Hercule Poirot

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Hercule Poirot
DavidSuchet - Poirot.png
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
First appearance The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Last appearance Curtain
Created by Agatha Christie
Portrayed by David Suchet
Peter Ustinov
Albert Finney
See below
Information
Gender Male
Occupation

Private detective

  • Retired Detective
  • Former Police officer
Religion Roman Catholic
Nationality Belgian

Hercule Poirot (/ɜrˈkjuːl pwɑrˈ/; French pronunciation: ​[ɛʁkyl pwaʁo]) is a fictional Belgian detective, created by Agatha Christie. Poirot is one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play (Black Coffee), and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975.

Poirot has been portrayed on radio, on screen, for films and television, by various actors, including John Moffatt, Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Ian Holm, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina, and David Suchet.

Overview[edit]

Influences[edit]

Poirot's name was derived from two other fictional detectives of the time: Marie Belloc Lowndes' Hercule Popeau and Frank Howel Evans' Monsieur Poiret, a retired Belgian police officer living in London.[1]

A more obvious influence on the early Poirot stories is that of Arthur Conan Doyle. In An Autobiography Christie admits, "I was still writing in the Sherlock Holmes tradition – eccentric detective, stooge assistant, with a Lestrade-type Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Japp".[2] For his part, Conan Doyle acknowledged basing his detective stories on the model of Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin and his anonymous narrator, and basing his character Sherlock Holmes on Joseph Bell, who in his use of "ratiocination" prefigured Poirot's reliance on his "little grey cells".

Poirot also bears a striking resemblance to A. E. W. Mason's fictional detective, Inspector Hanaud of the French Sûreté, who first appeared in the 1910 novel At the Villa Rose and predates the first Poirot novel by ten years.

Poirot was a francophone. Unlike the models mentioned above, Christie's Poirot was clearly the result of her early development of the detective in her first book, written in 1916 and published in 1920. Not only was his Belgian nationality interesting because of Belgium's occupation by Germany (which provided a plausible explanation of why such a skilled detective would be out of work and available to solve mysteries at an English country house[3]). At the time of Christie's writing, it was considered patriotic to express sympathy towards the Belgians,[4] since the invasion of their country had constituted Britain's casus belli for entering World War I, and British wartime propaganda emphasised the "Rape of Belgium".

Popularity[edit]

Poirot first appeared in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (published in 1920) and exited in Curtain (published in 1975). Following the latter, Poirot was the only fictional character to receive an obituary on the front page of The New York Times.[5][6]

By 1930, Agatha Christie found Poirot "insufferable", and by 1960 she felt that he was a "detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep". Yet the public loved him and Christie refused to kill him off, claiming that it was her duty to produce what the public liked.[7]

Appearance and propinquities[edit]

Captain Arthur Hastings' first description of Poirot:

He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible.

The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.[3]

Agatha Christie's initial description of Poirot in The Murder on the Orient Express:

By the step leading up into the sleeping-car stood a young French lieutenant, resplendent in uniform, conversing with a small man (Hercule Poirot) muffled up to the ears of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward-curled moustache.[8]

In the later books, his limp is not mentioned, suggesting it may have been a temporary wartime injury. Poirot has green eyes that are repeatedly described as shining "like a cat's" when he is struck by a clever idea,[9] and dark hair, which he dyes later in life.[10] However, many of his screen incarnations are portrayed as bald or balding.

Frequent mention is made of his patent leather shoes, damage to which is frequently a source of misery for him, but comical for the reader.[11] Poirot's appearance, regarded as fastidious during his early career, later falls hopelessly out of fashion.[12] He employs pince-nez reading glasses.

Among Poirot's most significant personal attributes is the sensitivity of his stomach:

The plane dropped slightly. "Mon estomac," thought Hercule Poirot, and closed his eyes determinedly.[13]

He suffers from sea sickness,[14] and in Death in the Clouds he states that his air sickness prevents him from being more alert at the time of the murder. Later in his life, we are told:

Always a man who had taken his stomach seriously, he was reaping his reward in old age. Eating was not only a physical pleasure, it was also an intellectual research.[13]

Poirot is extremely punctual and carries a turnip pocket watch almost to the end of his career.[15] He is also pernickety about his personal finances, preferring to keep a bank balance of 444 pounds, 4 shillings, and 4 pence.[16]

As mentioned in Curtain and The Clocks, he is fond of classical music, particularly Mozart and Bach.

Methods[edit]

In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot operates as a fairly conventional, clue-based and logical detective; reflected in his vocabulary by two common phrases: his use of "the little grey cells" and "order and method". Hastings is irritated by the fact that Poirot sometimes conceals important details of his plans, as in The Big Four.[17] In this novel, Hastings is kept in the dark throughout the climax. This aspect of Poirot is less evident in the later novels, partly because there is rarely a narrator to mislead.

