Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: THE RELUCTANT WIDOW (1946) by Georgette Heyer

This book by Georgette Heyer has the most preposterous 'hook' - as preposterous as a writer gifted at creating preposterous notions has ever conceived. THE RELUCTANT WIDOW is a Regency romance/spy thriller/mystery caper combination which has plenty of the well known Heyer mischief as well as a raised eyebrow or two. It's the delightful plot here that works wonders, though the characters have their own inevitable share of Heyer charm.

Here's the hook: A youngish, impecunious gentlewoman having no alternative but to accept a position as governess on a distant country estate where she will, no doubt, be bullied about and her life made miserable, suddenly finds herself confronted by an outrageous alternative. Eleanor Rochdale, daughter of a destitute and dead gentleman who's squandered the family's inheritance is traveling to reach her new employer when due to a mix-up at a Sussex village coach stop, she makes an assumption, steps into a waiting carriage and is taken instead to the wrong destination.

At this wrong destination, where apparently someone like her had been expected but for an entirely different reason, Eleanor is soon caught up in an implausible plot: she will be asked to marry a man she's never met and doesn't have to live with - a business arrangement to her benefit. Originally mistaken for the woman Edward Carlyon had hired to marry his dissolute younger cousin Eustace Cheviot (in order to avoid inheriting Cheviot's estate himself - all is explained as you go along), Eleanor balks at the preposterous plot and demands to be returned to the coach stop. However Carlyon rightly points out that it's much too late for a would-be governess to arrive anywhere. They'll have to wait until morning.

Within minutes, however, Carlyon's younger brother Nicky arrives unexpectedly. He has been sent down from school for the term, the result of an impromptu escapade involving a dancing bear. But that isn't the worst of it, he blurts out that he's killed Eustace Cheviot in a fight at a public house. It seems Cheviot had insulted Carlyon and then pulled a knife (there is a witness) when Nicky tried to defend the family name. Cheviot is still alive but will not last the night.

The perfect time for a wedding.

Carlyon apologizes to Eleanor for recent events and for the mistaken identity but needs must. He is not the sort of man to take no for an answer especially when time is running out and the wretched Cheviot is at death's door.

I ask you:  Rather than become a meek governess skulking in the shadows, prey to any employer's whim or roving eye - wouldn't you rather inherit an estate which even if run down at the seams, is still worth a goodly amount, becoming thereby a respectable widow with property and means? This is the reward which Eleanor will earn simply by saying "I do," at the appropriate time and shutting her eyes to the impropriety. After all, she will not be called upon to perform any 'wifely duties' for the dying man, who, by the way, is well-known in the neighborhood as an unspeakable cad and generally unpleasant fellow.

But that's neither here nor there, there's no point speaking ill of the soon to be dead.

Lord Carlyon is persistent and persuasive and before too long, a wary Eleanor finds herself married and widowed and caught up in a plot involving sinister French spies (it is 1813, after all), murder, unlikely romance and a rather large dog named Bouncer.

Somehow I'd overlooked this book last year when I began - in earnest - my own Georgette Heyer festival of reading and rereading. But a post on another blog (can't remember where - apologies) alerted me to this book and also to the fact that it had been turned into into a film at some point. Haven't seen the film yet, but mean to.

And since this is Friday, don't forget to check in over at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other Forgotten or Overlooked Books other bloggers are talking about today.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

THE GOOD WIFE: Good Television

After self-indulging in a multi-episode bacchanalia of the television series, ELEMENTARY and PERSON OF INTEREST, I naturally thought I'd have nothing left to watch (television-wise) until the next seasons of said series make their appearance on Netflix. (And don't think I'm not anxiously awaiting same.)

But just to see what's what, I decided to take a peak at THE GOOD WIFE since everyone praises the show to the skies and and back and what the heck.

Well, just so you know sometimes 'everyone'  is right. It's a terrific show. Nah, more than terrific - it's FABULOUS! Well-plotted, well-acted and well, just amazingly good television for those not really expecting any true-to-reality lawyerly shenanigans - just true-to fictional-life lawyerly shenanigans. Seen through a jaundiced eye, THE GOOD WIFE makes for a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, sometimes moving, occasionally mind-bogglingly duplicitous fun time. Yeah, I like it a lot. And I'm not a big fan of lawyer fiction. So go figure.

I've always liked Julianna Margulies and I especially like her in this powerhouse part seemingly tailor-made. As Alicia Florrick (love that name!), once a betrayed housewife and currently on the partner fast track at the well-known Chicago law firm of Gardner/Lockhart, she manages somehow to be both sympathetic, feminine, clever and hard-nosed, all at the same time. Not bad for a lawyer who'd taken thirteen years off to raise her family.

And wow! the casting gods didn't stop there. JM is surrounded and supported by a very talented cast of all-pros. My favorite being Alan Cumming minus his Scottish accent and sporting a nice American drawl. I simply adore him as Eli Gold, a political fixer/lawyer/conniver who manages to make you like him no matter what skullduggery (though he has mellowed out a bit in recent times) he happens to be up to. I'm hoping for a nice romance in Season 5 between Eli and Natalie Flores. She is played by America Ferrara (who, by the way, is simply wonderful)  - another bit of offbeat casting which works beautifully.

My third favorite cast member is Josh Charles as Will Gardner who, I understand, has gone from pining ex-lover, current lover, ex-lover, boss, ex-boss of Alicia Florrick. Haven't seen Season 5 yet, but I know that major fireworks have occurred. Here is a man who is not classically handsome, but yet manages to be sexy as all heck. A flawed character who earns our sympathy and then, maybe, squanders it. We'll see.

I also love Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos, once Alicia's rival at Gardner/Lockhart, now Deputy State's Attorney. This is an actor I've not been familiar with at all, but boy does he have a way about him. I've been really impressed by his easy on-screen manner, the way he has of observing. Attitude-wise he reminds me very much of Nick Carraway, the narrator of Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'.

Let's not forget the always fabulous and appealing Christine Baranski as wheeler/dealer Diane Lockhart, Will's partner and cohort. She is everything one would imagine a powerhouse lawyer to be and more.

