Today is Agatha Christie’s birthday. She would have been 125-years-old. During her lengthy career, she wrote 83 books in 85 years, which is an incredible statistic that becomes even more incredible when you find out her first book was published when she was 20. That makes her output 83 books in 65 years, which is just ridiculous. Aside from her noveles, one of her many legacies is her impact on television. Back in 1920, at the time of her first novel The Mysterious Affair At Styles, there was no television, of course, but in subsequent years the name Agatha Christie became as synonymous with the TV as it did with literature. Time to have a quick look at her televisual output.
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple
Joan Hickson: 1984-1992 (BBC)
Geraldine McEwan: 2004-2009 (ITV)
Julia McKenzie: 2009-2013 (ITV)
The quintessential Marple character. Admitting that the amateur sleuth was, in part, based on herself she said of her creation that she “insinuated herself so quietly into my life that … I hardly noticed her arrival.” Over the years Marple has been played by three actresses – Joan Hickson, Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie – and every one of her 12 Marple novels and 20 short stories have been adapted.
Even though Peter Ustinov was a capable Hercule Poirot on the big screen, David Suchet’s television incarnation of the Belgian detective is the image that sticks in our minds. Suchet twirled his moustache through 70 episodes in total, becoming a staple of Sunday nights as exotic locations and early 20th century mores were examined.
The Agatha Christie Hour
A collection of ten hour-long dramas based on short stories by Agatha Christie, although crime was very rarely featured. There was some comedy, some romance… the ten episodes at least show another side to Christie.
Partners In Crime
The first fruits of the BBC’s new deal with the Christie estate, this recent six-parter starred David Walliams and Jessica Raine as husband-and-wife team Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. We had a series of this in 1983, but this new adaptation – which received mixed reviews – transposed the action from the 1920s to the Cold War-riven 1950s.
With And Then They Were None is due some time on the BBC, which brings us right up to the present. TV and radio adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work started not long after her work had first been published, but these relatively modern series are the ones people still remember and talk about.
Christie’s mark on television, as well as the crime fiction genre, has been indelible.
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