On November 24, 1974, “Murder on the Orient Express” was released in movie theaters. Based on Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery novel, the film was directed Sidney Lumet. Its commercial and critical success came as no surprise, thanks to Christie’s immense popularity as an author known for creating the modern mystery novel. The movie featured some of the top leading male actors of the day, including Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Albert Finney, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Hercule Poirot. The leading actresses were also a who’s who list of 1970’s Hollywood starlets, including Lauren Bacall, Jacqueline Bisset, Vanessa Redgrave, and Ingrid Bergman, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Greta.
“Murder on the Orient Express” tells the story of the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who returns to England aboard the Orient Express. While on the train, American business tycoon Samuel Ratchett is murdered. Stalled by a snow slide halfway between Istanbul and Paris, Detective Poirot is asked to solve the murder by interviewing 12 possible suspects to find the entrepreneur’s killer. By the time the film concludes, audiences are entertained by the colorful cast of characters questioned by the Belgian detective.
Before the film was released, Christie had been thrilling and entertaining audiences for over 50 years with her novels and plays. Named a dame in 1971, she is one of the world’s top-selling authors in history who has sold more than two billion copies of her books that have been translated into forty-five languages. Audiences were first introduced to Hercule Poirot in “The Mysterious Affair at Styles.” Aside from the character Miss Jane Marple, Poirot is Christie’s most well-known detectives, appearing in 33 novels, one play and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975.
By the time she died in 1976, Christie, known as the Queen of Crime, wrote more than 70 detective novels as well as short fiction. She also penned romance novels under a pseudonym, Mary Westmacott, and was a celebrated playwright. Her play, “The Mousetrap,” opened in the Ambassador Theatre in 1952 and, after more than 8,800 showings in 21 years, it holds the record for longest unbroken run in a London theater. Christie’s last public appearance before she died was at the royal film premiere of the “Murder on the Orient Express” in London when she was 84.
Proof that “Murder on the Orient Express” is a timeless classic, a new film adaptation was released in U.S. theaters on November 10, 2017, more than 80 years after the book was first published. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays Detective Hercule Poirot, it features a modern day all-star cast, including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley.