Monday, April 10, 2017

While Miz Kittling Knits: The Misses Marple

I seem to have gotten my knitting mojo back. I don't know if it's because I finally finished the project I'm about to show you or what. Now I'm knitting feverishly on another gift, and I've started another bit of lace. Hopefully, I've chosen a lace pattern that won't drive me around the twist!

Here I am, blocking my latest lace project (complete with a porcupine on my wrist). This free Swedish scarf pattern is called Lataa, and I worked it on size six needles using a fingering weight yarn from Madelinetosh in a color I love called "Lepidoptera." None of the photos I took did justice to the depth of color of this light merino wool.

While I'm on the subject of wool, I can't get over how much wool seems to have changed since I was a child (or perhaps I'm the one who's changed). Back then, wool was horribly scratchy and my mother refused to knit anything using it. The wool yarns I've been using lately haven't been itchy at all, although they do require a bit more care in laundering than acrylic yarns do-- exactly as they did in the past.

I decided to use this photo taken with a flash because it shows the pattern better; however, it does wash out the color, making it appear much lighter than it actually is. It's plenty long enough and wide enough to use as a shawl, and it could also cover your hair-- plus the wool is wonderfully soft. I'm so pleased with this attempt at knitted lace that-- as I've already stated above-- I'm hot on the trail of my next project. 

What was I watching on television while knitting this scarf? I was completing yet another project: watching all three actresses portraying the indomitable Miss Marple on television.

I still can't get over the fact that I love Miss Marple on the small screen yet do not care for her on the printed page! (Although I think it's more that I don't care for Christie's writing than not liking the character.)

Through streaming companies like Netflix and Acorn, I've been able to watch two of the three actresses who've portrayed Miss Marple: Geraldine McEwan (the lady at the bottom of my graphic) and Julia McKenzie, the lady in the middle. It wasn't until Britbox was launched here in the US that I was able to see Joan Hickson's portrayal. I'll be talking more about Britbox in a future post in case any of you fellow British TV lovers are wondering.

Each actress had something different to bring to the table, and I have to admit that I like what all three of them did. However-- keep in mind that I am not a person who's read the Marple canon, so I do not know how closely (or not) these three stick to what was written in Christie's books.

Julia McKenzie was the third to portray Miss Marple on television, and in some ways, she really didn't fit my idea of what this amateur sleuth should look like. McKenzie is small and neat and trim, looking like an extremely knowledgeable and efficient private secretary who can run the entire company while the boss is off lying on a beach somewhere. She looks too sharp to be an old lady who'd be easily dismissed.

Geraldine McEwan gave Miss Marple a twinkle in her eye and a slightly featherbrained appearance, which would make people overlook her beartrap of a mind. There was also a kindness and a sympathy to her that would make many people confide in her... perhaps thinking that she'd forget all about what they'd said five minutes after their conversation ended.

I was most anxious to see Joan Hickson's Miss Marple after having read that she was Agatha Christie's choice to portray this oh-so-famous amateur sleuth. I can see why she's many viewers' choice as the best one. Her high-pitched "Oohhh!" of surprise puts me in mind of Columbo's "Oh, there's just one more thing...." There's also such a sense of kindness and caring about her, and an air of frailty as well-- but then Hickson was in her late 70s when she began as Miss Marple and the series ended when she was 86!

When all is said and done, I prefer Joan Hickson's portrayal of Miss Marple, although I do enjoy all three actresses in the role. I prefer those adaptations as well. They tend to be shorter and make more sense-- which is probably the case since I've read that other, newer, adaptations of Christie's works have been "tarted up" a bit for modern viewers. (Come on-- does Miss Marple really need to be tarted up?!?) 

There is also a rather nitpicky reason to add to my preference for Hickson: I think she's the only one of the three who could really knit! You very seldom ever see McEwan or McKenzie in closeup when they're knitting, and regardless of distance, it's only for a stitch or two. Not only do you see Hickson in closeup with her needles, she's actually knitting and she's the only one of the three who looks at a pattern while she's plying her needles. I think this is really smart on Hickson's part. Most people are going to take a look at an old lady and write her off anyway, but if they see one knitting and taking a close look at a written pattern? They'd be convinced that the poor old dear couldn't possibly concentrate on her pattern and pay attention to what's going on and what's being said! (Oops! I think I just gave away one of my own secrets. Forget I said that!) 

I'm not even finished with my Miss Marple Project, I'll have you know! Now that I've seen all three actresses who've portrayed her on the small screen, I now want to check out those old films when Margaret Rutherford was the redoubtable sleuth-- although I can't quite imagine her wielding a pair of knitting needles....

What do you think about my project? Do you have your own opinions as to which actress is the best Miss Marple? Please share-- inquiring minds would love to know! 



  1. I probably like Christie as a writer more than you Cathy but have never liked the Marple books at all whereas I quite like all the TV adaptations. My favourite of these 3 is probably Geraldine McEwan and for the reasons you state - she's closest to the look I have always had in my mind - Joan Hickson always seemed a bit bigger than my imagined Miss Marple - but you're right that those adaptations are nice and short and stick closer to the original storylines. There are a couple of the Julia McKenzie ones that are not even Miss Marple stories (they've shoe-horned her in to Christie's non-series stories).

    1. It's good to hear from someone much better acquainted with the Marple canon than I. I was trying to learn the actresses' heights but couldn't find McKenzie's. McKenzie appears to be the shortest. Hickson was 5'5" while McEwan was a shade over 5'4", although Hickson just seems much taller.

  2. I have to admit, Cathy. I like Joan Hickson the best as Miss Marple. I'm not sure if it's because that series stayed closer to the original novels, or if it's because of Hickson herself. Either way, I agree that the others did bring something to the role. I just have a soft spot for Hickson. And I love your knitting project - gorgeous!

    1. I find it fascinating how each actress interprets the role a bit differently.

  3. I read that A bath hated the Margaret Rutherford versions of her stories, but loved Margaret herself as Jane Marple

    1. I'm looking forward to seeing one of these movies. I've seen and enjoyed other movies in which Rutherford had roles.


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