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Hercule Poirot
David Suchet - Poirot.png
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
First appearance The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Last appearance Curtain
Cause/reason Character's death
Created by Agatha Christie
Portrayed by David Suchet
Peter Ustinov
Albert Finney
See below
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Private Dectective
 · Former Retired Detective
 · Former Police officer
Religion Christianity (Roman Catholic)
Nationality Belgian

Hercule Poirot (pronounced /(h)ɜrˈkjuːl ˌpwɑrˈoʊ/; French pronunciation: [ɛʁkyl pwaʁo]) is a fictional Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. Along with Miss Marple, Poirot is one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels and 51 short stories that were published between 1920 and 1975 and set in the same era.

Poirot has been portrayed on screen, for films and television, by various actors including Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina and David Suchet.

Contents

Overview

Influences

His name was derived from two other fictional detectives of the time: Marie Belloc Lowndes' Hercule Popeau and Frank Howel Evans' Monsieur Poiret, a retired Belgian police officer living in London.[1] Hercule Poirot's initials replicate that of the sauce which he happens to like, HP Brown Sauce as he comments in Elephants Can Remember: "Ah yes, that is correct my initials do appear to be the same as such a fine delicacy, a good English creation." A more obvious influence on the early Poirot stories is that of Arthur Conan Doyle. In An Autobiography Christie admits that "I was still writing in the Sherlock Holmes tradition –eccentric detective, stooge assistant, with a Lestrade-type Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Japp."[2] For his part Conan Doyle acknowledged basing Sherlock Holmes on the model of Edgar Allan Poe's fictional French detective C. Auguste Dupin, who in his use of "ratiocination" prefigures Poirot's reliance on his "little grey cells".[3]

Poirot also bears a striking resemblance to A. E. W. Mason's fictional detective—Inspector Hanaud of the French Sûreté—who, first appearing in the 1910 novel At the Villa Rose, predates the writing of the first Poirot novel by six years. In chapter 4 of the second Inspector Hanaud novel, The House of the Arrow (1924), Hanaud declares sanctimoniously to the heroine, "You are wise, Mademoiselle…For, after all, I am Hanaud. There is only one."

Christie's Poirot was Belgian. Unlike the models mentioned above, Christie's Poirot character was clearly the result of her early development of the detective in her first book written in 1916 (though only published in 1920). Not only was his Belgian nationality interesting because of Belgium's occupation by Germany (which provided a valid explanation of why such a skilled detective would be out of work and available to solve mysteries at an English country house[4]), but also at the time of Christie's writing, it was considered patriotic to express sympathy with the Belgians[5], since the invasion of their country had constituted Britain's casus belli for entering World War I, and British wartime propaganda emphasized the "Rape of Belgium".

Popularity

His first published appearance was in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (published 1920) and his last was in Curtain (published 1975, the year before Christie died). On publication of this novel, Poirot was the only fictional character to be given an obituary in the New York Times; August 6, 1975 "Hercule Poirot is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective".[6]

By 1930, Agatha Christie found Poirot 'insufferable' and by 1960, she felt that he was a 'detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep'. Yet the public loved him, and Christie refused to kill him off, claiming that it was her duty to produce what the public liked, and what the public liked was Poirot.[7]

Appearance and personal attributes

Here is how Captain Arthur Hastings first describes Poirot:

"He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible.
The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police."[4]

This is how Agatha Christie describes Poirot in The Murder on the Orient Express in the very initial pages:

"By the step leading up into the sleeping-car stood a young French lieutenant, resplendent in uniform conversing, with a small man (Hercule Poirot) muffled up to the ears of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward-curled moustache."

In the later books, the limp is not mentioned, which suggests it may have been a temporary wartime injury. Poirot has dark hair, which he dyes later in life[8] (though many of his screen incarnations are portrayed as bald or balding) and green eyes that are repeatedly described as shining "like a cat's" when he is struck by a clever idea.[9] Frequent mention is made of his patent-leather shoes, damage to which is frequently a subject of (for the reader, comical) misery on his part.[10] Poirot's appearance, regarded as fastidious during his early career, is hopelessly out of fashion later in his career.[11]

Among Poirot's most significant personal attributes is the sensitivity of his stomach:

"The plane dropped slightly. "Mon estomac," thought Hercule Poirot, and closed his eyes determinedly."[12]

He suffers from sea sickness,[13] and in Death in the Clouds believes that his air sickness prevents him from being more alert at the time of the murder. Later in his life, we are told:

"Always a man who had taken his stomach seriously, he was reaping his reward in old age. Eating was not only a physical pleasure, it was also an intellectual research."[14]

Poirot is extremely punctual and carries a turnip pocket watch almost to the end of his career.[15] He is also fastidious about his personal finances, preferring to keep a bank balance of 444 pounds, 4 shillings, and 4 pence[16].

