I'm playing catch up on this one. But I finally had the opportunity to catch Julia McKenzie as the new Marple on Masterpiece Theatre.
The jury's still out, I'm afraid.
All those reruns of the wonderful Joan Hickson keep popping up in my mind's eye. But, of course, she wasn't the only actress of a certain age to play the doughty spinster detective.
Margaret Rutherford ruled MGM in the 1960s with her chins wagging and her outsized theatrical gestures. these films made on minimal budgets still satisfy. In one of them 1932;'s Murder She Said Hickson even pops up Hickson in a pre-Marple appearance.
The reference books say Gracie Fields had a go at it, too, but nobody seems to remember much about this dramatic turn.
Well, I looked it up it was on 1956 on Goodyear Television Playhouse in A Murder Is Announced.
Angela Lansbury had her chance in the 1980 allstar mystery The Mirror Crack'd which boasted Tony Curtis, Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson in star turns. And am I the only one noticing distinct similarities to Lansbury's later TV incarnation as Jessica Fletcher?
Then came Joan Hickson, a respected Brit character actress who made the part her own. But she finally retired in 1992 after eight years and besides all the original stories seemed to have been filmed.
When ITV decided to remake everything in the cannon the producers turned to Geraldine Mcewan who formally retired from the part in July 2008.
So a mad talent hunt was on. Candidates included VictoriaWood, Julie Walters, Prunella Scales, Anna Massey and Eileen Atkins. Nobody asked me but I would have chosen Julie Andrews if she was available.
Julie Mackenzie is almost unknown to me --she's been a stage regular for decades.
As Marple she wearts the Hickson brand of suits --McEwan was dressed better and smiled and winked more. But Mackenzie does not knit as Hickson did and she smiles a little too much for my liking.
So far I haven't warmed to her but I'm sure I will. However, I'd like to propose the producers consider commissioning some original mysteries starring McKenzie --some of the older stories creak with age.
What do you think?