In Murder on the Links, still largely dependent on clues himself, Poirot mocks a rival "bloodhound" detective who focuses on the traditional trail of clues established in detective fiction (e.g., Sherlock Holmes depending on footprints, fingerprints, and cigar ash). From this point on, Poirot establishes his psychological bona fides. Rather than painstakingly examining crime scenes, he inquires into the nature of the victim or the psychology of the murderer. He predicates his actions in the later novels on his underlying assumption that particular crimes are committed by particular types of people.

Poirot focuses on getting people to talk. In the early novels, he casts himself in the role of "Papa Poirot", a benign confessor, especially to young women. In later works, Christie made a point of having Poirot supply false or misleading information about himself or his background to assist him in obtaining information.[18] In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Poirot speaks of a non-existent mentally disabled nephew[19] to uncover information about homes for the mentally unfit. In Dumb Witness, Poirot invents an elderly invalid mother as a pretense to investigate local nurses. In The Big Four, Poirot pretends to have a younger brother named Achille.[17]

To this day Harold is not quite sure what made him suddenly pour out the whole story to a little man to whom he had only spoken a few minutes before.[20]

Poirot is also willing to appear more foreign or vain in an effort to make people underestimate him. He admits as much:

It is true that I can speak the exact, the idiomatic English. But, my friend, to speak the broken English is an enormous asset. It leads people to despise you. They say – a foreigner – he can't even speak English properly. [...] Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, "A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much. [...] And so, you see, I put people off their guard.[21]

In later novels, Christie often uses the word mountebank when characters describe Poirot, showing that he has successfully passed himself off as a charlatan or fraud.

Poirot's investigating techniques assist him solving cases; "For in the long run, either through a lie, or through truth, people were bound to give themselves away..."[22] At the end, Poirot usually reveals his description of the sequence of events and his deductions to a room of suspects, often leading to the culprit's apprehension.

Life[edit]

"I suppose you know pretty well everything there is to know about Poirot's family by this time".[23]

A brief passage in The Big Four provides information about Poirot's birth or at least childhood in or near the town of Spa, Belgium or in the village of Ellezelles (province of Hainaut, Belgium – a few memorials dedicated to Hercule Poirot can be seen in the center of this village): "But we did not go into Spa itself. We left the main road and wound into the leafy fastnesses of the hills, till we reached a little hamlet and an isolated white villa high on the hillside."[24] Christie strongly implies that this "quiet retreat in the Ardennes"[25] near Spa is the location of the Poirot family home. Christie is purposefully vague, as Poirot is thought to be an elderly man even in the early novels. And in An Autobiography, she admitted that she already imagined him to be an old man in 1920. At the time, however, she had no idea she would write works featuring him for decades to come.

Christie wrote that Poirot is a Roman Catholic,[26] and gave her character a strong sense of Catholic morality in later works.[27] Christie provides little information regarding Poirot’s childhood, only mentioning in Three Act Tragedy that he comes from a large family with little wealth.

Policeman[edit]

"Gustave [...] was not a policeman. I have dealt with policemen all my life and I know. He could pass as a detective to an outsider but not to a man who was a policeman himself."

— Hercule Poirot Christie 1947c

Hercule Poirot had joined the Brussels police force by 1893.[28] Very little mention is made about this part of his life, but in "The Nemean Lion" (1939) Poirot refers to a Belgian case of his in which "a wealthy soap manufacturer [...] poisoned his wife in order to be free to marry his secretary". As Poirot was often misleading about his past to gain information, the truthfulness of that statement is unknown.

Inspector Japp offers some insight into Poirot's career with the Belgian police when introducing him to a colleague:

You've heard me speak of Mr Poirot? It was in 1904 he and I worked together – the Abercrombie forgery case – you remember he was run down in Brussels. Ah, those were the days Moosier. Then, do you remember "Baron" Altara? There was a pretty rogue for you! He eluded the clutches of half the police in Europe. But we nailed him in Antwerp – thanks to Mr. Poirot here.[29]

In the short story The Chocolate Box (1923) Poirot reveals to Captain Arthur Hastings an account of what he considers to be his only failure. Poirot admits that he has failed to solve a crime "innumerable" times:

I have been called in too late. Very often another, working towards the same goal, has arrived there first. Twice I have been struck down with illness just as I was on the point of success.

Nevertheless, he regards the 1893 case in "The Chocolate Box",[30] as his only actual failure of detection. Again, Poirot is not reliable as a narrator of his personal history and there is no evidence that Christie sketched it out in any depth. During his police career Poirot shot a man who was firing from a roof into the public below.[31] In Lord Edgeware Dies, Poirot reveals that he learned to read writing upside down during his police career. Around that time he met Xavier Bouc, director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Poirot also became a uniformed director, working on trains.

