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CinemaInternational

Murder, She Wrote Appreciation Thread

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 It was Simply Fabulous the way she featured the MGM people.

One of the first ones that I saw was Jackie Cooper doing a two-parter playing her mysterious brother-in-law.

It seems like she brought back Van Johnson a number of times and a few times it seemed as though he was actually living next door to June Allyson.

And what had to be one of his last TV roles, I saw the ill-fated Gary Crosby giving a great performance as usual.

But I just died when I saw all my old Flames from the 60's.

Robert Stack, Craig Stevens, George Maharis, Max Baer Jr, Richard Beymer, Vince Edwards, Clu Glugar and Robert Vaughn were still with us.

What a terrific show that was co-starring Robert Vaughn with Connie Stevens.

 Murder She Wrote was like one long Curtain Call or Encore for the classic days of TV and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

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Richard Beymer was cast in many episodes. He usually played smarmy types, but not necessarily the murderer. Robert Vaughn was in one of my favorite later episodes with Broadway actress Marian Seldes when they were putting on that play about the witch burned at the stake in Cabot Cove.

In addition to Hollywood stars, many Broadway actors that Angela knew were cast in the show.

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6 minutes ago, Hibi said:

Richard Beymer was cast in many episodes. Robert Vaughn was in one of my favorite later episodes with Broadway actress Marian Seldes when they were putting on that play about the witch burned at the stake in Cabot Cove.

Once we start to talk about these episodes, I'm surprised how many I have seen. Because I did not watch the original run of the show on network primetime television.

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It was a Sunday night habit with me. I'd watch 60 Minutes, Murder and often the tv movie after it, if it was something I was interested in. Just wasnt the same when they moved it to Thursday. Dont think I missed an episode until they moved it. Always loved the coming attractions (which they dont run in syndication) NEXT ON MURDER SHE WROTE! (Angela's voice).

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15 minutes ago, Hibi said:

It was a Sunday night habit with me. I'd watch 60 Minutes, Murder and often the tv movie after it, if it was something I was interested in. Just wasnt the same when they moved it to Thursday. Dont think I missed an episode until they moved it. Always loved the coming attractions (which they dont run in syndication) NEXT ON MURDER SHE WROTE! (Angela's voice).

Those intros still appear on most of the DVDs. In Season 11, there were many episodes (maybe even almost all of them) that didn't have that, and some Season 11 episodes even had pre-credit scenes (!), but they brought that back the intros for the final year.

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59 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

 it seems like Margaret O'Brien was under one of those hair dryers too.

Margaret wasn't in one of those, but she did appear in a small-town episode that was delightful: an episode where Jessica is in Texas and helps to solve three murders with the help of a fan club of hers (Margaret, Betty Garrett, Janet Blair, Marie Windsor, and Terry Moore) which lost one of its members (Jane Withers) to the killer. 

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I was lucky enough to appear in two episodes as a co-star. It was a well-oiled machine and an easy set to be on. The Shaw's and their crew were extremely gracious to this somewhat young but definitely inexperienced TV actor. A treasured memory to be sure.

When I look back now on how nervous I was it strikes me how polished and professional Angela Lansbury was at 19 in GASLIGHT. 

"I should've gone to an acting school, that seems clear
Still someone said, "He's sincere", so I'm here"

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Another show I have been watching a lot lately is Perry Mason. It has a lot of stars from the 30’s & 40’s plus many up & comers who were doing a lot of episodic television at the beginning of their careers. And it had a great regular cast. Even the made for TV movies they did in the late 80’s early 90’s were very good. 

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27 minutes ago, Michael Rennie said:

Was there ever an explanation why Jessica didn't drive?

She didn't have a licence, I think it was said in an episode or two, but never a reason as to why she never learned.

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4 hours ago, HelenBaby2 said:

Another show I have been watching a lot lately is Perry Mason. It has a lot of stars from the 30’s & 40’s plus many up & comers who were doing a lot of episodic television at the beginning of their careers. And it had a great regular cast. Even the made for TV movies they did in the late 80’s early 90’s were very good. 

I got a serious Perry Mason addiction about 20 years and it really started with the color  "Return of Perry Mason" TV movies Way back when the original series was on  VHF, before I had access to the DVDs.

Executive producer Gail Patrick was a supporting movie star in the Golden Era. So she knew an awful lot of people and utilized them quite well. You'll see Otto Kruger several times on the old series  and  Gail Patrick acted with him in the old movies as well.

