Telefilm: Murder She Wrote: A Fashionable Way to Die

As an adjunct to our Amazing World of Radio summer series featuring old time radio programs that include 1966 Batman Villain actors in them, I’m reviewing TV detective and mystery programs in which these actors appeared as much as possible this month.

First off, we focus on Barbara Rush on Murder She Wrote. Ms. Rush appears in the 1987-88 Murder She Wrote Season 4 season premiere. Ms. Rush plays Eva Taylor, a fashion designer who is one of the innumerable friends of Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), and has invited her to Paris for the unveiling of her brand new collection, which promises to put her fashion label on the map.

The problem? Eva’s in debt to a ruthless French businessman (Lee Bergere)  who has underworld ties she doesn’t know about. On the eve of her debut fashion show, he shows up and gives her a choice: either sign a contract to make him a 50-50 partner in her business or he’ll repossess everything. She signs away half her business and after the show, she tells Jessica, who she foolishly didn’t tell in the first place because she was afraid Jessica would think she’d only invited her to Paris to hit her up for money. Jessica, being Jessica, says she’ll confront the shady businessman and get this straightened out, but when they go to find him, they find he’s been murdered. Suspicion soon falls on Eva, and it’s up to Jessica to clear her of the killing.

You might think that if the season premiere of a television program, one that had spent two straight seasons ranked in the top five in ratings, was going to have an episode set in Paris, that it would be filmed on location. It was not. This was filmed on the Universal backlot, using American actors playing French parts, which might have been the only real glaring weakness of the episode.

Everything else works fine. The mystery is above average, with some really puzzling clues to think out and piece together. There’s also a nice solid twist at the end that turns the solution on its head. While the accent of Fritz Weaver as Inspector Hugues Panassié is a bit thick, he’s nevertheless charming and fun in the role.

All in all,  this is an example of a typical Murder She Wrote episode. By no means is it among the program’s standouts, but “A Fashionable Way to Die” delivers an intelligent and diverting and fun mystery with our heroine’s keen mind on full display.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5


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