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    The 5 Best Actors Who Have Played Hercule Poirot

    Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth has inspired many interpretations, none exactly true to her novels, including Kenneth Branagh’s approach in “Death on the Nile.”Hercule Poirot is one of those literary heroes, like James Bond or Sherlock Holmes, whose image blazes brightly in the popular imagination. From his debut in Agatha Christie’s 1920 novel, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” through his final appearance in “Curtain,” published in 1975, the Belgian detective cut a simple, distinctive figure: a “quaint, dandified little man,” as Christie wrote, “hardly more than 5 foot 4 inches,” with a head “exactly the shape of an egg,” a “pink-tipped nose” and, in what is probably the most famous instance of facial hair in the history of English literature, an enormous, “upward-curled mustache” — which Christie later boasted was no less than the finest one in England.Christie wrote more than 80 novels and short stories about Poirot, and nearly all of them have been adapted for film and television. Many actors have stepped into the role over the years, each trying to give it his own spin, much as a stage actor might take a fresh crack at King Lear. Tony Randall, in Frank Tashlin’s 1965 mystery-comedy “The Alphabet Murders,” played it for laughs, exaggerating Poirot’s exotic pomposity with farcical zeal. By contrast, Alfred Molina, in a made-for-TV version of “Murder on the Orient Express” from 2001, brought a subtler, more muted touch, softening the character’s sometimes cartoonish extravagance. Hugh Laurie once even donned the iconic ’stache for a cameo in “Spice World,” letting Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) get away with murder.But of the dozens of takes on Poirot over the last century or so, only a handful have truly endured, leaving a permanent mark on the character. These are the interpretations that come to mind when most people think of Hercule Poirot, and in their own way, each of these versions seems to some extent definitive. As Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” arrives in cinemas, we look back at the most famous and esteemed versions.1931-34Austin TrevorAustin Trevor in a scene from “Lord Edgware Dies” (1934).Real Art ProductionsAs he was young, tall and (unforgivably) clean-shaven, the dashing leading man Austin Trevor was a conspicuous — some might say egregious — departure from the source material. He starred in three adaptations of Poirot’s adventures between 1931 and 1934, of which only the last, “Lord Edgware Dies,” survives today (available on YouTube). Trevor’s portrayal, while pleasant in its own right, differed enough from Christie’s description that the magazine Picturegoer Weekly ran an editorial lambasting it, under the headline “Bad Casting.” The most flagrant change is to the world-famous Belgian’s nationality: This Poirot has been inexplicably made a Parisian.“Lord Edgware Dies,” based on a Christie novel known as “Thirteen at Dinner” in the United States, concerns a wealthy American actress and socialite (Jane Carr) who commissions Poirot to secure her divorce from her obstinate husband, Lord Edgware (C. V. France). Edgware soon agrees, then turns up dead; Poirot, intrigued, investigates the murder. Detective films were popular in the early 1930s, and Trevor’s Poirot feels indebted to other charming, debonair sleuths of the era, in particular those played by William Powell in films like “The Thin Man” and “The Kennel Murder Case.” In all, it’s an adequate if unfaithful rendition, but it’s a relief that Christie’s creation was later realized with more fidelity.1974Albert FinneyAlbert Finney, false nose and all, in “Murder on the Orient Express.”United Artists/AlamyAmong other virtues, Albert Finney’s portrayal in Sidney Lumet’s “Murder on the Orient Express” (available to stream on Paramount+) is a major feat of makeup and prosthetics: a full-face getup encompassing wrinkles, jowls and false nose, designed to make the trim, 38-year-old Finney look the part of the world-weary Poirot in portly middle age. Lumet’s adaptation of one of Christie’s most celebrated books is a New Hollywood love letter to the Golden Age, with Finney leading an ensemble that includes such luminaries as Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall. A rail-bound chamber drama structured around long, loquacious interrogation scenes, it’s an acting showcase of the classical variety. (Incidentally, this is the only Poirot performance to be nominated for an Oscar.)Finney’s