Methods

In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot operates as a fairly conventional, clue-based detective, depending on logic, which is represented in his vocabulary by two common phrases: his use of "the little grey cells" and "order and method". Irritating to Hastings is the fact that Poirot will sometimes conceal from him important details of his plans, as in The Big Four where Hastings is kept in the dark throughout the climax. This aspect of Poirot is less evident in the later novels, partly because there is rarely a narrator so there is no one for Poirot to mislead.

As early as Murder on the Links, where he still largely depends on clues, Poirot mocks a rival detective who focuses on the traditional trail of clues that had been established in detective fiction by the example of Sherlock Holmes: footprints, fingerprints and cigar ash. From this point on he establishes himself as a psychological detective who proceeds not by a painstaking examination of the crime scene, but by enquiring either into the nature of the victim or the murderer. Central to his behaviour in the later novels is the underlying assumption that particular crimes are only committed by particular types of people.

Poirot's methods focus on getting people to talk. Early in the novels, he frequently casts himself in the role of "Papa Poirot", a benign confessor, especially to young women. Later he lies freely in order to gain the confidences of other characters, either inventing his own reason for being interested in the case[17] or a family excuse[18] for pursuing a line of questioning.

"To this day Harold is not quite sure what made him suddenly pour out the whole story to a little man to whom he had only spoken a few minutes before."[19]

Poirot is also willing to appear more foreign or vain than he really is in an effort to make people underestimate him. He admits as much:

"It is true that I can speak the exact, the idiomatic English. But, my friend, to speak the broken English is an enormous asset. It leads people to despise you. They say – a foreigner – he can't even speak English properly. […] Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, "A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much. […] And so, you see, I put people off their guard."[20]

In the later novels Christie often uses the word mountebank when Poirot is being assessed by other characters, showing that he has successfully passed himself off as a charlatan or fraud.

All these techniques help Poirot attain his principal target: "For in the long run, either through a lie, or through truth, people were bound to give themselves away …"[21]

Recurring characters

Arthur Hastings

Hastings first meets Poirot during his years as a private detective in Europe and almost immediately after they both arrive in England. He becomes Poirot's lifelong friend and appears in many of the novels and stories. Poirot regards Hastings as a poor private detective, not particularly intelligent, yet helpful in his way of being fooled by the criminal and for his tendency to unknowingly "stumble" onto the truth.[22] Hastings marries and has four children - two sons and two daughters.

It must also be said that Hastings is a man who is capable of great bravery and courage when the road gets rough, facing death unflinchingly when confronted by The Big Four and possessing unwavering loyalty towards Poirot. However, when forced to choose between Poirot and his wife in that novel, he initially chooses to betray Poirot to the Big Four so that they would not torture and kill his wife. Later, though, he tells Poirot to draw back and escape the trap.

The two are an airtight team until Hastings meets and marries Dulcie Duveen, a beautiful music hall performer half his age. They later emigrate to Argentina, leaving Poirot behind as a "very unhappy old man." Poirot and Hastings are reunited in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, having been earlier reunited in The ABC Murders and "Dumb Witness" when Hastings arrives in England for business.

Ariadne Oliver

The detective novelist Ariadne Oliver is Agatha Christie's humorous self-caricature. Like Agatha Christie, she isn't overly fond of the detective she is most famous for creating – in Ariadne's case the Finnish sleuth Sven Hjerson. We never learn anything about her husband, but we do know that she hates alcohol and public appearances, and has a great fondness for apples until she is put off them by the events of Hallowe'en Party. She also has a habit of constantly changing her hairstyle, and in every appearance by her much is made of the clothes and hats she wears. She has a maid called Maria who prevents the public adoration from becoming too much of a burden on her employer, but does nothing to prevent her from becoming too much of a burden on others.

She has authored over fifty-six novels and she has a great dislike of people taking and modifying her story characters. She is also the only one in Poirot's universe to have noted that "It’s not natural for five or six people to be on the spot when B is murdered and all have a motive for killing B." She first met Poirot in the story Cards on the Table and has been bothering him ever since.