Archie Panjabi as the mysterious Gardner/Lockhart investigator/enforcer Kalinda Sharma is intriguing in a part that seems to fit her like those skin-tight knee-high boots she wears. This is another actor I was not familiar with at all. I am very impressed by how she handles a part that could easily have been unlikable and even bizarre. When she takes a baseball bat and smashes in the windows of a smarmy co-worker's SUV, you know this kick-ass babe means business and you like her for it.

I'm not a big fan of Chris Noth, but he is, admittedly, quite good as Peter Florrick, Alicia's once disgraced, slightly sleazy husband and current Chicago State's Attorney. How he went from one to the other is a story not so hard to believe in today's America.

Oh, and speaking of sleazy, I almost forgot the odiously likable Zach Grenier as David Lee, a Gardner/Lockhart equity partner and family law expert. I always look forward to his scenes and always expect something over-the-top and delightfully dreadful.

I've got four episodes of Season 3 set aside for tonight and I've got Season 4 lined up and ready. Whoopee!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Salon: Winter and Reading - Perfect Together.

Honor C. Appleton (1879 - 1951) English Illustrator -source

Louis Charles Verwee (1832 - 1882) Belgian Painter - source

Lovis Corinth (1858 - 1925) German Painter - source

Lila Cabot Perry (1848 - 1933) American Painter - source

Carl Larsson (1853 - 1919) Swedish Painter

Oxana Sokolovskay - source - no artist info available

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815 - 1891) French - source

Pol Ledent (1952 - ) Contemporary Belgian Painter source

Henri Lebasque (1865 - 1937) French Post Impressionist source

Edouard Vuillard (1868 - 1940) French Painter - source

Haven't done a reading art post in a while and today seemed a perfect day to do so. Winter is the ideal time to hunker down and read - don't you think? However, we're expecting a heatwave tomorrow of 32 degrees or so (after several interminable freezing days) so Rocky and I shall probably go out and frolic. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Book: TRENT'S LAST CASE (1913) by E.C. Bentley

I'd heard of this book over the years and always meant to read it but with one thing and another just never got the chance until this past month- helped by a free download from Project Guttenberg.

Next to Sherlock Holmes I believe this to be one of the first 'gentleman detective' whodunits in which an impressively prescient all-knowing detective with the correct class British accent makes his debut. Though Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style was much brisker and less flowery than Bentley's, TRENT'S LAST CASE is not much hindered by the tone of its occasionally overwrought early 20th century writing style - at least not so much as you might think. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you're in, you're in.

Not that our detecting genius Philip Trent knows what's what from the first, he just gives that impression. Unlikely as it may seem, Trent is apparently well known all over Britain as the prime crime solver. He is backed by a newspaper although he is not a regular reporter, just a crime solving journalist - apparently the one to go to when mysterious murder occurs and the police are baffled. In truth he is some sort of artist who manages to squeeze in his paintings between crime solving - or vice versa. He is unique in the annals of crime, I suppose - very choosy and select about the mysteries he will undertake to solve.

When renowned international financier (living in Great Britain) Sigsbee Manderson is found dead on the grounds of his estate, financial institutions around the world shudder in dread and the police are stumped. What was the dead man doing outside in the middle of the night? Was it suicide? If so, where is the weapon? And why was the dead man wearing such an odd assortment of clothing? Most importantly, why wasn't he wearing his dentures?

All questions are soon to be answered (apparently) by Philip Trent once he arrives on the scene and begins his immediate sleuthing.The odd thing is, to my  mind at least, that the cops don't seem to mind Trent's arrival and bustling interference. In fact, they welcome it.

Trent discovers that the wealthy and somewhat reclusive Manderson was a very difficult man to live with and had no friends to speak of. He did, however, have two secretaries, both male, one American, one British, and a staff of properly respectful if keen-eyed servants. He also had a beautiful wife - the melancholy Mabel, clearly unhappy in her marriage to the much older man.

Several stylistic 'rules' are broken in the telling of this tale which was occasioned by a challenge to Bentley by his friend, mystery writer G.K. Chesterton, to write a story about a 'new kind of detective.'

While Trent furiously deduces a solution to the whole mystery (quick as a wink in three days) he is hampered by the fact that he's fallen for the beautiful Mabel. There are several clever (if convoluted) twists in the story which are not unraveled until the very end. That Trent's initial deduction is completely wrong doesn't dawn on him until much later (he's gone away to mend his broken heart) when he has occasion to confront one of the initial suspects and get the full true story.

(Luckily, through some adroit plot machinations, no innocent person was arrested.)

To read more about TRENT'S LAST CASE and its author, please check out J. Kingston Pierce's post at one of the best mystery/thriller websites on the web, The Rap Sheet.

And since it's Friday, don't forget to visit Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other Forgotten or Overlooked Books other bloggers are talking about today.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Favorite Georgette Heyer Books

Artist: William Breakspeare - source

I'm doing a bit of re-reading lately, mostly Georgette Heyer - it's the mood I'm in. For those of you not familiar with Heyer's work, Wikipedia is generously informative re: Heyer's biography and bibliography.

A new year benefits when begun with Heyer. (Words to live by.)

The author's expertly researched Regency Romances as well as the couple of Georgian Romances I've read are - dare I say it? - enchanting. Well, why not? Heyer invented the genre. Best of all, her sense of humor coupled with the occasional absurdity always make me laugh out loud. (I love a book that doesn't purport to make me laugh out loud but does so anyway.) Heyer's occasional use of Regency slang takes getting used to, but hey, it's not rocket science - plus it's loads of fun.

The wicked delight Heyer takes in her characters and their lives is totally evident in her best books and transfers itself to the reader immediately. Her affection for the often endearing secondary characters is also obvious from the first. No one can write a better Regency fop or a lack-wit gudgeon or a brainless twit (but always with affection), better than Heyer.

This era in British history lends itself to romantic imaginings probably because of Jane Austen. Of course the reality was somewhat different and mostly rather grim, but while reading Heyer's Regencies you can make believe that happily ever after really existed once upon a time.

I also enjoy Heyer's less well-known 'contemporary' detective fiction which, to my mind, rivals some of the best of Golden Era. I haven't, yet, read any of her more serious historical work so can't say anything about those. But I've heard very good things about AN INFAMOUS ARMY which is said to contain one of the best accounts of the Battle of Waterloo found in fiction.

