Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Geraldine McEwan is no longer Miss Marple

But then, as far as I am concerned, she never was. Joan Hickson will always be Miss Marple.

The Guardian reports the story thus:
The hunt is on for a new Miss Marple after actress Geraldine McEwan announced her retirement from the role today.
McEwan has played Agatha Christie's heroine sleuth Jane Marple since ITV1 brought her back in 2003 and starred in the role in 12 TV films.
ITV and Marple rights owner Chorion will begin the process of finding a new Miss Marple next week.
Candidates for McEwan's replacement are thought to include Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, Prunella Scales, Anna Massey and Eileen Atkins.
My vote would be for Prunella Scales - who made a more convincing Queen Victoria than Judi Dench did - and above all not for Victoria Wood or Julie Walters, much as I admire the former at least.

Returning to the McEwan vs Hickson question, let me quote something I wrote a couple of years ago:
I have been trying to work out why I believe Joan Hickson was a much better Miss Marple than Geraldine McEwan.
In part it is the two performances. McEwan is visibly acting the whole time - all those little smiles and grimaces - whereas Hickson hardly seemed to be acting at all. Outwardly she was all stillness, yet she managed to convey the underlying intelligence and the core of moral steel which brought murderers to justice.
And in part it is the people around them. With some of them now over 20 years old, the Hickson Miss Marples are beginning to look like a late manifestation of the mid-century Britain in which they were set. Such figures as Joan Greenwood and George Baker appear in the cast list; one of the films was even directed by Roy Boulting.
McEwan, by contrast, has to put up with the company of people like Dawn French and Harry Enfield. It's a prejudice of mine, but was there ever a more self-regarding and overrated generation than that which came to prominence in the 1980s? And even if you like these figures, their profile is such that they are always bigger than the characters they play.
That last point explains why I would not like to see Victoria Wood or Julie Walters playing Miss Marple. But they could perhaps play that underexploited Christie character Ariadne Oliver.

27 comments:

Paul Walter said...

Absolutely agree. Hickson was perfect and no one will ever surpass her as Miss M. I seem to remember Agatha Christie told her she would be ideal for the role. Yes, McEwan used to smile a lot. Pathetic!

SteveD said...

Sorry, I disagree. A younger Joan Hickson would have been good in the role, but generally she gave the impression that the lights were on but no-one was at home.

Geraldine McEwan actually engaged with people, and came across as much more quick-witted and humorous.

vellap said...

Really enjoyed Geraldine McEwan as Ms. Marple. Softer, warmer, quicker, wittier. Saw the newest Marple the other night. Jury still out.
Has anyone seen Geraldine McEwan on DVD doing Noel Coward when she was in her 40s-50s? Quite a sexy lady!

Anonymous said...

I was so disappointed to find out that Geraldine McEwan retired from the role of Miss Marple. As far as I'm concerned, she was wonderful. Ms. McEwan made Miss Marple not only a quick-witted detective but a real warm and caring human being.

Anonymous said...

There is no question that Geraldine McEwan breathed the much needed life in to the fictional sleuth, and she will be deeply missed.

Anonymous said...

I feel like a member of the family died. There is no one like Geraldine McEwan. She made the character and was the reason I watched the TV series. Hope for re-runs of her Miss Marple.

Anonymous said...

It is because Geraldine McEwan played the part as a detective, active out and about. Joan Hickson played her more as a criminologist, sitting back, watching others do the grunt work and then coming in at the end with the solution, mose as they were written by Mrs, Christy. I liked both but preferred Geraldine's interpretation. She will be missed. And I don't really care for the latest actress. She fits the physical characteristics of Mrs, Christy but somehow misses the mark in my eyes.

Margaret Fairchild said...

Geraldine McEwen is the ultimate Miss Marple and will always be to me. She is warm and charming with a real personality. Joan Hickson is stern without a real personality. I want to bake a cake and go to Geraldine's house and have tea with her!

G.Elliott frm PragueOK said...

I have enjoyed Joan and Geraldine as the unflappable Miss Marple. They gave different renditions of the character but were quite believable in their own right. I caught the latest Miss Marple a couple of weeks ago and was not impressed. She seems too "bubbly" all the time.

Anonymous said...

Joan Hickson was and is the definitive Miss Marple. Perfect. Will never be equalled, let alone surpassed. I thought McEwen really quite awful in the role. No charisma, no personality. After a first ten minutes I stopped watching.

soulMerlin said...

Sorry Anonymous...I work in the theatre and although all the actresses mentioned are good,Geraldine was...just warm and dare I say it...quite sexy :)

henry metcalfe

katepe said...

We have to believe that Joan Hickson was the quintessential Miss Marple, since Agatha christie herself said that Miss hickson's performance was exactly what she, (Mrs Christie) had in mind. However, Geraldine McEwan brought a new and believable slant to the role. Such a shame she decided to retire. Pity too that they changed the plotlines so much. Agatha Christie's books need no alteration
Julia McKenzie, while an accomplished actress just doesn't cut it as Miss Marple for me

Michael Reich, Moscow, Russia said...