Poirot is curt and flinty, his clipped accent gruff and gravel-throated. While he embodies many of the qualities characteristic of Christie’s original — cunning, headstrong, fastidious about his appearance — he is more serious and vehement, and scrutinizes the evidence grimly, with great intensity, like a predator carefully circling his prey. The film’s climax is explosive, with Finney rattling off his conclusions about the case in a frenzied fever pitch.1978-88Peter UstinovPeter Ustinov in “Death on the Nile” in 1978, the first of his Poirot outings.AlamyThe English actor Peter Ustinov appeared as Poirot a half-dozen times, beginning with the magnificent “Death on the Nile” in 1978 (streaming on the Criterion Channel). This Poirot is playful, boyish, even a bit whimsical; Ustinov imbues him with a light, teasing air, finding a latent amusement in even the most diabolical matters. Fans who prefer Ustinov in the role tend to respond to his immense warmth: He has a grandfatherly manner that makes him instantly likable, which also cleverly belies his brilliance and perspicacity. You sort of expect Finney’s Poirot to get to the bottom of things, but with Ustinov, the sudden penetrating deductions feel like more of a surprise.Ustinov took to the part so naturally that he continued to play Poirot onscreen for 10 more years. “Death on the Nile” was followed in 1982 by “Evil Under the Sun,” co-starring James Mason and based on the novel of the same name, and then several made-for-television films, including “Dead Man’s Folly” and “Murder in Three Acts.” Curiously, the TV movies did away with the period setting of the previous features, transplanting Ustinov’s Poirot from the 1930s to the present day — a poor fit that finds Poirot visiting such incongruous locales as the set of a prime-time talk show.1989-2013David SuchetDavid Suchet in his series’ take on “Murder on the Orient Express.”ITV for Masterpiece“You’re Poirot?” a woman asks, aghast, in the opening minutes of the pilot episode of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” the ITV series about the detective. “You’re not a bit how I thought you’d be.” David Suchet, the star, shrugs: C’est moi. Ironically, for most viewers, Suchet is not just like Poirot, he’s synonymous with him. The actor played him on television for nearly 25 years, appearing in 70 episodes, ultimately covering Christie’s entire Poirot corpus, concluding with “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case” in 2013. Each episode is like a self-contained movie, telling a complete story and often running to feature length.Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More

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    What’s on TV This Week: ‘Mr. Mayor’ and ‘Tiger’

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Best of 2020Best ComedyBest TV ShowsBest BooksBest MoviesBest AlbumsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWhat’s on TV This Week: ‘Mr. Mayor’ and ‘Tiger’Ted Danson plays a Los Angeles mayor in a new NBC sitcom. And HBO debuts the first part of a documentary about Tiger Woods.Ted Danson, left, and Bobby Moynihan in “Mr. Mayor.”Credit…Mitchell Haddad/NBCJan. 4, 2021, 1:00 a.m. ETBetween network, cable and streaming, the modern television landscape is a vast one. Here are some of the shows, specials and movies coming to TV this week, Jan. 4-9. Details and times are subject to change.Monday30 COINS 9 p.m. on HBO. The Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia has blended the humorous and the horrific in movies like “Witching & Bitching” and “The Last Circus.” His latest project, the TV series “30 Coins,” is pure horror. It follows an exorcist (Eduard Fernández) who is sent by the church to serve as a priest in a remote Spanish village. He soon discovers that the town is a petri dish for the paranormal.TuesdayGORDON RAMSAY’S AMERICAN ROAD TRIP 8 p.m. on Fox. Gordon Ramsay, the acerbic celebrity-chef host of “Hell’s Kitchen,” doesn’t seem like the type to ask for directions. Luckily, the road trip he takes in this new special isn’t really about driving. “American Road Trip” finds Ramsay and two of his famous chef friends, Fred Sirieix and Gino D’Acampo, traveling North America by R.V. They guzzle gas and have gastronomic conversations over local delicacies.WednesdayRandy Jackson and Jane Krakowski in “Name That Tune.”Credit…Michael Becker/FoxNAME THAT TUNE 9 p.m. on Fox. “Name That Tune,” a competition show created in the early 1950s and rebooted in the ’70s and ’80s, challenged contestants to identify songs played by musicians onstage — sometimes using only a few notes. This