The Mirror Crack'd is a 1980 film British mystery film based on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (1962). It was produced by John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin for EMI Films with screenplay by Jonathan Hales and Barry Sandler. The film was directed by Guy Hamilton and featured Angela Lansbury, Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Scenes were filmed at Twickenham Film Studios, Twickenham, London, England, and on location in Kent.
This was the third of four Christie adaptations made by the production team of Brabourne and Goodwin and came after Death on the Nile.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Marina Gregg, a Hollywood celebrity actress and her husband Jason Rudd buy over Gossington Hall from Dolly Bantry and move in, creating a stir among the villagers of St. Mary Mead. Meanwhile a big Hollywood production company moves into studios nearby to film a period movie about Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I with starring Marina and Lola Brewster.
The two actresses are old rivals who hate each other. Marina, who is making a much heralded comeback after a prolonged "illness" and retirement, when she, in reality, has had a nervous breakdown. Marina's husband, Jason Rudd is directing the movie. He is a former boyfriend of Lola Brewster, while Lola is the girlfriend of Martin N. "Marty" Fenn, the producer. The hostility between the two actresses and the two men produces a lot of friction in the studio.
Meanwhile excitement runs high in St. Mary Mead, as Marina and Jason have organised a village fete on the grounds of Gossington Hall. Fenn and Lola turn up at the fete. Lola and Marina come face to face at the reception inside the house and exchange some potent and comical insults, nasty one-liners, as they smile and pose for the cameras. The two square off in a series of hilarious and cleverly written and performed cat-fights throughout the movie.
Marina however, has been receiving anonymous death threats. After her initial exchange with Lola at the reception, she is cornered by a gushing, devoted fan, Heather Babcock (played by Maureen Bennett), who bores her with a long and detailed story about having actually met Marina in person during World War II. After recounting the meeting they had all those years ago, when she arose from her sickbed to go and meet the glamorous star, Babcock drinks a cocktail that was made for Marina and quickly dies from poisoning. The incident is unfortunate for Marina's mental state, and she is beside herself. Everyone is certain she was the intended murder victim. Once filming begins on the movie, she discovers that apart from threatening notes made up of newspaper clippings, her cup of coffee on the set has also been spiked with poison, sending her into fits of terror.
The police detective from Scotland Yard investigating the case, Inspector Dermot Craddock is baffled as he tries to uncover who is behind the attempt on the life of the actress and the subsequent murder of the innocent woman. The suspected are Ella Zielinsky (played by Chaplin), Jason's production assistant who is secretly having an affair with him and would like Marina out of the way, and the hotheaded actress Lola Brewster.
Inspector Craddock asks his aunt, the renowned amateur detective Miss Jane Marple, who injured her foot at the reception and is confined to her home, for assistance. The main suspect, Zielinsky, is then killed by a lethal nose spray after going to a pay phone in the village, where she called the murderer and threatened to expose him. Miss Marple, now back on her feet, visits Gossington Hall, where Marina and Jason are staying, and views where Babcock's death occurred. Working from information received from her cleaning woman, Cherry Baker, who was working as a waitress the day of the murder, the determined elderly sleuth begins to piece together the events of the fatal reception and solves the mystery. By the time she has collected all the evidence to indicate who committed the crime, however, another death occurs at Gossington Hall, which sadly closes the case on who the murderer in St. Mary Mead actually is: Marina Gregg, who has apparently committed suicide.
In the film's denouement, Miss Marple explains the murders that have occurred. Heather Babcock's story was Marina's initial motive. Ms. Babcock suffered from German measles — a rather harmless disease to most adults, but problematic for a pregnant woman. Heather Babcock innocently infected Marina when she met her during World War Two. Marina was pregnant at the time; the disease caused her child to be born with mental retardation. Upon hearing Heather cheerfully tell this story, Marina was overcome with rage and poisoned her without thinking. She then spread the idea that she was the intended victim, delivering the death threats and poisoning her own coffee. Ella, who made phone calls to various suspects from the pay phone, accidentally guessed correctly, prompting Marina to murder her.
As Marina is now dead, she will not be brought to justice. Jason, her devoted husband, confesses to Miss Marple that he actually put poison into Marina's hot chocolate to save her from prosecution. However, in the final scene, viewers can see that Marina did not touch the hot chocolate he made for her. She is in an adjoining room and appears to have poisoned herself in a different way.
Comparison with original story
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
- Several characters' roles are reduced, and some of them are completely omitted. Gladys Dixon, William Tiddler, Arthur Badcock among others do not appear. The role Dolly Bantry is reduced drastically.
- Other characters are renamed. Ardwyck Fenn becomes Martin “Marty” N. Fenn. Heather Badcock becomes Heather Babcock and here she is unmarried.
- Inspector Dermot Craddock is made Miss Marple's nephew.
- Much of the screen time is given over to the hostility between Marina Gregg and Lola Brewster. This showcases the film's two female leads but doesn't actually serve much plot purpose.
- Miss Marple sprains her ankle after becoming entangled in the leash of a dog at the fete. In the original novel, she trips in a pothole.
- Dolly Bantry is present during the fete, but she is not the one who notices Marina Gregg's "Lady of Shalott" look when she is with Heath Babcock. In fact she plays no further part in the plot after fete.
- Gladys Dixon is not in this adaptation. Her role is replaced by Cherry Baker who works part time at Miss Marple's and part time at Gossington Hall. She is serving drinks at the fete and she, not Dolly Bantry, is the one who notice's the strange frozen look on Marina's face. She reports this to Miss Marple. But she doesn't associate the look with Tennyson's poem. It is Miss Marple herself who quotes this poem as description of the look. But how would she know? She wasn't there. In the original, it is Dolly Bantry who quotes the poem as the best way of describing Marina Gregg's frozen look.