One of the few times that I've seen Loretta Young and Clark Gable's daughter in an acting role was on Perry Mason.

I've got an anniversary Perry Mason DVD which features the outstanding performances of the young newcomers like Robert Redford, as well as the special performances by stars like Bette Davis.

My hobby is trying to name as many all-time Stars, TV performers and character actors and actresses in general before the credits roll. LOL

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"Murder ... She Hoped!" was the Mad magazine parody title, as I recall. I would have been terrified to invite Jessica to anything, because someone always got killed everywhere she went!

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I don't think that In the Heat of the Night was particularly violent for a police TV show

of that era. The focus was rarely on the violence itself, though I did feel a little sorry

for the dude who was killed before he could finish his pizza.

I watched Murder She Wrote in its original run and saw most of the episodes and have

seen some of them in syndication over the years, but not recently. I too prefer the earlier

ones set in Cabot Cove. I assume the producers thought folks would get tired of Cabot Cove

and decided to extend the action outside of it. The ones where Jessica would visit her rich

friends were kind of boring.

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16 hours ago, Michael Rennie said:

Was there ever an explanation why Jessica didn't drive?

I don't think so. I'm not sure she COULDN'T drive, but living in a small town she didn't need to do so. Living in New York would also be easier w/out a car. Was never explained where Jessica and her husband were from either. She wasnt a lifelong resident (maybe her husband was?) as she made mention several times during the series of moving there or being the "new girl in town". She didnt have to speak with a Maine accent, which I imagine would've become annoying over time.

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15 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

She didn't have a licence, I think it was said in an episode or two, but never a reason as to why she never learned.

I don't remember her saying that, though it may have been true. Never much was said about her family either. Obviously she must've had siblings (or her husband did) as several nieces and her nephew appeared on the show. But none of her siblings appeared on the show. She was there to solve crimes! I think it could've expanded her character more if they had did that. (Sibling rivalry; feuds etc.) Maybe have one accused of murder!

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5 minutes ago, Hibi said:

I don't think so. I'm not sure she COULDN'T drive, but living in a small town she didn't need to do so. Living in New York would also be easier w/out a car. Was never explained where Jessica and her husband were from either. She wasnt a lifelong resident (maybe her husband was?) as she made mention several times during the series of moving there or being the "new girl in town". She didnt have to speak with a Maine accent, which I imagine would've become annoying over time.

I don't think the show's creators tried to fashion a wholly original character. They borrowed a lot of her traits from Miss Marple. However, I was just reading online that even Miss Marple had once served as an ambulance driver in WWI.

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18 hours ago, HelenBaby2 said:

Another show I have been watching a lot lately is Perry Mason. It has a lot of stars from the 30’s & 40’s plus many up & comers who were doing a lot of episodic television at the beginning of their careers. And it had a great regular cast. Even the made for TV movies they did in the late 80’s early 90’s were very good. 

Yes. Unfortunately they are so edited now it's hard to follow the plot. They must cut out at LEAST 5 mins for more commercials. Many familiar faces (some on their way down, others on their way up). I remember seeing Fay Wray several times. Colleen Grey, many others.

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18 hours ago, yanceycravat said:

I was lucky enough to appear in two episodes as a co-star. It was a well-oiled machine and an easy set to be on. The Lansbury's and their crew were extremely gracious to this somewhat young but definitely inexperienced TV actor. A treasured memory to be sure.

When I look back now on how nervous I was it strikes me how polished and professional Angela Lansbury was at 19 in GASLIGHT. 

"I should've gone to an acting school, that seems clear
Still someone said, "He's sincere", so I'm here"

WOW! Could you tell us which episodes or is that being too nosy? You don't have to say which character you played!

 

"I'M STILL HERE!" (Great song).

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11 hours ago, Vautrin said:

I don't think that In the Heat of the Night was particularly violent for a police TV show

of that era. The focus was rarely on the violence itself, though I did feel a little sorry

for the dude who was killed before he could finish his pizza.

I watched Murder She Wrote in its original run and saw most of the episodes and have

seen some of them in syndication over the years, but not recently. I too prefer the earlier

ones set in Cabot Cove. I assume the producers thought folks would get tired of Cabot Cove

and decided to extend the action outside of it. The ones where Jessica would visit her rich

friends were kind of boring.

And you could count on the host being accused of murder! Who'd want her coming for a visit???

