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Bette Davis as Mrs. Van Schuyler

In the novel Death on the Nile, Marie Van Schuyler is a very wealthy American socialite. She travels onboard a steamer on the Nile, where she occupies a cabin de luxe, with a bathroom, on the starboard side. Her travel companions are her poor relation Cornelia Robson and her nurse Miss Bowers.

Miss Van Schuyler is an acquaintance of Rufus Van Aldin. Prior to the events of the novel, she had heard about Poirot from Mr Van Aldin.

Miss Van Schuyler is described as an "elderly lady with a very wrinkled face, a stiff white stock, a good many diamonds and an expression of reptilian contempt for the majority of mankind". When Mrs Allerton is matching the names on the passenger list to the people in the dining room, she describes Miss Van Schuyler as the "very ugly old American lady who is clearly going to be very exclusive and speak to nobody to who doesn't come up to the most exacting standards".

In the saloon on board the Karnak, Miss Van Schuyler is able to secure the best and most undraughty position by telling Salome Otterbourne that her knitting was left at that table, and fixing Mrs Otterbourne with "a hypnotic eye". Mrs Otterbourne sits nearby, and attempts to talk to Miss Van Schuyler, but is met with such "chilling politeness" that she gives up.

When the Karnak arrives at Ez-Zebua, Miss Van Schuyler does not visit the temple along with the other passengers. Cornelia explains that this is because Miss Van Schuyler never gets up very early, as she has to be very careful of her health.

Miss Van Schuyler does manage to visit the temple at Abu Simbel, leaning on the arm of Miss Bowers. However, she is unable to visit the Second Cataract, as she cannot risk the ascent, either on a camel, or on her legs.

On the evening of the murder, Miss Van Schuyler misses her velvet stole, and orders Cornelia to look for it in the saloon. Mr Fanthorp helps Cornelia, but they are unable to find it.

After the death of Linnet Doyle, Miss Van Schuyler tells Poirot and Colonel Race that she resents being "mixed up" in the affair, and that she does not wish to be associated with it in any way. When Colonel Race tells her that he was just saying to Poirot that the sooner they take her statement the better, so that they would not need to trouble her further, she looks at Poirot with "something approaching favour".

Miss Van Schuyler says that after going to bed, she was awakened by Louise Bourget saying good night to Linnet. She then went to sleep again, and woke up thinking there was someone in her cabin, before realising that it was someone in Linnet's cabin, which was next door to hers. She heard someone on the deck outside, and then a splash. She got up, went to the door of her cabin, and saw Rosalie Otterbourne leaning over the side. She had just dropped something into the water.

When a pistol is recovered from the river, wrapped in a piece of velvet, Miss Van Schuyler identifies it as her velvet stole. When Colonel Race tells her that the murderer wrapped the pistol in the stole to deaden the noise of the shot, Miss Van Schuyler is angry as she considers this an impertinence.

After the discovery that Linnet's pearls are missing, Colonel Race announces to the passengers that they and their cabins will be searched. Miss Bowers comes to see Poirot and Colonel Race, and gives them the pearls. She explains that Miss Van Schuyler takes things, and cannot help herself, and that pearls have always been a great attraction to her. This is why Miss Bowers is always with her.

According to Miss Bowers, Miss Van Schuyler always hides the things she has taken rolled up in her stockings. Miss Bowers checks every morning, and this was how she found the pearls. Miss Bowers also says that if asked about it, Miss Van Schuyler will deny that she took anything, and say that some wicked person put the item in her stockings.

Miss Bowers also tells Poirot and Colonel Race that Miss Van Schuyler suffers from deafness. One would not notice it when speakiing to her, but quite often she would not hear someone when they came into a room, and she would not have been able to hear someone moving about in the next cabin.

Later in the novel, Mr Ferguson asks Miss Van Schuyler for permission to marry Cornelia. When he says that Cornelia refused him, but he will continue asking her until she agrees, Miss Van Schuyler tells him that she will take steps to ensure that Cornelia does not suffer such persecution. She tells Mr Ferguson that he is not good enough for Cornelia, because he is of poor social position.

Poirot later reveals to Miss Van Schuyler that Mr Ferguson is really Lord Dawlish, who refuses to use his title because of his advanced ideas. He enjoys reading the conflicting expressions on her face after he tells her this.

Portrayals

  • 1978 - In the 1978 film Death on the Nile, Miss Van Schuyler was portrayed by actress Bette Davis. It is not clear here whether her tendency to steal jewels is a psychological condition or not. She does read about the Linnet's jewels and her trip to Egypt and deliberately plans to go there herself. Such behaviour is not characteristic of kleptomania which is usually spontaneous. In this adaptation, when challenged by Poirot, she returns the pearls herself by sneaking into the ice room and putting the necklace back on the dead Linnet's body. Also, because the pearls subplot is simplified and there is no Tim Allerton, those pearls stolen and returned by her are the real ones.
  • 2004 - In the 2004 Agatha Christie's Poirot episode Death on the Nile, Miss Van Schuyler was portrayed by actress Judy Parfitt. Here, Cornelia Robson returns the pearls becauce Bowers is not featured. Cornelia tells Poirot that Miss Van Schuyler "can't help" the stealing, suggesting that it is a psychological condition. In this case, the pearls are the fake ones as Tim Allerton has taken the real ones already.
  • 2020 - In the 2020 film Death on the Nile, Marie Van Schyuyler will be portrayed by actress Jennifer Saunders.
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