The Crooked House – The first movie about Agatha Christie’s favourite book

27. November 2018

Three generations of the Leonides family live in a large and old stately home. One day, the patriarch Aristide Leonides is found dead.

About the first movie that finally brings Agatha Christie’s The Crooked House on screen.

Die deutsche Version des Beitrags findest du hier: Das Krumme Haus

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The crime novel „The Crooked House“ was first published in 1949. It was written by the inimitable Queen of Chrime – Agatha Christie. She described this book as one of her all-time favourites, and yet it is still a relatively unknown story.

A new movie is finally bringing this unique book to life. With a stunning cast, a wonderfully manipulative and a scheming atmosphere which is leading into a thrilling finale.

The mysterious death of a family member – The (nearly) perfect crime

A house. A murder. Numerous suspects. As classical as most of the books written by my favourite auther begin, as untypical and unexpected does this story continue.

„The Crooked House“ movie is set in England in the late 1950s. The aristocratic Greek family Leonides lives on their stately home Three Gables a very opulent, luxurious life. Three generations share their home under the rooftop of the old, crooked house.

One day, the tyrannical grandfather Aristide is found dead. He died under suspicious cirumstances.

Each member of the family had a reason to murder the old man. Sophia, the granddaughter of the millionaire, implores Charles Hayward – a private detective and her former lover – to help her investigate.

Das krumme Haus - Agatha Christie Verfilmung - The Crooked House - Agatha Christie Movie

Glenn Close as Lady Edith.

Das krumme Haus - Agatha Christie Verfilmung - The Crooked House - Agatha Christie Movie
Private detective Charles Hayward and Aristide’s granddaughter Sophia.

Das krumme Haus - Agatha Christie Verfilmung - The Crooked House - Agatha Christie Movie

Christina Hendricks – the amazing Joan Holloway from „Mad Men“ – plays Aristide’s widow Brenda.

When Charles arrives at Three Gables, he discovers what Sophia calls her „ruthless“ family. He is welcomed by a house full of motives, evidences and numerous potential criminals.

Part of this family are the strong and mysterious Lady Edith (Glenn Close), the extravagant daughter-in-law Magda (Gillian Anderson), Aristide’s sons Philip (Julian Sands) and Roger (Christian McKay) as well as Aristide’s second wife and widow Brenda (Christina Hendricks).

Moreover, Charles does not even know, whether Sophia herself could be involved in the murder. Or whether she will be the next victim…

The Crooked House, Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile – Why Agatha Christies novels are still so popular nowadays

The limitless popularity of Agatha Christie’s books is hardly surprising.

From the first line, the reader gets the feeling of being part of the plot. One gets to know every character with his and her traits and complicated relationships. She is making us feel as if the scenery was set in the neighbouring village!

Agatha Christie 1925- Das krumme Haus - Agatha Christie Verfilmung - the crooked house - Agatha Christie movie

As readers, we are taken along into the story very deeply, which is giving us the impression to be strolling around the deck of the Nile steamship ourselves, to be enjoying a cocktail in the glamorous Orient Express or even to be part of the family dinner with the Aristides in their old house.

And on top of this, all of her books are written with so much lightness, acumen and her very special English humour.

Not least since the countless film versions of her books with famous actors like Margaret Rutherford or David Suchet, Agatha Christies books have become immortal.

The British author is the most widely read female author in the world. Only the Bible and works by William Shakeaspeare have sold in higher numbers than the ones of Agatha Christie.

Das krumme Haus - Agatha Christie Verfilmung - The Crooked House - Agatha Christie MoviePortrait: Agatha Christie, 1925. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Above: A scene from the new movie „The Crooked House“. Stefanie Martini as Sophia, at the Three Gables.

Das krumme Haus - Agatha Christie Verfilmung - The Crooked House - Agatha Christie MovieProbably the highlight of the movie: The dinner of all twelve characters. With Gillian Anderson as Magda.  

Christie’s principle is: The detective shall never know more than the reader. The author puts emphasis on the stories behind the crimes. Furthermore, each of her novels invites us to a travel back in time.

What I really enjoy about her books as well, are the descriptions of the manners of the distinguished society in the early 20th century. They give a quite interesting and amusing insight into the everyday life back then.

As „Queen of Crime“, Agatha Christie developed the modern English crime novel. She wrote 73 of these during her lifetime, until her death in 1973. Let’s not forget her countless short stories, theatre scripts, romances, a volume of poems and an autobiography.

Her good friend and manager Peter Sauders described her like this: „She was as English as the Buckingham Palace, the House of Commons and the Tower of London together.“

Christie’s relatively unknown „favourite book“

Compared to the „Death on the Nile“ and „Murder on the Orient Express“, the Crooked House has surprisingly remained quinte unknown, even though Agatha Christie proclaimed it as one of her personal favourites.

„I found a study of a certain family interesting to explore,“ she wrote in 1972. As with some other books („And then there were none“ for example) she borrowed the book title from an English nursery rhyme:

„There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile. He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse. And they all lived together in a little crooked house.”

Because of the the plot’s shocking ending, her publisher pleaded with her to change the final chapter. This may account for why it’s never been adapted before.

A shocking ending or not, Christie’s grandson Matthew Prichard takes it to heart to only publish movies that are true to the original story.

As he points out, “faithfulness” and “simplicity” are central to any successful adaptation of his grandmother’s novels.

A look into the „Crooked House“ – The dream-like, glamorous atmosphere of the movie

While earlier drafts of the script set the film around 1953, director Paquet-Brenner settled on a few years later – 1956-’57 – with the turbulent backdrop of the Suez Canal Crisis.

„The world was about to undergo a huge cultural shift,“ he says. Paquet-Brenner realised it was the birth of rock’n’roll. It was the birth of the teenage culture – because this world didn’t even exist before.

With the chance to set scenes in swinging Soho, with Tommy Steele and Teddy Boys, it was for him the perfect way of expressing the clash of generations that already existed in the novel.

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This colourful scene of a dance night out with Sophia and Charles is quite a contrast to the old-fashioned, nearly spooky home of the family.

The extraordinary aspect regarding the novels of Agatha Christie: The typical „Whodunit“ in her stories is always following the same pattern. A couple of quite mysterious, contrary characters find themselves in a closed space, such as a library, a ship, a train, or – as in this case – a stately home.

On top, there is a small number of suspects. People, that are introduced extensively by the author during the story. Mostly they do have an alibi, but often a false one. To solve the crime, Christie lets her smart and sympathic detectives do the job.

For Three Gables, the family estate setting for Crooked House that is such a crucial part of the narrative, it was essential that the production find the right location. In the end, four different locations were used to create the interiors and exteriors for the house.

Exteriors were shot at Minley Manor, the Hampshire country estate that famously was used during the planning of the Falklands War. „It’s a fantastic hero location,“ says Spring. „It looks like what a ‚Crooked House‘ should be.“

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The „Crooked House“ itself. All photos by: 20th Century Fox / Nick Wall.

Tyntesfield Estate in Somerset was then used for its incredible staircase. The staircase gives a clear access to all these different rooms that sit within the house.

It seems like the giant staircase in the center of the building forms a kind of connecting element between the different generations of the family, as well as their individual stories.

A couple of family members with all their habits are accomodated in this crooked house. Including their dark secrets, their passion,and their intrigues.

A union of these impressive settings, a story that is thrilling until the very end, as well as the numerous characters coming to life with amazing actors is creating a glamorous, dream-like and cinematic 1950s atmosphere.

Finally a new Agatha Christie movie that I can absolutely recommend!

The Agatha Christie movie „The Crooked House“ by 20th Century Fox is in German cinemas on 29th November 2018.

Don’t miss: For the Germany-wide premerie of the movie I give away 3×2 tickets on my facebook-page!

 

 

Further recommendations:

Allied Movie Style Guide – 1940s fashion and how to wear it today
1940s movie – A book society in war times / Including Vintage Hair Tutorial
Behind the Scenes: The Dark Arts in the Harry Potter movies

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