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I don't think the show's creators tried to fashion a wholly original character. They borrowed a lot of her traits from Miss Marple. However, I was just reading online that even Miss Marple had once served as an ambulance driver in WWI.

Miss Marple was a retiring never married spinster who absolutely kept the norms of Edwardian Society.

I've read biographies of Miss Marple and I cannot verify that she did serve as an ambulance driver in World War 1. But she had a special driver in her Village who always drove for her.

The real kick about Miss Marple is that no one would ever suspect a middle-class spinster like herself,

who was so carefully adhering to societal Norms,

to be a genius at calculating murder.

Basically Jessica is a widow who is still an attractive middle-aged woman who attracts many eligible suitors and who enjoys herself in that matter.

 Miss Marple attracts men too, but most of them for the most part are from Scotland Yard and have been referred to her or know her for years and have solve murders with her help. LOL

 the one similarity that you can't get around on with these two characters is that since they have no children they are always visiting some niece, nephew, cousin, and godchild or an old family friend, which promotes the plot.

Jessica seems to be close to a nephew. And Miss Marple famously raised her nephew, who now generously supports her for the extras that she could not enjoy otherwise-- like expensive Caribbean and London vacations.

The only other thing I can add is that Angela Lansbury actually played Miss Marple in "The Mirror Crack'd", which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson.

 if you look at how different she looks from the character Jessica, you might get an idea of how these two don't have fundamentally a lot in common.

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2 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

Miss Marple was a retiring never married spinster who absolutely kept the norms of Edwardian Society.

I've read biographies of Miss Marple and I cannot verify that she did serve as an ambulance driver in World War 1. But she had a special driver in her Village who always drove for her.

The real kick about Miss Marple is that no one would ever suspect a middle-class spinster like herself,

who was so carefully adhering to societal Norms,

to be a genius at calculating murder.

Basically Jessica is a widow who is still an attractive middle-aged woman who attracts many eligible suitors and who enjoys herself in that matter.

 Miss Marple attracts men too, but most of them for the most part are from Scotland Yard and have been referred to her or know her for years and have solve murders with her help. LOL

 the one similarity that you can't get around on with these two characters is that since they have no children they are always visiting some niece, nephew, cousin, and godchild or an old family friend, which promotes the plot.

Jessica seems to be close to a nephew. And Miss Marple famously raised her nephew, who now generously supports her for the extras that she could not enjoy otherwise-- like expensive Caribbean and London vacations.

The only other thing I can add is that Angela Lansbury actually played Miss Marple in "The Mirror Crack'd", which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson.

 if you look at how different she looks from the character Jessica, you might get an idea of how these two don't have fundamentally a lot in common.

But the overall idea is still the same-- an aging woman, who is not married and has no kids, travels around and solves murders. Of course Lansbury was outfitted differently in the Christie movie because it was set in a different time period. And as you say Marple was a product of her time, the way J.B. Fletcher is a product of her time. But fundamentally it's the same concept.

I am trying not to get into what I dislike about MSW since I know there are a lot of fans and this thread seems to be created for the fans. I'm a fan of the show, but there are some things I think they could have improved and it does affect my enjoyment of some of the episodes.

As for the thing about bringing in old movie stars, that was really Aaron Spelling's concept-- which he began in 1977 with The Love Boat. Spelling continued to do that on Fantasy Island and Hotel. Basically MSW borrowed that idea, which worked given the show's format since Jessica was supposed to be solving murders in different locations with different casts of characters.

But the main difference was that Lansbury had been an MGM contract player during the golden age of Hollywood so she had a lot of friends and contacts she could get to appear on her show, people who might have been reluctant to appear on Spelling's shows. Though a lot of the same people did appear on MSW and also on The Love Boat.

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In addition to stage stars who didn't normally work much in tv.

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13 hours ago, Vautrin said:

I don't think that In the Heat of the Night was particularly violent for a police TV show of that era.

That might be so. The show was based on current times. Guess things were pretty nasty in Sparta. Just like Murder, She Wrote, Sparta, Mississippi was not real.

I like Matlock but never got into Perry Mason.

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You've discussed a lot of the classic era performers who appeared on the show, but what about those that appeared early in their career? Can you think of anyone?

I recall one with a young Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad fame.

There was one on the other night with Julianna Marguiles, who would go on to ER and The Good Wife.

And one features a young Bill Maher long before Politically Incorrect or Real Time.

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