Miss Lemon

Poirot's secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon, has few human weaknesses. The only two mistakes she is ever recorded making are a typing error during the events of Hickory Dickory Dock and the mis-mailing of an electric bill, although in her defence she was worried about strange events surrounding her sister at the time. Poirot described her as being "Unbelievably ugly and incredibly efficient. Anything that she mentioned as worth consideration usually was worth consideration." She is an expert on nearly everything and plans to create the perfect filing system. She also once worked for the government agent-turned-philanthropist, Parker Pyne. Whether this was during one of Poirot’s numerous retirements or before she entered his employment is unknown.[citation needed] In the Agatha Christie Hour, she was portrayed by British actress Angela Easterling, while in Agatha Christie's Poirot, she was portrayed by Pauline Moran.

Chief Inspector Japp

Japp is an Inspector from Scotland Yard and appears in many of the stories, trying to solve the cases Poirot is working on. Japp is an outgoing, loud and sometimes inconsiderate man by nature and his relationship with the bourgeois Belgian is one of the stranger aspects of Poirot’s world. He first met Poirot in Belgium, 1904, during the Abercrombie Forgery and later that year joined forces again to hunt down a criminal known as Baron Altara. They also meet in England where Poirot often helps Japp solve a case and lets him take the credit in return for special favours. These favours usually entail being supplied with cases that would interest him.[23]

Hercule Poirot's life

Family and childhood

"I suppose you know pretty well everything there is to know about Poirot's family by this time".[24]

It is difficult to draw any concrete conclusions about Poirot's family, due to the fact that Poirot often supplies false or misleading information about himself or his background in order to assist him in obtaining information relevant to a particular case.

  • In chapter 21 of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, for example, we learn that he has been talking about a mentally disabled nephew: this proves to be a ruse so that he can find out about homes for the mentally unfit.
  • In Dumb Witness, he regales us with stories of his elderly invalid mother as a pretence to investigate the local nurses. In The Big Four Hastings believes that he meets Achille Poirot who (in an apparent parody of Mycroft Holmes) is evidently his smarter brother. On this occasion, Achille is almost certainly Poirot himself in disguise (Poirot speaks in Chapter 18 of having sent Achille "back to the land of myths"), but this does not conclusively demonstrate that Poirot does not have a brother, or even a brother called Achille. He may have had a twin brother who would have died long ago in Belgium.

Any evidence regarding Poirot for which Poirot himself is the source is therefore most unreliable. Achille Poirot is also mentioned by Dr. Burton in the prelude to The Labours of Hercules. Here Hercule Poirot replies that he has had a brother called Achille "only for a short space of time", so the existence of this brother remains unconfirmed even by Hercule Poirot himself.[25]

Based on the fact that he was active in the Brussels police force by 1893[26], it can be assumed that he would have been born in the early to mid-1870s at the latest, and would therefore have been at least in his forties at the time of the outbreak of the First World War. A brief passage in The Big Four furnishes possible information about Poirot's birth or at least childhood in or near the town of Spa, Belgium:

"But we did not go into Spa itself. We left the main road and wound into the leafy fastnesses of the hills, till we reached a little hamlet and an isolated white villa high on the hillside."[27]

It is strongly implied that this "quiet retreat in the Ardennes"[28] near Spa is the Poirot family home, and thus that Poirot may have been born or at least in part grew up there. On the other hand, Poirot was working undercover at the time and may have deliberately or unconsciously misled Hastings about his family connection to the area.

This is all extremely vague, as Poirot is thought to be an old man in his dotage even in the early Poirot novels, and in An Autobiography Christie admitted that she already imagined him to be an old man in 1920. (At the time, of course, she had no idea she would be going on writing Poirot books for many decades to come.) Much of the suggested dating for Poirot's age is therefore retconning on the part of those attempting to make sense of his extraordinarily long career.

Poirot is a Roman Catholic by birth,[29] and retains a strong sense of Catholic morality later in life.[30] Not much is known of Poirot’s childhood other than he once claimed in Three Act Tragedy to have been from a large family with little wealth. In Taken at the Flood, he further claimed to have been raised and educated by nuns,[citation needed] raising the possibility that he (and any siblings) were orphaned.

Poirot’s police years

"Gustave […] was not a policeman. I have dealt with policemen all my life and I know. He could pass as a detective to an outsider but not to a man who was a policeman himself." — Hercule Poirot in "The Erymanthian Boar" (1940).

As an adult, Poirot joined the Belgian police force. Very little mention is made in Christie's work about this part of his life, but in "The Nemean Lion" (1939) Poirot himself refers to a Belgian case of his in which "a wealthy soap manufacturer […] poisoned his wife in order to be free to marry his secretary". We do not know whether this case resulted in a successful prosecution or not; moreover, Poirot is not above lying in order to produce a particular effect in the person to whom he is speaking, so this evidence is not reliable.

