Joan Hickson

(1906 – 1998)

Joan HicksonBiographical Sketch

Joan Bogle Hickson, OBE (Kingsthorpe, Northampton, England, August 5, 1906 – Colchester, Essex, England, October, 17 1998) was an English actress of theatre, film and television. She was particularly known for her role as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in the BBC television series Miss Marple. As well as portraying Miss Marple on television, Hickson also narrated a number of Miss Marple stories on audio books.

Joan Hickson made her stage debut in 1927, and for several years worked throughout the United Kingdom and achieved success playing comedic, often eccentric characters in London’s West End, including the role of the cockney maid Ida in the original production of See How They Run, at the Q Theatre in 1944, and then at the Comedy Theatre in January 1945. Her stage career also included roles in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, the 1975 Tony Hatch-Jackie Trent musical The Card, and Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, in which she first appeared in Britain and then on Broadway, and for which she won a 1979 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Both Bedroom Farce and the play in which Hickson had previously already appeared on stage at home as well as on Broadway in 1967-68, Peter Nichols’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, would later also be adapted for television, with Hickson reprising her roles in both cases. Another Peter Nichols play, Forget-Me-Not-Lane (1971) gave Hickson yet another major role, and in 1974 she joined the National Theatre Company.

In addition to her theatrical career, from 1934 onwards Hickson also began to appear on screen. The numerous supporting roles of her career included several Carry On films, including Sister in Carry On Nurse. From 1963–66 she played Mrs. Peace, housekeeper to Reverend Stephen Young (played by Donald Sinden) in the highly rated TV series Our Man At St. Mark’s. In 1970–71, she played Mrs. Pugsley in Bachelor Father. Another noteworthy role of hers in the 1970s was that of Mrs. Chambers in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? In 1981, she played Miss Havisham in the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and in 1986, Mrs. Trellis in the movie Clockwise, starring John Cleese.

In 1946, Hickson appeared on stage as Mrs. Pryce in Agatha Christie’s play Appointment with Death. Christie, having attended a performance, wrote her a note saying, “I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple”. Hickson’s first appearance in an Agatha Christie screen adaptation, however, was as the housekeeper Mrs. Kidder in the 1961 film Murder, She Said (loosely based on Agatha Christie’s novel 4.50 From Paddington), which starred Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple.  In 1980 she appeared in another Agatha Christie TV production, as the socialite Mrs. Rivington in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?.

The BBC began filming the works of Agatha Christie in the mid 1980s, and they were conscious of the criticism that had been levelled at the (then) most famous portrayal of Miss Marple given by Margaret Rutherford, which – though a tour de force performance in its own right – did not resemble the Miss Marple of Christie’s books in the least. In making a new series, the makers determined to remain faithful to the plotlines and locales of Christie’s stories, and most importantly to represent Miss Marple as actually written. Hickson played the role in all twelve adaptations of the novels produced from 1984 to 1992, and received two BAFTA nominations for Best TV Actress, 1987 and 1988. When the OBE was bestowed on her in June 1987, Queen Elizabeth II was reported to have said, “You play the part just as one envisages it.” Joan Hickson retired from the role, believing that she should stop while the program was still at the peak of its popularity. At the time, she stated that she had no intention of retiring from acting altogether; yet, she came to appear in only one more film, the romantic drama Century (1993).  After the end of the Miss Marple TV series, she did, however, continue to perform audio recordings of several of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books. Hickson died in Colchester General Hospital from a stroke in October 1998, aged 92.

