I am sure this series, like Golden Girls, has been done to death, but I am a newcomer to the party. Despite loving Angela Lansbury in the movies I never bothered with her tv series back in the day, as it was not the kind of thing I watched and I was out a lot then, clubbing, and at bars etc.
Now I am older I am suddenly looking at re-runs on tv (there are only 264 episodes it seems) - how on earth did she find time to churn these out as well as her stage work then ?
The fascinating thing now of course are the guest stars, and those 80s fashions. I caught a delirious one this afternoon with Anne Francis, Connie Stevens and Donald O'Connor, and I have just to keep one from yesterday, with George Maharis (in 80s big hair!), Chad Everett looking terrible in a Beatle wig, Dack Rambo (before the Aids got him) and Brenda Vacarro, looking like a less blowsy Shelley Winters!.
I bought a friend the box set of the first series, a mere 21 episodes, as I just had to see episode 14, which played like an Agatha Christie mystery with the cast trapped on a secluded island, with Capucine and Stewart Granger (25 years after their North to Alaska), Ron Moody, Judy Geeson, Robert Goulet, Cesar Romero, and others.
Obviously Lansbury worked not only with everyone in movies, but also on tv, and got all her old showbiz pals roles on the series, which she and family produced. She lived in Ireland for a while too and there are some delirious Irish episodes which are hilarious to see now (being Irish myself).
They are all very well done with good production values, so must have cost a bit to make, but no doubt the Lansburys are raking in endless repeat fees, as no doubt they will be showing them for ever on all those cable channels.
Welcome to the club. Julia Adams looks terrific in her episodes, as glamorous as she was in the 50s. Watch out for Ruth Roman too !
It used to annoy me in the sequence used at the start of each show she was always typing on an old bulky typewriter - at least she graduated to a bulky computer and printer. Now she would be tapping the stories out on a laptop or smartphone!
But yes, those early 80s episodes are a scream.
OP, she didn't do any stage work during the run of the show. (She did make TV-movies during hiatuses.)
How does she keep going? Her colleages and contemporaries (like dear Julie Harris) are dropping like flies ...
Jean Simmons was terrific in a 2-parter. Check it out.
"They are all very well done with good production values, so must have cost a bit to make"
You're kidding, right? Jessica was supposed to be travelling all over USA in her episodes, but it couldn't be more obvious that she never left LA and the Universal studios backlot.
There's a funny moment in one of the episodes-it's taking place in New Orleans, but you can spot the famous LA Capitol Records building in the background. They also used tons of stock footage, like car crashes etc.
Angie, never got over the fact that Patty Duke won the Oscar and she didn't . So b/c of that she banned Ms. Duke from appearing on 'Murder She Wrote'.
"Murder, She Wrote" is enjoyable, if you don't take it too seriously.
Out of all of the guest stars on MSW, Jean Simmons is the only one to get an Emmy nomination in the guest performer category.
She played a rival mystery novelist who tried to stab Jessica in the back. But wound up being accused of murder.
Jessica seems to get all over the world - episodes in Ireland, London, Hong Kong (France Nuyen guested),the Caribbean, Canada, episodes in New York theatreland are usually good value.
As most tv shows are shot quite quickly I imagine a lot of stock footage was used.
I love this show, even though it's rather silly.
It's funny how each episode features Jessica helping out one of her relatives, who then never makes another appearance and is never mentioned again. Exactly how many cousins and nephews does J.B. have? 532?!
Her nephew, Grady, was in a number of episodes, R12. Wasn't her cousin, Emma MacGill, in several episodes. Her cousin Helen Owens was playred by Doris Roberts. It's easy to see why they wouldn't want her back again.
Genie Francis made three appearances as her niece Victoria (with Jeff Conaway playing her husband in two of them).
In one of those New Orleans episodes you could see mountains in the distance when she got out of a cab. It may be the same one r7 mentioned. You can tell some of the "New York" scenes were done on that city street at the studio.
I would love to have been able to console nephew Grady when one of his romances went sour.
She's headlining a revival of THE CHALK GARDEN this fall on Broadway (at age 87), having just returned from starring in the Australian run of DRIVING MISS DAISY--how I wish I could have seen that.
She and Tom Bosley must have become friends on the set of "The World of Henry Orient."
And then he became Father Dowling.
Whenever there's a thread about MSW on datalounge (which happenes approximately every three weeks), someone posts a link to this video within the first five replies.
Let me do the honors this time, bitches!