- It is Miss Marple herself who, with binoculars, spots Ella Zielinsky using the public call box. She then makes a test call to Gossington Hall to show that the installed phone is still operating. In the original, it is Dolly Bantry who does this.
- Margot Bence is present at the fete as a photographer, but serves no plot role at all. Her name is not mentioned, she is never interviewed by the police, it is not clear if she captured a photo of Marina Gregg, and if she did, the photo is not consulted by Miss Marple or the police. Her background as the adopted child of Marina Gregg is not mentioned.
- Although Cherry Baker narrates the events to Miss Marple, she never gets to tell her that she thought Marina jogged Heather's elbow on purpose. It the original, this revelation becomes critical in understanding what had happened. Here Miss Marple surmises that Marina probably jogged Heather to spill her drink when reconstructing the events.
- The crucial final piece of the puzzle is supplied by the vicar. Miss Marple suddenly concludes that the vicar must have some important background and calls him in the middle of the night. He remembers Heather Babcock had German Measles during the war when she met Marina Gregg. Then she proceeds to Gossington Hall for the denouement.
- Angela Lansbury as Miss Jane Marple
- Elizabeth Taylor as Marina Gregg-Rudd
- Rock Hudson as Jason Rudd
- Tony Curtis as Martin “Marty” N. Fenn
- Kim Novak as Lola Brewster
- Geraldine Chaplin as Ella Zielinsky
- Edward Fox as Inspector Dermot Craddock (Jane's nephew)
- Charles Gray as Bates, the butler
- Richard Pearson as Doctor Haydock
- Wendy Morgan as Cherry
- Margaret Courtenay as Mrs Dolly Bantry
- Marella Oppenheim as Margot Bence
- Maureen Bennett as Heather Babcock
- Carolyn Pickles as Miss Giles
- Charles Lloyd-Pack as the Vicar
- Eric Dodson as the Major
- Peter Woodthorpe as the Scoutmaster
- Thick Wilson as the Mayor
- Pat Nye as the Mayoress
- Lewis Alexander as Man at Coroners Inquest (uncredited)
- Jerry Baker as First Ambulance Man (uncredited)
- Stephen Boswell as Mr. Rudd's 1st Assistant Director (uncredited)
- Pierce Brosnan as Actor playing 'Jamie' (uncredited)
- Les Conrad as Party Guest (uncredited)
- John Dalby as Bandmaster (uncredited) (see Mr Foxley)
- Bill Dean as 1st Man in Village Hall (uncredited)
- Jack Dearlove as Party Guest (uncredited)
- John Doye as Party Guest (uncredited)
- Frank Ellis as Policeman (uncredited)
- Gerry Judge as Party Guest (uncredited)
- Cyril Kent as Villager at Film Screening (uncredited)
- John Ketteringham as Film Technician (uncredited)
- Sam Kydd as Film Technician (uncredited)
- Charles Lamb as 2nd Man in Village Hall (uncredited)
- Richard Leech as Director of Photography (uncredited)
- Derek Lyons as Queen's Guard (uncredited)
- Angus MacKay as Coroner (uncredited)
- Ann Nelson as Party Guest (uncredited)
- Robert Raglan as Villager (uncredited)
- Llewellyn Rees as Villager at Film Screening (uncredited)
- Mike Reynell as Party Guest (uncredited)
- Bunny Seaman as Dresser (uncredited)
- Rita Tobin-Weske as Villager at Film Screening (uncredited)
- Reg Turner as Second Ambulance Man (uncredited)
- Del Watson as Villager (uncredited)
- Norman Wooland as Medical Examiner (uncredited)
- Uncredited actor as Freddie Hawkins
- Uncredited actress as Wendy
- Uncredited actor as Mr Paycock
- Uncredited actress as Mrs Morley-Smith
- Uncredited actor as Constable Arnold
- Uncredited actor as Inch
Actors in Murder at Midnight
- Anthony Steel as Sir Derek Ridgeley ('Murder at Midnight')
- Dinah Sheridan as Lady Amanda Ridgeley ('Murder at Midnight')
- Oriane Grieve as Kate Ridgely ('Murder at Midnight')
- Kenneth Fortescue as Charles Foxwell ('Murder at Midnight')
- Hildegard Neil as Lady Foxcroft ('Murder at Midnight')
- Allan Cuthbertson as Peter Montrose ('Murder at Midnight')
- George Silver as Da Silva ('Murder at Midnight')
- John Bennett as Barnsby ('Murder at Midnight')
- Nigel Stock as Inspector Gates ('Murder at Midnight')
- Alice Wetherby
- Mr Crosswell
Natalie Wood was the first choice to play Marina Gregg, but she turned the role down after disagreements over cast billing and the portrayal of the character itself.
Probable real-life inspiration
Christie's inspiration for the motive may have come from an incident in the life of American film star Gene Tierney. In June 1943, while pregnant with her first daughter, Tierney contracted German measles during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Because of Tierney's illness, her daughter was born deaf, partially blind with cataracts and was severely developmentally disabled. Some time after the tragedy surrounding her daughter's birth, Tierney learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph at a tennis party that the woman (who was then a member of the women's branch of the Marine Corps) had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with German measles to meet Tierney at her only Hollywood Canteen appearance. In her autobiography, Tierney related that after the woman had recounted her story, she just stared at her silently, then turned and walked away. She wrote, "After that I didn't care whether ever again I was anyone's favorite actress." Biographers have theorized Christie used this real-life tragedy as the basis of her plot for The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. But note that Christie's agents have denied this link and have stated that it was a coincidence. See here for details.