The following is a list of my favorite Georgette Heyer Regency and Georgian books. Where I've reviewed the book, a link is included.

Warning: the more you read of Heyer's work, the more you want to read. It soon becomes an addiction.

1) ARABELLA (1949) Regency.

2) COTILLION (1953) Regency

3) THE GRAND SOPHY (1950) Regency

4) THE TALISMAN RING (1936) Regency

5) SYLVESTER, or THE WICKED UNCLE (1957) Regency

6) THE CORINTHIAN (1940) Regency

7) THE NONESUCH (1962) Regency

8) FREDERICA (1965) Regency

9) FRIDAY'S CHILD (1944) Regency

10) FARO'S DAUGHTER (1941) Regency

11) THE RELUCTANT WIDOW (1946) Regency

12)  THESE OLD SHADES (1926) Georgian

13) THE DEVIL'S CUB (1932) Georgian

14) THE CIVIL CONTRACT (1961) Regency Historical


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Film: THE 39 STEPS (1935) Starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll

I know, I know, this is not REALLY a 'forgotten or overlooked' film, but it's one of my all time favorites and I've been meaning to write about it for awhile now and what the heck. Make believe you never heard of it. And it does, after all, fit my definition of 'romance' - I'm bound to the theme since Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

THE 39 STEPS is a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Charles Bennett who adapted it from the novel by John Buchan. In my opinion, it is one of those very rare instances when a film is better than the book source. (I think I read somewhere that Buchan thought so too.)

The low-key sexy charm of Robert Donat, his enticing screen presence, cannot be underscored enough. It is one of the main reasons for the success of the film - at least in my eyes. Here he plays Richard Hannay, an innocent man on the run from the authorities - sound familiar?

Hannay is a Canadian visitor staying in London. One evening - garbed very attractively in a fetching coat with upturned collar - he attends a 'variety' show where one of the acts is a certain Mr. Memory.  This is an odd little man who, apparently, has instant recall of thousands of facts with which he amazes the audience whom he invites to hurl questions at him. When a loud disturbance erupts among the rowdy audience, Hannay slips out and is accosted by a fellow theater-goer, a mysterious woman (played in just the right mysterious and slinky way by Lucie Mannheim) who tells him she is being followed. Hannay, intrigued by the idea and her attractiveness, gallantly agrees to escort her. She tells him her name is Smith. Uh-oh.

Hannay takes Miss Smith home to his flat for what, I'm sure he imagines, is some sort of romantic tryst even if she will keep talking about spies, deadly conspiracy and something called 'the 39 steps'. Surely she must be fantasizing.

He fries her a kipper.

She warns Hannay to look out for a man with a missing finger-tip.

However, Hannay does begin to believe her tale when out of his window, he spots two men lurking by a phone booth - men the mystery woman insists are following her. When the phone rings, she tells him not to pick it up. (I've always wondered how the two shadowy men knew his phone number.)

Later that same night, Miss Smith is stabbed in the back with a kitchen knife.

How will Hannay explain a murdered woman in his rooms?

In the morning, the resourceful Hannay disguises himself as the milkman and goes on the run - entrusted (by circumstance) with Miss Smith's assignment to help stop a spy ring from passing on top secret information to the enemy. To that end he must make his way to Scotland. He does so with the police hot on his trail.

The shadowy scenes of fight or flight that ensue are elegant and frenzied, somehow both at the same time. This is director Hitchcock honing his skills then and for later use - innocent man on the run seemingly being a favorite motif.

There are three pivotal women in this film, two I like, one I don't - at least not at first.

1) I liked Lucie Mannheim as the mysterious Miss Smith and I've always felt she was just too intriguing a character to have been killed off so immediately. But for plot purposes, she had to go. (The original spy in the book is a man, by the way. For the film, a woman just makes more visual sense.)

2) I liked the gutsy young crofter's wife (Peggy Ashcroft) Hannay meets in Scotland. Though she is trapped in a marriage to a brutal and suspicious older man (John Laurie), that doesn't stop her from helping Hannay to escape. I really wish that this was the woman Hannay had wound up with - somehow. Donat and Ashcroft's scenes together are quietly intense and very moving.

3) And now we come to Madeleine Carroll as Pamela, the requisite blond of the piece. She begins by antagonizing the audience and it goes downhill from there until it FINALLY dawns on her that she should be helping Hannay, not hindering his desperate progress. (They first meet on a train, for goodness' sake! What could be more intriguing? Has this woman no romance in her soul?) Can't help it, it always takes me a long time to warm up to this character (who doesn't exist in the book) as she goes from dither-head 'hostage' to willing help-mate. (They spend part of the film hand-cuffed together.) I just wish Hitchcock hadn't waited so long to make her see the light. Though Hannay is remarkably patient, at a certain point you just want to throw up your hands and give old Pamela the heave-ho.

Yes, yes, they wind up together in the end. I said this was a romance.

How the story unfolds is wonderfully rich in esoteric detail - remember the missing finger-tip? Love the scene where Hannay is mistaken for an expected public speaker and must give a speech to a women's garden club. Another favorite scene is one in which an afternoon tea party/family gathering embodies the 'banality of evil' ideal. And the ending comes full circle in satisfying way. Remember Mr. Memory?

It it's Tuesday, it's time to check in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other forgotten or overlooked films, television or other audio/visuals other bloggers are talking about today. 

Behind the scenes with Hitchcock on the set of The 39 Steps. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Favorite Books of 2013

Illness prevented my annual summing up of favorite books before the onslaught of 2014, so here we are, better late than never.

The following are my favorites of the year 2013, listed as usual in no particular order (except for the first title). There is a nice combo, I think, of old and new though I've left off the re-reads since the obvious implication must be that I wouldn't re-read a book I didn't love. Hell, all the books on my original list are viewed with much affection. I rarely finish a book I don't like.

1) Book of the year - for me, at any rate: CATHERINE THE GREAT Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. What a woman. What a fabulous life. What historical richness. What superb writing. If you haven't read it - what are you waiting for?