Angela Lansbury really is too fabulous. If Murder She Wrote had come out a little later, she would've done a skit on SNL where she mocked her character Jessica Fletcher as a serial killer. Would've been fun.
S there a difference between FUPA and Gunt?
Looking on IMDB, it seems Jessica solved several mysteries in New Orleans. Going to Netflix now to watch them recreate the French Quarter on the backlot.
She loved roman Polanski and sucked his cock
My favorite glaring sign of the backlot is how almost every New York City block where an exterior scene took place happened to end in a T intersection (which obviously due to the grid, exceedingly few real Manhattan streets do).
I've been watching it for the first time on Netflix. It really begins to go downhill in season 8.
r7 is so right. I saw an episode on Netflix the other night that was supposed to take place in London. They showed a street scene with cars and showed a Jaguar with the steering wheel on the left side! They did have a few cars with the driver on the right, but they all seemed to be antique cars.
I never understood why anyone would ever want to spend time with that Typhoid Mary of a Jessica Fletcher.
Stop by Jessica's place for an afternoon tea? Someone ends up being murdered.
Go to a wedding where she's in attendance? Someone ends up being murdered.
Invite her to the opening of your dude ranch? Someone ends up being murdered.
I would ask her to a dinner party where I invited all of my worst enemies but, with my luck, I'd end up being the one murdered.
R21 SNL had been on the air for 9 years when MSW started.
R23 The only sight of French Quarter you'll ever see in a MSW episode will be the old stock footage in the first two minutes of the episode.
R27 That London episode was really hillarious (and not just because of cousin Emma). It was supposed to be taking place in 1985, but the London they recreated back in LA looked more like something out of a 1940s film-noir.
Thanks for a good laugh, R28.
MSW is a fun show, not "Masterpiece Theater."
She couldn't have too much life outside the studio. She was in every episode, almost every scene, except those episodes she just narrated at he beginning.
I watched it as a young boy. I don't know, if I would like to today.
MAD Magazine's parody was "Murder, She Hoped."
The best part of this show is Jessica's freeze frame laugh at the end of each episode. She's laughing her heart out, even though someone was just murdered a couple of hours ago. You gotta love our Jess!
Its fascinating seeing how people we used to see when we were young look now (or 20 years ago when these were made). I would not have recognised Richard Beymer - I mean that in a good way - or a chubbed up Edd Bynes.
Angela though can hardly ever have stopped working, whether in movies, tv or stage. Even now she is still going. Will she go on and on like the De Havilland girls, who have been totally lazy compared to busy bee Angela.
Do you think whoever made the decision to change its time slot in the twelve season, killing the show, lost their job?
Uh, what the hell is that video at R6?? Is that for real?
As someone who discovered Lansbury's career highlights after growing up with "Murder, She Wrote", it's apparent that she was really wasted on the show. I guess the money made up for it.
Angie had a lot of artistic freedom on the show, especially in the last few seasons, which are usually considered to be the worst. It was also her decision to move her character from cosy Cabot Cove to New York City.
Just wanted to point out that Jessica never fully moved from Cabot Cove to NYC. She did get an apartment in NYC and teach college courses there, but she always kept her house in Cabot Cove and some episodes still took place there.
I can't remember if Lansbury ever sang on the show?
R42 as Emma McGill
Here's a clip of cousin Emma singing (the quality of the video is terrible, by the way).
It is funny, because one year TPTB sent a camera crew out to shoot exteriors in Russia, Greece and Italy. They also had a women (as Jessica) in very long shots, so you couldn't actually see who it was.
Then they would cut to Angie herself on a sound stage, but the whole editing looked so amateurish.
I know r29, but I'm guessing she just couldn't parody this show as it was forbidden by the network or she couldn't risk offending the show's fans.
But even the most elderly of fans would recognize the joke about Jessica Fletcher being bad luck.. that's what everyone said about it, even I thought so as a kid watching it.
Maybe it's referred to as a joke in one of the episodes? I think the last episode was called Death by Demographics so it wasn't like they were entirely unaware.
[quote] Then they would cut to Angie herself on a sound stage, but the whole editing looked so amateurish.
It was a tribute to Hitchcock movies!
I watched one of the New Orleans episodes last night (they're all on Netflix).
Jessica went to New Orleans to check on a relative she'd never even met or heard of before, but some cousin asked her to do it because the missing relative (played by PETER BONERZ with the worst Southern accent ever) "hadn't written in three months!".
