Reel librarian Mr. Stringer returns in ‘The Alphabet Murders’ (1965)

“Of course, we would have no idea that Mr. Stringer is a reel librarian character if we were not already familiar with MGM’s Miss Marple movies.”

In contrast to this month’s earlier post, a marathon post delving into Mr. Stringer’s village librarian role in MGM’s 1960s Miss Marple movie series, this week’s post is short and sweet.

Stringer Davis and Margaret Rutherford, who were married in real life, reprised their roles as Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple in a joint cameo appearance in the 1965 comedy The Alphabet Murders. The film was based on Agatha Christie’s 1936 novel The ABC Murders.

Interesting casting choices abound in this film:

  • Tony Randall, an American actor, played the role of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (!)
  • The very first actor to portray Poirot onscreen, Austin Trevor, played a cameo role in the film; this was also Trevor’s final film.
  • Robert Morley plays Hastings in the film, and Morley also starred alongside Margaret Rutherford in the second of the Miss Marple films, Murder at the Gallop (1963)!

The cameo scene with Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple lasts a total of 30 seconds. Poirot and Hastings descend a building’s front steps when Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple, in the middle of a conversation about the ABC murders, walk along the sidewalk and up the same stairs.

Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple make a cameo appearance in The Alphabet Murders (1965)
Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple make a cameo appearance in The Alphabet Murders (1965)

Miss Marple: I cannot see why they’re having such difficulty. The whole thing is very clear, Mr. Stringer.

Mr. Stringer: I quite agree, Miss Marple.

Miss Marple: The solution is ABC to anyone with half a brain cell.

Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple make a cameo appearance in The Alphabet Murders (1965)
Mr. Stringer and Miss Marple make a cameo appearance in The Alphabet Murders (1965)

During this brief scene, we hear strings of the distinctive theme song from the Miss Marple movies, another inside reference!

Remember, this film was released in 1965, one year after the final Miss Marple film, Murder Ahoy! (1964). The IMDb.com Trivia page for Murder Most Foul (1964) reveals there had been rumors about making a fifth Miss Marple film, possibly one based on Christie’s 1942 novel The Body in the Library, but this never came to pass. But perhaps their cameo in this film was a way to extend potential interest in continuing the series?

I find it extremely interesting that the screenwriters took care for each character to say each other’s names — Miss Marple, Mr. Stringer — so that the audience could be “in on the joke” for their cameo roles. However, the two actors were not included in the film’s credits.

Of course, we would have no idea that Mr. Stringer is a reel librarian character if we were not already familiar with MGM’s Miss Marple movies, Murder, She Said (1961), Murder at the Gallop (1963), Murder Most Foul (1964), and Murder Ahoy! (1964). Although the name “Miss Marple” is recognizable on its own, being one of Agatha Christie’s iconic recurring characters, Mr. Stringer’s name would not be. At his wife’s insistence, his role as the village librarian sidekick was created just for MGM’s Miss Marple movies.

Due to the very brief time onscreen in The Alphabet Murders (1965), Mr. Stringer’s reel librarian role in this film gets downgraded to the Class IV category, films in which librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue. He serves as Comic Relief in this comedy.

Last but not least, here’s a YouTube video of Mr. Stringer’s cameo and final screen appearance of his memorable reel librarian character:

“Hercule Poirot Meets Miss. Jane Marple” video uploaded by
docwho97
, standard YouTube license

Sources used

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Author: Jennifer

Librarian, blogger, movie lover

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