2) COTILLION (1953) by Georgette Heyer
Such a funny, funny book. Such absurd plot shenanigans, such enjoyable Regency-style dialogue, such delightful characters. I read this for the first time in 2013 in book form and was utterly and completely charmed. I've since purchased it on audio as well. I mean, I simply had to. Heyer was/is a treasure.

3) THE MAURITIUS COMMAND by Patrick O'Brian. Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, naval surgeon and spy, Stephan Maturin are on the high seas looking for adventure and whatever comes their way. I love these books and am currently reading my way (slowly but surely) through all 21 of what I can only term, an incredibly brilliant series. I know next to nothing about ships and sea-faring, 19th century or otherwise, but I'm mostly able to pick up the gist of things. Cover art: Geoff Hunt

4) DESOLATION ISLAND by Patrick O'Brian. See above. Cover art: Geoff Hunt

5) THE FORTUNE OF WAR by Patrick O'Brian. See above. Cover art: Geoff Hunt

6) EVENING IN THE PALACE OF REASON Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment by James R. Gaines. 'Set at the tipping point between the ancient world and the modern', this is a non-fiction account of the lives of two brilliant men whose brief meeting in 1757 signaled a pivotal moment in history where 'belief collided with the cold certainty of reason'. An easily accessible and very engagingly told tale.

7) CIRCLE OF SHADOWS by Imogene Robertson
An anguished request for help from her newly married younger sister, sends intrepid sleuth Harriet Westerman and her friend, anatomist Gabriel Crowther to the Duchy of Mahlsberg in 1784 in this, the fourth in Robertson's most excellent Westerman and Crowther series of books. Historical mysteries just don't come any better than this.

8) ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer (1949)
Hard to believe it took me so long to get to this oh-so-scrumptious book. I loved the engaging plot which hinges on the spreading of a certain white lie among the gullible 'haute ton' of Regency London. Loved the main character, Arabella, who is adorably charming but not too, and I most especially loved the hero, Mr. Beaumaris, whom I'd choose over Mr. Darcy any day.

9) CORPSE DIPLOMATIQUE by Delano Ames (1950)
Join insouciant sleuths Jane and Dagobert Brown on the Riviera. Smile while they juggle holiday /murder solving time in between good-natured kibbitzing. Smile while Dagobert avoids, yet again, the subject of job-hunting. Smile as he urges Jane to begin writing her latest novel based on his exploits - after all, they must have income from somewhere.

10) BLOOD OF TYRANTS by Naomi Novik
The next to the last in Novik's dazzling re-telling of the Napoleonic wars in an alternate historical setting - Europe in the 18th century except that this time out the armies all have their own flying dragon corps. A series brilliantly conceived and executed by one of the most imaginative writers around.

I've used pictures here because I have a hard time talking about favorite books without showing the covers.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Am I Overreacting?

I'm thinking of deleting most of my Pinterest boards because of copyright issues. I haven't been contacted by anyone (I know, I know, Nero Wolfe shuddered at the use of 'contact' as a verb) to do so, but after reading of one blogger's experience, with pictures used on her blog, I'm becoming leery of continuing to 'pin' photos even with attribution - which I do try to include on every pin.

I kind of feel guilty since I have a great many followers on Pinterest and this is, in a way, a disservice to them. And really, how grave is the threat?

Well, grave or not, I have no wish to be sued.

Pinterest has been a lot of fun for me, a relaxing way to pass the time - most especially since I am first and foremost a visual sort of person. I look at it as scrap-booking without the actual hobby detritus.

I do not post my own photos because, frankly, I don't take that many interesting pix and more importantly, I still haven't mastered the fine art of posting pix online. I've been given instructions several times, but I just can't seem to get the hang of it - I'm not technically inclined and the whole process sort of scares me.

The same applies to my blog. I use photos I find online when I talk about movies, books or art - thinking that there should hardly be any copyright issues since I am, technically, providing publicity for these creators and criticism and/or opinion commentary should cover my butt in these instances. Creative appropriation and all. But what if I'm wrong?

I've checked over the Creative Commons info and really, if I had to check each and every pix I posted anywhere with some master list then I guess I'd rather not post any pix at all. This is not supposed to be work, after all.

I'm going to spend some time within the next few weeks going over all of my blog posts and deleting those which might have pushed the copyright boundaries. I will probably be re-designing my blog page as well. Hopefully I won't have to totally delete everything. In that case, I'll just shut down.

I have a great deal of fun with my blog, but if the fun becomes cumbersome, then that will be that. I simply can't imagine a blog without pictures, especially one devoted to art, books and movies.

I'm throwing this out for discussion since I really do value your opinions and want to know what you think about all this. I admit I'm feeling a bit dispirited.

Am I overreacting?

Well, I've just returned from deleting a bunch of boards on Pinterest and I feel even more dispirited. Such lovely stuff that I so enjoyed looking at and daydreaming about. Art resources for the future too. But I did what I thought was best. I've still got lots of boards left, so we'll see what happens.

Now to redesign the blog from scratch. Stay tuned.

The photo in my banner is actually my own from a while back. My daughter loaded it for me and I manipulated it to fit. It's a photo of my bulletin board.

P.S. I meant to thank Pat at Mille Fiori Favorit for the original link to Roni Loren's words of warning post and just totally let that slip through what passes for my mind these days. Apologies, Pat. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Film: A DATE WITH JUDY (1948) starring Jane Powell, Wallace Beery and Elizabeth Taylor

"You see it's just a matter of a little wiggle here and a little wiggle there. All you have to do is get the right wiggle in the right place at the right time." Carmen Miranda in A DATE WITH JUDY.

It's that time of year again, well, almost. Valentine's Day is just a few weeks away so I'm going to concentrate on romance for the next few weeks on Tuesday's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Film posts.

The cute Jane Powell, the dazzling Elizabeth Taylor.

A DATE WITH JUDY (1948) is a film directed by Richard Thorpe, written by Dorothy Cooper, Dorothy Kingsley and Aleen Lesley based on a popular radio program begun in 1941. The film stars Jane Powell, Wallace Beery and a very young and startlingly beautiful 16 year old Elizabeth Taylor. (In fact, she is so beautiful she almost looks other-worldly. An exotic bloom tucked in among more plebeian blossoms.)