I also quite disagree that Joan Hickson was a perfect Miss Marple. I quite support those who say she was not a living being but rather an abstract concept of justice and intelligence. Actually, when I saw her first in the very first episode of the serial shown on our TV I was astonished, and what's more, horrified! To me she was absolutely nothing to do with Miss Marple, she could be adequately called "Miss Ruin", or "Miss Stone Memorial"? but never Miss Marple as writen by Christie herself. Especially after seeing my so-much-adored Angela Lansbury in this role... Really, Geraldne McEvan's Miss Marple is a very much believable character, warm, human and LIVING. But to my own mind thee NEVER has been any success in choosing an actress for the character of Mis Marple like it was with David Suchet for Hercules Poirot...

Elgie, California said...

I really miss Geraldine McEwan. She brought Miss Marple to Life with warmths and character.

Julia McKenzie is awful in the role...too much "JB Fletcher." It is agony to watch her.

Anonymous said...

I agree Joan Hickson was by far the worst Miss Marple. I was horrified by her the first moment she appeared on screen because her performance if you can even call it that just screamed "All wrong". No wonder she had so few lines, a piece of dead wood could have done better. And when she did speak it was with so much nasty, vitriolic and cruel venom that I started thinking of her a human cobra not at all the way Christie wrote her. Christie's Marple had to be somewhat likeable otherwise how could so many characters want her to be around in often intimate situations, much less confide in her, ask her to help or give her so many lovely treats, big and small. Christie may have said Joan Hickson was the quinessential Miss Marple, but that was after a theatre performance years before Ms. Christie passed away in 1976 and many theatre actors don't always make the transition to screen as smoothly as one might think/hope and vice versa. Christie also said the same thing about Margaret Rutherford!

Geraldine McEwan was a breath of fresh air. She was much closer to the Miss Marple of the books. A person who genuinely loves people, but is all too aware of their weaknesses, flaws and potential for great evil. She is the ultimate observer yet is still part of the human fabric of life. And I assume that is why the producer brought in the married lover who died in WWI to reinforce that aspect by making her seem less remote from human experience. although I sincerely doubt Christie would have approve of that change considering that her first marriage broke up due to her husband's infidelity and that her second husband had at least one mistress (whom he married shortly after Christie's death), but this time for whatever reasons and I can think of quite a few of why she might Christie decided to take the high road. I don't know what she would make of the revisions to her work. Yes, Ms McEwan does her have her little grimaces, knowing smiles and so forth, but I think that is to let us in on a private joke that she is about to play a "role" i.e. helpless, frail creature in order to get at the truth and not to think she has lost her brilliant deductive abilities (some people like my spouse, a scientfic genius, can't always read that kind of subtle subtext in film (and fiction) which at first shocked me, but I later found out is hardly as uncommon as I thought)so I think that can be forgiven. I always despaired about her costumes. She was always made to be 10 times dowdier than any others and not really period accurate especially her hair and keeping in mind Miss Marple first appeared in 1927 and last appeared in 1960. From what I understand, Ms. Christie was always beautifully dressed and coiffured or as my mother would say she always made the most of herself. As to her co-stars I do think Dawn French was a bit of mistep in The Sleeping Murder because the part didn't make the most of her talents, she was too busy trying to be understated and that just drew attention to how wrong the part was for her. She would've been better as a witch who everyone wanted to off including the audience(Christie books are full of these women, always made me think that would be an interesting thesis)or better yet, an annoying victim like Heather Babcock in a Mirror Cracked from side to side). Ensfeild was plain dreadful -talk about overacting, but I think they are the exception rather than the rule. Yes, there is something quite magical about some of Joan Hinkson co-stars such as John Castle, Jean Simmons, Joss Ackland and the list goes on and on. As for the question of a more self-regarding or over-rated generation that which came to prominence in the 1980s, yes, their mentors -the narscistic, self-indulgent, hedonistic Peter Pans that came to prominence in the 1960s (i.e. Mick Jaegger -grow up already you are a grandfather) and whose children are even worse. For the record thankfully I belong to neither group.
And I have really warmed to Julia McKenzie as the new Miss Marple.

Anonymous said...

I am saddened by Geradine McEwan's retirement from the series of MARPLE. I am a true Agatha Christie fan and collected all the DVD's versions including Joan Hickson's and Margaret Rutherford.

I have not warmed up to Geradine's replacement yet and am slow to complete my collection. Wish they could entice Geradine to continue.

Evelyn (Australia) said...

