Murder, She Said (1961) is a murder mystery film directed by George Pollock, based on the novel 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. The production starred Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple along with Arthur Kennedy and Muriel Pavlow, and features Rutherford's real life husband Stringer Davis.
While passing by on a different train, Miss Marple witnesses the strangulation of a young woman in the opposite carriage. The local police dismiss her story as the ramblings of a senile and bored old woman, so, undaunted, she conducts her own investigation, and comes to the conclusion that the body must be buried on the grounds of Ackenthorpe Hall, which adjoins the railway line.
Wheedling her way into a job as housemaid there, Marple copes with the pompous machinations of her difficult employer, Luther Ackenthorpe (James Robertson Justice), so she can search for the mysterious corpse, and eventually finds it while supposedly practicing her golf shots.
As she begins collecting suspects, accompanied by her long suffering companion Jim Stringer (Stringer Davis), Miss Marple finds herself faced with an increasingly devious and resourceful killer, who begins casting his shadow over Ackenthorpe's heirs...
Comparison with Original Story
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
As with most of her appearances in the role, Margaret Rutherford's flamboyant, comical portrayal of the sleuth was quite different from Christie's languid, passive depiction. The tone of the novel was also changed somewhat; instead of Christie's trademark suspense and underlying darkness, the film relied heavily on light, even whimsical comedy of manners. Nonetheless, other than a few changes to details, the adaptation is reasonably faithful to the original story.
- In Christie's original story, an elderly friend of Miss Marple's by the name of Elspeth McGillicuddy witnessed the murder. Here, it is Miss Marple herself.
- After she reports the sighting to the police, she is visited by Inspector Craddock who in this case is from the country police and not from Scotland Yard. She doesn't already know him. Bacon here is a sergeant who assists Craddock.
- The name of the manor house where Marple thinks the body must be found is renamed from Rutherford Hall to Ackenthorpe Hall, probably to avoid comparison with the leading actress' surname.
- Miss Marple herself applies for a position as a maid at the hall. There is no character of Lucy Eyelesbarrow although Miss Marple has a maid by the name of Lucy.
- Alfred Crackenthorpe has been changed to Albert Ackenthorpe. He is killed in the same way as in the original novel, after being poisoned by arsenic. Harold is however killed by a shotgun while out shooting. His body is discovered by Mrs Kidder.
- The letter from Martine is part of the plot. The letter here says she and Edmund were married two days before he died but did not mention a son. For a while this succeeds in getting the police to think the woman strangled on the train could be Martine and that therefore the killer must be one of the family. However in this adaptation, there is no character of James Stoddart-West. Therefore there is no Lady Stoddart-West, the real Martine, to disprove the presumption. Here, Miss Marple concludes that the dead woman cannot be Martine because her hands did not look like those of a French peasant woman whom Edmund said he had married.
- There is a secret meeting between Bryan and Emma the night before the murder. This is a bit of misdirection. Bryan later explains that this was to ask Emma to help persuade Luther to give him a loan to start a business.
- Throughout the case, Miss Marple is assisted by her friend Mr Stringer, a town librarian, who would become a recurrent in the series.
- Alexander has a larger role in the adaptation than in the original. He helps Miss Marple search the grounds and finds a powder compact in the barn. He later stole the powder compact, for a while creating misdirection that the killer might have taken it.
- The denouement works out slightly differently. Miss Marple gets Alexander to show all the suspects the powder compact, saying that it is Miss Marple's and that he would return it to her. This leads Dr Quimper to call on Miss Marple. She fakes a sore throat to get the doctor to examine her. Then from looking at the view in the mirror, Miss Marple tells him that she had seen him in that position before on the train. Dr Quimper admits to the various killings and then tries to kill Miss Marple with a hypodermic injection but Craddock and Bacon were hiding in the room and burst out to arrest him.
- Margaret Rutherford as Miss Jane Marple
- Arthur Kennedy as Dr. Paul Quimper
- Muriel Pavlow as Emma Ackenthorpe
- James Robertson Justice as Luther Ackenthorpe
- Thorley Walters as Cedric Ackenthorpe
- Charles Tingwell as Inspector Craddock
- Conrad Phillips as Harold Ackenthorpe
- Ronald Howard as Brian Eastley
- Joan Hickson as Mrs Kidder
- Stringer Davis as Jim Stringer
- Ronnie Raymond as Alexander Eastley
- Gerald Cross as Albert Ackenthorpe
- Michael Golden as Hillman
- Barbara Leake as Mrs. Hilda Stainton
- Gordon Harris as Sergeant Bacon
- Peter Butterworth as Ticket collector
- Richard Briers as "Mrs Binster"
- Lucy Griffiths as Lucy
- Cast notes
- Joan Hickson would later star as Miss Marple in the popular BBC Miss Marple TV series
Despite Christie's dislike of this adaptation, Murder, She Said received a generally positive response from critics, and maintains an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Almar Halfidason, a critic for the BBC film website, awarded the picture four stars out of a possible five, calling it "delightfully dotty" and "fun".