Monday, 31 October 2011

galloping detectives!

I watched Murder at the Gallop last night. Margaret Rutherford, Robert Morley, what's not to like and so on. Things I did not expect: the fabulously cheesy music; some surprisingly meta moments about the thrillers of Agatha Christie; the odd boyfriend character for Miss Marple ('Mr Stringer'); MR's racy ball dress and a truly great dance scene; the amount of story which was about boots.

Anyway, when we'd watched the film, we wondered what MR's early career had been like. Margaret Rutherford on Wikipedia: gosh.

MR was married to Stringer Davis, who played Mr Stringer, from 1945 to her death in 1972. He died a year later. Love the idea of her saying, 'I'll do it, but Stringer's part of the deal.'


Born in Balham, London, she was the only child of William Rutherford Benn and his wife Florence, née Nicholson. Her father's brother Sir John Benn, 1st Baronet was a British politician, and her first cousin once removed is British politician Tony Benn.

As an infant, Margaret Rutherford and her parents moved to India. She was returned to Britain when she was three to live with an aunt, a professional governess Bessie Nicholson, in Wimbledon, England, after her pregnant mother, Florence, committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree. Her father returned to England as well.

Her father suffered from mental illness, having a nervous breakdown on his honeymoon, and was confined to an asylum. He was eventually released on holiday and on 4 March 1883, he murdered his father, the Reverend Julius Benn, a Congregational church minister, by bludgeoning him to death with a chamberpot; shortly afterward, William tried to kill himself as well, by slashing his throat with a pocketknife. After the murder, William Benn was confined to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Several years later he was released, reportedly cured of his mental affliction, changed his surname to Rutherford, and returned to his wife, Ann (née Taylor). His continued mental illness resulted in his being confined once more to Broadmoor in 1904; he died in 1921.

She was an elocution teacher (I bet she was fun) who came to acting in her thirties. As for her personal life:

Rutherford married character actor Stringer Davis in 1945 and the couple appeared in many productions together. They were happily together until Rutherford's death in 1972. Davis adored Rutherford, with one friend noting: "For him she was not only a great talent but, above all, a beauty." Davis rarely left her side. He was private secretary and general dogsbody – lugging bags, teapots, hot water bottles, teddy bears and nursing Rutherford through periods of depression. These illnesses, often involving stays in mental hospitals and electric shock treatment, were kept hidden from the press during Rutherford's life. In the 1950s, Rutherford and Davis unofficially adopted the writer Gordon Langley Hall, then in his twenties. Hall later had gender reassignment surgery and became Dawn Langley Simmons, under which name she wrote a biography of Rutherford in 1983.

Blood D. Hell was Sunday Evening Film Club's reaction to this, and would be the good name for a character in spoof Halloween story. We also loved the line which went something like:

Every chair in this room is stuffed with hair from one of the horses which I have loved and, I think may say, has loved me.

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