In honor of Angela Lansbury’s birthday, I’m rerunning my ode to Jessica Fletcher and “Murder, She Wrote.”
I LOVE “Murder, She Wrote.” It has to be my longest TV show crush, although “Supernatural” is creeping up on it. But Jessica Fletcher (aka Angela Lansbury) is the best. Although I probably wouldn’t hang out with her too much: if you’re friends with Jessica, you’re either going to get murdered, be blamed for murder, or actually be a murderer.
There’s something soothing in the rhythms of the show, the formula of it all. Although the writers had to get really creative to think of a million and 50 ways for people to die (that show was on forever!!!). But it all reminds me of my mom and my aunt, and easier, more carefree time. A time when I was pretty much a child, a time when America was only worrying about the USSR and I was worried about whether my legwarmers matched my headband.
It was a time when old B actors actually got a chance to act again, or new B actors started up the acting ladder on network shows. Before reality TV and Dancing With The Stars, it was shows like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Love Boat” where stars went to die, or where young stars caught the eye of someone bigger. There was an excitement over seeing the washed up actor playing a murderer, or remembering seeing a new star as a murder victim on “Murder, She Wrote.”
And Angela Lansbury?! What a professional. You wonder if she went into her trailer and rolled her eyes a lot, but she did a great job as Jessica week after week. And she was Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast!” What more is there to say, except that if you haven’t seen the original “Manchurian Candidate,” you should. Lansbury was brilliant. She’s a great actor, and quite fetching back in the day.
But back to Jessica Fletcher. That woman rode a bike around Cabot Cove, Maine like a boss (although it the streets should have been littered with dead bodies and the jail overburdened with murderers). She published her first bestseller in her 50’s, and moved to Manhattan in her 60’s from small town Maine. She took everything in stride, even the solving of the most convoluted of killings. She had an old school teacher way of getting even the rascally-est of rascals to be embarrassed by their actions, and her scandalized faces were to die for.
Before she was a writer, Jessica was a teacher. And she never stopped teaching. Here are a few of the valuable life lessons we all should remember:
Lesson: Keep it to your self. I think JB got a lot of play with the men, but she didn’t kiss and tell. Unlike her CC (Cabot Cove) friend Eve Simpson, who acted like a slut and got branded as such. Do the romance thing, but do it circumspectly and with some dignity. Boys, and people, will think better of you.
Lesson: Be a good friend. Seth Hazlett, the CC doctor and Jessica’s best friend, was a grumpy curmudgeon and either hopelessly in love with her or gay. But Jessica was always ready to help him and others in any way possible (including solving their relative’s murders or getting them out from a bogus murder charge).
Lesson: Keep in touch. Jessica kept in touch with EVERYONE. Sorority sisters, her husband’s army buddies, distant nieces and nephews, every cop in every town. Once you were in Jessica’s world, she wasn’t letting you go (especially if you were well off). And that was hard to do pre-Facebook and e-mail. I wonder how she actually did any writing, because her (home) phone must have been ringing CONSTANTLY. And, if you kept in touch with Jessica, you were sure to have someone who would come save you in a time of need (like you or your husband was accused of murder).
Lesson: Dig deeper. JB (her writer name) was always looking deeper than the surface, and she always found the real truth. Unlike the cops in most of towns she visited . . . (most of the cops she met were either inept or overworked).
And there were so many other lessons Jessica taught me. Shop local. Eat more seafood. Stock up on antiques. Use a typewriter. Keep up with the newest fads. Don’t trust the slick rich guy or the gold digging woman.
And always ask one more question.
Thank you, Jessica ‘JB’ Fletcher. Your lessons reinforced everything my mom, my grandma, and my aunts taught me.