The Mirror Crack’d (1980)


What drew me to 1980’s The Mirror Crack’d was not the fact it was Dame Agatha Christie or the fact it was Miss Marple. I admit, I’m not really into the Miss Marple stuff, as I am more familiar with Poirot. What got me hooked onto this story were a combination of the following: 1) The meta of the movie within the movie which is about Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I. I am a Tudor and Stuart fan- I love anything regarding it! 2) This movie is somewhat based on the real life situation regarding one of my favorite actresses Gene Tierney: She contracted German Measles while pregnant and when her daughter Daria was born, she had many birth defects. 3) The all star cast, and a reminder that this is a movie that is sort of the last of its kind. Very rarely now do you get all star casts, and to keep in mind this was 1980, its on the tail end of the era.

Based on the 1962 novel The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, the plot of this murder mystery goes as follows: In 1953, in the English village of St Mary Mead, a major Hollywood movie about Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I is being shot on location. Portraying these two legends are two famous Hollywood actors: Marina Ludd (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) and Lola Brewster (the fabulous Kim Novak), who happen to be old rivals. Despite their husbands’ best efforts to keep the ladies in line, as they are both working on the movie too- Marina’s husband Jason (Rock Hudson) is directing and Lola’s husband Marty Fenn (Tony Curtis) is a producer- tensions run high.

The time for old grievances, however is short lived, when they must go to a Gossington Hall for a press conference. It’s here Marina comes face to face with someone from her past: Heather Babcock (Maureen Bennett), a fan whom of which she met during the war years at a Hollywood Canteen. Heather then tells a somewhat long winded story of sneaking out of quarantine for German measles to meet her favorite movie star, and shortly after, accidentally drinks a poisoned cocktail, intended for Marina. Marina isn’t shocked she was the intended victim, as she has been receiving death threats in the newspapers and has already survived a poison attempt while on set.

When the police arrive on the scene, Inspector Dermot Craddock (Edward Fox) is so in shock , that he asks his aunt, Miss Marple (Dame Angela Lansbury) to help assist with the case. It seems like a straightforward murder investigation, but in true Agatha Christie style, things take a twist when the main suspect dies, and then Marina dies.

While the role of Marina was based on Gene Tierney and her situation while she was pregnant with her daughter Daria, Marina’s rivalry with Lola reminded me of the famous Bette Davis- Joan Crawford feud. Its also cool movie stars are playing fictional movie stars. Its super fun to believe Marina is a diva because she’s played by legendary diva, Elizabeth Taylor, and same for Lola, as she’s portrayed by Kim Novak! If two unknowns or young actresses were used for these characters, I don’t think the movie would have been as well regarded as it is.

What makes The Mirror Crack’d stand out from other Agatha Christie adaptions is that its just campy fun. The back and forth cattiness, the over the top acting, the English setting, the murder mystery plot, and Miss Marple into the mix, this movie feels like a fun blend of all these elements. At first I was a bit turned off by the campy elements going into it, but then as I started watching, it just adds to the charm of it all.

It’s also noteworthy to keep in mind this movie was made at an interesting time, for Hollywood and the actors involved. It was Ms. Talyor’s last starring role in a movie, and much like her character Marina, her first role in a long while. Kim Novak also came back to the big screen, after being away for a spell, and by this time was being selective about the roles she chose. I think Kim was right to accept this part because I think she was marvelous in the part. To see her go head to head with another Hollywood legend, and to see her play catty, rather than the girl next door was so captivating. Ms. Novak herself has said of the picture: “I never had so much fun making a movie. It may not be my greatest role, but I didn’t have a studio executive breathing down my neck, dictating my every move”.

I disagree with it not being a good part, but from the energy on set, I’m so glad she had tons of fun!

All in all, The Mirror Crack’d is absolutely under rated Agatha Christie. It may not be a legendary known story from the author, but it’s just as enthralling, thrilling and will keep you guessing. The cast is also a blast to watch- hint- lookout for a cameo by future James Bond Pierce Brosnan OBE- and it’s a great start to doing a deeper dive into the Christie Movie world.

THIS POST is for the 2023 Kim Novak 90th Birthday Blogathon hosted by The Classic Movie Muse.


14 thoughts on “The Mirror Crack’d (1980)

  1. Pingback: Welcome to The Kim Novak Blogathon: A 90th Birthday Celebration!! |

  2. Your post is just as much fun as this movie, Emily! Like you, I think Kim made the right choice in accepting the role. It gave her the opportunity to work with Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, and other greats, and allowed her to let loose and have a good time! Double win 🙂

    Thanks for joining us with this great review, Emily!

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. I watched this for the first time last fall, mainly interested to see Taylor and Hudson reunited because I grew up watching them together in Giant. It did not disappoint me! What a rollicking good time this movie is. (My mom, on the other hand, did not like it at all. I’d saved it to watch with her when she visited because she loves Angela Lansbury, but she spent the whole movie complaining that Miss Marple was not as nice as Jessica Fletcher. Can’t please ’em all!)

    Liked by 1 person

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