Murder, She Wrote 9.11 “Final Curtain”

A new play is being put on at the Cabot Cove Community Building theater! The play ‘And Wept A Stranger’ (not a real play as far as I’ve been able to find) is about one man’s descent into madness as the world crumbles around him. The production crew and main cast are trying out the play in Cabot Cove before moving it to off-Broadway—and they’re looking for 5 or 6 local actors to fill the supporting roles! But the most exciting thing about the production is that a famous movie actor (and Seth’s old school friend) is coming back to Cabot Cove to star in it.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Eric Benderson, David North’s former personal manager!
Click to reveal the killer It was David North, a famous movie actor and Seth’s school friend!
Click to reveal the weapon It was blunt force trauma to the head! (done with a random prop)
Click to reveal the location It was backstage in the community theatre!
Click to reveal the motive It was blackmail! Eric Benderson knew that David North was responsible for the car accident that his friend/colleague David Channing had died in! Benderson helped cover it up but then started blackmailing North.
Click to reveal the major clue The clue to the motive had to do with the burned remnants of a photo of a car that matched the one that appeared in an old newspaper story about a car crash. However, it was the UV paint that proved who was the murderer! The killer had knocked over some of the Wildfire Lighting UV paint used in the theatre and got it on himself and his jacket.

Cast of characters:

As this is a Cabot Cove episode, we get some Cabot Cove regulars:

  • William Windom plays Doctor Seth Hazlitt.
  • Ron Masak plays Sheriff Mort Metzger.
  • Louis Herthum plays Deputy Andy Broom.
  • Julie Adams plays Eve Simpson. (The local real estate agent helps the play producers secure the Cabot Cove Community Building theater. She also tries out for one of the minor roles in the play.) Eve mentions in the episode that she has an acting background, but she may simply be referring to the events in “The Witch’s Curse“, in which she acted in a community production.

The main people involved in the production of the play include:

  • Keene Curtis as Jerome Mueller, the play’s producer.
  • Maureen Mueller as Kathryn Evans, the play’s director. This is Mueller’s first of two total appearances on MSW.
  • Peter Donat as David North, the star of the play. He is a famous movie actor who is coming out of retirement; he is an old friend of Seth Hazlitt’s (they were old school mates who knew each other as early as the 3rd grade), and he had his beginnings acting in the Cabot Cove Community theater. This is Donat’s second of three total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “From Russian…With Blood“.

Other characters connected to the play include:

  • Barry Laws as John Koppel, one of the lead actors. Laws had previously had a recurring role on Cagney & Lacey as Officer Tom Basil.
  • Dennis Christopher as Lyman Taggart, a wannabe actor who had a terrible audition for the play. It is mentioned during the episode that he drove all the way from Bangor, and that he had been previously institutionalized at a place called Tuscadero (which could be a reference to Atascadero State Hospital in California). This is Christopher’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Shear Madness“.
  • Bradford Dillman as Eric Benderson, David North’s former personal manager who tracked him down from Cabot Cove when he heard he was coming out of retirement. This is Dillman’s sixth of eight total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Unauthorized Obituary“, “Hannigan’s Wake“, “Steal Me A Story“, “Death Takes a Dive“, and “Murder to a Jazz Beat”.

There are many other minor roles credited in this episode:

  • Don Perry plays a Patient in Seth’s medical office.
  • Bainbridge Scott plays a Hostess at the restaurant where the cast and crew are having dinner. This is Scott’s first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Nicholas Shaffer is credited as a Bit Player seen during play rehearsals.
  • John Gowans is credited as Relative #1, a visitor to the community theater who is there to see the Bit Player rehearse.
  • Bonnie Hellman is credited as 2nd Relative, another visitor to the community theater.
  • Ed Morgan plays the Motel Manager at the Lighthouse Motel. This is Morgan’s third and final appearance on MSW. All of his appearances take place in Cabot Cove and he always plays a local, which might suggest that he is simply reprising the same role he played in season 1 and 2.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

As this is a Cabot Cove episode, we get to see several Cabot Cove locations (many of which we have seen before).

  • At the top of the collage above we can see the Cabot Cove community building, which was also seen in “Programmed for Murder” and “A Christmas Secret“. During the episode, Eve mentions that the building has been unused for a while, which doesn’t quite fit with its appearance in previous episodes.
  • At the bottom left, we see an establishing shot of the Peninsula Harbor Country Medical Center, which was also used as a location in “Programmed for Murder” (although there the signage said “Harbor Peninsula” instead of “Peninsula Harbor”).
  • At the bottom center we see Jessica just outside the Lighthouse Motel in its location near the harbor. If you squint, you can also see that the sign behind her on the wall of a neighboring building says “Josiah Quinten Harbor Master Cabot Cove Harbor”.
  • At the bottom right we see an establishing shot of Seth Hazlitt home and office.

Additionally, Lyman Taggart at one point says that he drove a hundred miles from Bangor to be at the play auditions, which might give us a little clue as to the location of Cabot Cove.

I thing I like to do when I watch old TV shows is to pause and read any newspaper articles that appear on screen. As TVs were smaller back then and it was unlikely that people would have recorded the show and thus been able to pause it, the sentences used in the articles are often random and unrelated to what the article is purported to be based on the headings. In this episode, we see an article that is meant to be about an old car crash that took place near Cabot Cove; however, once you get past the first column of text, the remainder of the article was actually taken verbatim from an article about the Rodney King trials that appeared in the L.A. Times on March 17th 1992. (You can read the full article in the L.A. Times online archive.)

A final item of note is that we see Jessica working on a new book in this episode. We learn that the premise involves an assassination attempt that is foiled when a businessman steps in front of the intended target (a prime minister named Henri Jacques).

A sleepy Jessica working at her computer in Cabot Cove.

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