This painting was actually brought to my attention by Susan, a reader from sunny California, and I have to thank her again for letting me know about it because its story and history is quite interesting. She noticed one particular portrait that appeared in two adaptations of the same Agatha Christie novel nearly fifty years apart. Therefore, the credit for the discovery goes to her, but I'm going to flesh it out a little bit.
All well and good- the portrait never shows up again prominently in the film. In actuality, it doesn't seem that important. Perhaps it would be faintly interesting to find out who painted it and of whom it portrays, but otherwise, not climatically or thematically importantly. But, here is the real mystery. In 2004, ITV redid an adaptation of the story (which had actually been done by Joan Hickson's BBC Miss Marple series earlier). This version was titled "What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw" and starred Geraldine McEwan who is, in all honesty, not my favorite Marple. (My favorites, if you were wondering are Rutherford, Lansbury, and then Hickson- all equally good in their own respects).
Well, this version follows some aspects of the novel more faithfully. The character of Lucy plays an important role. Like Margaret Rutherford before her, Jane is given a small tour of the house by the daughter of the Crackenthorpe family (notice the different spelling). Once again, she is introduced to the portrait of the source of the family's wealth, the great grandfather or whatever who was a candy baron in turn of the century England. But, here is the mystery: it is clearly the same portrait!
Now, I've checked the Joan Hickson version very quickly and I can't seem to find anything to suggest that the portrait was also used there. But I am dying to find out exactly what this painting was used for. How did it end up in MGM in the '60s and ITV in 2004? Who is it? It is a prop portrait or a real historic portrait of a historic figure? And why was the same portrait used in two adaptations of the same story? Was it coincidence or was it purposeful, and if so why? You know I don't believe in coincidences, but either this is a very subtle homage to the Rutherford original or it is something that I do not understand. And I'd really like to! From what I can tell, the portrait can be dated anywhere from 1880-1910, which is obviously a wide range. I am unable to find an incredibly clear version of the portrait but I've engineered one the best I can. So, if you can help me find anything about this mysterious portrait, let me know. Unfortunately, my knowledge of human nature in St. Mary's Mead isn't going to help me out in this case!
|detail from Murder, She Said (1961)|
|Detail from the color version of the portrait seen on the telly|
This detail was shown in the show: I didn't create it- so I know
its accurate despite the lack of clarity in the other two stills
|My computer generated color version of the whole|
portrait: I know, its a little sloppy