Inspector Japp gives some insight into Poirot's career with the Belgian police when introducing him to a colleague:

"You've heard me speak of Mr Poirot? It was in 1904 he and I worked together – the Abercrombie forgery case – you remember he was run down in Brussels. Ah, those were the days Moosier. Then, do you remember "Baron" Altara? There was a pretty rogue for you! He eluded the clutches of half the police in Europe. But we nailed him in Antwerp – thanks to Mr. Poirot here."[31]

Perhaps this is enough evidence to suggest that Poirot's police career was a successful one.

In the short story The Chocolate Box (1923) Poirot provides Captain Arthur Hastings with an account of what he considers to be his only failure. Poirot admits that he has failed to solve a crime "innumerable" times:

"I have been called in too late. Very often another, working towards the same goal, has arrived there first. Twice I have been struck down with illness just as I was on the point of success."

Nevertheless, he regards the case in "The Chocolate Box", which took place in 1893,[32] as his only actual failure of detection. Again, Poirot is not reliable as a narrator of his personal history and there is no evidence that Christie sketched it out in any depth.

It was also in this period that Poirot shot a man who was firing from a roof onto the public below.[33]

Poirot had retired from the Belgian police force by the time he met Hastings in 1916 on the case retold in The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

It should be noted that Poirot is a French-speaking Belgian, i.e. probably a Walloon or Bruxellois; but there can hardly be found any occasion where he refers to himself as such, or is so referred to by others. At the time of writing, at least of the earlier books where the character was defined, non-Belgians such as Agatha Christie were far less aware than nowadays of the deep linguistic divide in Belgian society, assuming that all Belgians were French-speaking.

Career as a private detective

"I had called in at my friend Poirot's rooms to find him sadly overworked. So much had he become the rage that every rich woman who had mislaid a bracelet or lost a pet kitten rushed to secure the services of the great Hercule Poirot."[34]

During World War I, Poirot left Belgium for Britain as a refugee. It was here, on 16 July 1916, that he again met his lifelong friend, Captain Arthur Hastings, and solved the first of his cases to be published: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.[35] After that case Poirot apparently came to the attention of the British secret service, and undertook cases for the British government, including foiling the attempted abduction of the Prime Minister.[36]

After the war Poirot became a free agent and began undertaking civilian cases. He moved into what became both his home and work address, 56B Whitehaven Mansions, Charterhouse Square, Smithfield London W1.[37] It was chosen by Poirot for its symmetry. His first case was "The Affair at the Victory Ball", which saw Poirot enter the high society and begin his career as a private detective.

Between the world wars, Poirot travelled all over Europe and the Middle East investigating crimes and murders. Most of his cases happened during this period and he was at the height of his powers at this point in his life. The Murder On the Links saw the Belgian pit his grey cells against a French murderer. In the Middle East he solved the cases of Death on the Nile, and Murder in Mesopotamia with ease and even survived An Appointment with Death. As he passed through Eastern Europe on his return trip, he solved The Murder on the Orient Express. However he did not travel to the Americas or Australia, probably due to his sea sickness.

"It is this villainous sea that troubles me! The mal de mer – it is horrible suffering!"[38]

It was during this time he met the Countess Vera Rossakoff, a glamorous jewel thief. The history of the Countess is, like Poirot's, steeped in mystery. She claims to have been a member of the Russian aristocracy before the Russian Revolution and suffered greatly as a result, but how much of that story is true is an open question. Even Poirot acknowledges that Rossakoff has told several wildly varying accounts of her early life. Poirot later became smitten with the woman and allowed her to escape justice.

"It is the misfortune of small, precise men always to hanker after large and flamboyant women. Poirot had never been able to rid himself of the fatal fascination that the Countess held for him."[39]

Although letting the Countess escape may be morally questionable, that impulse to take the law into his own hands was far from unique. In The Nemean Lion, he sided with the criminal, Miss Amy Carnaby, and saved her from having to face justice by blackmailing his client Sir Joseph Hoggins, who himself was plotting murder and was unwise enough to let Poirot discover this. Poirot even sent Miss Carnaby two hundred pounds as a final payoff before her dog kidnapping campaign came to an end. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd he allowed the murderer to escape justice through suicide and then ensured the truth was never known to spare the feelings of the murderer's relatives. In The Augean Stables he helped the government to cover up vast corruption, even though it might be considered more honest to let the truth come out.

It could be suggested that in Murder on the Orient Express Poirot allows the murderers to escape justice as well, after he discovers that twelve different people stabbed the victim - Mr. Ratchett - in his sleep. This may be because - since 12 people stabbed the victim, none was certain who delivered the killing blow. Ultimately a falsehood is made up to tell the police and the 12 perpetrators are allowed to go free.

