Disclosure: The following contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Click here to read the full Affiliate Disclosure.
Jessica Fletcher is in New York City, leading a creative writing seminar in her apartment. One of her students, Holly, has arranged for Jessica to record an audiobook for the blind (The Corpse Danced at Midnight) at Rojam Records studio.
Jessica investigates when a murder is committed at the studio during the recording of a music video.
Just the facts:
Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.
Click to reveal the victimIt was Freddie Major, the owner of Rojam Records!
Click to reveal the killerIt was Drexler, the manager of the studio’s hit pop duo Mirabilis!
Click to reveal the weaponIt was a single close-up shot from a gun!
Click to reveal the locationIt was during the filming of the Mirabilis music video for their hit song “Bulletproof”! The victim was killed in his office and then carried to a conveyor belt, where he was ultimately found.
Click to reveal the motiveIt was money! Drexler stood to lose a lot of money in the stock market if Major was successful in selling the studio.
Click to reveal the major clueThe victim, Freddie Major, had been working on his electric piano, which was recording the music, when he was interrupted by the killer. With his dying moments he played the three keys that corresponded to his killer’s initials: CGD!
Cast of characters:
The main mystery involves people associated with Rojam Records:
- Edd Byrnes plays Freddie Major, the owner of Rojam Records (ROJAM is MAJOR spelled backwards!). Byrnes is known for playing Kookie in the classic detective show ’77 Sunset Strip’. This is his second of three total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “How to make a killing without really trying“.
- Mary Beth Evans plays Julie Knight, the director of Press and Artist Development at Rojam.
- Richard Beymer plays Rick Lefko, the vice president for Artists and Repertoire at Rojam. This is Beymer’s fourth of six total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “The Days Dwindle Down“, “The Way to Dusty Death“, and “The List of Yuri Lermentov“.
The biggest thing happening at Rojam involves making a music video for their most popular pop group “Mirabilis”:
- Robert Knepper plays Charles George Drexler (a.k.a. “Chuck), the manager of Mirabilis. This is Knepper’s first of three appearances on MSW.
- Lori Hart and Jeffrey Steele play the Mirabilis duo. After doing some research (which I’ll discuss more in the trivia section below), I learned that Lori Hart Dorff is a dancer and singer who was at one time married to Stephen Dorff, who is credited for the music in this episode. Jeffrey Steele on the other hand is a singer-songwriter who at the time was part of the band “Boy Howdy”.
- Keny Long plays “Davey” the music Video Director.
Other people found at the recording studio include:
- Alexia Robinson as Holly Chase, Jessica Fletcher’s student and an employee at Rojam.
- Miles O’Keeffe as Paul Atkins, a sound engineer who records at Rojam studios and also runs his own record label “Sly Records”.
- Kevin Hicks as Willi Piper, a talented singer who is Paul’s partner in running “Sly Records”. (Given Hicks’ performance in the episode, I was wondering if he was actually a singer, but it appears that is not the case—although his acting credit prior to this episode includes appearing in the 1991 Vanilla Ice movie Cool as Ice.)
The cast also includes:
- Jonathan Goldsmith as Mitch Randall, a representative for Palladium Software—the company trying to buy Rojam Records. This is Goldsmith’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Dead Letter“.
- Meadow Williams plays Michele, a singer who got signed on to Rojam Records as part of the Palladium Software takeover deal. This is Williams’ first of two appearances on MSW.
- Danny Woodburn as Giorgi Pappavasilopoulos, the landlord of the office building where Jessica went to investigate a mysterious man she bumped into at the Rojam Records studio. This is Woodburn’s first of two credited roles on MSW.
- Miles Tolan as Lt. Alan Terwilliger, the police detective in charge of the murder investigation (who appears to have met Jessica many times already). This is Tolan’s second of three appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “No Accounting for Murder” as a different character; but he goes on to reprise his role as Lt. Terwilliger in Season 10.
There were also several characters who were surprisingly uncredited in this episode. Most notably, mystery man Burt Sellers who turns out to be a private investigator.
Final thoughts and other trivia:
This is the second time on the show that Jessica is seen recording one of her books for the blind (the first time was in the episode “Murder, She Spoke“.) As always, I was very excited to hear a sample of her writing—especially given that this time around it was from her very first (and most frequently mentioned) novel. (See also my post listing all the J.B. Fletcher novels mentioned on the show.)
I’ve transcribed the selection below (which according to the episode is taken from the second paragraph on page 22):
Daphne Heath would forever remember the weather on that Thursday in November. She’d gone out early for the paper, and felt the wind on her face and seen the line of angry black clouds stacked on the northern horizon. A hundred unanswered questions crowded Daphne’s mind. She wanted to ask Alan to clarify so much for her, but in her heart she was still uncertain, even about Alan.J.B. Fletcher’s The Corpse Danced at Midnight
The other notable aspect of this episode are the two songs that are being recorded in the Rojam Records studios.
♪ In a world of true temptation ♪ ♪ Hearts get broken and dreams go wrong ♪ ♪ My love defies its destination ♪ ♪ Here with you is where I belong ♪ ( Gun firing ) ( Gun firing ) ♪ My love is bulletproof ♪ ♪ Indestructible ♪ ♪ And it’s all for you ♪ ( Gun fires ) ♪ Two hearts feeling ♪ ♪ No one can stand there, baby ♪ ♪ That’s the truth ♪ ♪ My love is, my love is ♪ ( Gun firing ) ♪ Bulletproof ♪ ( Gun firing ) Holly, that sounded like a real gunshot. Nah. Just a drumbeat, Mrs. Fletcher. Go with it. ( Gun firing ) ♪ I’ve never known such satisfaction ♪ ♪ With you it’s easy to feel so right ♪ ♪ In my arms you’ll have all the action ♪ ♪ You’ll ever need to keep you warm at night ♪ ( Gun fires ) ( Gun firing ) ♪ My love is bulletproof ♪ ♪ Indestructible ♪ ♪ And it’s all for you ♪ ♪ When two hearts feelin’ ♪ ♪ No one can stand there, baby ♪ ♪ That’s the truth ♪ ♪ My love is, my love is ♪ ♪ Bulletproof ♪ ♪ Bulletproof ♪“Bulletproof” by Mirabilis (from Murder, She Wrote “The Sound of Murder”)
♪ Yeah, and for a minute there ♪ ♪ I stood in his shoes ♪ ♪ Felt his hopeless heart beatin’ ♪ ♪ Felt his black and blues ♪ ♪ They say the Lord helps those who help themselves ♪ ♪ But, damn it, they’ll help someone else ♪ ♪ Oh, these are desperate times ♪ ♪ When a man’s gotta live this way ♪ ♪ And all the people look and then just turn away ♪ ♪ Don’t seem to care anymore ♪ ♪ These are desperate times ♪ ♪ Where are the days of the helpin’ hand? ♪ ♪ Where did they go? I just don’t understand ♪song sang by Willi Piper (from Murder, She Wrote “The Sound of Murder”)
I tried to find out whether these were real songs recorded somewhere and came up short, so I had to come to the conclusion that they were written specifically for the episode. The person credited with the music is Steve Dorff, who happens to be a prolific songwriter. I was able to track down a copy of his memoir I Wrote That One, Too…: A Life In Songwriting from Willie to Whitney, which also helped me figure out the identities of those playing the Mirabilis duo in this episode—as at one point Steve mentions falling in love with and marrying a dancer named Lori that he met on a set.
Finally, this episode notably includes a couple of scenes which eventually appear in the subsequent version of the MSW opening montage.