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Series Titlecard

Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime
is a 1983 British television series based on the short stories of the same name by Agatha Christie. It was directed by John A. Davis and Tony Wharmby, and starred James Warwick and Francesca Annis in the leading roles of husband and wife sleuths Tommy and Prudence 'Tuppence' Beresford. Reece Dinsdale co-starred as Albert in all except episodes 3 and 5.

The series follows the adventures and exploits of the Beresfords, who have recently taken over the running of a detective agency based in London, and each episode features one of the stories from the book. Among these are a quest for missing jewels, the investigation of poltergeists and a story involving poisoned chocolates.

The series followed the short stories closely with two notable exceptions: First, the detective parodies, although alluded to on occasion, were for the most part dispensed with. Secondly, the story arc of the blue Russian letters and the search for the agent known as Number 16 were also dispensed with. For this reason three chapters (The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger, Blindman's Bluff and The Man Who Was No. 16) were not adapted.

The series' original run was immediately preceded by transmission on 9 October 1983 of the same production team's adaptation of Christie's second novel The Secret Adversary, which also starred Annis and Warwick in the same roles and which acted as an introduction for viewers to Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime.

The series ran for one season between 16 October 1983 and 14 January 1984 with ten episodes. It was poorly received at the time, but was later shown in the United States, where it won an award at the 1985 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Graphic and Title Design. As of 2007, the series is regularly aired in the UK on the digital channel ITV3. DVDs are available

Episode listingEdit

The Secret AdversaryEdit

The Affair of the Pink PearlEdit

Transmission date: 16 October 1983
Writer: David Butler
Director: Tony Wharmby
Guest cast:
William Hootkins as Hamilton Betts
Graham Crowden as Colonel Kingston-Bruce
Susannah Morley as Beatrice Kingston-Bruce
Arthur Cox as Detective Inspector Marriott
Dulcie Gray as Lady Laura Barton
Lynda La Plante as Phyllis Betts
Charles Shaughnessy as John Rennie
Fleur Chandler as Janet Smith
Ursula Mohan as Elise
Tim Woodward as Lawrence St Vincent
Noel Dyson as Mrs Kingston-Bruce
The opening episode of the series combined the first four chapters of the book (A Fairy in the Flat / A Pot of Tea and The Affair of the Pink Pearl, Parts I and II.) and followed those narratives closely. Reference was made to following the techniques of fictional detectives when Tommy plays a violin mimicking Sherlock Holmes. Dulcie Gray was advertised as the guest star.

The House of Lurking DeathEdit

Transmission date: 23 October 1983
Writer: Jonathan Hales
Director: Christopher Hodson
Guest cast:
Lynsey Baxter as Lois Hargreaves
Kim Clifford as Rose Holloway
Michael Cochrane as Captain Dennis Radcliffe
Deddie Davies as Mrs Holloway
Anita Dobson as Esther Quant
Louisa Rix as Mary Chilcott
Joan Sanderson as Rachel Logan
Granville Saxton as Dr Burton
Liz Smith as Hannah MacPherson

Whilst the narrative of the short story was followed faithfully, an extra sub-plot was added which saw Tommy accuse Rose Holloway (who was portrayed as Mrs. Holloway's daughter rather than her niece) of the murders to try to gain information from her. Also, whilst Tommy did not overtly assume the persona of Inspector Hanaud, he did greet Lois Hargreaves using some French phrases and words.

The Sunningdale MysteryEdit

Transmission date: 30 October 1983
Writer: Jonathan Hales
Director: Tony Wharmby
Guest cast:
Jim Wiggins as Ticket Collector
Edwin Brown as Hollaby Senior
Terence Conoley as Major Barnard
Denis Holmes as Lecky
Denis Lill as Hollaby Junior
Emily Moore as Doris Evans
Robin Parkinson as Landlord
Dorothea Phillips as Waitress
Vivienne Ritchie as Girl

Flashbacks enliven narrative. Brief cameo of servantboy Albert (Reece Dinsdale) serves only to remind his adoption from rough in books. Over meal out, Tom presents newspaper article, Tup takes notes, and they decide to visit the scene of the crime, Sunningdale Golf Course.

