Murder, She Wrote 6.3 “The Grand Old Lady”

In this first of many “bookend” episodes of Season 6, Jessica Fletcher narrates a story from the life of Lady Abigail Austin, a (fictional) female mystery writer who recently died at the age of 101. The story takes place in the late 1940s, when Lady Abigail Austin helped solve a murder aboard a ship sailing across the Atlantic.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Peter Danikan, whose real name is Otto Kreitzman and who was smuggling a printer plate to make counterfeit US currency!
Click to reveal the killer It was Paul Viscard, who bought a ticket and boarded the ship at the last minute!
Click to reveal the weapon He was stabbed!
Click to reveal the motive Paul Viscard recognized Danikan as the man who killed his brother!

Cast of characters:

The star of this episode is June Havoc who plays Lady Abigail Austin, a famous mystery writer. (This is June Havoc’s last ever on screen appearance. This is also her second appearance on MSW: she previously appeared in “The Days Dwindle Down“.

The episode features the ship’s crew:

  • Paxton Whitehead plays Captain Oliver, the ship’s captain.
  • Aubrey Morris plays Mr. Bellows, the purser. (This is Morris’s second and final appearance on MSW.)

And many ship passengers:

  • Robert Vaughn plays Edwin Chancellor, a radio producer. (This is Vaughn’s second of three total appearances on MSW.)
  • Wolf Muser as Peter Daniken, a man who stumbles into the dining room with a head-injury.
  • Dane Clark as Henri Viscard, an old man in a wheel chair sailing to visit his daughter. (This is Clark’s second and final appearance on MSW. This is also his last ever on screen appearance.)
  • Mark Lindsay Chapman as Paul Viscard, Henri’s son. (This is Chapman’s second of four total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “It Runs in the Family“.)
  • Gordon Thomson as Daniel McGuire, a U.S. army major coming home from the war. (This is Thomson’s first of two total appearances on MSW.)
  • Joan McMurtrey as Eleanor Cantrell, a U.S. army nurse in love with Daniel. (This is McMurtrey’s first of two total appearances on MSW.)
  • Henry Polic II as Arthur Bishop, a very nervous-looking passenger. (This is Polic’s second and final appearance on MSW. Polic is a prolific voice actor.)
  • Donald Craig as Nicholas Crane, another passenger. (This is Craig’s second and final appearance on MSW.)

There are also several important characters who come on board to investigate the murder after the ship docks in New York:

  • John Karlen plays Lt. Martin McGinn, a New York police detective. (This is Karlen’s first of three total appearances on MSW. He is also known for portraying Mary Beth Lacey’s husband Harvey on Cagney & Lacey.)
  • Gary Kroeger plays Christy McGinn, Martin’s son and ambitious newspaper reporter. (This is Kroeger’s first of two total appearances on MSW.)
  • Floyd Levine plays Harry Krumholtz, Christy’s editor. (This is Levine’s second and final appearance on MSW.)
  • James Stephens plays U.S. Treasury Agent Lennihan, who also comes on board to investigate. (This is Stephens’ second of four total appearances on MSW.)

There are also a handful of characters credited with minor roles, but these all have only appeared on MSW this one time.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

The script for this episode was apparently adapted from what was originally meant to be an episode of Ellery Queen–a short-lived show produced in 1974-1975 by Link and Levinson (the co-creators of Murder, She Wrote). The show was based on the Ellery Queen novels and followed the adventures of a young writer living in New York whose father was a police detective. Obviously, this is a direct parallel between Lt. Martin McGinn and his son Christy McGinn in this episode.

Although Lady Abigail appears to be the star of this episode, the fact that it is revealed that she was wrong about who the murderer is–and that the writer Christy McGinn in actuality solves it–is further proof that this is an Ellery Queen story rather than a Murder, She Wrote story.

Ellery Queen Mysteries can be streamed through Amazon Prime.

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