The Mirror Crack'd
|The Mirror Crack'd|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Guy Hamilton|
|Produced by||John Brabourne
|Screenplay by||Jonathan Hales
|Story by||Agatha Christie (novel)|
|Music by||John Cameron|
|Cinematography||Christopher G. Challis|
|Editing by||Richard Marden|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||105 minutes|
The Mirror Crack'd is a 1980 British mystery film based on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (1962). It was directed by Guy Hamilton and featured Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox and Rock Hudson.
Set in the fictional English village of St. Mary Mead, home of Miss Jane Marple (played by Lansbury), in 1953, a big Hollywood production company arrives to film a costume movie about Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I with two famous movie stars, Marina Rudd and Lola Brewster (played by Taylor and Novak, respectively). The two actresses are old rivals who despise each other. Marina, making a much heralded comeback after a prolonged "illness" and retirement (due to what was really a nervous breakdown), and her husband, Jason Rudd (played by Hudson), who is directing the movie they are making, arrive with their entourage. When she learns that Lola will be in the movie as well, she becomes enraged and vents her anger. Lola and her husband, Marty Fenn (played by Curtis), who is producing the movie, arrive. Excitement runs high the village as the locals have been invited to a reception held by the movie company in a manor house, Gossington Hall, to meet the celebrities. Lola and Marina come face to face at the reception and exchange some potent and comical insults, nasty one-liners, as they smile and pose for the cameras. The two square off in a series of clever cat-fights throughout the movie.
Marina, however, has been receiving anonymous death threats. After her initial exchange with Lola at the reception, she is cornered by a gushing, devoted fan, Heather Badcock (played by Maureen Bennett), who bores her with a long and detailed story about having actually met Marina in person during World War II. After recounting the meeting they had all those years ago, when she arose from her sickbed to go and meet the glamorous star, Babcock drinks a cocktail that was made for Marina and quickly dies from poisoning. The incident is unfortunate for Marina's mental state, and she is beside herself. Everyone is certain she was the intended murder victim. Once filming begins on the movie, she discovers that apart from threatening notes made up of newspaper clippings, her cup of coffee on the set has also been spiked with poison, sending her into fits of terror. The police detective from Scotland Yard investigating the case, Inspector Dermot Craddock (played by Fox), is baffled as he tries to uncover who is behind the attempt on the life of the actress and the subsequent murder of the innocent woman. The suspected are Ella Zielinsky (played by Chaplin), Jason's production assistant who is secretly having an affair with him and would like Marina out of the way, and the hotheaded actress Lola Brewster.
Inspector Craddock asks his aunt, who happens to be Jane Marple, who recently injured her foot at the reception and is confined to her home, for assistance. The main suspect, Zielinsky, is then killed by a lethal nose spray after going to a pay phone in the village, where she called the murderer and threatened to expose him. Miss Marple, now back on her feet, visits Gossington Hall, where Marina and Jason are staying, and views where Babcock's death occurred. Working from information received from her cleaning woman, Cherry Baker (played by Wendy Morgan), who was working as a waitress the day of the murder, the determined elderly sleuth begins to piece together the events of the fatal reception and solves the mystery. By the time she has collected all the evidence to indicate who committed the crime, however, another death occurs at Gossington Hall, which explains who was the killer: Marina Rudd, who has apparently committed suicide.
In the film's denouement, Miss Marple explains the murders that have occurred. Heather Babcock's story was Marina's initial motive. Ms. Babcock suffered from German measles — a rather harmless disease to most adults, but problematic for a pregnant woman. Heather Babcock innocently infected Marina when she met her during World War Two. Marina was pregnant at the time; the disease caused her child to be born with mental retardation. Upon hearing Heather cheerfully tell this story, Marina was overcome with rage and poisoned her without thinking. She then spread the idea that she was the intended victim, delivering the death threats and poisoning her own coffee. Ella, who made phone calls to various suspects from the pay phone, accidentally guessed correctly, prompting Marina to murder her. As Marina is now dead, she will not be brought to justice. Jason confesses to Miss Marple that he had put poison in her hot chocolate so as to save her from being prosecuted. However, Marina didn't touch the hot chocolate he made for her and took the poison herself directly.[clarification needed]
Probable real-life inspiration
Christie's inspiration for the motive likely came from an incident in the real-life of American film star Gene Tierney. In June 1943, while pregnant with her first daughter, Tierney contracted German measles during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Due to Tierney's illness, her daughter was born deaf, partially blind with cataracts and was severely developmentally disabled. Some time after the tragedy surrounding her daughter's birth, the actress learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph at a tennis party that the woman (who was then a member of the women's branch of the Marine Corps) had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with German measles to meet Tierney at her only Hollywood Canteen appearance. In her autobiography, Tierney related that after the woman had recounted her story, she just stared at her silently, then turned and walked away. She wrote, "After that I didn't care whether ever again I was anyone's favourite actress."
Biographers theorise that Christie used this real-life tragedy as the basis of the plot of The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. The incident, as well as the circumstances under which the information was imparted to the actress, is repeated almost verbatim in Christie's story. Tierney's tragedy had been well-publicized.
- Out flew the web and floated wide--
- The mirror crack'd from side to side;
- "The curse is come upon me", cried
- The Lady of Shalott.
- Angela Lansbury as Miss Jane Marple
- Kim Novak as Lola Brewster
- Elizabeth Taylor as Marina Rudd
- Rock Hudson as Jason Rudd
- Tony Curtis as Martin Fenn
- Geraldine Chaplin as Ella Zelinsky
- Charles Gray as Bates
- Edward Fox as Inspector Craddock
- Murder at Midnight (1931)
- The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (novel)
- The Mirror Crack'd (TV movie)
- Murder, She Wrote (a US television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury in a similar role to Miss Marple)
- Osborne (2006). Chronicle Books. Leading Ladies. p. 195."
- "Biography". The Official Web Site of Gene Tierney. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
- Tierney and Herskowitz (1978). Wyden Books. Self-Portrait. p. 101.