Monday, January 13, 2014

Final Curtain

Anyone who knows me (or has read my 1930s cozy mysteries) knows that I'm a huge fan of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. It was during the 1920s and '30s that such mystery greats as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham were in their prime, and the genre produced its best and most memorable works. Being such a lover of these classic mysteries, I am always thrilled to find movie and television adaptations that do them justice.

Some of these well known characters have had the good fortune to be represented by actors and actresses who are true to the author's intent and who, for me, simply are the embodiment of the fictional person I enjoy so much. Peter Davison, for example, is the perfect Albert Campion. Jeremy Brett is the best and truest Sherlock Holmes. Joan Hickson (chosen by Dame Agatha herself to play her character long before the actress was old enough for the role) is just right as Miss Marple, and the only actress to film all of the Marple novels.

The Adventure of the Clapham Cook
Suchet's Hercule Poirot 1989
All of these, especially when they are supported by true-to-period costumes and sets and scripts that are (mostly) faithful to the books, are a delight to watch. But there is none of them I enjoy more than David Suchet's Hercule Poirot. Beginning in 1989, Suchet's interpretation of the famous Belgian sleuth was introduced to the world. Now, twenty-five years later, he has completed filming every Poirot short story and novel in the considerable canon. (See the list of episodes, including some that were combined, HERE.)

Having watched all but the last five films (which have not yet been shown in the United States but which will go straight from the mailbox into my DVD player the moment my order arrives), I can say that, even when the writers change the novels for some inexplicable reason, Suchet's Poirot never disappoints. He is the little Belgian detective, from his brilliantined hair and ridiculous moustaches down to his well-shined patent leather shoes. He is meticulous and somewhat (okay, maybe quite) OCD, set in his ways but easily drawn in by a puzzling problem, unhappy if there is not proper heating or if his breakfast eggs are not exactly the same size but never distracted by red herrings, dedicated to justice but not without mercy for those caught up in crime.

My favorite part of Suchet's performance comes as best I can tell from the actor himself. There is a twinkle in his eye, a definite light of joy and compassion that I cannot help thinking comes from his genuine Christian faith. He is a delight to watch in the role and, as glad as I am to know he has succeeded in his quest to film all of the Poirot stories, I am sad to know there will be and can be no more. (Unless they film Christie's Poirot stage play, Black Coffee, which I would love to see.)

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in Curtain, ITV's last Poirot film
Suchet's Hercule Poirot 2013

When the final credits roll on Curtain, the last of the Poirot novels, the last of the Suchet Poirot films, I'm sure there will be tears in my eyes.

Have you seen Suchet as Poirot? Which literary characters have you seen brought to the screen just as you imagine the author pictured them? Who would you like to see brought to the screen? Who do you think would best play that character? 

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with  Rules of Murder,  to be followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.   


  1. DeAnna, you're right. He is also exactly as I pictured him when I read those books all those many years ago.

    It's too early for me to think of another one who was as I imagined. I'll have to think on that for a while. I know it certainly isn't Miss Marple. She's not anything like I imagined.

    I can't remember if I read Perry Mason before I saw the shows, but I do think Raymond Burr was perfect.

  2. They've had so many different actresses playing Miss Marple over the last few years, it's harder to get a definite feel for her. I'll still stick with Hickson. She seems more genuinely like a real old lady and not so perky cute as the others. Plus in the versions she was in, there wasn't so much changing the original stories to make them more PC or more "up to date."

    I can't think of anyone but Burr as Perry Mason. I haven't read any of the books (though I will someday), so I don't know if he's as described or not. But some portrayals are just too ingrained to overcome. :D

  3. oooh, tough question, and one I don't think I can answer. You are a true fan of this genre. I've never read the Poirot mysteries. (GASP) so Duchet is Poirot for me.

    What do you think of the BBC Sherlock series?

  4. Oh, Deb, do you have a treat in store if you ever get into them! I'd have to say "Murder on the Orient Express" is my favorite Christie, and not a bad place to start.

    I saw Season One of "Sherlock" and enjoyed it very much. But then I got really busy and didn't watch any TV for a long time. So I still need to catch up on that one. It was an interesting update (of course, not true to the stories, which is something I do like to see in adaptations, but I wasn't expecting it here, obviously, so I wasn't disappointed). Freeman and Cumberbatch are, of course, wonderful.

  5. Ugh, I had a whole comment ready to go and suddenly had to update my password and lost it! Suffice it to say, I have wonderful memories of watching "Murder on the Orient Express" in the theater with my parents (only child, mom didn't like to leave me with sitters). The movie turned me on to Agatha Christie, and her books filled the gap between Nancy Drew and Victoria Holt.

  6. Oh, Niki, you probably saw that star-studded version (Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, John Gielgud, Richard Widmark, etc., etc.). I love that version! So much fun.

    The one with Suchet is much grimmer and probably more in line with the book (though each has some changes). I didn't care for the Suchet version the first time I saw it, oddly enough, but on second and third viewings, I'm appreciating it more. It's less beautiful, more realistic.

    1. *slaps forehead*
      I just looked it up... it was Death on the Nile I saw at the movies (I was 8). Saw Murder on the Orient Express much later, and yes, the star-studded version. I'll have to look for the Suchet versions of both...

    2. Ah, one of my other favorite Christies! I recently saw both versions of that one, too. I thought the Suchet version was by far better, even without all the stars. I enjoyed both, of course. Can't get enough of those stories, the intricate puzzles, the beautiful sets and costumes . . .

      :::happy sigh:::

  7. David Suchet's Hercule Poirot looks so familiar to me and yet the only film I've seen is Murder on the Orient Express. Not sure which version, because at the time, I was more interested in watching the train details than the people.

    Thanks for this post, DeAnna.

    1. You probably saw the big scree version with Albert Finney as Poirot. Has a LOT of big name stars in it (Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, etc.). It's fun.

      The Suchet version is more serious. They both use the real train. There's a fascinating documentary with Suchet riding (and driving!) the Orient Express and talking about filming the show. You should give that a look. :)

  8. We've watched some of the Poirot series. Never read the books. I think my mother poisoned my mind -- she didn't like Agatha Christie.

    DeAnna, last night our PBS station had a special about the various depictions of Sherlock Holmes on screen. It was quite fascinating because it traced how our impressions of the characters/stories have been influenced by the various portrayals.

    I adored Peter Davison in All Creatures Great and Small.

  9. Sorry your mother didn't like Dame Agatha. I admit that, out of the 80 mystery books she wrote, there are some that are not as great as others, but some, like Orient Express, are just wonderful. She has some very intricate plots and interesting characters. Plus the period dialogue and descriptions are a writer's goldmine.

    Oooh, I'll have to see if I can find that show about Holmes. I bet it was great.

    Peter Davison is wonderful. If you liked him as Tristan, you'd probably love him as Albert Campion. He's a bit of a kook, but so much fun. And those costumes!

  10. Definitely think Suchet is the best Poirot, Ustinov does not even compare in my view- and I agree about Joan Hickson- though I did not know that Christie picked her.

    I have seen four of the last five Episodes (though not Elephants can Remember), and I will Curtain could be a real tear Jerker for more than one reason. Oh, and what's more Hastings is back!

  11. I LOVE Poirot!!! I grew up watching it with my parents as a kid and have continued watching it. I can't envision any other actor playing the role. It just wouldn't be right! Love Hastings too. :) Great post! Thanks so much for sharing as I didn't know he was done. We have several of the movies, but I'm missing quite a few. I'd love to be able to buy a huge compilation of them all.

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings


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