Poirot vs. the Canucks

*Spoilers, as always.*

Happy Canada Day! Agatha Christie was rather fond of Canada, speaking warmly of the scenery as she tripped out this way on her many travels. In the Poirot series, two of the more prominent mentions that I can recall of the Great White North are from The Adventure of the Cheap Flat and Elephants Can Remember. Both involve a confusion of the nationalities of American and Canadian.

Miss Elsa Hart, the chief villain, is actually a pseudo-Canuck in the TV adaptation of Cheap Flat. On the run from the Mafia in the States, she assumes a different nationality as well as a different name. The shady manager of the Black Cat nightclub, Bernie Cole, offers some amusing dialog on the prospects of Canada’s future influence…

Poirot: “What I want to know is, is it Elsa Hart, the American?”
Cole: “No.”
Poirot. “Ah. I heard her in New York once, you understand.”
Cole: “Oh yes? She’s Canadian. Like those Dionne quintuplets. It’s gonna be all the rage soon. Canadian this, Canadian that. Bernie Cole can always spot a trend! Known for it!”

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“This is my skeptical face, monsieur.”

(For those interested in a bit of trivia this Canada Day: the Dionne quintuplets, born in 1934 near Callander, Ontario, were famous as the first known surviving quintuplets. I remember driving down from Timmins once with the family, and passing a road sign noting that we were near their hometown. The identical sisters became a sort of gimmicky tourist phenomenon and must have had a pretty bizarre childhood in consequence.)

Although it doesn’t occur in the Christie’s original story, I rather enjoy the use of confused nationality. As an American living in Canada who is frequently confused for being Canadian, it always delights me when people confuse Poirot for a Frenchman, and he corrects them right away. It’s funny– but it’s also exactly how it is!  🙂

The other prominent mention of Canada occurs, of course, in Elephants Can Remember, notable for the most blatantly obvious clues ever inserted into a Poirot script. Anyone watching the episode in North America would think, “No way is she from Boston if she says ‘zed.’ No way would she not know what she was doing on St. Patrick’s Day if she were of the Boston Irish.”

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Oh well. What I really want to know is this: in the denouement, Poirot says that her accent gave her away, which we already knew. He gave the example of her use of “zed,” but he also says that he heard the Canadian aspect “immediately.” I wonder if he could actually tell even sooner. When he first speaks with her, it’s in a stream of rapid French, ending with:

Poirot: “Vous ne l’avez vu à l’avance?”
Mary: “Huh? No, I’ve never been down here before.”

Setting aside the fact that “huh” is more of an Americanism (she should have gone for “eh,” eh?) it is perhaps just a little curious that she can process his question at all, and maybe Poirot files that fact away for later. Of course, if she spent more than half her life in Montreal– with French-speaking relatives of Zelie Rouxelle’s, no less– she was bound to be pretty conversant in the language.

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By the way, this is the second instance in the series where a young girl is hurried away from her home in England and sent to Montreal after it is feared (incorrectly) that one of the parents killed the other! The other instance is in Five Little Pigs, where the daughter of Caroline Crale comes back for the truth about her mother. We know it’s Montreal from the book, and the daughter had been given the name of Lemarchant in Canada. The daughters in both episodes also, incidentally, come back to wreak revenge… and neither quite manages it. Insert Quebec joke here.  🙂

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In Elephants Can Remember, there is, perhaps, one other sense in which Mary’s accent gives her away. She says that she’s just a simple clerk. She pronounces the word “clark,” which is a British pronunciation, used neither in the United States nor in Canada! So, can we say that this “gives away” the fact that she’s a British actress pretending to be from across the pond?

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  🙂

Happy Canada Day, all!

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Grow a moustache… win a painting…?

Another Monday, another chance to win this miniature framed painting:

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This time it’s easy… all you have to do is reply to my contest Tweet on Twitter with a photo of yourself… having grown a moustache.    🙂   The manner of moustache is up to you: real, fake, digital, artistic, bizarre, WHATEVER. One entry per person, and on Friday I’ll pull a name out of a hat. I want to see plenty of facial symmetry, people!!  🙂

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The Adventure of the Cheap Flat… random thoughts, and a giveaway!

Some assorted musings about the episode The Adventure of the Cheap Flat…

*  When he’s working with his friend, Poirot seems to be eternally useless at inconspicuous burgling, whereas Hastings is awkward but ultimately successful– see The Veiled Lady and Wasps’ Nest for confirmation. On his own, Poirot has more subtlety!

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*  I do have a few little script quibbles. The overblown American stereotypes I find annoying. (And football metaphors along with everything else… really?) Also, the alteration of the plot for television makes Poirot to spot the Italian-American outside the block of flats for some time before the man enters the building at night. Great for dramatic tension, sure, but since he knows the guy’s purpose, WHY doesn’t Poirot just approach this man in daylight and explain everything in advance, rather than waiting for him to break into the flat and risking someone getting knifed?? I know the blasted little man wants to be dramatic and all, but really! In the book, he knows the “swarthy stranger” has been asking about the tenants but doesn’t know where the Italian is in advance, so he has to wait until the man breaks into the Robinsons’ to apprehend him and explain things. And the story flows naturally from there. Television-Hastings really deserves the chance to give Poirot a smack upside the head for all this…

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*  When you have an assortment of nerdy interests, you find strange and unlikely overlaps between them everywhere. For me, I watch The Adventure of the Cheap Flat and I think of George Harrison. The “Night Club Music” in the episode in question is credited to one Neil Richardson. Presumably this includes the music we hear at about the 26-minute mark, when Poirot visits The Black Cat to interview the crooked Bernie Cole. As he wanders through the nightclub, the jazzy riff puts a song into mind by George Harrison called “Not Guilty”—  originally written and recorded, though not originally released, with the Beatles.

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The night club music has this riff of F#-D-C#DAC# that reminds me awfully of the similar E-G-AGDB riff in “Not Guilty.” It’s not plagiarizingly similar or anything… but I just can’t not think of it… and it’s just really funny that the title of the other song is “Not Guilty.”   😉  Offhand I can’t think of any other cute and clever connections between the Poirot universe and George Harrison himself, other than perhaps the fact that one of Suchet’s earliest film roles was The Missionary, with Maggie Smith, and a Handmade Films production. Harrison founded the company in the late ’70s, the same year in fact that he was recording “Not Guilty” for his well-received self-titled album.

*  Okay, now we come to the giveaway. Since today’s post is about Cheap Flat, I’ll be offering this miniature painting in a cute little black wood frame to the winner. The canvas itself is 2.5″x3.5″ and the frame makes it just a little bigger. The scene is from this episode, the moment when Poirot is explaining to a bewildered Hastings that he aims to take a flat in the same building as the Robinsons. ***UPDATE***: No winners were forthcoming this week, so a new contest to win this painting is up at this post here.

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Bon chance!

When David Suchet unexpectedly guest-stars in Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Those split-seconds when you’re watching Poirot and suddenly think: “I say, that guy bears a shocking resemblance to David Suchet!… Nope, nope, I was wrong, it’s Poirot…”

😉

He seems to materialize in Death in the Clouds

…and The Mystery of the Spanish Chest

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…and The Adventure of the Cheap Flat

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…and Curtain, of course…

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…and probably in several other spots as well. Terribly sneaky.