After his cases in the Middle East, Poirot returned to Britain. Apart from some of the so-called "Labours of Hercules" (see next section) he very rarely travelled abroad during his later career.

Retirement

"That’s the way of it. Just a case or two, just one case more – the Prima Donna’s farewell performance won’t be in it with yours, Poirot."[40]
Poirot's last cases as a private detective

There is a great deal of confusion about Poirot's retirement. Most of the cases covered by Poirot's private detective agency take place before his retirement to grow marrows, at which time he solves The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It has been said that twelve cases related in The Labours of Hercules (1947) must refer to a different retirement, but the fact that Poirot specifically says that he intends to grow marrows indicates that these stories also take place before Roger Ackroyd, and presumably Poirot closed his agency once he had completed them. There is specific mention in "The Capture of Cerberus" to the fact that there has been a gap of twenty years between Poirot's previous meeting with Countess Rossakoff and this one. If the Labours precede the events in Roger Ackroyd, then the Roger Ackroyd case must have taken place around twenty years later than it was published, and so must any of the cases that refer to it. One alternative would be that having failed to grow marrows once, Poirot is determined to have another go, but this is specifically denied by Poirot himself.[41] Also, in "The Erymanthian Boar", a character is said to have been turned out of Austria by the Nazis, implying that the events of The Labours of Hercules took place after 1937. Another alternative would be to suggest that the Preface to the Labours takes place at one date but that the labours are completed over a matter of twenty years. None of the explanations is especially attractive.

In terms of a rudimentary chronology, Poirot speaks of retiring to grow marrows in Chapter 18 of The Big Four (1927), which places that novel out of published order before Roger Ackroyd. He declines to solve a case for the Home Secretary because he is retired in Chapter One of Peril at End House (1932). He is certainly retired at the time of Three Act Tragedy (1935) but he does not enjoy his retirement and comes repeatedly out of it thereafter when his curiosity is engaged. Nevertheless, he continues to employ his secretary, Miss Lemon, at the time of the cases retold in Hickory Dickory Dock and Dead Man's Folly, which take place in the mid-1950s. It is therefore better to assume that Christie provided no authoritative chronology for Poirot's retirement, but assumed that he could either be an active detective, a consulting detective or a retired detective as the needs of the immediate case required.

One thing that is consistent about Poirot's retirement is that his fame declines during it, so that in the later novels he is often disappointed when characters (especially younger characters) recognize neither him nor his name:

"I should, perhaps, Madame, tell you a little more about myself. I am Hercule Poirot."
The revelation left Mrs Summerhayes unmoved.
"What a lovely name," she said kindly. "Greek, isn't it?"[42]

Post World War II

"He, I knew, was not likely to be far from his headquarters. The time when cases had drawn him from one end of England to the other was past."[43]

Poirot is less active during the cases that take place at the end of his career. Beginning with Three Act Tragedy (1934), Christie had perfected during the inter-war years a sub-genre of Poirot novel in which the detective himself spent much of the first third of the novel on the periphery of events. In novels such as Taken at the Flood, After the Funeral and Hickory Dickory Dock he is even less in evidence, frequently passing the duties of main interviewing detective to a subsidiary character. In Cat Among the Pigeons Poirot's entrance is so late as to be almost an afterthought. Whether this was a reflection of his age or of the fact that Christie was by now heartily sick of him it is difficult to assess. There is certainly a case for saying that Crooked House (1949) and Ordeal by Innocence (1957), which are not Poirot novels at all but so easily could have been, represent a logical endpoint of the general diminution of Poirot himself within the Poirot sequence.

Towards the end of his career it becomes clear that Poirot's retirement is no longer a convenient fiction. He assumes a genuinely inactive lifestyle during which he concerns himself with studying famous unsolved cases of the past and reading detective novels. He even writes a book about mystery fiction in which he deals sternly with Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins.[44] In the absence of a more appropriate puzzle, he solves such inconsequential domestic problems as the presence of three pieces of orange peel in his umbrella stand.[45]

Poirot (and, it is reasonable to suppose, his creator)[46] becomes increasingly bemused by the vulgarism of the up and coming generation's young people. In Hickory Dickory Dock, he investigates the strange goings on in a student hostel, while in the Third Girl he is forced into contact with the smart set of Chelsea youths. In the growing drug and pop culture of the sixties, he proves himself once again, but has become heavily reliant on other investigators (especially the private investigator, Mr. Goby) who provide him with the clues that he can no longer gather for himself.

