Partners in Crime
Last time, I ended by talking about a lost television episode from 1950. Today, an even more tragic loss. In 1953, the BBC broadcast a series of thirteen half-hour dramatizations of Partners in Crime. Richard Attenborough starred as Tommy and Sheila Sim as Tuppence. This six hours of audio, which would doubtless be madly entertaining, is lost, as far as I could figure out. Too bad, as they adapted nearly every story from the novel, including the often unadapted espionage stories like Blindman’s Buff and The Man Who Was No. 16. Occasionally story titles are changed; The Affair of the Pink Pearl is retitled as In Camera, The Clergyman’s Daughter/The Red House is retitled The Man with the Gold Tooth, etc. As near as I can tell, however, every story was adapted except The Sunningdale Mystery. What a blast it would be to hear these adaptations. Unfortunately, for the time being, we’ll have to chalk them up as lost.
Rex Rienits, Colin Willock
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Affair of the Pink Pearl
This was the first episode of a ten episode series that aired here in the States on PBS’ Mystery! program. It featured James Warwick as Tommy and Francesca Annis as Tuppence. They’re both kind of perfectly cast, though it took me a bit longer to warm up to Annis as Tuppence. Warwick and Annis are charming, witty, sophisticated and they have fabulous chemistry. This adapts the first three stories from Christie’s book: A Fairy in the Flat, A Pot of Tea and The Affair of the Pink Pearl. It’s faithful down to the dialogue being, in some instances, lifted straight out of the text. The roaring 20s design is fantastic and the chemistry helps sell the series. The Blunt Detective Agency is just a front for crime here, not the espionage den that it was in Christie’s original set of stories and the three stories from the book that dealt with the spy game aren’t adapted for this series; all the others are, beginning with this one, which is a lot of fun. I will, of course, be skipping the usual DID I SOLVE IT section in these adaptation reviews, since I’ve read the stories. If the adaptations ever change the solution, I’ll note it; otherwise, I can hardly help, now can I, knowing the solution from the beginning?
Tony Wharmby, David Butler
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: Finessing the King
Excellent adaptation on this one. They structure it a bit differently, with the clue about the newspaper headers coming far later in this episode than it does in the story, but everything else is almost exactly as it is in the story. I especially note Peter Blythe as Bingo Hale; as the wrongfully accused (or is he?) he’s wonderfully abrupt, angry and frustrated (and frustrating) in his one scene with our lead characters.
Christopher Hodson, Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The House of Lurking Death
To me, it feels odd to have this story so early in the series run. It comes very late in the original short story sequence and the fact that several people die, essentially because the Beresfords screw up, is very shocking when it happens in the story. It seems to me that it needs to come later in the run. Isn’t it going to feel strange when the Beresfords are back to treating the whole thing like a silly romp next episode? Well, perhaps not. But a very creditable adaptation. “I am the flail of the Lord” is just as silly on screen as it is on the page, but the show does what it can.
Christopher Hodson, Jonathan Hales
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Sunningdale Mystery
This was one of my favorite stories in the book, so I went into it with high hopes. They jettison the central gimmick of the story, which is that Tommy and Tuppence solve the mystery in one sitting, without leaving a restaurant in which they’re discussing the case. In this version, they go to Sunningdale, lounge about a hotel and walk around on the golf course where the murder took place. But the solving is still all second hand; all the information comes via Tommy’s narration. The show pulls off the mystery’s solution very well, without tipping their hand too early. They play perfectly fair, just like Christie does. There’s a wonderful, very dramatic moment when Tommy muses on how quiet the murder must have been; he remembers seeing men die in the War with just a moan or “a funny little cough.” Warwick really slays the moment; it’s a rare moment of seriousness and you can see the darkness lurking on the edges of the sunny little pair’s world, the darkness of what the two of them saw and experienced during World War I. Very good episode, easily right up there with The Affair of the Pink Pearl.
Tony Wharmby, Jonathan Hales, Agatha Christie