Published: Fri 01 Mar 2013
The return of the Perspectives documentary strand for its third run brings together powerful stories and a unique insight into the arts from a range of well-known figures.
It encompasses seven single films from a rich variety of distinctive individuals offering their take on subjects for which they have a personal enthusiasm and fascination.
Perspectives’ diverse range takes in Jonathan Ross on Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Portillo on Picasso, while Warwick Davis explores the miraculous survival of a family of Jewish dwarves during the Second World War, and Sheila Hancock reveals her passion for the Brontë sisters. Paul O’Grady heads to the US to tell the story of the life of Gypsy Rose Lee, the world's most famous burlesque dancer, and Hugh Laurie makes a musical pilgrimage to immerse himself in the Blues.
David Suchet: The Mystery of Agatha Christie
The first film in the new Perspectives series features actor David Suchet setting out to unravel the mystery surrounding the life and work of Agatha Christie.
David wants to find out what gave her stories worldwide appeal and why her heroes such as Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple captured the imaginations of so many fans.
He travels to her former home in Devon to search for clues about what inspired the best selling novelist, and to Istanbul to unlock the secrets about her life.
Actor David Suchet, TVs Poirot, sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding the life and work of Agatha Christie in this first film in the new series of ITV’s arts strand Perspectives.
David has spent more of his life acting out the plots and dramas created by Agatha Christie than anyone else in the world. He is currently donning the spats and moustaches to portray the famous Belgian detective for the very last time. Though, in his own words, he knows Agatha’s most famous creation perhaps better than he knows himself, David embarks on a journey to learn more about the woman who created him and whose books remain outsold only by Shakespeare and The Bible.
He wants to discover what gave her stories worldwide appeal, and why her literary heroes captured the imaginations of so many fans.
Throughout her life Agatha remained a private person, known for her shyness as well as her literary gifts. So what is it about Agatha and her work that has made her so enduringly popular, and to what extent did events in her life influence her writing?
David’s journey takes him all over the country and beyond, visiting the places Agatha lived and the landscapes that inspired her to find clues to the mystery surrounding one of Britain’s most prolific and best loved authors.
He meets the people who knew the woman behind the fame, like Agatha’s only surviving descendent, her grandson Mathew Prichard, who offers him “a rare peak into the treasure trove that is the Christie family archive”. David also hears from those who are deeply inspired by her extraordinary legacy.
Through exclusive interviews and unseen images and archive film, David learns how Agatha rose from a seemingly idyllic childhood in Devon to become master of the sinister world of poisons and murder.
“Having played Poirot for so long, I know how Agatha’s novels were inspired by the Devonshire landscape, with real villages and hidden coves becoming fictional places of murder and intrigue. I’m sure these idyllic settings have always been a part of her appeal.
“I’m very firmly Agatha Christie’s Poirot and I won’t allow him out of the box into which she put him. I don’t think I’m the easiest actor in the world to work with when it comes to Hercule Poirot because I do know him so well.”
He learns that Agatha’s famous and ingenious use of poisons (used as the method of murder in over half her novels) all stemmed from her first-hand experience of working as a dispensary nurse during the First World War. It was her encyclopaedic knowledge and dedication to accuracy that set her apart from her contemporaries. It was also during the Great War that she first came into contact with Belgian refugees – and where she first got the idea for a certain Belgian detective.
Though, as David learns, it is not just Agatha’s novels that are shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Her blissful marriage to Archie Christie ended in heartbreak when he had an affair with a glamorous beauty he met on the golf course.
Distraught at the thought of losing her husband, Agatha staged a dramatic disappearance in 1926 to try and lure him back. Unfortunately it convinced the nation that she had succumbed to the same horrendous fate as the victims she penned. Archie came under suspicion from both the police and the nation’s press before Agatha was found safe and well at a spa hotel in Harrogate. It was a cleverly constructed ploy that could easily have been lifted straight from the pages of one of her novels and led many to assume she staged it as a mass publicity stunt.
The repercussions from this disappearance would continue to haunt Agatha for the rest of her life, but it was a subject she refused to discuss.
“It must have been a dreadful period in Agatha’s life. I imagine most of us have got to the stage where you can’t think straight anymore, and you get that tight band around the head. I know I have, mind you I’ve never felt it as much as Agatha Christie did, and of course I’ve never done anything about it, but I can understand it.”
David follows in Agatha’s footsteps to Istanbul, the first stop on a journey to the East that allowed her to escape her difficulties and would change her life forever, inspiring some of her most famous works including Murder on the Orient Express and introducing her to the great love of her life, Max.
“Having gone to Istanbul I could understand why Agatha had been so drawn to the East and why it had left such an indelible mark on her heart. But as I also learned, home for Agatha was always England.”
In this revealing documentary David explores the close links between Agatha’s extraordinary life and her work and discovers just what it is about this woman from a small sea side town that allowed her to become the bestselling murder mystery writer in history.
The Executive Producer is Steve Humphries. The Director is Clare Lewins