"You're too old. Nobody told me you were so old. I really don't want to be rude but – there it is. You're too old. I'm really very sorry."[47]

Notably, during this time his physical characteristics also change dramatically, and by the time Arthur Hastings meets Poirot again in Curtain, he looks very different from his previous appearances, having become thin with age and with obviously dyed hair.

Death

Poirot dies from complications of a heart condition at the end of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, where he moves his amyl nitrite pills out of his reach, possibly out of guilt because he was forced to become the murderer in Curtain, although it was for the benefit of others. It is revealed at the end of Curtain that he fakes his need for a wheelchair (he wants to fool people into believing that he is suffering from arthritis).

Major novels

The Poirot books take readers through the whole of his life in England, from the first book (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), where he is a refugee staying at Styles, to the last Poirot book (Curtain), where he visits Styles once again before his death. In between, Poirot solves cases outside England as well, including his most famous case, Murder on the Orient Express (1934).

Hercule Poirot became famous with the publication, in 1926, of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, whose surprising solution proved controversial. The novel is still among the most famous of all detective novels: Edmund Wilson alludes to it in the title of his well-known attack on detective fiction, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Aside from Roger Ackroyd, the most critically-acclaimed Poirot novels appeared from 1932 to 1942, including such acknowledged classics as Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders (1935), Cards on the Table (1936), and Death on the Nile (1937). The last of these, a tale of multiple homicide upon a Nile steamer, was judged by the celebrated detective novelist John Dickson Carr to be among the ten greatest mystery novels of all time.

The 1942 novel Five Little Pigs (aka Murder in Retrospect), in which Poirot investigates a murder committed sixteen years before by analysing various accounts of the tragedy, is a Rashomon-like performance that critic and mystery novelist Robert Barnard called the best of the Christie novels.

Portrayals

Stage

The first actor to portray Hercule Poirot was Charles Laughton. He appeared on the West End in 1928 in the play Alibi which had been adapted by Michael Morton from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Film

Austin Trevor

Austin Trevor debuted the role of Poirot on screen in the 1931 British film Alibi. The film was based on the stage play. Trevor reprised the role of Poirot twice, in Black Coffee and Lord Edgware Dies. Trevor said once that he was probably cast as Poirot simply because he could do a French accent.[48] Leslie S. Hiscott directed the first two films, with Henry Edwards taking over for the third.

Albert Finney

Albert Finney played Poirot in 1974 in the cinematic version of Murder on the Orient Express. It was a very faithful adaptation of the novel. Finney is, so far, the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for playing Poirot, though he did not win.

Peter Ustinov

Peter Ustinov as Poirot in Evil Under the Sun

Peter Ustinov played Poirot a total of six times, starting with Death on the Nile (1978). He reprised the role in Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988).

When Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks, observed to Ustinov that Poirot did not look like him, Ustinov quipped "He does now!"[49]

He appeared again as Poirot in three made-for-television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Dead Man's Folly (1986), and Murder in Three Acts (1986). The first of these was based on Lord Edgware Dies and was made by Warner Brothers. It also starred Faye Dunaway and David Suchet as Inspector Japp, just before he himself began to play the famous detective. (Ironically, it is reputed that David Suchet highlights his performance as Japp to be "possibly the worst performance of [his] career.")[50]

Other

Television

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot

David Suchet

David Suchet has starred as the eponymous detective in Agatha Christie's Poirot in the ITV series since 1989. Suchet has stated that he plans to have filmed all of the Poirot stories by 2011.

Other

  • Ian Holm, Murder by the Book, 1986 (TV)
  • Alfred Molina, Murder on the Orient Express, 2001 (TV)
  • Anatoli Ravikoch Zagadka Endkhauza (1989; based on "Peril at End House")
  • Konstantin Rajkin Neudacha Puaro (2002; based on "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd")
  • Heini Göbel (1954; an adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express)
  • Horst Bollmann Black Coffee (TV adaptation)
  • Martin Gabel General Electric Theater (1953; adaptation of "The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim")

Animated

In 2004, NHK (a Japanese TV network) produced a 39 episode anime series titled Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, as well as a manga series under the same title released in 2005.

The series, adapting several of the best-known Poirot and Marple stories, ran from July 4, 2004 through May 15, 2005, and is now being shown as re-runs on NHK and other networks in Japan. Poirot was voiced by Satomi Kōtarō and Miss Marple was voiced by Yachigusa Kaoru.