I guess a telephone call would have been too easy, so Jessica flew down and got there, of course, on Mardi Gras (which she hadn't realized was happening). About 10 minutes after she arrived, there was a murder -- and the murderer was wearing her relative's Carnival costume. Oh, and the chief police inspector spoke with a Pepe LePew French accent, because that's the way they talk down there.
Delirious 1980s camp.
[quote]Maybe it's referred to as a joke in one of the episodes? I think the last episode was called Death by Demographics so it wasn't like they were entirely unaware.
They weren't. The last season of the show, MSW was scheduled against "Friends," so there was an episode called "Murder Among Friends" in which Jessica got involved with a killing on the set of a ensemble sitcom called "Pals."
The use of stunt doubles was even funnier. In the pilot episode Andy Garcia (in one of his first roles) attack Jessica and it couldn't be more obvious that he's actually attacking a man in a wig.
You keep writing "delirious", OP. Are you sure you don't mean "delicious"?
Well, of ocurse, the old joke was that they had to put her on the road as everyone in Cabot Cove had been killed off.
[quote] Then they would cut to Angie herself on a sound stage, but the whole editing looked so amateurish.
Here is an example in Paris. But they did a good job in the editing.
But the ones in Russia and Greece were terrible
I just watched that episode yesterday OP (The Fixer Upper) and it was fabulous. It's amazing how all 487 members of Jessie's family are in jobs that bring them into close proximity with murderers. Is Jessie one of the Duggars? Is that why there's a niece and/or nephew in every state and any country that speaks Englsh? It's either that or circus folk.
It's the same with Midsomer Murders - any club or society that Barnaby's wife joins is doomed to a blood bath of epic proportions.
I had heard of that one, r49, didn't know it was up against Friends. How fabulous.
MSW creators didn't only reuse old stock footage, but also reused the same actors over and over again. Bradford Dillman played 8 different characters on MSW. They probably figured out that their target audience are senile old grandmas, who probably wouldn't even notice if they replaced Angela Lansbury with Paul O'grady in a drag.
[quote]Dack Rambo (before the Aids got him)
Is this seriously an accepted usage by gay people?
Am I the only one who thinks it's tantamount to mockery, or like calling one of us 'a gay'?
R46 - so what does the show coming out later have to do with your point.
I suggest a more likely scenario is she didn't want to do SNL. Especially considering her show was on CBS.
R56 - The Law and Order franchise did and continues to do the same thing.
Until your post I assumed everybody knew it was a TV show - and everyone on it were actors. But clearly you seem to have some level of confusion over an actor playing more than one role during their career.
"I suggest a more likely scenario is she didn't want to do SNL. Especially considering her show was on CBS."
You think it's likely they even asked her? Prior to Betty White (which received so much attention because it was so unusual), I don't really remember a lot of instances of sixtysomething-plus women hosting the show. And she wasn't an old person with a "hip" image, like Christopher Walken is now - she was an old lady on a totally square and un-hip show. I doubt SNL felt like she would be a host who really fit in with their brand of humor or their image.
I just watched the second season episode where Jessica gets trapped in a women's prison and has to use her wits to solve a murder AND survive while keeping the women from rioting! Whew.
Vera Miles as the warden! Adrienne Barbeau as the butch ringleader of the prisoners! Eve Plumb as a prisoner who talks like Jan Brady! Yvonne de Carlo as the 200-pound prison cook "Cookie"! And MARY WORONOV as the guard! (She was the best thing in it.)
The whole thing was camp, of course, but now I'm overly amused at what MSW does to economize in each episode. In this one, the "cellblock" set was just an old office corridor set with the office doors removed on each side (the hinges were still attached) and the walls painted brown. It could've come off The Bob Newhart Show or something. The production company did hang a sign that said CELL BLOCK A, so viewers would know this weird office corridor with missing doors was supposed to be a cellblock.
It was no Love Boat
You think Jessica was bad? Did you ever watch Rosemary & Thyme? Two women landscapers show up and a murder happens EVERY DAMN TIME!
The first few seasons are obviously the best, more care was taken with the plots and guest stars. Once it was successful it was like a production line and got shoddier.
The ones set in Ireland are particularly hokey - Lansbury lived there herself for a period (supposedly to keep her kids off drugs!), surely she realised how how fake it all looked, and sounded.
There was one episode that took place in Australia. I had to stop watching since the accents were so bad. It did feature the elf-like little boy from "Picket Fences" though.
Thanks for the great poster. A friend of mine in Europe watches MSW every day--they broadcast it on the television, and she's going to chuckle when she sees this!