Geraldine McEwan was the best of all the would-be Miss Marples. That cute twinkle and warmth contrasted by a shrewd insight into human nature was a lovely mix. Joan Hickson was preferable over Angela Lansbury or Margaret Rutherford but was a little too under-animated and cold to reflect the Miss Marple of Agatha Christie's creation. Julia McKenzie does a fine attempt at the role (somewhere between a Joan Hickson and a Geraldine McEwan) but I do miss Geraldine McEwan and it was such a shame to hear of her retirement.

Nalan said...

I miss Geraldine McEwan because she was just perfect for the role, I think Miss Marple is nice warm a little funny and very smart in book as Geraldine performed. I wish they could continue the series with her. Julia McKenzie reminds me Angela Lansbury, they look similar maybe that was the reason she was chosen but i found her a little cold...I do believe she is an good actress but I think Geraldine is ahead from her.

Anonymous said...

Though Geraldine McEwan is the best Miss Marple seen on TV the best ever Miss Marple is Margaret Rutherford who played her in four movies. Though these movies had more comic touches than later adaptations Rutherford with her husband Stringer Davis were wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Geraldine brought a charm and likability to the character that Hickson never did. Hickson just seemed addle, lost and terse most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Joan Hickson was the only believable Marple EVER The rest have been but pale imitations Mcewan actually awful That lady really needs to learn to act
Agatha Christy herself loved Joan and I think we should respect the view of the author Who knows the character better Get a life folks

Anonymous said...

I have been involved in theatre for many years and count myself quite an expert on the craft involved in acting. I hate most of what is on TV these days but I watch and re-watch Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and savour every moment of her amazing skill. A great lady and an extraordinary example to all young feminists - only starting the major part of her career in her late 70's. How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Joan Hickson may look the part but she certainly doesn't come across as a sleuth - unlike in the case of Ms. Geraldine. I was yawning my head off seeing Ms. Hickson as Miss Marple - the serial positively creaked.... At first look one is taken aback by Ms Geraldine but she soon growns upon you. My EMPHATIC VOTE for her.

giantwhip said...

I am one of the -hopefully- many people out there, who believe that McEwan was simply splendid as Mrs Marple. Those foxy eyes, the suspicious looks, the way she talked and walked, she just conveyed the fact that despite her 70-odd years she was a woman with a brain sharper than a freshly sharpened knife and a sense of humour.

swafsunt said...

Joan Hickson is and always be THE BEST Miss Marple ever.

Anonymous said...

Joan Hickson is THE Miss M! The way Agatha Christie portrayed Miss M in her books, she was a scanty, unassuming, gossiping old lady. Geraldine McEwan didn't play like the book. She acted, and the way she questioned people she could get killed. Different from how Miss M dig out information in the book.

And the movie set up was just perfect, the song too. True old English village, with scones and cream teas.

McEwan movies were too theatrical. Not everyone agree with me but I suppose it's all depend on one's perception after reading the book.

Miss M is my idol. She didn't showed off, was not worried, what people think of her, and yet people from high places think highly of her. We sometimes worried about little things, Miss M taught me how to focus on facts and separate useful and misleading information. She taught me human psychology too.

Joan Hickson rocks!

mckavitt said...

It is difficult to believe that many reviewers here ever read Agatha Christie who, as has been stated, first remarked upon Joan Hickson in Rutherford's Paddington 4.5, saying she hoped the former would some day incarnate her Miss Marple. Christie didn't live to see her wish fulfilled, but Hickson is IT, Miss M exactly as she in Christie's works--an old but very shrewd spinster lady, more observant than nosy, passionate about justice than warm & amusing, but deeply kind.

This is why she is respected & affectioned, if you'll allow me to coin a word, by her fellow villagers at St Mary Mead, not because of a comedian's vaudevillean wiles, much as i adore Geraldine McEwan elsewhere. Hickson was also the model of discretion in whom people knew they could confide & hardly the wooden character portrayed by reviewers here. She disdains the police because they are so often wrong, but she respects their rank. And she earns their respect because she is always right, as well as a model of rectitude herself. "And when she did speak it was with so much nasty, vitriolic and cruel venom." Never! She'd read the Christie books, tho'.

I own the Margaret Rutherford Marples & adore the actress, but Miss Marple as conceived by Christie she was not. And Christie felt the same & said so in her private papers. I've never seen Angela Lansbury's Marple, but would be interested. Like the lovely McEwan, she must have had to use a lot of make up to disguise her beauty. Julia McKenzie takes getting used to, but she isn't too far off the mark, whilst not really convincing. Hickson WAS Marple to the extent that you felt you KNEW her as intimately as all her friends, family & cohorts did.

What the latest Marples have is stunning supporting casts, sometimes too stunning, as they take our mind off the mystery at hand. Exceptions exist, happily. Murder at the Vicarage, with McEwan, boasts Derek Jacobi & Janet Mc Teer who are simply fabulous in their respective roles. Better than my beloved McEwan, far too cutesy to be believed as Christie's great female detective creation. She was wise to leave it, from more than one perspective.

So, my vote is Joan Hickson, 100% Miss Marple. The Miss is very important!