In The Double Clue, Poirot mentions that he was Chief of Police of Brussels, until "the Great War" (WWI) forced him to leave for England.

Private detective[edit]

I had called in at my friend Poirot's rooms to find him sadly overworked. So much had he become the rage that every rich woman who had mislaid a bracelet or lost a pet kitten rushed to secure the services of the great Hercule Poirot.[32]

During World War I, Poirot left Belgium for England as a refugee (although he returned a few times). On 16 July 1916 he again met his lifelong friend, Captain Arthur Hastings and solved the first of his cases to be published: The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It is clear that Hastings and Poirot are already friends when they meet in Chapter 2 of the novel, as Hastings tells Cynthia that he has not seen him for "some years". Particulars such as the date of 1916 for the case and that Hastings had met Poirot in Belgium, are given in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, Chapter 1 (someone had been shot in a village where Hastings was duck-shooting and Poirot had been called in from the Brussels police to investigate). After that case, Poirot apparently came to the attention of the British secret service and undertook cases for the British government, including foiling the attempted abduction of the Prime Minister.[33] Readers were told that the British authorities had learned of Poirot's keen investigative ability from certain Belgian royals.

After the war Poirot became a private detective and began undertaking civilian cases. He moved into what became both his home and work address, 56B Whitehaven Mansions. Hastings first visits the house when he returns to England in June 1935 from Argentina in The A.B.C. Murders, Chapter 1 (it is a plot point in the novel that the flat is at Whitehaven Mansions because a letter to Poirot is misaddressed). It was chosen by Poirot for its symmetry. (This building was in fact built in 1936, decades after Poirot fictionally moved in.) His first case was "The Affair at the Victory Ball", which allowed Poirot to enter high society and begin his career as a private detective.

Between the world wars, Poirot travelled all over Europe, Africa, Asia, and half of South America investigating crimes and solving murders. Most of his cases occurred during this time and he was at the height of his powers at this point in his life. In The Murder on the Links, the Belgian pits his grey cells against a French murderer. In the Middle East, he solved the cases Death on the Nile and Murder in Mesopotamia with ease and even survived An Appointment with Death. As he passed through Eastern Europe on his return trip, he solved The Murder on the Orient Express. However he did not travel to North America, the West Indies, the Caribbean or Oceania, probably due to sea sickness.

It is this villainous sea that troubles me! The mal de mer – it is horrible suffering![34]

It was during this time he met the Countess Vera Rossakoff, a glamorous jewel thief. The history of the Countess is, like Poirot's, steeped in mystery. She claims to have been a member of the Russian aristocracy before the Russian Rebellion and suffered greatly as a result, but how much of that story is true is an open question. Even Poirot acknowledges that Rossakoff offered wildly varying accounts of her early life. Poirot later became smitten with the woman and allowed her to escape justice.[35]

It is the misfortune of small, precise men always to hanker after large and flamboyant women. Poirot had never been able to rid himself of the fatal fascination that the Countess held for him.[36]

Although letting the Countess escape was morally questionable, it was not uncommon. In The Nemean Lion, Poirot sided with the criminal, Miss Amy Carnaby, allowing her to evade prosecution by blackmailing his client Sir Joseph Hoggins, who, Poirot discovered, had plans to commit murder. Poirot even sent Miss Carnaby two hundred pounds as a final payoff prior to the conclusion of her dog kidnapping campaign. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Poirot allowed the murderer to escape justice through suicide and then withheld the truth to spare the feelings of the murderer's relatives. In The Augean Stables, he helped the government to cover up vast corruption. In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot allowed the murderers to go free after discovering that twelve different people participated in Ratchett's murder. There was no question of his guilt, but he had been acquitted in America over a technicality. Considering it poetic justice that twelve jurors had acquitted Ratchett and twelve people had stabbed him, Poirot produced an alternate sequence of events to explain the death.

After his cases in the Middle East, Poirot returned to Britain. Apart from some of the so-called "Labours of Hercules" (see next section) he very rarely went abroad during his later career.

While Poirot was usually paid handsomely by clients, he was also known to take on cases that piqued his curiosity, although they did not pay well.

Poirot shows a love of steam trains, which Christie contrasts with Hasting's love of autos: this is shown in The Plymouth Express, The Mystery of the Blue Train, Murder on the Orient Express, and The ABC Murders (in the TV series, steam trains are seen in nearly all of the episodes).

