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Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot romance plot, refusing to add a love story to adaptation

Agatha Christie killed off the plot for a Hercule Poirot romance, refusing to add a love story to its adaptation of her novel The ABC Murder in 1936

  • Dame Agatha Christie stepped in to kill off a plot for a Hercule Poirot romance 
  • The Dame intervened to stop Hollywood’s plans in an A.B.C murders adaption
  • Her intervention is revealed in new three-part documentary about the author  

Dame Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is a confirmed bachelor who would never let an affair of the heart get in the way of a murder investigation.

Now its emerged that the Queen of crime herself intervened to stop Hollywood turning her inscrutable Belgian sleuth into a romantic leading man.

In 1936 Dame Agatha, who remains the world’s biggest selling author, refused to let MGM studios add a love story to its planned adaptation of her new novel The A.B.C. Murders, which featured Poirot, and which had been released earlier that year.

The author’s intervention which sounded the death knoll for the project is revealed in a new three-part BBC documentary about the author which is presented by the historian Lucy Worsley.

In 1936 Dame Agatha, who remains the world’s biggest selling author, refused to let MGM studios add a love story to its planned adaptation of her new novel The A.B.C. Murders featuring Poirot 

In the programme Worsley highlights a letter about The A.B.C Murders which was sent by Christie’s New York agent to their UK counterpart in May 1936.

It states: ‘Metro Goldwyn’s New York Office has just called up to say that they had a wire from their studio on the coast saying that they had better drop negotiations on this property. The New York Office thinks this is because the author wanted the clause put in the contract saying that Poirot should not be involved in any love story.‘

Dr Mark Aldridge, an expert on Christie’s films from Solent University tells the programme. ‘She [Agatha] said you can have Poirot, but you can’t make him into a romantic hero and that was enough for a big Hollywood studio like MGM to say no we’ll pass.’

The new documentary series suggests that even before 1936 Christie may have been alarmed by Hollywood’s attitude towards her work.

The Irish born actor Austin Trevor had already played an unrecognisable version of Poirot in three film adaptations between 1931 and 1934.

Much to the annoyance of Christie devotees Trevor played the detective as a debonair Frenchman without his trademark moustache.

In a scene from the 1934 adaptation of Lord Edgware Dies a socialite tells Austin’s smooth-shaven incarnation of Poirot: ‘You Frenchman are so cute I just love your Parisian manners.’

After watching the clip, a shocked Worsley says: ‘What’s going on with the moustache. He’s not Poirot.’

Dame Agatha, who died in 1976, is known to have been disappointed by most of the film adaptations of her work (Pictured Dame Agatha Christie with husband Max E L Mallowan in 1946)

Dame Agatha, who died in 1976, is known to have been disappointed by most of the film adaptations of her work (Pictured Dame Agatha Christie with husband Max E L Mallowan in 1946) 

Dr Aldridge said: ‘Poirot is famously Belgian unless you are a film producer in which case, he’ll be whatever you want him to be.’

Dr Aldridge also reveals the critical response to The Passing of Mr Quinn, a 1928 silent film which was the first time one of Christie’s stories ever to be adapted onto the big screen.

He said: ‘It starts quite like what Agatha Christie wrote but we also get things like poisonous snakes and all sorts of things that are absolutely not in her original story…Reviews weren’t terribly kind, and one said it was one of the least convincing things they’d ever seen on film.’

He added: ‘Unfortunately, no prints are known to survive but who knows if that was deliberate or not.’

Poirot remains one of the world’s biggest box office draws and a moustached Sir Kenneth Branagh has recently enjoyed enormous success playing him in adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.

Dame Agatha who died in 1976 is known to have been disappointed by most of the film adaptations of her work with the exception of Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution and the version of Murder on the Orient Express which starred Albert Finney as Poirot.

Dame Agatha approved of Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution and the version of Murder on the Orient Express which starred Albert Finney as Poirot

Dame Agatha approved of Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution and the version of Murder on the Orient Express which starred Albert Finney as Poirot

In 1965 MGM finally got to release a version of the A.B.C Murders with Odd Couple star Tony Randall as an unlikely Poirot and Austin Trevor in the role of a butler.

Christie is known to have disapproved of the slapstick feel of the film which was retiled The Alphabet Murders.

Christie biographer Laura Thompson last night said: ‘Poirot is completely sort of sexless isn’t he and I think that is part of his appeal. He clearly has a thing about the Countess Vera Rossakoff. But it’s an admiration from afar. She is a master criminal so there is no suggestion of a love story featuring them.’

She added: ‘I don’t know why anyone would portray him without a moustache.’

Thompson said that Christie even had concerns about the way Poirot was depicted on book covers.

She added: ‘Agatha never really wanted Poirot on the screen. She was a theatre woman really. She just adored the theatre, and I don’t think the big screen was ever on her radar in the same way.’

Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen begins next Friday (25 November) on BBC 2 at 9.00 pm.

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