Thursday, 30 May 2013

Agatha Christie's Garden 5*

Credit to National Trust, where 140+ Greenway prints for sale, other photos: Boathouse , River Dart, bw hill

Preview. Listing Beautiful. Fast. Thorough. I watched 3x, and could again. The events of her life influenced her work, illustrated in quick bites: photos, re-creations, maps, shelves of lurid old book covers, interviews.

Agatha Christie née Miller loved rural Torquay villa Ashfield where she was born 1890 and raised, but the neighborhood became "over-crowded noisy", home invaded by asylum escapee. With second husband archaelogist Max Mallowan, she bought bargain Greenway "possibly the most beautiful on the river Dart" (her mother) in 1938. The large white 1790 mansion had garden records from 17th century. For August vacations, they planted for "high-season color (gardener).

WW2 Admiralty U.S. naval occupants left a mural, neglected the garden tipped over "the edge of wilderness". The National Trust restored, but did not manicure, brought barely back from the edge, retained knick-knacks, Agatha's works, and signed first editions.

Fast flashes avoid boring talking heads. Un-named narrator in blue dress is credited at end as Presenter Pam Ferris, aka Matilda's Mrs Trunchbull, Rosemary & Thyme's Laura Thyme. Mathew Prichard, pompous grandson, sprawls on couch. Robyn Brown in short light hair is National Trust Property Manager. Younger, long dark hair, Laura Thompson is an "Agatha Expert". White-haired John Risdon is a "Local Historian". Dark short hair (false teeth?) Janet Morgan "Biographer" pauses over teacup. Nick Haworth, Trust head gardener poses amid lush green magnificence. Susan Ridley 30-50s, daughter of butler, was playmate of Rosalind. Perhaps her housekeeper's daughter, Betty Paine, would have been a better choice. Author, now Baroness, P.D. James, contributes, despite "bad writer" criticism.

At 11, her father died, and Agatha "quickly learned the importance of financial security". At 16, she wrote to kind neighboring author Eden Philpotts , who gently advised her to live more first (Janet). In 1917, wartime Xmas marriage to dashing pilot Archie put her in hospital dispensary with poisons, but her home life always took priority.

She "shuffled cards" (P.D.) chose killers and red herrings. Belgian refugees inspired Poirot (also in Autobiog). We see Moorland Hotel, her refuge to finish first "Mysterious Affair at Styles", published years later after only child Rosalind died. (If she was "Hicks", why is her son Mathew Prichard?) After ten years, Archie demanded divorce, left to live in his club, she disappeared for 13 days in Dec 1926. She claimed amnesia when found at a hotel, and the mystery has never been resolved.

Like her real life, "The Mystery of the Blue Train" has a 30s divorcee who "hated" her husband. Happily remarried to Max, 14 years her junior, she created sweet clever Miss Marple. Longest peach house in England produced more than residents could eat. Teetotal Agatha drank cream with her fruit, ginger-beer, had benches "strategically placed" to linger on river views.

"Dead Man's Folly" 1950s put the body in Greenway boathouse; Poirot drove up their entry, walked their halls and paths. His "sidekick" (P.D.) writer Ariadne Oliver spoke for Agatha herself. "Like dedicating to someone you love .. immortalize overheard conversartions .. stepfather's habit" (Mathew). Burgh Island inspired confined space to limit suspects for "And Then There Were None". Other personal memories "supremely unselfish but determined" (Mathew), protective veil (Jane), "miracle" (Laura), "where she could be herself" .. "loveliest place in the world . takes my breath away" (Pam quotes Agatha's letter).

Extras - short, slower
1 Greenwaya Garden History - gardener Nick, manager Robyn, images present and past 1820 Repton Cornish horiculturalist, avid planters
2 Remembering Agatha - grandson Mathew "kind, generous, supportive", biog Janet "privately Mallowan", butler's daughter Susan "presents Easter eggs", John Lavin (son of Frank Lavin, her gardener "nothing special .. ever so kind"
3 Agatha's Writing - author P.D. visualize via "great economy .. vicarious danger.. puzzles solved.. comfort of rational universe .. no violence", Jane "variations on basic theme .. tiny detail" solves
4 Biography - same 4 screens as other AC DVDs

No previews, video at: Acorn, Amazon

Agatha, Max second husband archaeologist, grandson Mathew Prichard
Archie first husband RCAF pilot, surfing on world tour, daughter Rosalind

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