Radio

There have been a number of radio adaptations of the Poirot stories, most recently on BBC Radio 4 (and regularly repeated on BBC 7) starring John Moffatt. In 1939, "the Mercury Players dramatized The Murder of Roger Ackroyd on CBS's Campbell Playhouse".[51] A 1945 radio series of at least 11 original half-hour episodes (none of which apparently adapt any Christie stories) transferred Poirot from London to New York and starred character actor Harold Huber[52], perhaps better known for his appearances as a police officer in various Charlie Chan films.[53] On February 22, 1945, "speaking from London, Agatha Christie introduced the initial broadcast of the Poirot series via shortwave."[51]

Parodies and references

In Neil Simon's Murder By Death, James Coco plays a character named "Milo Perrier" who is a parody of Poirot. The film also features parodies of Charlie Chan, Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and Miss Marple.

Poirot was also parodied in The Goodies episode "Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express".

The British television show Count Duckula features a parody of Hercule Poirot (in passing) known as Mr. Hercules Parrot, arm in arm with a character called Miss Marbles.

An episode of Animaniacs featured Yakko Warner as "Hercule Yakko". The episode involved the theft of a diamond on a cruise ship, involving much of the series' cast as suspects.

In the movie Spiceworld, Hercule Poirot (Hugh Laurie) is about to blame a weapons-packing Emma Bunton, but after she flashes him an innocent smile, Poirot instead accuses an innocent man of the crime.

In Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Poirot appears as a young boy on the train transporting Holmes and Watson. Holmes helps the boy in opening a puzzle-box, with Watson giving the boy advice about using his "little grey cells", giving the impression that Poirot first heard the line here. Poirot would go on to use the "little grey cells" line countless times throughout Agatha Christie's fiction.

In an episode of Muppets Tonight, Jason Alexander played Hercule Poirot, believed by the Muppets to be Hercules Poirot, with superhuman powers.

The Belgian brewery Brasserie Ellezelloise makes a highly rated stout called Hercule[54] with a moustachioed caricature of Hercule Poirot on the label.

Dave Stone has created two parodies of Poirot named Dupont. The first, Andre Dupont, appears in the Detective-Judge Armitage story Dowager Duchess of Ghent[55]. The second, Emile Dupont, appears in the Bernice Summerfield novel Ship of Fools.

The "decipherer of enigmas" in José Carlos Somoza's novel The Athenian Murders is named Herakles Pontor.

In the English version of Geronimo Stilton series, the main protagonist has a friend named "Hercule Poirat".

In the anime and manga series Detective Conan, Mouri Kogoro's detective agency is located above the Poirot café. A profile summary of Hercule appears at the end of volume 3 of the manga.

In the Israeli sitcom The Pajamas, one of the characters of Kobi is a grotesque policeman named 'Marcel Fuero', as a reference to Poirot ('Poirot' and 'Fuero' are written the same way in Hebrew, פוארו).

In the Portuguese New Year's special comedy show Crime na Pensão Estrelinha (starring Portuguese top comedian Herman José), there is a character named Hércules Pirô. Aside from the clear reference to Agatha Christie's character, 'Pirô' also is a misspelling of the word 'pirou', which is Portuguese slang for 'has gone crazy'.