Retirement[edit]

That’s the way of it. Just a case or two, just one case more – the Prima Donna’s farewell performance won’t be in it with yours, Poirot.[37]

Confusion surrounds Poirot's retirement. Most of the cases covered by Poirot's private detective agency take place before his retirement to grow marrows, at which time he solves The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It has been said that the twelve cases related in The Labours of Hercules (1947) must refer to a different retirement, but the fact that Poirot specifically says that he intends to grow marrows indicates that these stories also take place before Roger Ackroyd, and presumably Poirot closed his agency once he had completed them. There is specific mention in "The Capture of Cerberus" of the twenty year gap between Poirot's previous meeting with Countess Rossakoff and this one. If the Labours precede the events in Roger Ackroyd, then the Ackroyd case must have taken place around twenty years later than it was published, and so must any of the cases that refer to it. One alternative would be that having failed to grow marrows once, Poirot is determined to have another go, but this is specifically denied by Poirot himself.[38] Also, in "The Erymanthian Boar", a character is said to have been turned out of Austria by the Nazis, implying that the events of The Labours of Hercules took place after 1937. Another alternative would be to suggest that the Preface to the Labours takes place at one date but that the labours are completed over a matter of twenty years. None of the explanations is especially attractive.

In terms of a rudimentary chronology, Poirot speaks of retiring to grow marrows in Chapter 18 of The Big Four[39] (1927) which places that novel out of published order before Roger Ackroyd. He declines to solve a case for the Home Secretary because he is retired in Chapter One of Peril at End House (1932). He is certainly retired at the time of Three Act Tragedy (1935) but he does not enjoy his retirement and repeatedly takes cases thereafter when his curiosity is engaged. He continues to employ his secretary, Miss Lemon, at the time of the cases retold in Hickory Dickory Dock and Dead Man's Folly, which take place in the mid-1950s. It is therefore better to assume that Christie provided no authoritative chronology for Poirot's retirement, but assumed that he could either be an active detective, a consulting detective, or a retired detective as the needs of the immediate case required.

One consistent element about Poirot's retirement is that his fame declines during it, so that in the later novels he is often disappointed when characters (especially younger characters) recognise neither him nor his name:

"I should, perhaps, Madame, tell you a little more about myself. I am Hercule Poirot."

The revelation left Mrs Summerhayes unmoved.

"What a lovely name," she said kindly. "Greek, isn't it?"[40]

Post World War II[edit]

He, I knew, was not likely to be far from his headquarters. The time when cases had drawn him from one end of England to the other was past.

— Hastings[41][page needed]

Poirot is less active during the cases that take place at the end of his career. Beginning with Three Act Tragedy (1934), Christie had perfected during the inter-war years a sub-genre of Poirot novel in which the detective himself spent much of the first third of the novel on the periphery of events. In novels such as Taken at the Flood, After the Funeral, and Hickory Dickory Dock, he is even less in evidence, frequently passing the duties of main interviewing detective to a subsidiary character. In Cat Among the Pigeons, Poirot's entrance is so late as to be almost an afterthought. Whether this was a reflection of his age or of Christie's distaste for him, is impossible to assess. Crooked House (1949) and Ordeal by Innocence (1957), which could easily have been Poirot novels, represent a logical endpoint of the general diminution of his presence in such works.

Towards the end of his career, it becomes clear that Poirot's retirement is no longer a convenient fiction. He assumes a genuinely inactive lifestyle during which he concerns himself with studying famous unsolved cases of the past and reading detective novels. He even writes a book about mystery fiction in which he deals sternly with Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins.[42][page needed] In the absence of a more appropriate puzzle, he solves such inconsequential domestic riddles as the presence of three pieces of orange peel in his umbrella stand.[43][page needed]

Poirot (and, it is reasonable to suppose, his creator)[a] becomes increasingly bemused by the vulgarism of the up-and-coming generation's young people. In Hickory Dickory Dock, he investigates the strange goings on in a student hostel, while in Third Girl (1966) he is forced into contact with the smart set of Chelsea youths. In the growing drug and pop culture of the sixties, he proves himself once again, but has become heavily reliant on other investigators (especially the private investigator, Mr. Goby) who provide him with the clues that he can no longer gather for himself.

You're too old. Nobody told me you were so old. I really don't want to be rude but – there it is. You're too old. I'm really very sorry.

— Norma Restarick to Poirot in Third Girl, Chapter 1[42][page needed]

Notably, during this time his physical characteristics also change dramatically, and by the time Arthur Hastings meets Poirot again in Curtain, he looks very different from his previous appearances, having become thin with age and with obviously dyed hair.

  1. ^ In The Pale Horse, Chapter 1, the novel's narrator, Mark Easterbrook, disapprovingly describes a typical "Chelsea girl"[44][page needed] in much the same terms that Poirot uses in Chapter 1 of Third Girl, suggesting that the condemnation of fashion is authorial.[45][page needed]

Death[edit]

Poirot passes away from complications of a heart condition at the end of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. He had moved his amyl nitrite pills out of his reach, possibly because of guilt. He thereby became the murderer in Curtain, although it was for the benefit of others. Poirot himself noted that he wanted to kill his victim shortly before his own death so that he could avoid succumbing to the arrogance of the murderer, concerned that he may come to view himself as entitled to kill those he deemed necessary to eliminate.

