Many people will have their favourite actress in the role of the spinster sleuth created by Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976), with Joan Hickson generally regarded as the most authentic TV portrayal of her. But some may be surprised to learn that in the first televised version of a Miss Marple mystery - "A Murder is Announced", broadcast on US television in 1956, the central character was portrayed by Gracie Fields (born Grace Stansfield, 1898-1979).

Her life almost reads like one of her films. She was born in the northern English industrial town of Rochdale, above the family fish and chip shop. But the family had theatrical connections, and her talent was soon recognised. She had a fine singing voice and also good acting skills, especially comedic ones. Although she is now more generally remembered as a singer - her most famous songs including the comic "Biggest Aspidistra in the World" and the wistful "Sally, Pride of Our Alley", at one point she was the highest earning British actress.

"A Murder is Announced" had a stellar cast - as well as Fields, it also featured Roger Moore and a young Jessica Tandy.

It was to be her sole outing in the role.

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