Monday, February 26, 2018

THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR BLOGATHON: The Mirror Crack'd (1980)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting The Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon from February 25 - 27th. Click HERE for all the tributes.

"Why, Miss Marple, you were right!" A young neighbour is surprised that Miss Marple has deduced the ending to a mystery film. She shouldn't have been shocked. After all, Jane Marple has spent her entire life in St. Mary Meade, and life in the village has presented the entire world to the keen observer.

Bond film director Guy Hamilton (Evil Under the Sun) directed this 1980 film based on Agatha Christie's 1962 novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. Ms. Christie's inspiration for the plot was the tragic circumstances surrounding Gene Tierney's child's disability due to an encounter with a fan suffering from rubella. Ms. Tierney herself bravely recounted the events in her 1979 autobiography (written with Mickey Herskowitz) Self-Portrait.

Ms. Lansbury's portrayal of Jane Marple veers more toward the bluffness of Margaret Rutherford's interpretation rather than the delicate pointedness of Joan Hickson. Angela adds an extra large helping of an uncanny ability to annoy. This Aunt Jane is quite the bothersome know-it-all.


Elizabeth Taylor, resplendently costumed by Phyllis Dalton.

Elizabeth Taylor plays Marina Rudd, a British born Hollywood film star who has returned home with her loving husband, a director, for a new film and a new lease on life after a tragedy robbed her career of years.Her child from an earlier marriage had been born disabled and placed in an institution. Marina's husband, Jason Rudd played by Rock Hudson is very protective of his fragile wife.

Twenty-five years after their pairing in Giant, it is a pleasure to see Taylor and Hudson reunited on the screen, but also a shame that there hadn't been more opportunities to see them together in the intervening years.

In Christie's novel the character of Jason is described as homely, but with a deeply soothing voice. Rock would never be described as homely, but he does indeed have a most soothing voice. The novel also includes the back story of Marina having adopted several children before the birth of her own, and this was not used in the adaptation.

The Rudds have bought an estate near everyone's favourite garden spot, St. Mary Meade. Miss Marple's dear friend Dolly Bantry (The Body in the Library), the previous owner of the estate still maintains a residence on the property and is an honoured guest at a fete which is a tribute for a local charity and movie star Marina. Tragedy occurs during the celebration, and although laid up with an injury, all details are reported to Miss Marple.


Kim Novak, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor

Marina: "Lola, dear, you know, there are only two things I dislike about you."
Lola: "Really? What are they?"
Marina: "Your face."

During a receiving line, Marina deals with many surprises. One is the arrival of a vapid movie queen Lola Brewster played by Kim Novak, and her brash producer husband Martin Fenn played by Tony Curtis. Neither Marina nor Jason are happy to see them, but it gives our players a chance at some high dudgeon. The screenplay by Jonathan Hales (Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones) and Barry Sandler (The Other Side of Midnight) augments the story with a generous dose of Hollywood bitchiness between the actress characters who are always vying for the spotlight whether on or off the screen.


Maureen Bennett plays a gushing film fan.

The other shock to Marina on the day of the fete comes in the form of a babbling fan, Heather Babcock played by Maureen Bennett, who goes on and on in a story of how once, years ago, she disobeyed orders to stay in bed due to illness so that she could see her favourite star perform. She even got to kiss her! Putting the timing of the earlier encounter together with the birth defect of her child, Marina realizes that this "fan" caused her greatest heartbreak. Before the end of the party, this fan dies of poisoning.


Rock Hudson, Geraldine Chaplin

During the investigation, there are many suspects and other murders. Jason's assistant, Ella, played by the always watchable Geraldine Chaplin, is both. Her romantic attachment to her boss is the inescapable fact that makes her a suspect and a victim.


Angela Lansbury, Edward Fox

Inspector Craddock of Scotland Yard, here given the honour of being able to call Miss Marple "Aunt Jane", is played with a subtly wry intelligence by Edward Fox. He appreciates the insight Miss Marple can provide in wading through the myriad of emotional motives and linking them to the physical evidence. However, you certainly don't get the feeling that he relies on her completely. They are more partners in crime, if you will.

The story and characters are always the main interest of a Christie story and in this adaptation there is much to enjoy, primarily the performances of Elizabeth Taylor and Edward Fox. The interrogation scene between detective and movie star is beautifully played and memorably entertaining.

The Mirror Crack'd was the end of a fairly prolific time for Elizabeth during the 1970s. She would make only two more feature films, 1988s Young Toscanini for Franco Zeffirelli and a fun outing in 1994s The Flintstones as Fred's mother-in-law. Television would provide fans a chance to enjoy the great star and actress in everything from The Simpsons to These Old Broads in 2001 with Debbie Reynolds, Joan Collins and Shirley MacLaine. It is a shame Kim Novak wasn't also cast so she and Liz could revive the diverting Marina vs. Lola feud.










11 comments:

  1. The Tierney rubella story has been convincingly debunked by
    "enty lawyer" on twitter.

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    1. Interesting, if true, but it doesn't negate the story's influence on Christie's novel or is the twitter lawyer saying it was the other way around?

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  2. I loved the ET of the 70s - she really got it together and showed her stuff. I saw her on Broadway in "The Little Foxes" and - although Maureen Stapleton pretty much acted her off the stage - she was so beautiful and magnetic you thought you were in the presence of a queen. And we were.

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    1. What a wonderful experience The Little Foxes must have been! Elizabeth truly was a magnetic personality. There is something about the live theatre experience; a true sense of sharing that time with the performers.

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  3. Nice! I loved this film but it's hard not to love a film with so many stars in it :-). I thought Liz and Rock Hudson had great tragic chemistry in this film. I'm surprised you didn't like Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple. I actually thought she struck the balance between assertiveness and delicacy here. I think I read somewhere that she was slated to do more Miss Marple films but then there was this little TV series about a sleuthing mystery writer that got in the way instead. Hmmm, wonder what that could have been ;-)...

    Tam May
    The Dream Book Blog
    http://thedreambook.wordpress.com/

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    1. I surprised myself in not liking Angela's work as Jane Marple. It is the only time I given her the folded arms and pursed lips treatment. Yes, seems to me I heard something about her doing a show as a mystery writer. Whatever happened to that? Sounded like a good idea. H'm.

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  4. I like that movie too. What's not to like about the all-star cast? I'm fine with Lansbury as Miss Marple, though she's not my favorite. That's Joan Hickson. I'll have to rewatch.

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    1. It appears I am in the minority when it comes to Angela's take on Jane. I wonder where she might place her performance in the group of Miss Marples. Maybe, like us, Angela is a Joan Hickson fan.

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  5. I'm not really sold on Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple either and the film is a significant step down from its predecessors. The same producers' Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile were more entertaining and had more interesting period settings. The English village location seems a bit too familiar for this kind of story. The peculiar cast is the main thing that keeps it interesting, although the big stars are not very good and seem too out of place, Liz Taylor is very wooden as I remember it.

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    1. Something about the adaptation or perhaps the editing made the story as filmed feel disjointed, as if something were missing. It is not in the same league as other Christies of the period, but Edward Fox made up for most of its sins.

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  6. Great to revisit this movie, as much more of an all star cast as I remembered! Do love these Agatha Christie all star casts!

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