The "murderer" he was hunting had never expressly killed anyone, but subtly and psychologically, he had manipulated others to kill for him, manipulating the moments where others desire to commit murder so that they carry out the crime when they might otherwise dismiss their thoughts as nothing more a momentary passion. Poirot thus was forced to kill the man himself, as otherwise he would have continued his actions and never been officially convicted as he did not legally do anything wrong. It is revealed at the end of Curtain that he fakes his need for a wheelchair to fool people into believing that he is suffering from arthritis, to give the impression that he is more infirm than he is. His last recorded words are "Cher ami!", spoken to Hastings as the Captain left his room. Poirot was buried at Styles, and his funeral was arranged by his best friend Hastings and Hastings' daughter Judith. Hastings reasoned, "Here was the spot where he had lived when he first came to this country. He was to lie here at the last."

While Poirot's actual death and funeral occurred in Curtain, years after his retirement from active investigation, it was not the first time Hastings attended the funeral of his best friend. In The Big Four (1927) Poirot feigned his death and subsequent funeral to launch a surprise attack on the Big Four.

Recurring characters[edit]

Arthur Hastings[edit]

Main article: Arthur Hastings

Hastings, a former British Army officer, first meets Poirot during Poirot's years as a police officer in Belgium and almost immediately after they both arrive in England. He becomes Poirot's lifelong friend and appears in many cases. Poirot regards Hastings as a poor private detective, not particularly intelligent, yet helpful in his way of being fooled by the criminal or seeing things the way the average man would see them and for his tendency to unknowingly "stumble" onto the truth.[46] Hastings marries and has four children – two sons and two daughters.

Hastings is capable of great bravery and courage, facing death unflinchingly when confronted by The Big Four and displaying unwavering loyalty towards Poirot. However, when forced to choose between Poirot and his wife in that novel, he initially chooses to betray Poirot to protect his wife. Later, though, he tells Poirot to draw back and escape the trap.

The two are an airtight team until Hastings meets and marries Dulcie Duveen, a beautiful music hall performer half his age, after investigating the Murder on the Links. They later emigrate to Argentina, leaving Poirot behind as a "very unhappy old man". Poirot and Hastings reunite for the final time in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, having been earlier reunited in The Big Four, Peril at End House, The ABC Murders, Lord Edgware Dies and Dumb Witness when Hastings arrives in England for business.

Ariadne Oliver[edit]

Main article: Ariadne Oliver

The detective novelist Ariadne Oliver is Agatha Christie's humorous self-caricature. Like Christie, she is not overly fond of the detective she is most famous for creating–in Ariadne's case the Finnish sleuth Sven Hjerson. We never learn anything about her husband, but we do know that she hates alcohol and public appearances and has a great fondness for apples until she is put off them by the events of Hallowe'en Party. She also has a habit of constantly changing her hairstyle, and in every appearance by her much is made of her clothes and hats. Her maid Maria prevents the public adoration from becoming too much of a burden on her employer, but does nothing to prevent her from becoming too much of a burden on others.

She has authored over 56 novels and greatly dislikes people modifying her characters. She is the only one in Poirot's universe to have noted that "It’s not natural for five or six people to be on the spot when B is murdered and all have a motive for killing B." She first met Poirot in the story Cards on the Table and has been bothering him ever since.

Miss Felicity Lemon[edit]

Main article: Felicity Lemon

Poirot's secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon, has few human weaknesses. The only mistakes she makes within the series are a typing error during the events of Hickory Dickory Dock and the mis-mailing of an electricity bill, although she was worried about strange events surrounding her sister at the time. Poirot described her as being "Unbelievably ugly and incredibly efficient. Anything that she mentioned as worth consideration usually was worth consideration." She is an expert on nearly everything and plans to create the perfect filing system. She also worked for the government statistician-turned-philanthropist Parker Pyne. Whether this was during one of Poirot’s numerous retirements or before she entered his employ is unknown.[citation needed] In The Agatha Christie Hour, she was portrayed by British actress Angela Easterling, while in Agatha Christie's Poirot, she was portrayed by Pauline Moran. A marked difference from the text exists in Moran's portrayal, where she is shown to be an attractive, fashionable and emotional woman showing an occasional soft corner for Poirot.

