Sunday, 1 February 2015

Geraldine McEwan 1932 - 2015

(c) ITV - Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple 

Geraldine McEwan, best known for playing Miss Marple from 2004 - 2009, died peacefully on 30th January 2015 following a stroke in October, her family announced yesterday.

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Geraldine, born 9th May 1932 in Old Windsor, Berkshire, had a long career in theatre, film and television and won a BAFTA for Best Actress in 1991. In her early life, she attended Windsor County Girls' School and then went to a private school on a scholarship.

Her theatrical career began when she was just 14, when she was an assistant stage manager at the Theatre Royal in Windsor. However, when she was 16, she made her stage debut in A Midsummer Night's Dream, playing an attendant of Hippolyta. She went on to appear playing several roles for the Windsor Repertory Company from 1949 - 1951 and began her West End career in the successful Who Goes There! at the Vaudeville Theatre, playing the role of Christina Deed. In her theatrical career, she appeared alongside Laurence Oliver many times and Kenneth Williams.

(c) ITV - Geraldine McEwan and her co-stars
In 1978 she played the title character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, written by Muriel Spark, a role that had previously been played by Maggie Smith and Vanessa Redgrave. Muriel Spark, the late author, claimed that Geraldine was her favourite actress in the role. From 1985-6 she played Lucia in ITV's Mapp and Lucia series, alongside Prunella Scales as Mrs Mapp. The series was recently renewed for the BBC last Christmas starring Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson. In 1991 she won the Best Actress BAFTA award for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. In the same year, she played the witch mother of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

In 2003, ITV announced that they were planning to make a new series of films based on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels, starring Geraldine McEwan as the famous elderly detective. She told the BBC that, "With Miss Marple I feel that I have been entrusted with a national treasure of whom I already feel both protective and extremely fond." 
Her first appearance was in The Body in the Library, first broadcast in 2004. 8 million viewers tuned in to ITV to see the new Miss Marple. Geraldine starred alongside Joanna Lumley, David Walliams, James Fox and Ian Richardson in the adaptation by the late screenwriter Kevin Elyot. In the first series, she played the role in The Murder at the Vicarage, 4.50 From Paddington and A Murder Is Announced. Geraldine went on to star in three series and 12 episodes of the show.

She played Miss Marple as slightly eccentric, yet highly intelligent and warm hearted. She had a twinkle in her eye that gave her an edge as the character, and for some, me included, made her the definitive Miss Marple. Geraldine's Marple had an interesting back story where the character had an affair with a married soldier in 1915, making her very empathetic and understanding of some of the characters in the show. Her keen sense of justice also made Geraldine's interpretation much loved with fans of the character all over the world. I myself believe that Geraldine McEwan was one of the best actresses to play Miss Marple, and really made the role her own while remaining true to the character in Agatha Christie's novels. Geraldine was the first actress I saw play Miss Marple, in the 2006 episode Sleeping Murder. I greatly admired her portrayal which made me delve into Christie's novels and stories.

In 2008, Geraldine McEwan announced that she was retiring from the role of Miss Marple after 12 episodes. She said, "Of course, it is terribly disappointing to have to pass the baton on, but it has been a marvellous experience to inhabit this role for the last few years, and I am sure that my successor, whomever she may be, will thoroughly enjoy her time with the production team - and with the extraordinarily talented group of writers and actors that they come up with for each series.

"It's been an absolute pleasure to work on Miss Marple since 2003, and I leave with fond memories."
Her last episode as the character, Nemesis, was broadcast in 2009. After she retired, Olivier award winning actress Julia McKenzie took over the role and continued to play her in 11 episodes from 2009-2013. In 2005, McEwan voiced the character of Mrs Thripp in the Wallace and Grommet films The Curse of the Were-rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death. 
In 1953, Geraldine McEwan married Hugh Cruttwell. She first met him when she started off her career at the Theatre Royal in Windsor when she was just 14. They had two children, Greg and Claudia, and seven grandchildren. Cruttwell died in 2002 aged 83. 
Geraldine's children announced yesterday that their mother had died in hospital following a stroke in October. Many of her fans and friends took to twitter to pay tribute to the late actress. Her co-stars, directors from Marple and other famous faces paid tribute to her last night. 
Amanda Holden, who appeared alongside McEwan in 4.50 From Paddington in 2004, tweeted: 
Another of McEwan's Marple co-stars, Frances Barber, who appeared with the actress in A Murder is Announced in 2004, tweeted: 

Bonnie Langford appeared in By the Pricking of My Thumbs in 2006 alongside Geraldine playing Miss Marple: 

One of Geraldine's Marple directors, Paul Unwin, tweeted: 


Doctor Who star Colin Baker also gave tribute to the late actress on twitter: 


Actress Abigail Thaw, the daughter of the late Morse star John Thaw, tweeted: 



Geraldine McEwan played Miss Marple in the following episodes in the ITV series: 


Series One 
The Body in the Library (2004) 
The Murder at the Vicarage (2004) 
4.50 From Paddington (2004) 
A Murder Is Announced (2005) 

Series Two 
Sleeping Murder (2006) 
The Moving Finger (2006) 
By the Pricking of my Thumbs (2006)  
The Sittaford Mystery (2006) 

Series Three 
At Bertram's Hotel (2007) 
Ordeal By Innocence (2008) 
Towards Zero (2008) 
Nemesis (2009) 

In memory of Geraldine McEwan, 1932 - 2015 

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