Tuesday, January 29, 2019

90 YEARS OF JEAN SIMMONS BLOGATHON - Murder, She Wrote: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (1989)


The Wonderful World of Cinema and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting a blogathon tribute to the lovely actress Jean Simmons. Start HERE and HERE to relive the memories and discover new favourite performances.


Jessica Beatrice Fletcher, a teacher turned mystery author and amateur sleuth of Cabot Cove, Maine continues to enchant fans in syndication and on DVD after a 12 season television run (1984-1996) and 4 made-for-TV films. Murder, She Wrote was created by Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson and William Link.

Jean Simmons
(1929-2010)

Series star Angela Lansbury brought home 3 out of 6 Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama. Ms. Lansbury was nominated for a Primetime Emmy each of the show's 12 seasons with no wins. In 1989 her Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination was alongside Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Jean Simmons for playing Eudora McVeigh in the episode Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.

The two-part season 5 finale aired on May 14 and 21, 1989. It was written by series creator Peter S. Fischer as a possible series finale until Ms. Lansbury renewed her contract with CBS. The episode was directed by TV veteran (The Fugitive, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones) Walter Grauman.

Ron Masak, Angela Lansbury

"I've been here one year. This is my fifth murder. What is this? The murder capital of Maine? On a per capita basis, this place makes the South Bronx look like Sunnybrook Farm. I mean, is this why Tupper quit? He couldn't take it anymore? Somebody really should have warned me, Mrs. Fletcher. Now perfect strangers are coming to Cabot Cove to die."
- Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak)

If Sheriff Metzger wants any help with the mysterious body found on the beach he is not only able to ask the assistance of J.B. Fletcher, following in the habit of his predecessor Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley), but he has unsolicited input from Eudora McVeigh who came to Cabot Cove with her own agenda.

Eudora McVeigh played by Jean Simmons has been the reigning Queen of Mystery for the past two decades, but her publisher played by Richard Anderson feels her latest works are stale, especially since her marriage to Hank Shipton played by Ken Howard. Word is the publisher is looking to sign J.B. Fletcher and this rankles Eudora like nothing else.

Jean Simmons

"My career is in tatters. My marriage is hanging by a thread. And who do I have to thank for this? Dear, lovable, sweet-as-apple-pie Jessica Fletcher who just bounced me from fifth-row center to the back of the last row in the balcony."
- Eudora McVeigh (Jean Simmons)

With a lovely basket of locally grown apples as a gift, Eudora descended on Jessica's Cabot Cove home following up Jessie's polite invitation extended at a convention. Eudora wrangles a stay for the night and drugs Jessica into a sound sleep so she can rummage the house for Jessica's latest novel. Eudora has the novel copied and intends to pass it off as her own work.

Eudora is followed to Maine by her husband Hank and his grown son Bobby played by Daniel McDonald. Hank is worried by Eudora's increasingly erratic behavior and troubled by guilt over his affair with Eudora's agent Liza played by Shelley Fabares. Bobby is worried his dad is about to blow the money they have come into since the marriage.

The body on the beach that so irks Sheriff Metzger is that of a private eye who was following Hank. Liza's husband Victor Casper played by David Hedison had hired the detective to follow his wife and Hank. Ah, what a tangled web they weave.

William Windom
(1923-2012)

"A few years back, you needed this writing to help you get through the empty days and empty nights. I know that. I went through it myself. But Frank's a long time gone now, just like my Ruth. And another best seller or 10 best sellers is not going to fill that void. All I know is that if Frank Fletcher were still around you wouldn't be spending half your life chained to that typewriter and the other half chasing around the country. No, sir. You'd be out smelling the salt air at sunrise."
- Seth Hazlitt (William Windom)

Jessica is in a position where she has to discover a murderer and protect her own intellectual property. She is also grappling with the idea that her life needs more balance. These ideas were put into her head by dear friend Dr. Seth Hazlitt played by William Windom whose life is in peril at the end of the first episode. Seth has been poisoned by one of those lovely apples presented to Jessica by Eudora McVeigh.

Angela Lansbury, Jean Simmons

The piling up of evidence finds Eudora arrested for the murder of the private investigator and the poisoning of Dr. Hazlitt. There is also the little matter of Jessica's manuscript and the assault with the sedative. Nonetheless, Jessica believes Eudora is innocent of the murder and poisoning charges. Eudora's behavior indicates a breakdown of some sort and it is help she needs, and when someone needs help they can always count on Jessica Fletcher.

Everyone Jessica needs to investigate has come to Cabot Cove, Eudora's husband and stepson, her agent and her husband, and the publisher. Each has reason to fear Eudora and to fear for her. Matters of the heart and financial matters surround these people and their actions. Sadly, it is the money that will lead Jessica to the killer.

Vindicated of the crimes, her marriage over, and her career on hold, Eudora plans to visit family and reboot her life.

"I treated you shabbily. I'm ashamed and embarrassed. If there is anything I can do to make amends, I will do it. Now, please don't say anything kind. I just couldn't take it."
- Eudora McVeigh (Jean Simmons)

If Eudora can make such a huge change to find balance in her life, then Jessica can take one small step away from the typewriter and off to the harbour for a day of fishing with Seth.

Jean Simmons, Angela Lansbury, Richard Erdman

Angela Lansbury and Jean Simmons both starred in the 1966 film Mr. Buddwing, but their characters had no interaction. It is in this 1989 episode of Murder, She Wrote that we get to see the two ladies from London, with long Hollywood careers, finally together on the screen. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall is terrific television and it would have been icing on the cake to see Angela and Jean take home those Emmy Awards.












14 comments:

  1. Those first two quotes lol. I had just finished season 1 of MSW when Netflix took it off. I was so disappointed! I keep meaning to check it out season by season through my library but am too busy trying to keep up with all the great movies on TCM. Sigh. Classic Movie Fan Problems ;) I like to watch shows in order but I may have to skip ahead to this one ;) Thanks for joining the blogathon and bringing this episode to my attention!

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    1. I can relate to those Classic Movie Fan problems. Too many movies and I start missing my Classic TV. Getting lost in TV and I fall behind on my movies. Aaargh!

      I think it will be okay to skip around in the Murder, She Wrote series. Especially, if there is someone special you want to see, and there is always someone special on this show.

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  2. Wonderful review Patricia! Wow, this surely sounds like a different and exciting role for Jean! I'd like to see it! Thanks so much for participating to our blogathon!

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    1. My pleasure. Jean was wonderful in this role and the episode is a treasure.

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  3. Angie never won an Emmy for this show? That's a shame.

    This sounds like a pretty good two-parter. I only watched the show every now and then, so I don't know the ongoing plot threads, but a rival mystery writer sounds like a natural fit for a recurring character. Did they ever bring Simmons' character back?

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    1. Eudora McVeigh was a one shot deal. Any ongoing plot threads in Murder, She Wrote were to do with her relationships - Seth, nephew Grady, Sheriffs Tupper and Metzger. Old time TV.

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  4. Jean Simmons would have been a good choice for this character, and what a treat to see her with Angela Lansbury on the screen. It's time to start watching "Murder, She Wrote", methinks.

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    1. Fair warning: Murder, She Wrote can be pretty additive.

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  5. I had no idea there was an Emmy award for best Guest appearance! I'm glad Jean was nominated because she deserved it for this episode. I love all of the MSW episodes ( heck, I still watch them everyday ) but this was a particularly well-written and acted script. Thanks for this fine write-up of the show, CW.

    Angela was able to reunite with so many of her past co-stars through the series. I wonder how Simmons felt meeting up with her again since 1966. In one episode Phyllis Thaxter appears and the year-spans between when those two actresses starred together is amazing - first in 1948 ( "Tenth Avenue Angel" ), then 1964 ( "The World of Henry Orient"...also with Tom Bosley ), then "Murder She Wrote", 1992 ( ! ).

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    1. The links between Angela and some of her guest stars warms the heart and is one of the reasons the show is so re-watchable.

      The award-givers don't always get it right, but they try.

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  6. Love Murder, She Wrote and of course like all things some of the episodes were better than others though Angela Lansbury added her particular brand of dignity and class to all those she appeared in....the few that she didn't were usually the weakest of the series.

    The show did have an amazing array of guest stars especially for classic film lovers and the Jean Simmons two parter was two of the series best because of that wonderous performer. Eudora was a character with a lot of colors for her to work with and as was her custom she brought them out expertly. It would have been interesting to see her return though the thrust of the story line pretty much ruled that out.

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    1. The Return of Eudora McVeigh might have been very interesting. After all, we have The Return of Preston Giles.

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  7. What did you think of the episode with another Jean, Jean Peters? I didn't like it very well but I liked Jean P. in it and also Lucie Arnaz who played a cop that was like Tyne Daly on Cagney & Lacey. One of my favorite movie stars Carroll Baker also played a writer, a romance novelist, in an episode with William Katt, the son of Bill Williams and Barbara Hale. Angela played the mother of Carrolls character in HARLOW that also had Mike Connors and Peter Lawford. So Carroll and Mike both got to be on Angelas show. By the way, Angela was born in 1925 and Carroll in 1931, a difference of only 6 years. But it worked for me!

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  8. Lucie so tickled me as the detective in that episode that I had forgotten all about Jean Peters, and I consider myself a fan!

    I haven't seen that episode with Carroll Baker in a long time. The last time I saw William Katt was last year on an episode of The Flash. I was watching with my daughter and said "I know that guy. Who's that guy?" and just before he got killed by aliens (!) his name came to me.

    Actors actually ages never occur to me. I think of it this way, that they don't have ages, only age ranges.

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