reboot of the series, hosted by the actress Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”) with a band led by Randy Jackson, is an opportunity to grill competitors on the decades of music that have been released since the show was last produced.DEATH ON THE NILE (1978) 8 p.m. on TCM. Kenneth Branagh’s new adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery novel “Death on the Nile” was slated hit theaters this holiday season. It was delayed, so we’ll have to wait to find out how it compares to the 1978 adaptation, whose cast included Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow and Angela Lansbury. Branagh should hope his version compares favorably to the ’70s adaptation: In a review for The New York Times, Hilton Kramer called it “a big expensive, star‐studded bore.”ThursdayMR. MAYOR 8 p.m. on NBC. A year after “The Good Place” wrapped up, Ted Danson returns to the NBC sitcom realm in “Mr. Mayor,” a comedy series created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Danson plays Neil Bremer, a businessman who runs for mayor of Los Angeles. When he wins, he has to juggle the demands of his job (Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan play members of his staff) while navigating a sometimes strained relationship with his teenage daughter (Kyla Kenedy).FridayThe documentary filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz looks at attempts by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to undermine the press.Credit…PBS/FrontlineFRONTLINE: A THOUSAND CUTS 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). The documentary filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz (“Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey”) looks at attempts by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to devalue the press. To do that, Diaz follows efforts by the journalist Maria Ressa (who founded the news site Rappler) to cover the abuses of Duterte’s presidency — an undertaking that puts Ressa and her fellow journalists in danger. The result is “absorbing and multipronged,” and “a kaleidoscopic dissection of how information courses through the country,” Ben Kenigsberg wrote in his review for The New York Times. “It illustrates social media’s capacity to deceive and to entrench political power.”SaturdayTHE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (2020) 8 p.m. on HBO. The “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson filters his own back story through Judd Apatow’s lens in this comedy-drama. Davidson plays Scott, a couch-bound 24-year-old who lives with his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei), on Staten Island. Scott’s father, a firefighter, has been dead for over a decade and a half — a loss that Scott is still grappling with. (Davidson’s own father, who was a firefighter, died responding to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.) Scott is forced to reckon with his father’s death and his own mental health after Margie takes up with a new boyfriend (played by Bill Burr).SundayTiger Woods in 2020. A two-part documentary about him, “Tiger,” debuts on HBO on Jan. 10.Credit…Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated PressTIGER 9 p.m. on HBO. Tiger Woods’s career is famously full of peaks and valleys, so it makes sense that this HBO documentary about him runs three hours. Interviewees include Woods’s former caddie Steve Williams and other golf figures like the English player Nick Faldo. The first part debuts Sunday night; the second airs Jan. 17. The Times critic Mike Hale predicted that the documentary will be compared to ESPN’s 2020 hit “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, but that “Woods’s story is more tragic and more complicated.”THE CIRCUS 8 p.m. on Showtime. When this political documentary series debuted in 2016, it offered a behind-the-scenes look at presidential campaigns. James Poniewozik, in a review for The Times, likened it to a reality show: The series, he wrote, is “a document and an example of the superficiality of today’s elections.” Its fifth season, which covered the 2020 election cycle, ended in November; the sixth season debuts Sunday, in the wake of the Georgia Senate runoffs.ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). If you’re looking for an escape, skip “The Circus” and instead spend your Sunday evening with actual animals — including prim dogs and horses — in this new TV adaptation of the James Herriot book “If Only They Could Talk.” The show follows a trio of veterinarians working in rural England in the 1930s.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More