The setting is a make-believe Santa Barbara, California where most of the town's kids hang out at Pops Pharmacy, drinking malts and gossiping about their romantic entanglements. The sort of place where the 'soda-jerk' wears a uniform (with cap) and Pop is usually around to dispense advice. It's a way of life long gone, but looked back on by most of us with affectionate if hazy nostalgia.

Jane Powell and Wallace Beery.

Judy Foster is a vivacious 16 year old miss on the borderline of woman-hood, but still hanging onto her coltish kiddy-ness. She is adorably played by Jane Powell. Her dad, Melvin Foster, is played, incongruously enough, by Wallace Beery, an Oscar winning actor who made a career of curmudgeonly old codgers (mostly in black and white dramas), often with hearts of gold.

Here he's called upon to dance the rhumba and play a devoted family man and hubby to Mrs. Foster (Selena Royle, a very attractive lady of a certain age) in bright Technicolor. And guess what, he pulls it off. Beery is entirely believable and even, dare I say it, a little bit sexy. In fact, he and Carmen Miranda steal the picture from the kiddies. But I'm getting ahead of myself as usual.

Judy Foster lives within the comfortable bosom of a close-knit American family: Mom and dad and pesky little brother Randolph (who wears one of those cut felt 'Jug-head' beanies you might have spotted at a flea market) plus a sweet old grandfather (George Cleveland) known as Gramps. As usual with most of the adults pictured at this time, they all look too old to be who they are (except for maybe, Gramps), but why quibble. It was the style of the time.

Judy has a beautiful singing voice as we are immediately made aware of when from the beginning she's shown rehearsing for the dance at the high school. Her boyfriend Oogie (Ogden) Pringle (Scotty Beckett) is the band's arranger and conductor. His father, the richest man in town (or one of the richest) owns, among other things, the local radio station and is president of the bank. He and his sister Carol (Elizabeth Taylor) are two lonely but self-sufficient rich kids being brought up in a huge house by the family's butler since the father is mostly absent, concerned with his various businesses. The mother is long-gone.

The Pringles live in a big house. The Fosters live in a smaller one. You are meant to prefer the smaller one which is snug and warm and charming. Mr. Foster owns a successful local fish cannery business but it's been years since he was actually out at sea. They have a maid named Nightingale who sings, 'Swing low, sweet chariot...' as she's serving dinner. The Fosters are a very affectionate and loving family.

The Pringles are otherwise, though sister and brother, Carol and Oogie, seem close. However, midway through the film, the all too busy father (Leon Ames) will see the light and return to the bosom of his startled family.

Judy and Carol are best friends, though Carol is meant to be older - she looks 18 or so in the film. Judy relies on Carol's well-meant (and often wrong) advice, especially when it comes to men.

Judy and Oogie have a volatile relationship apparently based on Judy's emotional ups and downs. (You remember what is was like to be 16 - don't you?) Poor befuddled Oogie walks around in a daze, completely at sea when it comes to 'women' - one almost feels sorry for him - he is prone to bad advice from his sister as well. The course of true love n'er did run smoothly as we all know.

Robert Stack, soda-jerk.

Anyway, into the mix comes the new man in town, Stephen I. Andrews  (Robert Stack - totally too old for the part) playing the new 'soda-jerk' at Pop's (who happens to be his grandfather or uncle or whatnot) - we later learn that the guy is working his way through medical school. Stack looks like an undercover cop more than anything else, he just couldn't help himself, even back then.

But Judy takes one look at his rugged physique and decides she's in love. As a favor to Pop, Stephen takes Judy to the big dance since Oogie failed to pick her up on Carol's bad advice. At the dance, Carol takes one look at Stephen and he at 'the prettiest girl in town' (you think?) - and all bets are off.

In the meantime, the Foster's wedding anniversary is coming up - the 20th (though it seems to me it would have been more appropriate to make it the 30th) - and a big celebration is planned at a local club with Xavier Cugat and his orchestra. Mr. Foster wants to surprise Mrs. Foster by learning to rhumba for the big bash. To that end, Foster hires Miss Rosita (Carmen Miranda), Cugat's fiancee and principle singer and dancer, to teach him the dance.

Miss Rosita shows up at he fish canning office every afternoon to instruct Mr. Foster (hilariously) in the terpsichorean art of the rhumba, wiggly hips and all. Those scenes are a hoot. Beery looks like a giant bear attempting to dance.

One, two, three, four, rhumba! Love Carmen's hat.

Mr. Foster tries to keep his secret by stuffing Miss Rosita in a closet so that Judy, paying an impromptu visit to the office, won't see her and guess what he's up to. Uh-oh.

Unfortunately, Judy soon suspects that her father is involved in some hanky-panky. She consults Carol, the all-wise and all-knowing. Carol gives her bogus advice. Judy is devastated. The two girls decide to wait until after the big anniversary bash to break the news to the unsuspecting Mrs. Foster.

In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Foster dance up a storm (adorably), doing the rhumba at their Anniversary bash and all is made clear, all is forgiven and Carmen Miranda gets to slink and sing 'Cuanto le gusta, le gusta, le gusta...!' with Cugat at the helm of the orchestra.

The one and only Carmen Miranda.

A DATE WITH JUDY is a charming movie heavily laced with pleasant nostalgia in which the unlikely pairing of Wallace Beery and Carmen Miranda upstages everyone else. Well, Carmen usually upstaged anyone who appeared in scenes with her anyway. She was a human dynamo on platform heels, a very vivid and likable screen presence. I, for one, adore her. Being a Latina myself, I never took umbrage at her shtick. Instead I appreciated her gusto and talent. She shakes up what would otherwise be a rather sleepy sort of movie musical full of pleasant songs and pleasant if not memorable (except for Liz) small town folk.

Being it's Tuesday, don't forget to check in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other films and/or audio visuals, other bloggers are talking about today. 

An aside: of all the main actors in the film, Jane Powell has proven the most long-lived and is still with us at the age of 84. Charmingly so.

Friday, January 10, 2014

For the purist: My favorite filmed Poirot and/or Miss Marple PBS episodes.

