Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

I’ve been watching Miss Marple TV sequences the past few nights – the ones with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Hickson lived from August 1906 to October 1998. The International Movie Data Base (IMDB) lists her last credit as being 1993; so perhaps she didn’t keep working past the age of 87.

In one of the sequences she walked down a paved park-like walkway. She walked a long way and did it well enough, but I wondered about her strength and her frailness as she did so. Hickson reminds me quite a bit of two aunts that I saw quite a lot of as a boy. I was fond of both of them and have been partial to little old ladies ever since. I can’t recall how long these aunts of mine lived, but not as long as Hickson I’m quite sure.

There is something calming about Hickson’s portrayal. She doesn’t agonize over the past or feel sorry for herself. She is not self-centered but instead interested in those around her. And she can be content to sit and knit while she thinks or watches. Yet, some of the policemen who admire her call her the greatest “natural” forensic psychologist they have ever known.

She isn’t presented as someone who reads a lot. Perhaps she was supposed to have done so when she was younger. I did read the Agatha Christie novels, but I can’t recall how Christie presents her history. Miss Marple knows the poem, “The Lady of Shallot,” for example, and one suspects she has at one time or another read all the great English literature. But all she does at this stage of her life is knit and watch, until it is time to draw conclusions from what she has seen and thought about.

Perhaps reading is somewhat like what Miss Marple does. We keep on doing it, some of us, when the end of that great long walkway is in sight – probably not literal sight, but we know that if we make it to 100, we probably won’t like it there. So we’ll want to stop shy of that, thinking we’ve walked quite far enough, find a quiet place – a place with grass and shade if we can – and lie down.

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