutherford was a controversial choice to play Miss Marple. I personally feel that she is physically all wrong for the character but I do enjoy her interpretation of the character. Miss Marple is a thin, somewhat delicate little old lady, but Rutherford's is strong and definitely can take care of herself. I always think of Miss Marple as sitting by the fire in her parlor, knitting and solving crimes using her mind, but Rutherford's interpretations is of an active, strong bloodhound searching for clues. Rutherford's films are not faithful to the source material, don't watch the films expecting them to be anything like the stories, but the movies are worth watching.

Margaret Rutherford was born in England in1892 and wanted to act from the time she was a childhood. But she first started out as a teacher, it wasn't until she received a small inheritance in 1925 that she gave up teaching and tried her hand at acting. She became at student at the Old Vic School , after she graduated there was no work, so she temporarily went back to teaching. Eventually she started to get small roles in London's West End, which turned into larger roles.



In 1960, MGM purchased the rights to most of Agatha Christie's works and planned a series of low-budget movies to be filmed in England. Margaret Rutherford was hired to play Miss Marple. Rutherford was very serious about the character, she said Miss Marple was "a dear spinster lady , very much like myself to look at. She is eccentric, but her passion for justice is very real." Four films were made from Christie's work: Murder She Said, Murder At The Gallop, Murder Most Foul and Murder Ahoy.


Murder She Said was based on What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (also titled 4:50 from Paddington). The story, published in 1957 started with an old friend of Miss Marple traveling on the train from London. She looks outside and sees into another train that is running parallel to her train. Mrs. McGillicuddy looks into the passenger cars and into one where a man is strangling a woman. She alerts the conductor and, even though he doesn't really believe her, he has the other train searched.

She was on her way to see Jane and tells her about the murder. Jane investigates and they find out that no body has been found near the tracks. The train had also been searched by the police. The body had to be taken off the train before the station where the passenger cars were searched. The only way was for the body to be thrown off the train. So, Marple figures out where the body probably was taken off the train. Miss Marple enlists Lucy Eyelesbarrow, a young friend, to go to Rutherford Hall in the guise of housekeeper. She is to search for the body and other clues. That is in the original story.


In the movie, Miss Marple is the one traveling and she sees the murder on the next train. She lives in Milchester not St Mary Mead. Mr. Stringer, the local librarian, becomes her ally in trying to find out where the body is hidden. Miss Marple has never solved a crime before and will investigate based on her reading of detective novels. Miss Marple in the book uses her knowledge of village matters to solve murders.

Miss Marple and Mr Stringer go to look for the body themselves. They find where the body was thrown from the train. Miss Marple gets a job at the estate, Ackenthorpe Hall. The whole movie shows Miss Marple as an active crime fighter, whereas in the books, she just uses her brains to solve crimes. This Jane Marple does her own legwork, it is a different interpretation of Miss Marple.





The second movie called Murder At The Gallop is based on a Hercule Poirot book named After The Funeral. The book opens at the funeral of Richard Abernethie. The family is visiting after the funeral when the deceased's aunt. Cora, casually remarks that Richard was, of course, murdered. Everyone is surprised, but Cora is very eccentric so she is mostly ignored. But someone must have taken her seriously for the next day, Cora, after she returns home, is murdered with a hatchet. So now Poirot needs to solve both murders. The situation is further complicated when Cora's companion is poisoned, but she survives. Was Cora murdered because of what she said? Was Richard even murdered at all?


In the film, Miss Marple and Mr. Stringer are collecting for a reformed criminals charity. They go to visit Mr. Enderby at the local manor. They see him on the second floor landing clutching his chest, he then falls down the stairs and die. Miss Marple hears something upstairs and goes to investigate and she finds a cat. But Mr. Enderby was afraid of cats, so why was one in his house? The police don’t suspect foul play, so Miss Marple and her faithful sidekick, librarian Mr. Stringer investigate the matter.



The next movie is based on the story Mrs McGinty's Dead, which also does not feature Miss Marple. It is again Hercule Poirot story, why they didn't adapt a Miss Marple story, I don't know. In the original book, James Bentley is convicted of murdering his landlady during an attempt to steal her money. The detective on the case is uneasy about it and calls in his old friend, Poirot to do some investigating. He finds that the victim had clipped something out of the paper a couple of days before she died and that she wrote a letter to someone. Poirot finds out it was a story about past crimes and he surmises that Mrs. McGinty realized one of the leading citizens was involved in an old murder and tried a spot of blackmail.


In the movie, Harold Taylor is on trial for the murder of his landlady, Mrs McGinty and Miss Marple is in the jury. She thinks he is innocent and starts to investigate, she finds clues leading to a theater company. Mrs. McGinty used to be an actress and Miss Marple finds some playbills in her luggage for Murder She Said by Agatha Christie put on by a touring company. Miss Marple arranges to join the company undercover. Mr. Stringer, the local librarian, again helps Miss Marple in her investigations. So little of this movie is original to the book, it is pretty much a new work built around a familiar character.




The final film was made in 1964. was Murder Ahoy. None of the previous films were very faithful to the source material, so It was probably inevitable that an original story would be filmed. This screenplay was written by the David Pursall and Jack Seddon who had adapted the earlier works so they were familiar with the character.

The film opens with Miss Marple buying a naval uniform. She then goes to a lawyer’s office . Her uncle, an admiral, set up a trust to run a training ship for youths in danger of becoming criminals. Miss Marple has been invited to become a trustee. One of the trustees keeps saying he has something important to say, but he dies in the middle of the meeting. Miss Marple finds out that the trustee just got back from the training ship and she thinks maybe he found something suspicious. He died right after he took some snuff, maybe it was poisoned to keep him quiet? Miss Marple goes to the ship to investigate


What do you think of the Rutherford movies?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The One, The True, the ONLY Miss Marples!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      brilliant im an avid fan of miss rutherford superb actress timeiess ive watched her films over and over again love her acting a joy to watch funny moments as well as serious ones superb

    • Lemming13 profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Margaret's films, but for accuracy of interpretation I go for the BBC series with Joan Hickson; but the theme tune I have on my walkman is that snazzy 60s one to which Margaret Rutherford always hove into view. Lovely lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've loved these films since seeing them on the TV as a child. Rutherford is terrific (not the Miss Marple of the books, as you point out, but magnificent all the same), and I love that distinctive theme tune.

    • ceciliaw profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @TreasuresBrenda: Thank you for reminding me, glad you enjoyed the lens.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done; I don't think I have seen any of these but I should!

      P.S. Don't forget to change the title on your guestbook.


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