January 5, 2013

Watching Different Versions of Movies for Lessons in Plots: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side

Yesterday had a cold, wet, dismal night and all the new fuzzy throws we got for Christmas came in handy, as did the marvelous ROKU streaming TV gizmo (which actually hit the door in November, when I decided to cut the cable).

We watched two film versions of the book I just finished re-reading: Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.  It was fascinating to watch the changes made in the Angela Lansbury version as opposed to the later version with Joan Hickson.

Hickson's my favorite actress to play Miss Marple, by a long shot - but I'm a huge fan of Angela Lansbury and I have no complaints about her take on the character.

Here's the thing: this isn't a movie review.  Goodness knows there are more than enough Agatha Christie books made into films if I wanted to go that route.  Nope.

I wanted to share here something that I discovered by watching how the directors and screenwriters took Agatha Christie's work and adapted it for their own purposes.  The Hickson version is pretty close to the book itself; the Lansbury version makes changes.

Writing lessons are here to be learned, I think.  I find myself pondering the omission of Gladys - was this wise?  I consider the opening of the Lansbury version, where the black and white film is being played for St. Mary Mead's vicarage as a regular weekly event, and I like this addition for various reasons.

It's as if the story is clay and the two movie versions have molded it in different ways.  As I hold that same clay in my hands, having read the book, what would I do with it - if I had to write the screenplay with Big Name Stars needing screen time and limitations of settings and the like?

It's fun to think about and it's helping me with plotting.  Characterization, too.  

There's another version on Netflix, too -- one with Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple.  We're watching it tonight with homemade pizza.  Can't wait!

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