Chief Inspector James Harold Japp[edit]

Main article: Inspector Japp

Japp is a Scotland Yard Inspector and appears in many of the stories trying to solve cases that Poirot is working on. Japp is outgoing, loud and sometimes inconsiderate by nature and his relationship with the refined Belgian is one of the stranger aspects of Poirot’s world. He first met Poirot in Belgium in 1904, during the Abercrombie Forgery. Later that year they joined forces again to hunt down a criminal known as Baron Altara. They also meet in England where Poirot often helps Japp and lets him take credit in return for special favours. These favours usually entail Poirot being supplied with other interesting cases.[47] In Agatha Christie's Poirot, Japp was portrayed by Philip Jackson. In the film, Thirteen at Dinner (1985), adapted from Lord Edgware Dies, the role of Japp was taken by the actor David Suchet, who would later star as Poirot in the ITV adaptations.

Major novels[edit]

The Poirot books take readers through the whole of his life in England, from the first book (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), where he is a refugee staying at Styles, to the last Poirot book (Curtain), where he visits Styles before his death. In between, Poirot solves cases outside England as well, including his most famous case, Murder on the Orient Express (1934).

Hercule Poirot became famous with the publication, in 1926, of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, whose surprising solution proved controversial. The novel is still among the most famous of all detective novels: Edmund Wilson alludes to it in the title of his well-known attack on detective fiction, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Aside from Roger Ackroyd, the most critically acclaimed Poirot novels appeared from 1932 to 1942, including Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders (1935), Cards on the Table (1936), and Death on the Nile (1937). The last of these, a tale of multiple homicide upon a Nile steamer, was judged by the celebrated detective novelist John Dickson Carr to be among the ten greatest mystery novels of all time.[citation needed]

The 1942 novel Five Little Pigs (aka Murder in Retrospect), in which Poirot investigates a murder committed sixteen years before by analysing various accounts of the tragedy, is a Rashomon-like performance that critic and mystery novelist Robert Barnard called the best of the Christie novels.[citation needed]

Portrayals[edit]

Stage[edit]

The first actor to portray Hercule Poirot was Charles Laughton. He appeared on the West End in 1928 in the play Alibi which had been adapted by Michael Morton from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Film[edit]

Austin Trevor[edit]

Austin Trevor debuted the role of Poirot on screen in the 1931 British film Alibi. The film was based on the stage play. Trevor reprised the role of Poirot twice, in Black Coffee and Lord Edgware Dies. Trevor said once that he was probably cast as Poirot simply because he could do a French accent.[48] Leslie S. Hiscott directed the first two films, with Henry Edwards taking over for the third.

Albert Finney playing Poirot in the 1974 film, Murder on the Orient Express

Tony Randall[edit]

Tony Randall portrayed Poirot in The Alphabet Murders, a 1965 film also known as The ABC Murders. This was more a satire of Poirot than a straightforward adaptation, and was greatly changed from the original. Much of the story, set in contemporary times, was played for comedy, with Poirot investigating the murders while evading the attempts by Hastings (Robert Morley) and the police to get him out of England and back to Belgium.

Albert Finney[edit]

Albert Finney played Poirot in 1974 in the cinematic version of Murder on the Orient Express. As of 2013 Finney is the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for playing Poirot, though he did not win.

Peter Ustinov[edit]

Peter Ustinov as Poirot in a 1982 adaptation of the novel Evil Under the Sun

Peter Ustinov played Poirot six times, starting with Death on the Nile (1978). He reprised the role in Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988).

When Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks, observed Ustinov during a rehearsal, she said, "That's not Poirot! He isn't at all like that!" Ustinov, overhearing, remarked "He is now!"[49]

He appeared again as Poirot in three made-for-television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Dead Man's Folly (1986), and Murder in Three Acts (1986). Unlike earlier adaptations that were set during the time in which the novels were written, however, these TV movies were set in the contemporary era. The first of these was based on Lord Edgware Dies and was made by Warner Bros. It also starred Faye Dunaway and David Suchet as Inspector Japp, just before Suchet began to play the famous detective. David Suchet considers his performance as Japp to be "possibly the worst performance of [his] career".[50]

Other[edit]

  • Anatoly Ravikovich, Zagadka Endkhauza (End House Mystery) (1989; based on "Peril at End House")

Television[edit]

David Suchet[edit]

David Suchet starred as the eponymous detective in Agatha Christie's Poirot in the ITV series 1989 until in June 2013, he announced he was bidding farewell to the role. "No one could've guessed then that the series would span a quarter-century or that the classically trained Suchet would complete the entire catalogue of whodunits featuring the eccentric Belgian investigator, including 33 novels and dozens of short stories."[51] His final appearance, in an adaptation of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, aired on 13 November 2013.

