Murder, She Wrote 8.3 “Unauthorized Obituary”

Jessica Fletcher continues to live it up in New York City. The episode begins with her attending a charity silent auction full of people in the publishing business. While there, she is approached by the notorious author of scandalous tell-all biographies, who mentions wanting to talk to Jessica about one of Jessica’s old friends.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Jane Dawson, the writer of tell-all biographies!
Click to reveal the killer It was her husband, Steve Lockner!
Click to reveal the weapon It was electrocution—via a TV tossed into her bathtub!
Click to reveal the location It happened in her bath at home!
Click to reveal the motive The killer overheard that the victim was going to divorce him, and he didn’t want to lose access to her money!

Cast of characters:

The main story revolves around a notorious biography writer, along with her family and professional acquaintances.

  • Jessica Walter plays Jane Dawson, a writer of tell-all biographies. This is Walter’s third of four total appearances on MSW. Most recently, Walter had voiced the character of Mallory Archer on ‘Archer‘.
  • Sam Behrens plays Steve Lockner, Jane’s husband. This is Behrens’ second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “J.B.. as in Jailbird“.
  • Cathy Podewell plays Beth Dawson, Jane’s sister/daughter.
  • Andrea Thompson plays Kristy Parrish, Jane’s researcher/assistant. Fans of detective shows may recognize Thompson for her recurring role as Det. Jill Kirkendall on ‘NYPD Blue‘.
  • Edward Penn is credited as playing Mr. Stearns, Jane’s publisher at Wedgewood press. (In the episode, his character is actually referred to out-loud as “Mr. Bannon”, though it seems that the writers couldn’t settle on a name for him because it seemed like this was a voice-over and the actress speaking his name was actually mouthing something more like “Mr. Bosh”.) This is Penn’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall“.
  • Edward Bell plays Barry McAdams, Jane’s lawyer. (Once again it seems the writers couldn’t settle on a name because he’s only referred to out-loud as “Mr. McAdam” in the episode.)

The topic of Jane Dawson’s upcoming book appears to involve Jessica Fletcher’s old friends:

  • Bradford Dillman plays Arthur Brent, an old friend of Jessica Fletcher’s. This is Dillman’s fifth of eight total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Hannigan’s Wake“.
  • Barbara Bain plays Ellen Lombard, Arthur’s wife and a former Hollywood actress. Bain is best known for playing Cinnamon Carter in the original 1960s TV series ‘Mission: Impossible‘. This is Bain’s second and final appearance on MSW. She previously appeared in “Coal Miner’s Slaughter“.

Local law enforcement involved in the investigation of the murder includes:

  • David Spielberg plays Lt. Henry Girard, the police officer in charge of the investigation. This is Spielberg’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “Menace, Anyone?”
  • Mark Phelan plays a policeman (who is referred to as “Phelan” in the episode). This is Phelan’s second and final appearance on MSW. He also plays a uniformed cop in “The Bottom Line is Murder“.

Additional characters include:

  • Andrew Brye (a.k.a. Andrew Johnson) plays Ahmed, the doorman in Jessica Fletcher’s building. This is Brye’s second of four total appearances on MSW, each time playing the same character. He previously appeared in “Bite the Big Apple“.
  • Robert Telfer plays Griswald, a person at the charity event that Jessica Fletcher is shown to be attending at the beginning of the episode.
  • Ron Recasner plays Roger, another person at the charity event.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

One of the most notable things about this episode is that this isn’t the first time that electrocution via TV in the bathtub was used as a method of murder. The same method was used in “The Way to Dusty Death“. (A similar method, also involving a TV in the bathroom, albeit not in the bathtub, was used in Season 2’s “Sticks and Stones”.)

The episode humorously acknowledges this fact by having Jessica Fletcher mention this isn’t the first time she’s come across this.

Also, for anyone keeping track of Jessica’s relationship with local law enforcement: this episode features a friendly cop who’s excited to be working with Jessica since it might mean they could collaborate on a mystery novel based on his old case files.

Finally, I always get a kick out of pausing to look at closeups of newspapers created as props for the show. In this case, the article on Jane Dawson’s murder includes an amusing line about how “being dead will put a damper on furthering her career”.


    1. I remember always hearing warnings about not using blow dryers while still in the tub, so you’d think people would be more cautious about things like TVs in the bathroom!


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