In direct response to comments on my Poirot (THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES) post, I've decided to list my own personal favorites from the long-running Poirot and Jane Marple series. These are the episodes I really, REALLY love and you know how I am when I really REALLY love something, I want to share it to my heart's content. So bear with me, my dears, I'm off and running.

For my own personal favorites, the criteria was this: faithful adaptation to the source material (or at least, as faithful as possible considering that film is different from books and some leeway must be allowed), the actors involved and the true Christie 'aura' which is something indefinable unless it's missing and well, you know how that goes.

This is NOT a definitive list by the way, we don't do definitive here. Well, maybe we do (see below), but not every day. I'm no expert, just a life-long fan of Agatha Christie's work.

Joan Hickson - in my view, the definitive Jane Marple.

First up, these are the PBS Miss Marple episodes (or short/term series) I remember best and love most:

THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY (1984) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. An embarrassment of riches as far as the cast and the setting and faithful adaptation to the story. EVERYONE, and I mean, everyone (including Sting's wife whose real name I've forgotten) is brilliant. The twisted 'how-to' of a particularly clever murderer could only be deduced by an equally clever and maybe just an little bit equally twisted Jane Marple.

This is the episode that introduces the oh-so-belligerent David Horovitch as the inappropriately named Inspector Slack. He is such an awful human being - I adore him.

Miss Marple is hard-pressed but too well-mannered to role her eyes when in his company.

A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED (1985) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Another gorgeous English village setting, another fabulous cast of character actors - the sort the British seem able to produce at the drop of a hat - several nasty murders and an almost impossible villain - though in the book, the clues are fairly given, it's a little harder in the film, they are so subtle.

I find the initial crime in the story to be fairly preposterous considering the options the murderer must have had to do the thing quietly and discreetly - you do wonder why this person would bring all this unwanted attention on themselves. But that's just a minor flaw with the original story and let's not quibble since the results are so agreeable.

John Castle makes for an especially handsome (and suave) Inspector Craddock and Kevin Whately (of Morse and Inspector Lewis fame) is Sgt. Fletcher, his assistant in command.

THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE (1986) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. A view of St. Mary Mead (Miss Marple's abode) as a hot-bed of romantic entanglements, sexual shenanigans and murderous doings - ah, the joys of small town village life. Though in this particular film, the implication that Miss Marple is just another nasty village gossip is hinted at, we all know that not to be the case since she listens more than anything else. Listening is an art, especially when you are on the side of the angels. The story features a fairly pedestrian murder of an unwanted, unloved hubby, still it's the solution that works a treat. Not to mention the deceptively sleepy village ambience.

SLEEPING MURDER (1987) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. The last of the Miss Marple books, I believe. In this TV rendition, the English countryside is sumptuously on display, so much so, that I sometimes just stop the film and sit staring and thinking, 'surely England must be the most beautiful country on earth'. I know it probably isn't, there are many more spectacular places with much more spectacular scenery, but for sheer bliss, for quietly soothing, gently dignified country scenes set in the last century - mythical scenes, really - you simply cannot top the Brits' homeland.

And then there is the perfect country house at the center of the mystery....sigh.

The cast again is superb, the young honeymooning couple at the heart of the story, so very attractive and so very eager to get on with life right after they solve the mystery of the wife's recurrent nightmares. Even when Miss Marple cautions them that digging into the past can have nasty repercussions. And oh how right she proves to be. As always.

Oh, and this is the only adaptation of Christie's books (that I remember, anyway) which shows us Miss Marple's very obliging novelist nephew Raymond (and his rather snarly-faced, daunting wife).

NEMESIS (1987) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. An eerie and almost impossible story (thwarted love is the motivation) to transcribe visually, but this is the best version and again, the scenery is superb as Miss Marple takes a bus tour of the English countryside at the behest of a certain newly dead millionaire, Mr. Rafaiel (whom she met in A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY) whose estranged son (living as a hobo) may or may not be a murderer.

Is it possible to fall in love with a green and yellow bus? I did.

Besides the early 20th century streamlined gorgeousness of the bus and the lovely scenery, there's a delightful cast including an addition: a fussy nephew named Lionel played sympathetically by Peter Tilbury. He is not in the book but here he's necessary so that Miss Marple has someone to bounce things off - things that on the written page were her interior surmises. Actually, the story is not especially logical, nor is it very coherent, but on film it is stunning to see and the cast is absolute sheer perfection.

This is definitely one episode which should be accompanied by tea and scones.

A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY (1989) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. The story that introduces us to the grumpy millionaire Jason Rafiel (see above) and which should have been filmed first, but again, I say: why quibble - it all works out in the end. Here the millionaire on holiday in the Caribbean is played by Donald Pleasance. We all probably remember his score of gleeful bad guys in films from the 80's. Here he's a good guy. More or less.

Worried nephew Raymond has sent Miss Marple off on a holiday to Barbados - her health has been wonky lately - for rest and relaxation. But as we all know, where Miss Marple goes, murder is sure to follow.

Here she interrupts the well-laid plans of a serial killer with a defined modus operandi which only Miss Marple is able to spot - just in the nick of time.

I definitely miss the English countryside in this episode, but the cast and story is so good that I can bear symptoms of scenery withdrawal with a stiff upper lip.

Next up:

Besides THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES, the following list is comprised of a few of the PBS Hercule Poirot episodes (and films) I remember and love best (prodded by the list at Netflix and IMDB): There are, of course, others I watch here and there depending on mood, but in general, these are the ones I turn to when I am in search of a definitive Poirot fix:

THE ABC MURDERS (1992) starring David Suchet as Poirot. This is one of my favorite Christie books, so for me to salute the film adaptation is a 'big thing'. I only have one quibble which I will get to shortly, but aside from that, all is well in 'pretend' serial killer land. Christie was the first (at least that I can remember) to use the complex 'trick' of one murder hidden in the midst of several others in order to throw the police off the killer's real motivation. A brilliant stratagem. In the book it is practically impossible to guess the killer's identity until the very end - although once all is revealed, it's head slap time- well, of course! you shout.

I like that Inspector Japp is all over this episode (I love Philip Jackson) as well as Hastings (Hugh Fraser) who seems to me particularly dense in this one - but then he's just come back from the wilds of Argentina (with a stuffed cayman (similar to alligator) as a gift for Poirot) and can be forgiven if he's a bit rusty.