Jesus H, Rosemary and Thyme was godawful, only redeemed by the scenery and their cool car that I lust for.
My favorite awful episode was the one wherein the South African murderess tries to kill the two by blowing darts at them from a distance of like 5 feet away. So awkward and silly. And they just stand there and stare at her while she huffs into a dart gun.
Good one, r68; I love those scenes where Jessica "acts" in order to get information or catch the killer. This one is another classic example, along the lines of the one posted earlier in the thread where Jessica goes undercover in the role of a slut at a bar wearing mom jeans pulled up high over her FUPA/gunt.
I can forgive cheap sets and cutting corners in production when the stories are good. They had to get her out of her small town because everybody would have been killed after season 3. I can even forgive the formulaic plots if the dialogues are well written and the acting is great.
What I couldn't forgive in later seasons was that the actual murder happened later and later in the episodes. Often enough the episode was halfway over before a person died. And then Jessica solved the mystery in 10 minutes. Not acceptable.
R60 That episode is a classic! If prisons looked like that I would also have myself locked up. And it's funny how Jessica is lecturing about "the perfect crime" to a bunch of imprisoned crazy chicks.
The show is on for hours on end at night on the Hallmark Movie Channel. I paused once and ended up watching for ages it seemed without ever seeing our lady detective Jessica. I've looked in since from time to time when bored with late night fare and it's always the same thing. It seems she made mere cameo appearances on the episodes I've happened upon -- maybe it was late in the run of the series?
It's become a sort of sport to see if I can spot the Jessica within the few minutes I can bear to watch the thing. It;s not very good at all.
So this thread inspired me to break open the 4-movie "Murder She Wrote" DVD I bought at Target awhile back. I just watched "South By Southwest" where Jessica befriends a young woman on a train who then disappears. [bold]SPOILERS AHEAD!!!![/bold]
Evidently I missed something because I didn't understand the plot point with the video game and Harriet Samson Harris and her dorky husband. I know someone hid the "chip" with government secrets in the video game but how was HSH involved? Can anyone explain?
What makes me laugh are those opening credits listing the "guest stars" in alphabetical order - most of them one has never heard of, its seldom you get 2 or 3 that you know in the same episode. So to get people like Richard Beymer, Ed Byrnes, Chad Everett, George Maharis, Brenda Vacarro, et al, let alone Jean Simmons or Julia Adams is a treat. I dare say as the series went on and on there were fewer 'names' from the old days to include.
I think in the early seasons there are always at least two or three actors I've heard of, r74 - often more. I agree that in later seasons it got thinner, and there were definitely fewer stars or has-been stars - but still, I'm not sure if I've ever seen a "Murder, She Wrote" episode and not been previously familiar with at least one of the actors.
Lansbury the only star from pre-1950's Hollywood still working. She's the last.
It's amazing.... she was nominated for an Oscar in 1944 and 1945!
I made my movie debut in 1948!
She's not the only pre-1950's star still working. There are also Mickey Rooney and Norman Lloyd for instance, whose careers go back even further. They also both guest starred on Murder She Wrote.
R78 Norman LLoyd was never a star.
And yes, I guess you could call Mickey Rooney's gigs "working" but Lansbury is the only star from that era who has maintained a prestigious career.
Angela Lansbury still gets her name above the title on B'way. Was nominated for Drama Desk Awards in 2012 and 2010...and was nominated for a Tony 2 years ago.
"Angela Lansbury still gets her name above the title on B'way. Was nominated for Drama Desk Awards in 2012 and 2010...and was nominated for a Tony 2 years ago."
r79, it's so cute how you think Drama Desk Awards matter!
I've been pushing Blair Brown for the Murder She Wrote reboot that is bound to happen sooner or later.
I've now watched two MSW episodes that hung on that piece of modern technology called a 'word processor' (no spoilers).
In the first, Jessica was in New York for the opening of a play based on her novel 'Maine Murders' or something -- except they used a theater on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (with the sidewalk stars) to stand in for New York. The plot hinged on a critic who filed his review via a strange new technology called a 'modem.'
The second was set in New York, after Jessica had moved there to teach. She took a computer class, where one of the instructors was strangled with a computer cable. Funny shots of Angela Lansbury using an MS-DOS machine with the blinking green cursor.
"In the first, Jessica was in New York for the opening of a play based on her novel 'Maine Murders' or something -- except they used a theater on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (with the sidewalk stars) to stand in for New York."
