Murder, She Wrote 9.1 “Murder in Milan”

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Jessica Fletcher is in Milan! Apparently, one of her books has been made into a movie titled All the Murderers and it’s premiering at the Milano Film Festival. (Note that the film festival didn’t exist at the time when this episode first aired in 1992. However, a film festival was established several years later in 1996.)

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Catherine Wayne, the producer of All the Murderers!
Click to reveal the killer It was Tom Hiller, the accountant for Catherine Wayne Productions!
Click to reveal the weapon It was blunt force trauma caused by a heavy ashtray!
Click to reveal the location It was in her suite at the hotel where the film festival is taking place!
Click to reveal the motive The killer was siphoning money from the company accounts and his actions were on the verge of being discovered!
Click to reveal the major clue The victim was staying in a non-smoking suite, so where did the ashtray that she was killed with come from?

Cast of characters:

The cast includes some of Jessica’s closer friends and acquaintances who are somehow involved in the making of All the Murderers:

  • Gary Kroeger plays Jim Randall, the movie’s director and writer. Jessica knows Jim because his father lives in Cabot Cove. This marks Kroeger’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “The Grand Old Lady“.
  • George Coe plays Andrew Thayer, the father of Louise Thayer and a screenwriter hoping to collaborate on Jim Randall’s next movie. This marks Coe’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “The Return of Preston Giles“.
  • Leah Pinsent plays Louise Thayer, the lead actress in All the Murderers and Jim Randall’s girlfriend.
  • Cesar Romero plays Marcello Abruzzi, the lead actor in All the Murderers. This is Romero’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Paint Me a Murder”.

There are also many producers and other production company employees trying to garner attention at the festival:

  • Susan Blakely plays Catherine Wayne, the owner of Catherine Wayne Productions which produced All the Murderers. This is Blakely’s third of four appearances on MSW; she previously appeared in “The Error of Her Ways” and “Suspicion of Murder“.
  • Robert Harper as Paul Crenshaw, a movie producer that claims to be in a business partnership with Catherine Wayne–a claim that she is denying.
  • Paul Gleason as Steve Morrison, a movie producer that is trying to arrange for Jim Randall to direct his upcoming movie Arc of Steel, but Jim Randall has a contract with Catherine Wayne that he can’t get out of. This is Gleason’s third and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “The Error of Her Ways” and “Thursday’s Child“.
  • Robert Desiderio as Tom Hiller, the accountant for Catherine Wayne Productions. This is Desiderio’s third of four appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Doom with a View“.

The characters local to Milan include:

  • George Di Cenzo as Inspector Lombardo, the police detective in charge of the murder investigation. This is DiCenzo’s fifth of six appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Harbinger of Death” and “The Sicilian Encounter“.
  • Barbara Pilavin as the Countess who is hosting a ball in honor of the festival.
  • Grace Kent as the maid at the hotel. According to IMDb, this is Grace Kent’s only onscreen credit.

Those involved in the media coverage of the festival includes:

  • Paul Ryan as the main Entertainment Reporter seen throughout the episode. This is his third and final appearance on MSW; he was previously in “Obituary for a Dead Anchor”.
  • Time Winters as Giorgio, a photographer/papparazzo. This is Winters’ first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Mary Wickliffe as the Press Agent working with Jessica. This is Wickliffe’s second and final appearance on MSW.

Additionally, Jessica makes a phone call to somebody named Jonathan at “Hampton and Davenport” in London (possibly a law firm), and although we hear his voice the actor is not credited.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

For me, the most interesting piece of trivia revolves around the movie that is based on Jessica Fletcher’s novel. While, we don’t know exactly what the novel is about, the episode does provide us with some hints by categorizing the movie as “A Mystery Thriller” on the poster, and by having Cesar Romero’s character mention that the lead character he plays is named “Inspector Correlli”.

It’s also not particularly clear which of Jessica’s books this movie is based on. Although the poster says it’s “Adapted from the Best Selling novel by Jessica Fletcher”, it’s possible that the novel in question was published under a different title. I also found it interesting that the poster gives her name as “Jessica Fletcher” instead of using her usual pen name of “J.B. Fletcher”–that’s like crediting P.D. James as “Phyllis James”. Additionally, having had a close look at the poster, I was a bit confused about who actually wrote the screenplay as it gives “written by” credit to James Randall and also “screenplay by” credit to someone named J.P. Williams (who we never see in the episode).

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the poster is that the art department clearly based it on posters for the 1961 Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg.

A side-by-side comparison between the poster for All the Murderers seen in the episode (on the left) and the Judgment at Nuremberg poster (on the right). Notice that the All the Murderers poster uses the same profile pictures of the seven main actors from Judgment at Nuremberg and in the same order. The only difference is that in the All the Murderers poster their features are more obscured due to greater contrast in the shadows.

Aside from that, I just wanted to note that this is yet another one of those episodes that used the Biltmore Hotel as a filming location. Additionally, I found it amusing to see that the hotel room sets that they used in the episode appear to simply be re-dressed versions of Jessica’s New York City apartment.

Compare the still shots of the hotel room sets above to any episode which shows Jessica in her NYC apartment.

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