My one quibble is the casting of the killer. Sometimes just from the actor chosen you can get an idea where the story's going and I'm afraid that is the case in this episode. But maybe that's only because I'm so familiar with the whole thing from having read the book many times over the years.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE CLAPHAM COOK (1989) Starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. In which we were first introduced to David Suchet as Hercule Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. (Oh, happy day!) Here Poirot is humbled into accepting the case of a missing cook (he actually has to go to Clapham, for goodness' sake) and before long is involved in a more heinous crime -  stolen bonds and a garroted body in a trunk.

This is not a whodunit episode as we know early on who the miscreant is, the fun is in the foiling of the plot. And it's also an episode in which the casting duties begin as they mean to go on. In other words, the cast of character actors is superb as it will remain so over the course of the series. Where do they find these wonderful actors?

In this episode, Poirot receives a rather loud rancorous scolding from an ostentatious house-wife and essential info from the adorable below-stairs servant (sweetly played by Katie Murphy). There's also a nice scene stealing turn by Daniel Webb as a weisenheimer railway porter. Not to mention, a last minute chase at the docks for a killer bound for South America but more importantly there's the wonderful scene of Poirot and Hastings trudging about the countryside while a fussy Poirot laments the lack of pavement and states that the country is fine for 'little furry things' but Poirot enjoys the 'good air of the town'. Lovely stuff.

FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS (1989) Starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. A favorite of mine primarily because of the spot-on casting and the scene, early on, showing Poirot dining with a friend (his dentist) on roast turkey and all the trimmings. "No French geegaws tonight!" There is such warmth and charm in this scene of two old friends at a restaurant where, coincidentally, they take note of an older gentleman, a well-known artist, who is uncharacteristically breaking his hard and fast rule of 'no thick soup' or 'blackberry crumble'.

You can see I am very big on charm as a component of my Poirot episodes.

I also love watching Poirot and Hastings at the art institute, chatting with a worldly-wise artist's model who just minutes before had been posing nude. The look on Hasting's face is priceless.

"The auburn hair, mon ami, always the auburn hair." 

Though in truth this episode does deviate from the original story in fairly significant ways, it is one of those very rare instances where the television script is actually better than the original short-story source. You will hardly ever hear me say that about Christie.

THE THIRD FLOOR FLAT (1989) Starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. An offbeat episode, it almost all takes place indoors - inside Poirot's apartment house in London - the rather claustrophobic hallway and stairs, a dumb waiter contraption and a flat either above or below Poirot's (can't remember which) where a dead body is discovered.

Poirot, as you know, is fond of  'bright young things' on the make in London, especially when one of them is a lovely and rather ethereal young woman in love with the wrong man. Well, we don't know that, initially, until Poirot steps in - this wise old Belgian does enjoy 're-arranging' the course of true love.

This is one of those episodes that improves upon re-watching by the way.

THE MYSTERY OF THE SPANISH CHEST (1991) Starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. This episode is populated with people one wouldn't really want to know, but that doesn't stop us being fascinated. Here we immediately suspect who the bad guy is going in and while we wait for this repugnant person to get his just deserts, we are mesmerized by a clever plot which is one of Christie's more icky ones. Icky in the way of the murder, that is. Very foul indeed.

In the midst of all the dark doings (a terribly intime crime full of subtle cruelty) we find ourselves smiling at Poirot's evening out with another old friend. She is Lady Chatterton (played delightfully by Antonia Pemberton), a woman of a certain age who has run into Poirot at the opera and requests his help.

We are also privileged to watch Poirot and Lady Chatteron do the Charleston which is one of the highlights of this episode. It is the 1920's after all.

THE INCREDIBLE THEFT (1989) Starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. A mysterious woman in a veil requests Poirot's help in preventing her husband's invention (some sort of airplane guidance thing) from falling into the hands of the Nazis. The setting is the gorgeous English countryside (and you know how much that carries with me) and the time is just before the Brits' official entry into the war with Germany.

The cast and scenery are just plain dazzling. The Nazi sympathizing femme fatale, Mrs. Vanderlyn, is perfectly played by Carmen Du Sautoy, her long slim figure draped in fabulous period clothing. "How English," she says as she appears in a slinky gown on the country house terrace, a late-comer to afternoon tea, "How very, very English."

THE MILLION DOLLAR BOND ROBBERY (1991) starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. The opening credits of this particular episode are wonderfully wrought: a busy throng of business types in black suits and derbies, minions of finance, flow upwards on escalators from the underground, unfurling umbrellas, jostling each other to get to their job destinations in a heavy London rain.

As the name of the episode implies, there will be a million dollar bond robbery but with Hercule Poirot on the scene, the guilty parties will soon be apprehended, all will be well and Hastings will be a wiser man - at least when it comes to the wiles of women.

But not before some heavy-duty obfuscation and the first transatlantic crossing (with appropriate newsreels of the time) of HMS Queen Mary, with Poirot and Hastings on board. This time out, it is poor Hastings who suffers from the 'mal de mer'. The scenes on 'ship-board', as you might expect, are quite delightful.

PERIL AT END HOUSE (1990) Starring David Suchet as Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings. Christie's original story of a particularly heartless murder, is one of her weakest and the cast of characters isn't very likable (this is not a rare occurrence with Christie) but it makes the list because of the spectacular scenery  (Devon standing in for Cornwall) and lavish production values.

I also love the ivory three piece suit Poirot wears for most of the film. Hastings too looks rather natty in his 'casual' attire. Those are good enough reasons for me to watch this one over and over again when I have the idea in my head that I want to visit the English seaside as it might have been once upon a time. Even if the insertion of Miss Lemon who was never more that a couple of sentences in a few of the stories is a bit disconcerting. But Pauline Moran makes a lot out of an essentially thankless role.

This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but enough to begin with, I think.

Oh, and as a last thought, here are three non-Poirot or Miss Marple films made of Christie's early books which are definitely Top-Notch and worth a look-see:

THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY (1981) Starring Sir John Gielgud (who is utterly delightful), Cheryl Campbell, Harry Andrews (as Superintendent Battle) and James Warwick.

WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? (1980) Starring Sir John Gielgud (again most delightful), James Warwick and Francesca Annis.

THE SECRET ADVERSARY (1983) Starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick as Tuppence and Tommy Beresford. Our first introduction to the wily crime-solving couple. (Though they don't marry until later.)

I've just discovered that the Kindle edition of THE SECRET ADVERSARY (the first Tommy and Tuppence novel ) is available for FREE at Amazon. Hurry, hurry and get your 'copy'. I just did.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Film: THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES (1990) starring David Suchet and Hugh Fraser

THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES was not only the first book featuring Hercule Poirot, it was the first book written by the young Mrs. Christie who, I understand, wrote it in a response to a challenge from someone in her family. According to Wikipedia, the actual writing was done during WWI, but the publication came later - 1920 or so.

I'd recently bought the audio version (which was a steal on narrated by the wonderful Hugh Fraser and after listening to it, decided to re-watch the 'film' (actually 103 minutes made for television - Season 3, Episode 1 of Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot which originally aired on PBS) once again, having nothing but happy memories of it.

THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES (1990) was directed by Ross Devenish and 'dramatized' cleverly (perhaps lovingly) by Clive Exton from the novel. Take note that the storyline follows almost completely the original created by Christie (miracle of miracles), no 'improvements' or additional nonsense added except for some scenes early on of Hastings (Hugh Fraser) recovering from shell shock after enduring trench warfare in France. This is implied in the novel but I think the additional footage in the film works very well in establishing who Hastings is and leads very nicely into the story.

I might almost say that this is a lavish production, but let's tone it down to just plain gorgeous and take it from there. The production team of designer Rob Harris, art director Peter Wenham and cinematographer Vernon Layton does a splendid job show-casing the unspoiled English countryside at its loveliest and greenest. While the guns of war are still firing and men are dying across the channel, England seems a kind of lyrical haven for those on leave, left behind or recuperating.

Not only is Hastings' (I adore Hugh Fraser) melancholy 'stiff upper lip' attitude charming, but so is life in a small English village, full of the sorts of things and the kinds of people we all go to Christie for. Add, this time around, a group of Belgian refugees for some exotic flavor and we're all set. Some of the beautifully bucolic scenes might almost be paintings, set up as they are to illustrate a time long gone.

The contrast with the mostly unlikable (as they are in the novel) cast of characters at the heart of the story couldn't be greater as the gentle Hastings meets up with an old friend, John Cavendish (David Rintoul), and is invited to stop at the family home, Styles Court, for continued rest and relaxation.

The rather stiff-necked Cavendish is in a snit (I don't quite understand why he isn't at the front - even if it is explained in passing, I gather he's doing some sort of home-front work) because his elderly mother has married a man twenty years younger than herself - Alfred Inglethorpe (Michael Cronin) - a man whom the rest of the family considers an unprincipled bounder. Well, he wears a bushy black beard and dresses in totally inappropriate funereally dark clothing - what more is there to say? Obviously the man is beyond the pale.

What's worse: Not only is the foolish Mrs. Inglethorpe (Gillian Barge) besotted by her obsequiously doting hubby, she has changed her will so that Alfred will inherit everything except Styles Court and the house in London. John Cavendish gets those, but none of the money. Uh-oh.

John has never really worked, you see - not actual work. Neither has his younger brother Lawrence (Anthony Calf) who has studied medicine but would rather be a poet or writer or something - though he is currently helping out at the local hospital. Both men would benefit from some hard labor far as I can see, but these are the landed gentry of the time and I suppose that was the way of it - the mother rules the roost and controls the money and the sons go along with it. Naturally that leads to resentment and murder. At least in Agatha Christie's world.

Working at the hospital dispensary is another member of the household, young and lovely Cynthia Murdoch (Allie Byrne) who is a kind of protege of Emily Inglethorpe's, an orphan taken in - that sort of thing. Rounding out the inhabitants of Styles Court are John Cavendish's jealously inclined wife Mary (Beatie Edney) who suspects him of hanky-panky with a saucy local widow, and Evie Howard (Joanna McCallum) a general all purpose factotum (tweeds and stout walking shoes) who is not only a long-time friend of Mrs. Inglethorpe's but has her own various duties around the house all the while making sure everyone knows how much she detests the new hubby.

Hastings is bowled over by the beauty of Styles Court as he is soon partaking of all the family's rituals, afternoon tea, tennis, riding (the few horses not commandeered by the army), etc. But he can't help notice the change in his old friend, the tension hanging over the family; there is evil lurking within the bosom of the Cavendish clan. The only problem for us is that these people are just not very likable - as I've mentioned - so that when the old lady is killed - as we know she will be - there's not much sentiment for the family or, for that matter, for us, to feel. These are not people one can cozy up to.

But never mind, once Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) enters the picture - he unexpectedly meets up with his old friend Hastings (they knew each other in Belgium) at a local village tobacco shop - the entire demeanor, the feel of the movie changes. David Suchet has such warmth and charm and is such a likable presence that nothing much else is needed.

Poirot is a refugee, fleeing from his Belgian homeland and the scene in which he and Hastings reconnect is just delightful - 'Mon ami, mon ami!' It always makes me misty to see the affection these two men have for each other. Of course, one can immediately cozy up to them - and later to Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) - and leave the rest of the characters to fend for themselves. Poirot makes everything fine and dandy.

Once the indefatigable Belgian is on the job, the murderer of Emily Inglethorpe aka Emily Cavendish is as good as done for. But of course it has to be the correct murderer. I mean, everyone knows the husband did it - right? Needless to say, when the wrong person is arrested and tried, it's up to Poirot to straighten everything out. Which of course he does, rounding up all the suspects in one room where, to the consternation and general amazement of all, he then patiently explains what really happened.

This is one of the best adaptations of Chrisite and if you've somehow managed to miss it, then head on over to Netflix where the entire first (and best) seasons (1989 - 1995) of Poirot are currently available for streaming.

Don't forget to check in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other Forgotten and/or Overlooked Films (and other A/V material) other bloggers are talking about today. As usual, it's an eclectic list.