Miss Marple witnesses a man strangling a woman through the window of a passing train. However, when police cannot turn up any evidence of the homicide, they dismiss the amateur sleuth as a dotty old woman. She enlists the help of Mr. Stringer, the village librarian and a kindred spirit, to trace the exact point where the body was thrown from the train. After the location is pinpointed at Ackenthorpe Hall, she is able to insinuate herself into the manor house disguised as a maid. Although the lord of the manor is a stingy but likable curmudgeon, Miss Marple suspects the body and the murderer can be found on the premises.
Margaret Rutherford ... Miss Jane Marple
Arthur Kennedy ... Dr. Paul Quimper
Muriel Pavlow ... Emma Ackenthorpe
James Robertson Justice ... Ackenthorpe
Thorley Walters ... Cedric Ackenthorpe
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell ... Inspector Craddock (as Charles Tingwell)
Conrad Phillips ... Harold Ackenthorpe
Ronald Howard ... Brian Eastley
Joan Hickson ... Mrs. Kidder
Stringer Davis ... Mr. Jim Stringer
Ronnie Raymond ... Alexander
Gerald Cross ... Albert Ackenthorpe
Michael Golden ... Hillman
Barbara Leake ... Mrs. Hilda Stainton
Gordon Harris ... Bacon
Murder She Said marked the first big-screen appearance of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. The script by David Pursall and Jack Seddon is based on the 1957 novel "4:50 From Paddington". It's success lead to three more equally entertaining films starring Margaret Rutherford. Agatha Christie liked Rutherford as an actress but thought that she was all wrong for the part. Indeed Rutherford is nothing like the Jane Marple that Joan Hickson would portray in the highly successful BBC series of the 1980's-90's, but she is a delight to watch as she makes the part entirely her own and earned herself a legion of fans. Incedentally, Hickson appears in this film in a minor role as the miserable housekeeper Mrs Kidder. A great supporting cast includes Muriel Pavlow, Arthur Kennedy and James Robertson Justice. Charles Tingwell plays the hapless Inspector Craddock who cannot bear Miss Marple interfering and solving his cases for him, a role which in which he is featured in all the entries in this series. Another regular in the series is Stringer Davis (Rutherford's real life husband) who plays the local librarian and her closest friend Mr Stringer.
Director George Pollock worked steadily as an assistant director during the forties and fifties and during that time he learned at the feet of some of Britain's most acclaimed directors such as Thorold Dickinson on Gaslight (1940) and David Lean on Brief Encounter, Great Expectations (both 1945) and Oliver Twist (1948). After directing a few trivial comedies such as Village Of Daughters (1961), Pollock had an opportunity with the Marple films to show that he was a very good director investing the films with great British humour as well as intriguing mystery making them timeless entertainment. The films resembled the quota quickies of the 1950's, but they were done with a slightly higher budget, more professionalism and better production values. In addition, Ron Goodwin's music is splendid and the harpsichord laden theme tune would become familiar as it was used in all the other entries in this series. I don't think I would be going over the top to use a well worn phrase "they don't make them like that anymore". "4:50 From Paddington" has been filmed twice subsequently. In 1987 the BBC gave us a faithful but rather stodgy version starring Joan Hickson and ITV filmed it in 2004 as part of their new series of Miss Marple whodunits starring Geraldine McEwan. But the less said about these the better.
Sequels: MURDER AT THE GALLOP (1963), MURDER MOST FOUL (1964) and MURDER AHOY (produced in 1964 but released in late 1965 to space out the series).
As other critics have previously pointed out, Margaret Rutherford's portrayal of Jane Marple has little in common with the visions of the character's creator, Agatha Christie. However, just as Basil Rathbone's depiction of Sherlock Holmes (both in his character portrayal and in the film company's telling of most of the tales) had little to do with the original writer's intentions, so too did both he and Miss Rutherford seem to create pseudo-characters, from worthwhile plots, of equal value and entertainment levels.
As the first of a wonderful quartet of easy-to-view movies made in black and white in early 60's England (and the second best of them, overall, in my opinion), this appropriately atmospheric film takes us through a clever little screenplay centred around the family of a large estate 'in the sticks' (on the outskirts of London). The storyline is littered with a mixture of eccentric and fundamental cameo parts that serve up the right amount of suspense and partial comedy as Miss Marple (and her buddy, Mr.Stringer) take it upon themselves to solve a railway murder that Inspector Craddock, the local 'head plod', had put down to being the by-product of her rambling 'hallucinations'.
Not surprisingly, we are kept on our toes as to whom was the culprit as the intrepid Jane goes undercover as a geriatric maid who proves to be so competent in her matriarchal manoeuvres that the 'Lord of the Manor' (superbly played, as ever, by the magnificent James Robertson Justice) seeks her hand in marriage as a sort of reward for her spirited detective work. However, Dame Rutherford had Stringer to consider - not least because he was her partner in real life - and there were of course other stories to film in the future...
What a pity they didn't follow Rathbone and Bruce by making around a dozen of these marvellous movies!
The great pity about these Marple Murder movies with Rutherford is that we only have FOUR of these to relish and pore over.
Miss Rutherford depicts here perhaps the most charming depiction of the classic Miss Marple character invented by Agatha Christie.
The utter busy-body biddy-ness and snappy-snippy wit which bubbles out of Rutherford will be quite enough for the setting of just about any comedy. We are fortunate that Rutherford took these on and fashioned her most famous roles. That we are lucky enough that MGM UK brought these out and that they are FINALLY on DVD as a set on Amazon.com is our great fortune! There should have been one more of the series but we should be grateful that we have these for posterity and much fun! Kudos to the great cast here and to Ron Goodwin's WONDERFUL score that pervades the series. Every time I hear this music, my spirits are lifted and I know that whatever I am about to see is going to be wonderful and murder most delicious! Recommended and Required Viewing!