Monday, May 2, 2011

Crime Fiction Alphabet - LETTER P = Poirot

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is a weekly meme hosted by Kerrie at her bloc, MYSTERIES IN PARADISE. This week's letter is P. Don't forget to check this link to see who is participating this week and what books or topics they've chosen.

For me, the letter P means Hercule Poirot, none other. Poirot was first introduced to us in Agatha Christie's debut, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES. He was then a Belgian refugee, a retired policeman, who runs into his friend Captain Hastings and helps solve an 'unsolvable' crime.

From then on there was no stopping Poirot. If there was a celebrated crime usually among the British upper crust, then Poirot was on the job. His French...uh, Belgian, mannerisms duly noted by his often amused patrons who looked at his fussy dressing, his patent leather shoes, his egg-shaped head, and most of all, his waxed mustaches, with some derision. Derision which turned to respect when Poirot gathered everyone in a room and named the murderer.

Poirot's reliance on his 'little grey cells' and his belief in his own infallibility grew wearisome at times, but mostly he delivered the goods and who can quarrel with success? I loved the character even if Christie herself got tired of him and bemoaned the day she thought him up with all his little quirks and peculiarities AND Belgian, to boot. She made fun of him in several books, through her character Ariadne Oliver - fictional mystery writer - and her eccentric Norwegian detective.

But Poirot became a fixture, at least in my world. I found him strangely attractive and sympathetic, even with his out-sized ego and odd appearance. I've always admired brains in men, even men who wore patent leather shoes in all sorts of weather.

My favorite Hercule Poirot books, then and now:











The best portrayer of Poirot in films? In my opinion, David Suchet, without a single doubt. Suchet was born to play Poirot. He 'gets' him perfectly. Suchet uses his eyes as all great actors on film, do, to express thought, intelligence and sympathy.

On the other hand, Peter Ustinov, despite playing him in three films (EVIL UNDER THE SUN, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH and DEATH ON THE NILE), was just physically TOO BIG and generally too unsympathetic, more a bon-vivant than a detective. Although I did enjoy the unexpected view of Ustinov in a bathing suit and matching cap in EVIL UNDER THE SUN, a fun film with Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg, Jane Birkin and Sylvia Miles - all wonderful. What I remember best about that film are the beautiful opening credits featuring gorgeous watercolors, the Cole Porter music and the terrific cinematography - filmed in Majorca, how could they go wrong? A better screenplay would have helped, but hey, you can't have everything.

Albert Finney as Poirot in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS didn't do it for me either. He was just too, too...I don't know, TOO something or other. Too unlikable, I think. Also that hair net - did we really need to see that? But with a great rest-of-the-cast and director - Sidney Lumet - the film is still a very good one. Okay, I admit it, I'm not a fan of Albert Finney in anything, so sue me. He was horrible in the last Bourne film, but that's another story for another day.


  1. You are so right--David Suchet is absolutely perfect as Poirot! I enjoyed watching the Ustinov and Finney movies--but only because I wanted to see visual versions of the Christie novels, not because I thought their portrayals all that good.

    Here's my Crime Fiction P:

  2. Suchet is the best so far but I think there is room for improvement. He still is a bit too mannered for me.

  3. Bev: I'm with you, kiddo. I love David Suchet. He is my dream Poirot. Although maybe down the line in years to come, someone else might come along I might like...Anything's possible I suppose. Nah. Ha!

  4. Pat: Oh I disagree, as you can see by the comment above, I LOVE Suchet as Poirot. Long may he reign. I think his mannerisms are lifted right from the stories. Oh well, who knows what the future will hold. :)

  5. I think Suchet is Poirot reincarnated. He is Poirot.

    I have no quarrel with your comments on Finney as Poirot, a bit off the mark.

    I read many Poirots as a teen-ager, then somehow I moved on to other reading.

    I am looking forward to revisiting Poirot in movie format, with The Mystery of the Blue Train now on reserve at the library.

    Excellent choice for "P."

  6. Give me Miss Marple over Poirot anyday. it's not that I don't like the guy, I just need to moderate my exposure to him. He is such a strong character that I have to take him in doses. That being said, I do love him in The ABC Murders and The Murder on the Orient Express.

    I do have to say, I don't htink they have made THE movie version of The Murder on the Orient Express. I enjoy the Finney movie, but don't think it captures the tone of the book. I really enjoy the rest of the cast though.

    The PBS movie they did this last time around was off for me a bit. I think Poirot was too angry in it, too emotional.

  7. Kathy: You and I are on the same page. :) THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN is a good one. It was made during the time when they were NOT distorting Christie's original stories.

  8. Ryan: Yes, he is a strong character. I hated the way the scrips were changed and therefore, he had to change along with them. Why can't they leave perfection alone? I refuse to see the new version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS - the one you're talking about - because my brother told me how much they'd wandered away from the original.

  9. Great post, but oops, you have just reminded me that I have forgotten to post a link to my own post. (That is one of the disadvantages of writing a couple of posts beforehand).

  10. Thanks, Dorte. It was a fun post to work on. I am such an adoring Poirot fan. HA!

  11. Great post - I must admit, I admire Suchet greatly and while agreeing that Ustinov isn't necessarily as accurate I think his six on-screen (if you include the TV-movies) are great fun on their on terms even if not in terms of overall fidelity (too much Ustinov and not Poirot, I agree).

    I actually love the Ustinov version of EVIL UNDER THE SUN and prefer it to the Suchet adaptation actually - it changes the book a lot of course but I really like the sense of humour that Shaffer brings to it and love the design - and as you say, having a score made up of Cole Porter standards was an inspired idea.

  12. bloodymurder: Hi! Thanks for dropping by. Lots of Suchet fans around here. :)

    I'd forgotten about Ustinov's tv movie Poirots. I'll have to look them up. I like how you put it: "...too much Ustinov and not Poirot..." Yes.

    I too enjoy the movie version of EVIL UNDER THE SUN, because of the location and the cast and yes, the sense of humor. I hope I didn't give the impresssion I didn't like the film. It's a lot of fun to watch.

    The more recent EVIL UNDER THE SUN versions with David Suchet were nowhere near as much fun and were, actually, kind of dreary. And having Suchet needed a health break because he needed to lose weight (if I'm remembering correctly) was dumb. But the script is not Suchet's fault and he is still a treat to watch.

  13. I love Poirot and his 'leetle grey cells'! And yes, Suchet is magnificent in the role. Did you see the lovely documentary made last year about Suchet on the Orient Express? If not, I think you'll enjoy this!

  14. Nicolas: No, I missed the documentary. I'll have to sit down with a cup of tea and watch it when I have a moment. THANKS so much for the tip. I LOVE SUCHET! (And I love the Orient Express. My brother and his wife were fortunate enough, many years ago, to ride the train. But to their chagrin, no mysterious doings ensued.) :)

  15. It's perfect Sunday afternoon viewing and Suchet is very cute. As you may imagine, his fellow travellers are very surprised to find Poirot on board!

  16. Thanks, Nicolas. You're a peach. :)


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