The Mirror Crack'd

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The Mirror Crack'd
The Mirror Crack'd - poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by John Brabourne
Richard Goodwin
Screenplay by Jonathan Hales
Barry Sandler
Based on Novel:
Agatha Christie
Starring Angela Lansbury
Elizabeth Taylor
Kim Novak
Rock Hudson
Edward Fox
Geraldine Chaplin
Tony Curtis
Music by John Cameron
Cinematography Christopher G. Challis
Edited by Richard Marden
EMI Films
GW Films
Distributed by Associated Film Distribution
Release dates
  • 19 December 1980 (1980-12-19)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $11,000,000[1]

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) and directed by Guy Hamilton. It stars Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox, Rock Hudson and, in his film debut, Pierce Brosnan.

This crime/mystery was adapted by Jonathan Hales and Barry Sandler. Scenes were filmed at Twickenham Film Studios, Twickenham, London, UK, and on location in Kent.


Set in the fictional English village of St. Mary Mead, home of Miss Jane Marple (Angela Lansbury), in 1953, a big Hollywood production company arrives to film a costume film about Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I with two famous movie stars, Marina Rudd and Lola Brewster (Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak, respectively). The two actresses are old rivals who despise each other. Marina is making a much heralded comeback after a prolonged "illness" and retirement (due to what was really a nervous breakdown when her son was born with severe brain damage). She and her husband, Jason Rudd (Rock Hudson), who is directing the movie they are making, arrive with their entourage. When she learns that Lola will be in the film as well, she becomes enraged and vents her anger. Lola and her husband, Marty Fenn (Tony Curtis), who is producing the film, arrive. Excitement runs high in the village as the locals have been invited to a reception held by the film 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 verbal cat-fights throughout the movie.

After her initial exchange with Lola at the reception, Marina is cornered by a gushing, devoted fan, Heather Babcock (Maureen Bennett), who bores her with a long and detailed story about having actually met Marina in person during the Second World War. After recounting the meeting they had all those years ago, when she arose from her sickbed to go and meet the glamorous star, Heather drinks a cocktail that was made for Marina and quickly dies from poisoning. Everyone is certain Marina was the intended murder victim. Not only has Marina been receiving anonymous death threats made up of newspaper clippings, once shooting begins on the film she discovers that 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 (Edward Fox), is baffled as he tries to uncover who is behind the attempt on the life of the actress and consequent murder of an innocent woman. Inspector Craddock asks his aunt, who happens to be Jane Marple, who recently injured her foot at the reception and is therefore confined to her home, for assistance. The suspects are Ella Zielinsky (Geraldine 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.

The main suspect, Ella Zielinsky, after going to a pay phone in the village where she telephoned and threatened to expose the murderer, is killed by a lethal nasal spray substituted for her hay-fever medication.

Miss Marple, now back on her feet, visits Gossington Hall, where Marina and Jason are staying, and views where Heather's death occurred. Working from information received from her cleaning woman, Cherry Baker (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 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. Heather suffered from German measles — a rather harmless disease to most adults, but problematic for a pregnant woman. Heather innocently infected Marina when she met her during the Second World War while Marina was pregnant: she had caused Marina's child to be born with mental retardation. Upon hearing Heather cheerfully tell this story, Marina was overcome with rage and deliberately poisoned her. She then spread the idea that she was the intended victim, concocting the death threats and poisoning her own coffee. Ella, who in fact made phone calls to various suspects from a phone box, 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 his wife's hot chocolate to save her from being prosecuted; however, the drink has not been touched. Marina is nonetheless found dead, seeming to have poisoned herself.

Probable real-life inspiration[edit]

Biographers theorise that Christie used an incident in the real-life of American film star Gene Tierney as the basis of the plot of The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.[2][3][4] 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 severely developmentally disabled. Sometime 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".[citation needed]

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 life experience had been well-publicized.


The title is part of a line from The Lady of Shalott by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

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.


In addition, Anthony Steel, Dinah Sheridan, Nigel Stock, Hildegard Neil, John Bennett and Allan Cuthbertson are among the actors who appear in Murder At Midnight, a black and white 'teaser' movie shown at the beginning of the film. Natalie Wood was original chosen to play the role eventually depicted by Elizabeth Taylor.[5]

Margaret Courtenay later appeared in the BBC TV adaptation The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

Filming locations[edit]

St Clere Estate, in Heaverham, part of the Sevenoaks District of Kent, was used as the grand home of Marina Rudd (Elizabeth Taylor) and her husband Jason (Rock Hudson). Ye Olde George Inn and a Bridge on Church Street in Shoreham are both noticeable in the production, doubling as part of the village of St Mary Mead. The village of Smarden and St Michael's Church are also used to double as the village of St Mary Mead. Also throughout filming the 'Thatched House' cottage in Smarden was used as Miss Marple’s cottage. Smarden is located in the Ashford district of Kent, and the traditional thatched houses and village shops made it a perfect filming location.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Mirror Crack'd (1980)". Box Office Mojo. 1980-12-19. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  2. ^ Osborne (2006). Chronicle Books. Leading Ladies. p. 195."
  3. ^ "Biography". The Official Web Site of Gene Tierney. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  4. ^ Tierney and Herskowitz (1978). Wyden Books. Self-Portrait. p. 101.
  5. ^ The Mirror Crack'd at Trailers from Hell
  6. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Mirror Crack'd Film Focus". 

External links[edit]