The Best Miss Jane Marple

by FloraBreenRobison

Several actresses have played Miss Jane Marple, Christie's amateur detective from the fictional St. Mary Mead. Joan Hickson is the best, no contest.

Joan Hickson was hand-picked by Agatha Christie herself to eventually become Miss Jane Marple. She portrayed Jane Marple from 1984 until 1992 in a dozen TV movies. Her adaptations were faithful to the books, and her portrayal was faithful to the character.

Late Actress Joan Hickson Was and Is The Best Portrayal of Miss Jane Marple

She wasn't the first and other actresses have portrayed her since she died

Imagine that you are an actress who is on the set of of a movie and the author of the book pays a visit. She takes one look at you and insists that you would be perfect to play her main detective. You would be absolutely thrilled, right? Not if you are middle-aged and the author is Agatha Christie-her female detective is so ancient when she makes her very first appearance in 1930 that no one has a clue how old she is. Well, this is what happened to Joan Hickson on the set of Murder She Said - aka 4.50 From Paddington in 1961. Hickson was 55 and she was not thrilled. In this movie Hickson was playing Mrs. Kidder opposite Margaret Rutherford as the great detective. One wonders whether Rutherford heard about this recommendation and if so, what she thought of it. It is ironic, then, that Joan Hickson would later agree to portray Jane Marple in several TV movies. Agatha Christie got her wish after all-8 years after the author died.

Her adaptations were superior to others, before and after, for 2 reasons: the screenplays are faithful to the novels; and Hickson is an accurate portrayal of the character.

As popular as Rutherford was, she portrayed Marple as if she were a crazy and outlandish woman and there was none of this in the books. Furthermore, there were liberties taken. One of the most notable was the series creating a character out of the wind to allow the actress's real-life husband to have a steady job playing her sidekick. Why do this? There was a perfectly good character already created by Christie who appeared in several, but not all, of Marple's mysteries-novel and short story length: Sir Henry Clithering, retired C.I.D. head. It would have made perfect sense for Sir Henry to be written into the mysteries in which he originally never appeared. This would be similar to adding Inspector Japp and Captain Hastings to Poirot mysteries opposite David Suchet. The characters actually appeared only in a few of the mysteries, but they fit in nicely to the TV series.

Joan Hickson first appeared as Jane Marple in 1984 in the TV movie The Body in the Library and last appeared in 1992 in the movie The Mirror Crack'd. She made one more screen appearance, period, before retiring . Perhaps she had wanted to wait until she had filmed all of the Marple mysteries before retirement. There was no attempt to film any Christie mysteries which did not include Miss Marple and simply write her in to them. This is what the current TV series has done. Purists beware! Joan Hickson died in 1998 at the age of 93.

Miss Marple Books

Here is a chronological listing of Miss Marple Books. As You can see right beside this list, Joan Hickson filmed all of the Miss Marple full-length mysteries. She did not tackle any of the short stories found in The Tuesday Club Murders:

The Murder at the Vicarage 1930

The Tuesday Club Murders 1932

The Body in the Library 1942

The Moving Finger 1943

A Murder is Announced 1950

Murder With Mirrors 1952 aka They Do it with Mirrors

A Pocketful of Rye 1953

What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw 1957 aka 4.50 From Paddington

The Mirror Crack'd (From Side to Side) 1962

A Carribbean Mystery 1964

At Bertram's Hotel 1965

Nemesis 1971

Sleeping Murder 1976

Joan Hickson Portrayals of Jane Marple in Chronological order of Filming

The Body in the Library 1984

The Moving Finger 1985

A Murder is Announced 1985

A Pocketful of Rye 1985

The Murder at the Vicarage 1986

Sleeping Murder 1987

At Bertram's Hotel 1987

Nemesis 1987

4.50 From Paddington 1987

A Carribbean Mystery 1989

They Do it With Mirrors 1991

The Mirror Crack'd 1992

Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple

The Body in the Library

Only $1.99

Links to Agatha Christie and Miss Jane Marple
Where you can find every big screen and small screen adaptation of Christie's writings
Agatha Christie's official webpage with information about everything happening in the world involving Agatha Christie.

Updated: 04/18/2012, FloraBreenRobison
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
FloraBreenRobison on 08/25/2012

Hi, Sheri. I wish TV would re-air these instead of some of the silliness they air now.

Take care.


Sheri_Oz on 08/25/2012

Thanks for bringing back good memories of old movies. Wonderful actress.

FloraBreenRobison on 07/20/2012

Hi, Enelle. I cannot quit remember how I pictured Miss Marple before I saw Joan Hickson, but I do remember that I felt no one fit the character until I saw Hickson. Thanks for sharing the importance of Christie and Hickson to you. Flora

EnelleLamb on 07/20/2012

Agatha Christie was my favorite mystery author! I collected every mystery she ever published and read and re-read them many times over. I loved Joan Hickson as Miss Marple - she is exactly how I pictured the character to be.

FloraBreenRobison on 04/22/2012

Katie-You'll love Joan Hickson. I envy you experiencing her for the first time.

katiem2 on 04/22/2012

I've not experienced the best of miss jane marple, I'll certainly be giving it a go. Thank you for the wonderful review of good material.

FloraBreenRobison on 04/18/2012

Digby-Thanks for sharing your mother's love of Christie, her preference for Joan Hickson, and the fact that she won first prize in a Barnes and Noble trivia competition on Ms. Christie. She must have been thrilled to get such beautiful volumes. I collect Christie's books. I love the feel of real books in my hand-haven't gotten an e-reader yet. I prefer books in print.

Digby_Adams on 04/17/2012

My mom is an avid Agatha Christie fan and agrees wholeheartedly with your assessment. She competed one evening in an Agatha Christie trivia event at Barnes and Noble and won first prize - ten beautiful volumes of Christie's work.

You might also like

Whatever Happened to The Cast of Lois and Clark: The New Adven...

Lois and Clark made household names of its stars in the early and mid ninetie...

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

I’ve been thinking about Halloween recently and, for some reason, Elvira, Mis...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...