I'm actually surprised they even bothered leaving the studio to shoot this instead of just using the "New York Street" set on the backlot.
[quote]I'm actually surprised they even bothered leaving the studio to shoot this instead of just using the "New York Street" set on the backlot.
I was too. They just showed the exterior of the fake Broadway theater, so it was just a quick second-unit shot on Hollywood Boulevard. That was the only exterior shot in the episode.
Oh, then that makes sense, r84. I thought you meant it was a scene with actors.
Did anyone else watch the unaired, 90 minutes long pilot? It's one of the best episodes, but it feels so much different than the rest of the series does.
In this one Jessica has a relationship with this guy, who actually turns out to be the killer in the end. But when she discovers he's a killer he turns himself in to the police, instead of killing her.
Oh yeah, this is also the episode where you can see Jessica in a kitschy fairy godmother outfit.
I just saw a hilarious one, priceless camp - supposedly set in Egypt. Jessica flies in - cue stock footage of the pyramids, the nile etc - and then we are in supposedly Cairo airport - which looks like any domestic airport with travel posters for Egypt on the walls, and some ethntic looking types.
It is all cheap beyond words, but maybe back in the 80s or 90s this looks fairly authentic. Nobody famous in it, but the title was a scream: Death in De'nile!
But did it feature my gunt/FUPA, r87?
"Jessica flies in - cue stock footage of the pyramids, the nile etc - and then we are in supposedly Cairo airport - which looks like any domestic airport with travel posters for Egypt on the walls, and some ethntic looking types.
It is all cheap beyond words, but maybe back in the 80s or 90s this looks fairly authentic."
So my question is: would a show today about a character who traveled the world just have a set designer who was more clever about fooling us? Or would they just not make a show like that today, because they know it'd look phony so they wouldn't bother?
The ones set in Cabot Cove are the best. So cozy and juicy!
I'm seeing one today set in Amsterdam - should be fairly easy to mock that one up on the set. Will she pop in to the Anne Frank Museum or take a boat ride on a canal? No doubt someone will present her with a bunch of tulips, but I don't imagine she will be seen puffing a joint in a cafe ...
She's off to Honolulu in today's repeat - yes, she enters the airport set wearing a Hawaiian lei (?) - flowers - around her neck.
Several 'guest stars' re-appear in different roles, I spotted Theodore Bikel and Ian Ovilvy in several. Keith Michell was quite fruity as her sidekick too, he seemed to be playing gay.
I'm a fan of the episode where Amos Tupper's sister tries to flirt with Seth Hazlitt. The sister is played by a lurid Ann Meara.
I've just whiled away a pleasant hour watching one which was not about Jessica at all, Angela just introduces it, and its all about her jewel thief turned insurance investigator friend Dennis Stanton, played by Australian actor Keith Michell, who was of course Henry VIII. (I actually met him in 1966 when he was also playing Henry in a play in London, "The King's Mare" with Glynis Johns).
Its quite amusing as he seems to be playing the part as a flamboyant gay, with either a toupee or a bad combover. Guests were Dina Merrill and Shirley Knight (in her later fat phase, this was 1990).
Michell was very attrative in his younger years, in several costume dramas, and did lots of theatre work. I also saw him in 'Abelard & Heloise' about 1970 with Diana Rigg. He would have been a terrific Captain Von Trapp. Still alive too in his mid 80s.
I must look out for the ones set in Cabot cove with that quartet of Ruth Roman, Julia Adams, Kathryn Grayson and Gloria De Haven. It seems they did at 3 episodes.
Tomorrow morning's episode has Jessica on a cruise - but of course murder follows her ... lets see who will be on board.
Another delicious one from 1993, 20 years ago! Carroll Baker is a scream as Sibella Stone, a romantic novelist who makes the mistake of moving to Cabot Cove, where some murders take place. Jessica is of course on hand to solve it all, so Sibella's plans are ruined.
Green Screen, R89, is the modern method of traveling the world without ever leaving the studio!
Was Michell gay in real life?
Apparantly not,r97 - married, with kids (arent't they all) - but certainly a flamboyant actor. He was quite a hottie in his younger days, one of those actors who looked good in period clothes, as in the film Seven Seas to Calais in 1962, with Rod Taylor. They both look good in tights,but its Michell who commands the screen. He was also on the cruise episode with Jessica.
Actually Mad Men is working really hard to make fake places look real. Remember when Don and the blonde wife went to Italy? They tried really hard to make that American airport look like an Italian airport.