Other[edit]

  • Heini Göbel, (1955; an adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express for the West German television series Die Galerie der großen Detektive)
  • José Ferrer, Hercule Poirot (1961; Unaired TV Pilot, MGM; adaptation of "The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim")
  • Martin Gabel, General Electric Theater (4/1/1962; adaptation of "The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim")
  • Horst Bollmann Black Coffee 1973
  • Ian Holm, Murder by the Book, 1986
  • Alfred Molina, Murder on the Orient Express, 2001
  • Konstantin Raikin, Neudacha Puaro (Poirot's Failure) (2002; based on "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd")

Animated[edit]

In 2004, NHK (Japanese public TV network) produced a 39 episode anime series titled Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, as well as a manga series under the same title released in 2005. The series, adapting several of the best-known Poirot and Marple stories, ran from 4 July 2004 through 15 May 2005, and in repeated reruns on NHK and other networks in Japan. Poirot was voiced by Kōtarō Satomi and Miss Marple was voiced by Kaoru Yachigusa.

Radio[edit]

Radio adaptations of the Poirot stories also appeared, most recently twenty seven of them on BBC Radio 4 (and regularly repeated on BBC 7, later BBC Radio 4 Extra), starring John Moffatt; Maurice Denham and Peter Sallis have also played Poirot on BBC Radio 4, Mr. Denham in The Mystery of the Blue Train and Mr. Sallis in Hercule Poirot's Christmas. In 1939, Orson Welles and the Mercury Players dramatised Roger Ackroyd on CBS's Campbell Playhouse.[52] A 1945 radio series of at least 13 original half-hour episodes (none of which apparently adapt any Christie stories) transferred Poirot from London to New York and starred character actor Harold Huber,[53] perhaps better known for his appearances as a police officer in various Charlie Chan films. On 22 February 1945, "speaking from London, Agatha Christie introduced the initial broadcast of the Poirot series via shortwave".[52]

BBC Radio 4 Poirot radio dramas[edit]

Recorded and released (John Moffatt stars as Poirot unless otherwise indicated):

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • Murder on the Links
  • The Christmas Pudding
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • The Mystery of the Blue Train (* Maurice Denham)
  • Peril at End House
  • Lord Edgware Dies (aka Thirteen at Dinner)
  • Murder in Mesopotamia
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Three Act Tragedy
  • Death in the Clouds
  • The ABC Murders
  • Dumb Witness
  • Cards on the Table
  • Death on the Nile
  • Appointment With Death
  • Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (* Peter Sallis)
  • One, Two Buckle My Shoe
  • Sad Cypress
  • Evil Under the Sun
  • Five Little Pigs
  • Taken at the Flood
  • Mrs McGinty’s Dead
  • After the Funeral
  • Dead Man’s Folly
  • Hallowe’en Party
  • Elephants Can Remember
  • Black Coffee
  • The Big Four
  • The Hollow
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Cat Among the Pigeons
  • The Clocks
  • Third Girl
  • Curtain

Parodies and references[edit]

In a 1964 episode of the TV series "Burke's Law" entitled "Who Killed Supersleuth?", Ed Begley plays a parody of Poirot named Bascule Doirot.

In Revenge of the Pink Panther, Poirot makes a cameo appearance in a mental asylum, portrayed by Andrew Sachs and claiming to be "the greatest detective in all of France, the greatest in all the world".

In Neil Simon's Murder By Death, American actor James Coco plays "Milo Perrier", a parody of Poirot. The film also features parodies of Charlie Chan, Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and Miss Marple.

Dudley Jones played Poirot in the film The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977).

In the movie Spice World, Poirot (Hugh Laurie) accuses a weapons-packing Emma Bunton of the crime.

In Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Poirot appears as a young boy on the train transporting Holmes and Watson. Holmes helps the boy in opening a puzzle-box, with Watson giving the boy advice about using his "little grey cells", giving the impression that Poirot first heard about grey cells and their uses from Dr. Watson. Poirot would go on to use the "little grey cells" line countless times throughout Agatha Christie's fiction.

The Belgian brewery Brasserie Ellezelloise makes a highly rated stout called Hercule[54] with a moustachioed caricature of Hercule Poirot on the label.

In the final host segment of Mystery Science Theater 3000's episode "The Rebel Set", Tom Servo dresses up as Poirot and impersonates him in an attempt to discover the identity of B-movie actor Merritt Stone.

Jason Alexander played Poirot in episode 8 of Muppets Tonight in a spoof called "Murder on the Disoriented Express".

Poirot is parodied twice in sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look, where he is played by David Mitchell; one sketch sees him identifying a killer due to her use of "the evil voice"—a voice that only murderers use—admitting that he otherwise had no evidence, and a later sketch sees him meeting a ship captain who is also played by Mitchell.

