Friday, 13 May 2011

The Blue Geranium


The Blue Geranium started life as a short story, and I was rather surprised to find that it had been turned into a two-hour drama for Agatha Christie's Marple. A number of Christie's short stories which have been turned into sixty minute episodes have seemed rather padded-out. So I did not watch the show first time around, but finally I have weakened and given it a try.

Unexpectedly, I thought it was pretty good. Needless to say, the scriptwriter, Stewart Harcourt, had to invent a great deal of plot material, but I felt he managed to accomplish the rather difficult task of blending the old and new. And I was amused to see in the cast list that the three small children who discovered a body near a river were young Harcourts – he and they must have enjoyed that! As ever, the cast was strong, and included Caroline Catz, whom I rather liked in that otherwise patchy series of a few years back, Murder in Suburbia.

I have always thought that Agatha Christie was a far better novelist than a short story writer, even though admittedly she did write quite a number of really good short stories. "The Blue Geranium" in its original form was enjoyable, and it is to be found in the first and strongest collection of Miss Marple short stories, The thirteen problems.

Watching this episode made me think that there is a particular knack to adapting a short story for television. It is sometimes done well (for instance, with some of the Sherlock Holmes adaptations that we have seen over the years) but often the results are disappointing. The reality is that, usually, the source material needs to be changed and expanded, perhaps radically. In recent times, some of the "improvements" on Christie plots have been deeply unappealing. But not, I felt, in the case of The Blue Geranium.

7 comments:

John said...

I liked this one. Givne that there was much added matieral this TV version was fairly true to the original story for a change. Very sinister too. Plus Toby Stephens was in it. One of my favorite actors.

I wasn't a fan of all the Marple shows that were really Poirot novels or some other book without Marple. Towards Zero with Marple was an odd one. And I positively loathed what they did to Murder Is Easy. Why haven't they dramatized more of the short stories as they did here? They should do a whole new Marple series about The Tuesday Club instead of sticking her in Christie books where she doesn't bleong. Ah well.

anthony stemke said...

Didn't see "blue geranium" but know what you mean. Sometimes all they want is the title and then change everything else. Remember "Fast and Furious". the follow up didn't have Vin Diesel in it.
Appreciate your posts. Thank You.

Richmonde said...

"In recent times, some of the "improvements" on Christie plots have been deeply unappealing." You can say that again... "In recent times, some of the "improvements" on Christie plots have been deeply unappealing."

PS Murder in Suburbia was FAB. And now we have a lot of female cops with "issues". Sigh.

Kacper said...

I do agree that unlike in a lot of the recent Marple and Poirot adaptations, the changes and additions in "Blue Geranium" really do work. I think it's possibly the strongest episode of the ITV series, in fact.

I think there's a lot more to be said for artistic license with short stories because the fans are a lot less emotionally invested. Every Christie enthusiast has certain expectations about how any novel will be adapted - and this goes double for Christie's best, like Towards Zero - and likely expects the adaptation to keep faithfully to the original. On the other hand I do think Christie's short stories are, while readable and charming and quite good, pretty disposable (with a few notable exceptions like "Witness for the Prosecution") so there's a lot more that can be done with them.

Martin Edwards said...

John, that is a good idea.
Anthony, many thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Richmonde, I'm not really sure why they axed Murder in Suburbia. I saw most of it and enjoyed it.

Martin Edwards said...

Kacper, excellent point about short stories. I agree.