Respectable Captain Antony Cecil, well-known figure on links, wearing typical blue jacket, suddenly "foozles" his shots, rattled by two on a distant footpath, man conversing with tall woman in brown. Close friend and business partner Mr Wilfrid Holloby Sr (Edwin Brown) of Porcupine Assurance was last to see him alive. Another twosome approach, Major Barnard (Terence Conoley) and Mr Lecky (Denis Holmes), see blue coat storm off in temper. Pretty typist Doris Evans (Emily Moore) was arrested because blonde hair and "flame" threads found on the body.

At the railway station she asked directions to his cottage, then returned disheveled, disturbed. She claims she offered him sweets in a cinema, and he offered her an umbrella and tea after. The charming gentleman claimed to be a widower, and invited her to his cottage next weekend for a meal. He acted strangely, with an emphasis on the big knife slicing ham, and after, walking behind golf course, threatened her with gun found next day in bushes.

Intimate details pop out from nowhere. Mrs Cecil is short. Porcupine is bankrupted by embezzler. Doris has bobbed short hair, no need for hatpin. In flattering dark finger waves, dipping seductively close to a pencil thin brow, Tup guesses the Hollobys embezzled, and the killer is male, framing woman with hatpin. On the golf course, Tommy finds a hidden hut, where killer hid to change clothes and appear as woman. Doris, arrested weeks later, never saw the body, met imposter, Holloby Jr (Denis Lill), not Cecil. How does Tommy know villain was not at inquest and identifiable? Driving home, Tuppence again twists hubby around little finger, and their Happy Ever After triumphs over murders.

The Clergyman's DaughterEdit

Transmission date: 6 November 1983
Writer: Paul Annett
Director: Paul Annett
Guest cast:
Jane Booker as Monica Deane
Bill Dean as Edmund Hove
David Delve as Percival Smart & Dr O'Neill
Geoffrey Drew as Norman Partridge
Alan Jones as Gerald Rush
Elspeth MacNaughton as Bella Hove
George Malpas as Frank Mulberry
Pam St. Clement as Mrs Crockett
Ben Stevens as Cockwell

The storyline in this episode was expanded by having the character of Mrs. Crockett's nephew in the house while Tommy and Tuppence investigated Monica's case, he and his aunt overhearing the solution of the anagram being read out and then holding up the Beresford's at gunpoint when they had dug up the 'buried treasure', only for Albert to rescue them.

Finessing the KingEdit

Transmission date: 27 November 1983
Writer: Gerald Savory
Director: Christopher Hodson
Guest cast:
Benjamin Whitrow as Sir Arthur Merivale
Anna Turner as Widow
John Gillett as Dr Stoughton
Annie Lambert as Lady Merivale
Arthur Cox as Inspector Marriott
Peter Blythe as Captain Bingo Hale

Although faithful to the short stories of Finessing the King / The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper, minor changes were made for this adaptation:

  • Tommy and Tuppence attend the Three Arts Ball dressed as Holmes and Watson, rather than the almost unknown (to modern audiences) Tommy McCarty and Dennis Riordan.
  • Sir Arthur Merivale attends the ball dressed as the devil instead of a seventeenth century executioner.
  • Bingo Hale employs Tommy and Tuppence from prison (where they interview him) to investigate the crime instead of Inspector Marriot telling the two sleuths Hale's side of the story, thus helping the story's exposition.
  • Sir Arthur pulls a gun on Tommy and Tuppence before throwing himself out of the window at the denouement of the story .

The Ambassador's BootsEdit

Transmission date: 4 December 1983
Writer: Paul Annett
Director: Paul Annett
Guest cast:
Moira Brooker as Tilly
Michael Carter as Rodriguez
Arthur Cox as Inspector Marriott
Tricia George as Poppy St Albans
Jennie Linden as Cicely March
T. P. McKenna as Randolph Wilmot
Clive Merrison as Richards
Jo Ross as Gwen Foster
Catherine Schell as Virma La Strange
Norma West as Estelle Blaney
The narrative of the chapter was extended by having Tommy and Tuppence meet Randolph Wilmot at a US Embassy garden party where the actress Virma La Strange (who they had just solved a case for) introduced them. The story was also changed to have Wilmot's valet, Richards, part of the gang and this character commit suicide when pressured by the drug smuggling gang. At the climax of the story, Tommy is saved at the Beauty Parlour by Tuppence and three girls who she knew as a VAD's in the war instead of by Tuppence and the police.

