Wednesday, November 28, 2007

“The Case of the Astor Will” is Woefully Miscast

Yes, miscast. So we realized last evening after watching "Hercule Poirot's Christmas."

A movie length Agatha Christie mystery, "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" takes place in an English country home at Christmastime, 1936. The family patriarch, age 70+, has grown incredibly rich mining African diamonds. Now he summons his children, including a long-lost black sheep, plus a 20-ish granddaughter from Argentina, to join him for Yuletide. When they arrive, he let's it be known that he intends to change his will. He'll make a new one right after Boxing Day.

As the rigid conventions of English country-house mysteries require, he is promptly murdered.

After Poirot solved the crime. we turned to the news. There was Anthony Marshall, stooped and noticeably frailer, appearing in court to be charged with pillaging the estate of his mother, Brooke Astor, and forging her signature on changes to her will.

The casting couldn't be more wrong. The Astor matriarch was well over 100 when the amendments to her will were made. Marshall, assigned the role of the suspect son with black-sheep tendencies, is 83. (He could have been a 12-year-old choir boy in 1936, the year in which "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" is set.) Marshall's spouse, cast as "the scandalous young second wife," is now 65, presumably eligible for Social Security. And the role of grandchild is filled not by a student-age young person but by Philip Marshall, a professor in his mid-fifties.

All wrong! One wishes that, instead of a trial, the God of Equity might descend to the stage and settle things properly. Send the old folks to a first-rate assisted-living facility. Give the aging grandchildren sufficient bequests to top off their retirement funds. Then bestow the bulk of the estate upon the charities Mrs. Astor designated in her pre-amended will.

One member of the cast does seem to fit his part. Attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr. allegedly has a talent Agatha Christie would have loved. Reportedly, he just can't help attracting elderly clients who want to remember him in their wills.

No comments: