At Bertram's Hotel is the first episode of the third series of Agatha Christie's Marple. It was broadcast on ITV by Granada Television on 23 September 2007. The screenplay was written by Tom MacRae and the episode was directed by Dan Zeff. It was an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel of the same name.
Miss Marple finds herself on a bit of a holiday and staying at the very posh Bertram's Hotel, where she stayed as a child and for which she has very fond memories. Things take a sinister turn when a hotel maid, Tilly Rice, is found strangled on the roof. Miss Marple can't help but investigate but is assisted by Jane Cooper, also a hotel maid, who is in fact a younger version of Miss Marple. When an attempt is made on the life of a hotel guest, Elvira Blake the two Janes work together to find the motive and the identity of the killer.
Comparison with the original story
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
This version included many substantial changes to the plot, characters, atmosphere and the finale of the original novel, and added overtly contemporary social themes:
- A number of the characters in the novel were removed from the adaptation: Mrs McCrae; Archdeacon Simmons; Robert Hoffman; Miss Gorringe; Rose Sheldon; Colonel Derek Luscombe; Chief-Inspector Fred "Father" Davy; Inspector Campbell; Sergeant Wadell; Mr Robinson.
- The adaptation added a large amount of new characters:
- Inspector Larry Bird - The new Chief of Investigations, who slowly accepts help from Miss Marple to solve the murders.
- Jane Cooper - Hotel Maid and assistant to Miss Marple. Forms an attachment to Larry Bird and falls in love with him at the end.
- Tilly Rice - Hotel Maid, close friend to Mickey Gorman, and a blackmailer. Blackmails the killer.
- Hubert Curtain - Solicitor overseeing the Blake estate of Bess' late ex-husband. Involved in embezzlement and the handling of stolen artwork.
- Mutti - Fashion designer of German and Jewish background. Secretly seeking out a Nazi Officer who is on the run, and owner of several pieces of stolen artwork.
- Jack Bittern and Joel Bittern - Identical twins, who operate as thieves. Can be distinguished by where they wear their wristwatches.
- Amelia Walker - Singer, seeking to purchase artwork at the hotel.
- Louis Armstrong - Jazz musician and old friend of Amelia's.
- The main sub-plot was changed, in which the hotel is now an operation centre for smuggling Nazi war criminals to safety with stolen identities, in exchange for stolen art treasures they took. Mr Humfries and Hubert are involved in the scheme, hanging the stolen pieces in plain sight in the hotel; art and furniture in hotels is usually reproduction, Miss Marple explains, so it would be safe from both the law and thieves. The art disappears from the hotel when it is sold. Ladislaus Malinowski is a concentration camp prisoner turned Nazi hunter; he works with Mutti and Bess Sedgewick, and together they reveal the hotel guest known as "Canon Pennyfather" is in fact Herman Koch, a Nazi on the run. Miss Marple confirms that he was using the identity of the real Canon Pennyfather (away on holiday), pointing out he acted like a priest from a play while making mistakes in his deception such as only quoting from Psalms. Mutti recovers the artworks stolen from him, including one that Amelia Walker attempts to take.
- A new sub-plot was added - London is hit by a spate of robberies, and during Gorman's murder, Lady Selina's jewels go missing. Miss Marple reveals that the theft was committed by the Bittern Twins, involved in the other robberies. Whilst one of the brothers posed as both, the other stole the jewels, but the brother posing as both made the mistake of not switching their wristwatch to the other wrist, which exposed their scheme, and leads to their arrests.
- Elvira's motivation is changed. She and Malinowski are no longer seriously interested in each other: Malinowski backs off when he realises Elvira is Bess's daughter; Elvira reproaches her mother for this, but never mentions the matter again. Her emotional attachment in the adaption is to her friend, Brigit Milford (the novel's Bridget), whose role is expanded. Several years earlier, Elvira wanted to go swimming in a river; she pressured Brigit into getting in, but backed out from getting in herself. The river was contaminated, and Brigit contracted polio, which led to her losing all use of her right hand. Elvira blames herself for causing this, and now tries to make Brigit's life more comfortable where possible. Miss Marple's denouement reveals, "If Brigit was to enjoy any quality of life, [Elvira] would need a great deal of money" - and this meant any obstacle to her inheritance had to be removed. Gorman's murder remains the same, but a new murder victim is added - Tilly Rice. Tilly was blackmailing Elvira about the secret of her mother's first marriage, so Elvira killed her. Her murder was always planned after Gorman's murder, not the other way around as the police assumed; Miss Marple correctly deduces this.
- Gorman's murder was modified to coincide with a new motive. Gorman is killed by a sniper, under the belief he is protecting Elvira from them. In reality, Elvira was the sniper, and Brigit was dressed up as her to make the hotel's guest believe she was returning to the hotel. Elvira used her knowledge of the hotel to secretly make her way out and behind Brigit, whilst dressed as a maid. The pair then swapped over, Brigit handing over a gun she used as part of the deception. Miss Marple deduces all this before pointing out that they both made a mistake that gave them away - Brigit used her left hand to fire at the "non-existent" sniper, but when Elvira took over, she proceeded to fire with her right hand.
- Lady Bess tries to take the blame during the denouement, but she does not run away and die in a car accident. She is forced to back down, and Elvira and Brigit then confess. Mother and daughter then apologise for wronging each other. In a side-plot, Bess had been receiving death threats prior to the death of Gorman, which made the police think she was the real target of the sniper; Miss Marple reveals that they had been coming from Elvira, that Bess had quickly realised where they had come from, and that Bess had deliberately planted one in Mr Curtain's desk to try to deflect suspicion away from Elvira.
- Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple
- Isabella Parriss as Young Miss Marple
- James Howard as Hotel Doorman 1891
- Adam Smethurst as Cab Driver
- Tony Bignell as Newsboy
- Vincent Regan as Mickey Gorman
- Mark Heap as Mr Humfries
- Emily Beecham as Elvira Blake
- Mary Nighy as Brigit Milford
- Martine McCutcheon as Jane Cooper
- Charles Kay as Canon Pennyfather
- Ed Stoppard as Malinowski
- Nicholas Burns as Jack Britten / Joel Britten
- Mica Paris as Amelia Walker
- Francesca Annis as Lady Selina Hazy
- Peter Davison as Hubert Curtain
- Shenton Dixon as Louis Armstrong
- Polly Walker as Bess Sedgwick
- Hannah Spearritt as Tilly Rice
- Danny Webb as Mr Mutti
- Stephen Mangan as Inspector Larry Bird
- Sarah London as Miss Tibbs
- Georgia Allen as Mrs Rice
- Laurence Richardson as Policeman (uncredited)
- Uncredited actress as Miss Evershot
- Sir Richard Blake
- Mrs Royston
Tropes and Themes
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
- The victim knows a dark secret.
- The murderer pretends to be the intended victim.
- The witnesses are intentionally misled.
- A murder in a Hotel.
- Polesden Lacey - hotel interiors
- Oriental Club, Stratford Place - hotel exteriors
- Osterley Park, Isleworth - Palm Court (denouement scene)
- "When Miss Marple came to Polesden Lacey - filming at the National Trust," Great British Life, September 21, 2012, retrieved February 9, 2021, URL