Leo Bruce parodied Hercule Poirot with the character Amer Picon in his book Case for Three Detectives (1936); the other two characters were parodies of Lord Peter Wimsey and Father Brown.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Agatha Christie (1890–1976)". Retrieved 6 September 2006. 
  2. ^ Reproduced as the "Introduction" to Christie 2013
  3. ^ a b Christie 1939.
  4. ^ Propaganda for War. The Campaign Against American Neutrality, 1914-1917. Kennikat. 1968. 
  5. ^ "Poirot". Official Agatha Christie website. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Lask, Thomas (6 August 1975). "Hercule Poirot is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective; Hercule Poirot, the Detective, Dies". The New York Times. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Willis, Chris (16 July 2001). "Agatha Christie (1890–1976)". The Literary Encyclopedia. The Literary Dictionary Company. ISSN 1747-678X. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Christie 2011.
  9. ^ e.g. "For about ten minutes [Poirot] sat in dead silence [...] and all the time his eyes grew steadily greener" Christie 1939, Chapter 5
  10. ^ as Hastings discovers in Christie 1991, Chapter 1
  11. ^ E.g. "Hercule Poirot looked down at the tips of his patent-leather shoes and sighed." Christie 1947a
  12. ^ E.g. "And now here was the man himself. Really a most impossible person – the wrong clothes – button boots! an incredible moustache! Not his – Meredith Blake's kind of fellow at all." Christie 2011, Chapter 7
  13. ^ a b Christie 2010, Chapter 1.
  14. ^ "My stomach, it is not happy on the sea"Christie 1980, Chapter 8, iv
  15. ^ "he walked up the steps to the front door and pressed the bell, glancing as he did so at the neat wrist-watch which had at last replaced an old favourite – the large turnip-faced watch of early days. Yes, it was exactly nine-thirty. As ever, Hercule Poirot was exact to the minute." Christie 2011b
  16. ^ Christie 2013a.
  17. ^ a b Christie 2004b.
  18. ^ "It has been said of Hercule Poirot by some of his friends and associates, at moments when he has maddened them most, that he prefers lies to truth and will go out of his way to gain his ends by elaborate false statements, rather than trust to the simple truth." Christie 2011b, Book One, Chapter 9
  19. ^ E.g. "After a careful study of the goods displayed in the window, Poirot entered and represented himself as desirous of purchasing a rucksack for a hypothetical nephew." Hickory Dickory Dock, Chapter 13
  20. ^ Christie 1947b.
  21. ^ Christie 2006b, final chapter<.
  22. ^ Christie 2005, Chapter 18.
  23. ^ Dr. Sheppard Christie 2009, Chapter 21
  24. ^ Christie 2004b, Chapter 16.
  25. ^ Christie 2004b, Chapter 17.
  26. ^ "Hercule Poirot was a Catholic by birth." Christie 1947a
  27. ^ In Taken at the Flood, Book II, Chapter 6 Poirot goes into church to pray and happens across a suspect with whom he briefly discusses ideas of sin and confession. Christie 1948
  28. ^ Christie 2009b, Chapter 15.
  29. ^ Christie 1939, Chapter 7.
  30. ^ The date is given in Christie 2009b, Chapter 15
  31. ^ Christie 1975, Postscript.
  32. ^ Christie 2013b.
  33. ^ Recounted in Christie 2012. The events in the story are immediately connected with the First World War, and feature an "Allied Conference" at Versailles that is probably meant to be understood as the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919.
  34. ^ Poirot, in Christie 2012
  35. ^ Cassatis, John (1979). The Diaries of A. Christie. London.
  36. ^ "The Capture of Cerebus" (1947). The first sentence quoted is also a close paraphrase of something said to Poirot by Hastings in Chapter 18 of The Big FourChristie 2004b
  37. ^ Christie 2006a Dr. Burton in the Preface
  38. ^ Christie 2004a, Chapter 13 in response to the suggestion that he might take up gardening in his retirement, Poirot answers "Once the vegetable marrows, yes – but never again".
  39. ^ Christie 2004b, Chapter 18.
  40. ^ Christie 1952, Chapter 4.
  41. ^ Christie 2004b, Chapter 1.
  42. ^ a b Christie 2011c, Chapter 1.
  43. ^ Christie 2006a, Chapter 14.
  44. ^ Christie 1961.
  45. ^ Christie 2011c.
  46. ^ "Hastings, Captain Arthur, O.B.E.". The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia. New York: Pocket Books. 2000. 
  47. ^ Captain Arthur Hastings Christie 2004b, Chapter 9
  48. ^ TV & Film page[dead link] at the Hercule Poirot Central website.
  49. ^ Hercule Poirot, Map dig .[dead link]
  50. ^ Suchet, David, "Interview", Strand mag .
  51. ^ Henry Chu (19 July 2013). "David Suchet bids farewell to Agatha Christie's Poirot - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  52. ^ a b Cox, Jim, Radio Crime Fighters, 2002, p. 18, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, ISBN 978-0-7864-1390-4
  53. ^ "A list of episodes of the half-hour 1945 radio program". Otrsite.com. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  54. ^ "The Brasserie Ellezelloise's Hercule". Brasserie-ellezelloise.be. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 

Works[edit]

External links[edit]