PBS used to do a show “The Bletchly Circle” about women who had worked as codebreakers during WWII. Loved it. I recently found out that there was a new version with some of the British characters but taking place in San Francisco. Unfortunately it is only available on BritBox, a 6.99 addition to Amazon…seriously- I don’t pay enough for Amazon already? But…they did have a 7 day trial…and my family was away for four days…
So I binge watched British murder mysteries for four days…
After I finished Bletchly, I tuned in to the Jane Hickson Miss Marple series from the 80’s. I am a huge fan of Marple. Those were the first Christie books that I had ever read, and I have an affinity towards the working of the Marple mind. I remember watching these adaptations when they first came out and thinking that Hickson might be the quintessential Marple. And after rewatching them, I know that she was.
I will watch any Agatha Christie show in any form- movie, mini series, PBS…I even recently saw an off Broadway production of “Death on the Nile”. If there were an all Agatha all the time channel I would watch it (as long as I didn’t need to pay 6.99 a month- I mean- I have my limits) By now, I have become a connoisseur of sorts. I know my Marple.
Since the Hickson series of the 80’s, PBS has had a few other actors play Marple. Geraldine McEwan in the early 2000’s, followed by Julia McKenzie. Both are wonderful actresses. I have no problem with either of them being cast as Marple. What I do have a problem with is the actual interpretation of the sleuth.
The beauty of the character Miss Marple was her brain- she had a great intellect for deducing things. Marple didn’t crawl along floors or hide behind curtains to solve crimes. She used her own brand of logic. Her particular specialty was her ability to draw comparisons. She was a great observer of people and their habits: she was able to figure out a person’s character rather quickly. Whenever she met someone knew she would come up with a comparison with someone from her village- “Oh yes that Tom chap- he reminds me of the nephew of my neighbor, always seemed to be way too flattering of the neighbors flowers, turns out he was stealing from them” or something of that sort. Marple was able to see through to someone’s true nature and character. She was observant and a solver of puzzles. The Hickson interpretation showed this clearly. The other versions did not show this at all. The writers simply eliminated these personality traits from the series. There were no more references to crosswords, jigsaws or chess. No more folksy comparisons. I’m going to have to rewatch the other series to see exactly how Marple solved the crimes. (but not for 6.99 a month)
Why do writers eliminate parts of a character that actually make up the character? Why would you take out the essence of a character?
I realize that people want to modernize things. I know that things need to be brought up to date, and a screenwriter has the license to adapt something any way they please. But if they eliminate the main trait of a character, why bother doing the adaptation at all? Why not just adapt something else? Or start fresh?
So- have you ever watched a recurring character and see a screenwriter change the major parts of a character? Have you ever seen a character you loved in a book brought to screen and you just want to scream “No! That’s not how it’s supposed to be?”