See also

References

  1. ^ Chris Willis, London Metropolitan University. "Agatha Christie (1890-1976)". http://www.animunch.com/. Retrieved 2006-09-06. 
  2. ^ Reproduced as the "Introduction" to Christie, Agatha. Hercule Poirot: The complete short stories (Harper Collins, 1999) p. viii
  3. ^ See C. Auguste Dupin#Literary influence and significance.
  4. ^ a b The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Chapter 2
  5. ^ H. C. Peterson (1939). Propaganda for War: The Campaign against American Neutrality, 1914-1917. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  6. ^ "Official Agatha Christie Website". http://agathachristie.com/. Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  7. ^ Chris Willis, London Metropolitan University. "Agatha Christie (1890-1976)". http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=5054. Retrieved 2006-09-06. 
  8. ^ as Hastings discovers in The A.B.C. Murders, Chapter 1
  9. ^ e.g. "For about ten minutes [Poirot] sat in dead silence […] and all the time his eyes grew steadily greener" The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Chapter 5
  10. ^ e.g. "Hercule Poirot looked down at the tips of his patent-leather shoes and sighed." "The Apples of the Hesperides" (1940)
  11. ^ e.g. "And now here was the man himself. Really a most impossible person – the wrong clothes – button boots! an incredible moustache! Not his – Meredith Blake's kind of fellow at all." Five Little Pigs, Chapter 7.
  12. ^ Death in the Clouds, Chapter 1.
  13. ^ "My stomach, it is not happy on the sea" Evil under the Sun, Chapter 8, iv
  14. ^ Mrs. McGinty's Dead, Chapter 1
  15. ^ "he walked up the steps to the front door and pressed the bell, glancing as he did so at the neat wrist-watch which had at last replaced an old favourite – the large turnip-faced watch of early days. Yes, it was exactly nine-thirty. As ever, Hercule Poirot was exact to the minute." "The Dream" (1937)
  16. ^ The Lost Mine
  17. ^ "It has been said of Hercule Poirot by some of his friends and associates, at moments when he has maddened them most, the he prefers lies to truth and will go out of his way to gain his ends by elaborate false statements, rather than trust to the simple truth." Five Little Pigs, Book One, Chapter 9
  18. ^ e.g. "After a careful study of the goods displayed in the window, Poirot entered and represented himself as desirous of purchasing a rucksack for a hypothetical nephew." Hickory Dickory Dock, Chapter 13
  19. ^ "The Stymphalean Birds" (first published as "The Vulture Women" in 1939)
  20. ^ Three Act Tragedy, final chapter
  21. ^ After the Funeral, Chapter 18.
  22. ^ Bunson, Matthew (2000). "Hastings, Captain Arthur, O.B.E.". The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia. New York: Pocket Books. 
  23. ^ Captain Arthur Hastings in Chapter 9 of The Big Four
  24. ^ Dr. Sheppard in Chapter 21 of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  25. ^ "The Labours of Hercules", Foreword
  26. ^ as mentioned in Peril at End House, Chapter 15
  27. ^ The Big Four, Chapter 16
  28. ^ The Big Four, Chapter 17
  29. ^ "Hercule Poirot was a Catholic by birth." "The Apples of the Hesperides" (1940)
  30. ^ In Taken at the Flood, Book II, Chapter 6 he goes into church to pray and happens across a suspect with whom he briefly discusses ideas of sin and confession.
  31. ^ The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Chapter 7
  32. ^ The date is given in Peril at End House, Chapter 15.
  33. ^ Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, Postscript
  34. ^ "Double Sin" (original version published in 1928)
  35. ^ It is clear that Hastings and Poirot are already friends when they meet in Chapter 2 of the novel, because Hastings tells Cynthia that he has not seen him for "some years". The date of 1916 for the case, and the fact that Hastings had met Poirot in Belgium, is given in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, Chapter 1.
  36. ^ Recounted in "The Kidnapped Prime Minister". The events in the story are immediately connected with the First World War, and feature an "Allied Conference" at Versailles that is probably meant to be understood as the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919.
  37. ^ Hastings first visits the flat at Whitehaven Mansions when he returns to England in June 1935 from South America. The A.B.C. Murders, Chapter 1 (It is a plot point in the novel that the flat is at Whitehaven Mansions because a letter to Poirot is misaddressed.) In Cat Among the Pigeons, Chapter 17, III, the address is given as "228 Whitehouse Mansions". Given the similarity in the names it is not impossible that the same address was meant. In The Clocks, Chapter 14, the address is given as 203, Whitehaven Mansions.
  38. ^ Poirot, in "The Kidnapped Prime Minister" (1923)
  39. ^ "The Capture of Cerebus" (1947) The first sentence quoted is also a close paraphrase of something said to Poirot by Hastings in Chapter 18 of The Big Four.
  40. ^ Dr. Burton in the Preface to The Labours of Hercules (1947).
  41. ^ The Clocks, Chapter 13: in response to the suggestion that he might take up gardening in his retirement, Poirot answers "Once the vegetable marrows, yes – but never again"
  42. ^ Mrs. McGinty's Dead, Chapter 4
  43. ^ Hastings, in Chapter One of The Big Four
  44. ^ The Third Girl, Chapter 1
  45. ^ The Clocks, Chapter 14
  46. ^ In The Pale Horse, Chapter 1, the novel's narrator, Mark Easterbrook, disapprovingly describes a typical "Chelsea girl" in much the same terms that Poirot uses in Chapter 1 of Third Girl, suggesting that the condemnation of fashion is authorial.
  47. ^ Norma Restarick to Poirot in Third Girl, Chapter 1
  48. ^ TV & Film page at the Hercule Poirot Central website.
  49. ^ Web page at mapdig.com
  50. ^ Web page on David Suchet at strandmag.com
  51. ^ a b Cox, Jim, Radio Crime Fighters, 2002, p. 18, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, ISBN 0786413905
  52. ^ A list of episodes of the half-hour 1945 radio program
  53. ^ IMDB listing for Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo
  54. ^ The Brasserie Ellezelloise's Hercule
  55. ^ Armitage

External links








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