The Man in the MistEdit

Transmission date: 11 December 1983
Writer: Gerald Savory
Director: Christopher Hodson
Guest cast:
Tim Brierley as James Reilly
Mark Farmer as Page Boy
Geoffrey Greenhill as Police Sergeant
Constantine Gregory as Bulger Estcourt
Christopher Johnston as P.C. Bamford
Roger Kemp as Inspector Jeavons
Valerie Lilley as Ellen
Patrick Marley as Lord Leconbury
Linda Marlowe as Gilda Glenn
Anne Stallybrass as Dorothea Honeycott
Paddy Ward as Barman

This episode was mostly faithful to the two-part chapter in the book of the same name although Bulger Estcourt's part in the plot was extended to make him another suspect of the murder, rather than just being the man who introduces Gilda Glenn to Tommy and Tuppence. In addition, the rather hurried end to the story was extended by having Tommy organise a re-enactment of the crime in which P.C. Bamford (unnamed by Christie) was arrested by his own colleagues in the police force after being tipped off by Tommy who had traced his previous life as Gilda's husband of twenty years before. Tommy's fictional detective disguise of Father Brown was retained for this episode, presumably because the character was more familiar to television viewers of the 1980s than some of the others portrayed in the stories.

The Unbreakable AlibiEdit

Transmission date: 18 December 1983
Writer: David Butler
Director Christopher Hodson
Guest cast:
Ellis Dale as Henri
Michael Jayes as Peter Le Marchant
Preston Lockwood as Head Waiter
Tim Meats as Montgomery Jones
Anna Nygh as Una & Vera Drake
Gay Soper as Hotel Receptionist
Stephen Wale as Car Park Attendant
Elaine Wells as Chamber Maid

While this episode followed the text of the short story for most of its length, it did deviate in the final quarter by adding a sub-plot that Una Drake and Peter Le Marchant were involved with a gang stealing valuable paintings to order for collectors abroad and Le Marchant dying accidentally in a tussle with Una when he refused to pay her her share of the proceeds.

The Case of the Missing LadyEdit

Transmission date: 1 January 1984
Guest cast:
Rowena Cooper as Dr Irma Kleber
Mischa de la Motte as Manservant
Susie Fairfax as Girl in Shop
Ewan Hooper as Dr Horriston
Elspeth March as Lady Susan Clonray
Elizabeth Murray as Hermione Leigh-Gordon
Jonathan Newth as Gabriel Stavansson
Tim Pearce as Muldoon

This episode was based on the chapter of the same name and was presented in a somewhat more farcical style than the rest of the series. Changes were:

  • Tommy and Tuppence go with Gabriel Stavansson to Lady Susan's house and are there when the telegram from Hermione arrives, rather than being brought into the case after this event has occurred.
  • The part of the plot where it is realised that there are two Maldon's was dropped.
  • The part of the story that takes place in the nursing home was greatly expanded. To do this, Tuppence becomes a patient, impersonating a famous Russian ballerina called Mosgovskensky. In the short story this name is made up by Tommy on the spot as a composer whose chords he is 'playing' when he attempts the violin in front of Stavansson as part of his attempts to follow the methods of Sherlock Holmes.

The CracklerEdit

Transmission date: 14 January 1984
Writer: Gerald Savory
Director: Christopher Hodson
Guest cast:
Carolle Rousseau as Marguerite Laidlaw
David Quilter as Major Laidlaw
Shane Rimmer as Hank Ryder
Arthur Cox as Detective Inspector Marriott
Christopher Scoular as Captain James Faulkener
Peter Godfrey as Maybrick
Lawrence Davidson as Monsieur Héroulade
Terence Hillyer as Chauffeur
Stan Pretty as Harry the Barman

The narrative of this episode was expanded by a short sequence in which Albert follows Laidlaw and Héroulade to the Ascot races to see if forged notes were changing hands. In addition, Major Laidlaw was stated to be blind and James Faulkener (a minor character in Christie's short story) was a cousin of Tommy's. The references to Edgar Wallace were not dropped for this episode, presumably because, like Sherlock Homes and Father Brown, he was more familiar to TV audiences in the 1980s than some of the other detectives and their methods as featured in the original collection.

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