Read more about Joan Hickson on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Order of the British Empire
  • 1987: Officer of the British Empire
Tony Awards (Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre) (USA)
  • 1979: Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play – “Bedroom Farce”
Royal Television Society (Great Britain)
  • 1987: Best Performance, Female – “Miss Marple”


Select Filmography

  • Trouble in Store (1934)
    Role: Mabel; short film.
  • Widow’s Might (1935)
    Role: Burroughs
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)
    Role: Effie
  • The Lilac Domino (1937)
    Role: Katrina, school dustmaid
  • Love from a Stranger (1937)
    Role: Emmy
  • Second Thoughts (1938)
    Role: Ellen
  • Freedom Radio (1941)
    Role: Katie
  • The Saint Meets the Tiger (1943)
    Role: Mary (Aunt Agatha’s Maid) (uncredited)
  • Don’t Take It to Heart (1944)
    Role: Mrs. Pike
  • The Rake’s Progress (1945)
    Role: Miss Parker
  • I See a Dark Stranger (1945)
    Role: Manx Hotel Manageress
  • Busman’s Honeymoon (1947)
    Role: Miss Twitterton
  • Yellow Sands (1948)
    Role: Minnie Masters
  • The Guinea Pig (1948)
    Role: Mrs. Read
  • Seven Days to Noon (1950)
    Role: Mrs. Peckett
  • The Magnet (1950)
    Role: Mrs. Ward
  • BBC Sunday Night Theatre (1950 – 1959)
    TV series, 6 episodes:

    • Miss Hargreaves (1950)
      Role: Miss Linkinghorne
    • Home and Beauty (1952)
      Role: Miss Montmorency
    • Henry Irving (1956)
      Role: Mrs. Moore / Mrs. Bateman
    • Mayors’ Nest (1957)
      Role: Mrs. Hilda Yeo
    • The Last Troubadour (1957)
      Role: Mrs. Armytage Moore
    • Brian Rix Presents: A Policeman’s Lot (1959)
      Role: Millie Blunt
  • Hell is Sold Out (1951)
    Role: Hortense, the housekeeper
  • The Bell Family (1951)
    Role: Mrs. Gage; TV series, 5 episodes.
  • High Treason (1951)
    Role: Mrs. Ellis
  • The Magic Box (1951)
    Role: Mrs. Stukely
  • Blind Man’s Bluff (1952)
    Role: Mrs. Kipps
  • The Card (1952)
    Role: Mrs. Codleyn
  • Hindle Wakes (1952)
    Role: Mrs. Hawthorn
  • Rough Shoot  (1953)
    Role: Station Announcer
  • Deadly Nightshade (1953)
    Role: Mrs. Fenton
  • Dance, Little Lady (1954)
    Role: Mrs. Matthews
  • To Dorothy a Son (1954)
    Role: Pub Landlady (uncredited)
  • As Long as They’re Happy (1955)
    Role: Barmaid
  • Doctor at Sea (1955)
    Role: Mrs. Thomas
  • Value for Money (1955)
    Role: Mrs. Perkins
  • Simon and Laura (1955)
    Role: Barmaid
  • An Alligator Named Daisy (1955)
    Role: Piano Customer (uncredited)
  • Jumping for Joy (1956)
    Role: Lady Emily Cranfield
  • The Man Who Never Was (1956)
    Role: Landlady
  • Port of Escape (1956)
    Role: Rosalie Watchett
  • The Extra Day (1956)
    Role: Mrs. West
  • The Last Man to Hang? (1956)
    Role: Mrs. Prynne
  • David Copperfield (1956)
    Role: Miss Lavinia Spenlow; TV series, 3 episodes.
  • Carry on Admiral (1957)
    Role: Mother
  • No Time for Tears (1957)
    Role: Sister Duckworth
  • Barnacle Bill (1957)
    Role: Mrs. Kent
  • The Royalty (1957-58)
    Role: Miss Plimm; TV series, 10 episodes.
  • ITV Play of the Week (1957 – 1964)
    TV series, 7 episodes:

    • Miss Mabel (1957)
      Role: Mrs. Wilson
    • Reunion in Vienna (1958)
      Role: Countess von Stainz
    • The Young May Moon (1958)
      Role: Lady Emily Chatterton
    • The Two on the Beach (1961)
      Role: Mrs. Pearson
    • For King and Country: Out There (1963)
      Role: Mrs. Hudd
    • The Gioconda Smile (1963)
      Role: Nurse Braddock
    • Deep and Crisp and Stolen (1964)
      Role: Mrs. Caley
  • Happy Is the Bride (1958)
    Role: Mrs. Bowels
  • Law and Disorder (1958)
    Role: Aunt Florence
  • Saturday Playhouse (1958 – 1960)
    TV series, 2 episodes:

    • The Return of Peggy Atherton (1960)
      Role: Mrs. Hickory
    • Ladies in Retirement (1958)
      Role: Emily
  • Upstairs and Downstairs (1959)
    Role: Rosemary
  • Carry On Nurse (1959)
    Role: Sister
  • Carry On Constable (1959)
    Role: Mrs. May
  • The 39 Steps (1959)
    Role: Miss Dobson
  • ITV Television Playhouse (1959 – 1961)
    TV series, 4 episodes:

    • Our Miss Hammond (1959)
      Role: Aunt Clara
    • The Christmas Card (1959)
      Role: Mrs. Hinson
    • After the Party (1960)
      Role: Emmie Belton
    • A Resounding Tinkle (1961)
      Role: Uncle Ted
  • No Kidding (1960)
    Role: Cook
  • Carry On Regardless (1960)
    Role: Head Matron
  • The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960)
    Role: Patient at Dr. Gulliver’s Surgery (uncredited)
  • Barnaby Rudge (1960)
    Role: Mrs. Varden; TV series, 10 episodes.
  • One Way Pendulum (1961)
    Role: Aunt Mildred; TV movie.
  • Murder, She Said (1961)
    Role: Mrs. Kidder
  • Raising the Wind (1961)
    Role: Mrs. Bostwick
  • In the Doghouse (1961)
    Role: Miss Gibbs
  • Nurse on Wheels (1963)
    Role: Mrs. Wood
  • Heavens Above! (1963)
    Role: Housewife
  • Our Man at St. Mark’s (1963-66)
    Role:  Mrs. Peace; TV series, 46 episodes.
  • Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (1968)
    Role: Landlady
  • ITV Playhouse (1968 – 1981)
    TV series, 3 episodes:

    • The Kindness of Mrs Radcliffe (1968)
      Role: Matron
    • Murder: Identikit (1969)
      Role: Mrs. Trix
    • A Ferry Ride Away (1981)
      Role: Mrs. Massie
  • ITV Saturday Night Theatre (1969 – 1972)
    TV series, 2 episodes:

    • Hester Lilly (1969)
      Role: Mrs. Beatrice Williams
    • Just in Time for Christmas (1972)
      Role: Mrs. Hope-Rising
  • Carry On Loving (1970)
    Role: Mrs. Grubb
  • A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1970)
    Role: Grace
  • Bachelor Father (1970)
    Role: Mrs. Pugsley; TV series, 8 episodes.
  • Friends (1971)
    Role: Lady in Bookstore
  • Carry On Girls (1973)
    Role: Mrs. Dukes
  • Theatre of Blood (1973)
    Role: Mrs. Sprout
  • Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973)
    Role: Mrs. Chambers; TV series, 2 episodes.
  • Good Girl (1974)
    Role: Mrs. Morrow; TV series, 6 episodes.
  • Crown Court (1975 – 1981)
    Roles: various; TV series, 3 episodes.
  • The Crezz (1976)
    Role: Mrs. Bronte; TV series, 3 episodes.
  • Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)
    Role: Mrs. Rivington; TV movie.
  • Bedroom Farce (1980)
    Role: Delia; TV movie.
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew (1980)
    Role: Widow; TV movie.
  • Great Expectations (1981)
    Role: Miss Havisham; TV series, 5 episodes.
  • The Wicked Lady (1983)
    Role: Aunt Agatha
  • Poor Little Rich Girls (1984)
    Role: Lady Harriet; TV series, 8 episodes.
  • Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (1984 – 1992)
    Role: Miss Jane Marple

  • Clockwise (1986)
    Role: Mrs. Trellis
  • King of the Wind (1990)
    Role: Duchess of Marlborough
  • Century (1993)
    Role: Mrs. Whitweather