Almost 92 years since the character of Miss Marple made her debut, one mystery remains…
Whose portrayal is the best?
Over the past century, the elderly English detective has appeared on screen in numerous TV, radio, theatre and film adaptations – with a brand new series on the way from the makers of Big Little Lies!
The spinster from the village of St. Mary Mead is one of the best known of Agatha Christie’s characters, alongside a certain mustachioed Belgian sleuth.
Miss Marple first appeared in a short story published in The Royal Magazine in December 1927, titled The Tuesday Night Club.
It wasn’t until 1930 that the character’s first full-length novel, The Murder at the Vicarage, was published. A further eleven novels followed, culminating with Sleeping Murder. While it had been written around 1940, Sleeping Murder wasn’t released until 1976, after Christie’s death.
Miss Marple made her stage debut in a touring production of Murder at the Vicarage in 1949, but it wasn’t until 1961 that she arrived on the big screen and her first TV appearance wasn’t until 1983, when American actress Helen Hayes made the first of two TV movies.
Technically, however, British actress and singer Gracie Fields did briefly play her first in a one-off episode of Goodyear TV Playhouse in 1956, based on A Murder is Announced.
We recently asked fans to vote for their favourite interpretation of the character in our exclusive poll.
Now that we’ve counted up all the responses, we can reveal the Top 5!
Can you guess whose Miss Marple performance is the most popular?
5. Angela Lansbury (1980)
Four years before she became Jessica Fletcher in TV’s Murder, She Wrote, English-Irish-American actress Angela Lansbury played Miss Marple in a movie adaptation of Christie’s 1962 novel, The Mirror Crack’d.
Directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d previously directed four classic James Bond movies, the film featured an all-star cast, with big names including Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, and Kim Novak.
Portrayed as a crisp, stiff, intelligent woman, Lansbury’s Miss Marple is also one of the few incarnations who smoked!
The Mirror Crack’d is available on DVD on Amazon.
4. Julia McKenzie (2009–2013)
Taking over from Geraldine McEwan as the lead of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Marple series in 2009, English musical theatre star Julia McKenzie played Miss Marple for three seasons until 2013’s Endless Night.
Among the guest stars during her run was another detective – future Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch!
Defending her portrayal, she has said: “It’s difficult because Agatha Christie wrote her in two ways … First, very much what Geraldine McEwan played: a slight, rather Victorian creature. Then, a little sturdier and tweedier. I chose the latter. A lot of people say they don’t like the tweedier version. But they’re both genuine.”
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Julia McKenzie Collection is available on DVD on Amazon.
3. Geraldine McEwan (2004–2008)
Prior to Julia McKenzie, Miss Marple was played for three seasons by BAFTA-winning Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit star Geraldine McEwan, starting with The Body in the Library in 2004.
Appearing in 12 episodes of Agatha Christie’s Marple on ITV, McEwan commented upon her casting: “I do enjoy playing very original and slightly eccentric characters. It is very amusing that Agatha Christie should have created this older woman who lives a very conventional life in a little country village and yet spends all her time solving violent crimes.”
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Geraldine McEwan Collection is available on DVD on Amazon.
2. Margaret Rutherford (1961-1964)
Just missing out on the top spot, 36.82% of fans polled voted for Margaret Rutherford.
Agatha Christie herself wasn’t a fan of Rutherford’s eccentric take on Miss Marple, but her comedic movies were popular with audiences.
Starting with Murder, She Said in 1961, Rutherford starred in a total of four films in the early sixties.
Oddly, her second and third movies – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – were both based on Hercule Poirot novels, while 1964’s Murder Ahoy! wasn’t based on any of Christie works.
A box set featuring all Margaret Ruthford’s Miss Marple movies is available on Amazon.
1. Joan Hickson (1984-1992)
Still viewed by many fans as the iconic Miss Marple on screen, Joan Hickson narrowly beat Margaret Rutherford to top our poll with 41.30% of the votes!
Born in 1906, the Northampton-born actress starred in the BBC’s Miss Marple from 1984 to 1992 and, like the character, was herself an octogenarian for most of the series’ run.
The show ran for three seasons, adapting all 12 of Christie’s original novels.
Interestingly, Hickson had previously had a small part in Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple movie Murder, She Said.
She also starred in a 1946 theatre adaptation of Appointment with Death, after which Agatha Christie sent her a message saying, “I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple.”
Joan Hickson’s complete Miss Marple DVD collection is available on Amazon.