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David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
|First appearance||The Mysterious Affair at Styles|
|Created by||Agatha Christie|
|Portrayed by||David Suchet|
· Former Police officer
|This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (April 2013)|
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
|First appearance||The Mysterious Affair at Styles|
|Created by||Agatha Christie|
|Portrayed by||David Suchet|
· Former Police officer
Hercule Poirot (/ /; French pronunciation: [ɛʁkyl pwaʁo]) is a fictional Belgian detective, created by Agatha Christie. Along with Miss Marple, Poirot is one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play (Black Coffee), and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 and set in the same era.
Poirot has been portrayed on radio, on screen, for films and television, by various actors, including John Moffatt, Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Ian Holm, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina and David Suchet.
His name was derived from two other fictional detectives of the time: Marie Belloc Lowndes' Hercule Popeau and Frank Howel Evans' Monsieur Poirot, a retired Belgian police officer living in London.
A more obvious influence on the early Poirot stories is that of Arthur Conan Doyle. In An Autobiography Christie admits, "I was still writing in the Sherlock Holmes tradition – eccentric detective, stooge assistant, with a Lestrade-type Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Japp". For his part Conan Doyle acknowledged basing his detective stories on the model of Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, and his anonymous narrator, and basing his character Sherlock Holmes on Joseph Bell, who in his use of "ratiocination" prefigured Poirot's reliance on his "little grey cells".
Poirot also bears a striking resemblance to A. E. W. Mason's fictional detective—Inspector Hanaud of the French Sûreté—who, first appearing in the 1910 novel At the Villa Rose, predates the writing of the first Poirot novel by six years. In chapter four of the second Inspector Hanaud novel, The House of the Arrow (1924), Hanaud declares sanctimoniously to the heroine, "You are wise, Mademoiselle…For, after all, I am Hanaud. There is only one."
Christie's Poirot was a francophone Belgian. Unlike the models mentioned above, Christie's Poirot was clearly the result of her early development of the detective in her first book, written in 1916 but not published until 1920. Not only was his Belgian nationality interesting because of Belgium's occupation by Germany (which provided a valid explanation of why such a skilled detective would be out of work and available to solve mysteries at an English country house), but also at the time of Christie's writing, it was considered patriotic to express sympathy with the Belgians, since the invasion of their country had constituted Britain's casus belli for entering World War I, and British wartime propaganda emphasized the "Rape of Belgium".
Poirot's first appearance was in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (published 1920) and his last in Curtain (published 1975, the year before Christie died). On publication of the latter, Poirot was the only fictional character to be given an obituary on the front page of The New York Times.
By 1930, Agatha Christie found Poirot "insufferable", and by 1960 she felt that he was a "detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep". Yet the public loved him, and Christie refused to kill him off, claiming that it was her duty to produce what the public liked, and what the public liked was Poirot.
Here is how Captain Arthur Hastings first describes Poirot:
He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible.
The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.
This is how Agatha Christie describes Poirot in The Murder on the Orient Express in the initial pages:
By the step leading up into the sleeping-car stood a young Belgian lieutenant, resplendent in uniform, conversing with a small man (Hercule Poirot) muffled up to the ears of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward-curled moustache.
In the later books, the limp is not mentioned, which suggests it may have been a temporary wartime injury. Poirot has dark hair, which he dyes later in life (though many of his screen incarnations are portrayed as bald or balding), and green eyes that are repeatedly described as shining "like a cat's" when he is struck by a clever idea. Frequent mention is made of his patent-leather shoes, damage to which is frequently a subject of (for the reader, comical) misery on his part. Poirot's appearance, regarded as fastidious during his early career, is hopelessly out of fashion later in his career.
Among Poirot's most significant personal attributes is the sensitivity of his stomach:
The plane dropped slightly. "Mon estomac," thought Hercule Poirot, and closed his eyes determinedly.
He suffers from sea sickness, and in Death in the Clouds believes that his air sickness prevents him from being more alert at the time of the murder. Later in his life, we are told:
Always a man who had taken his stomach seriously, he was reaping his reward in old age. Eating was not only a physical pleasure, it was also an intellectual research.
Poirot is extremely punctual and carries a turnip pocket watch almost to the end of his career. He is also fastidious about his personal finances, preferring to keep a bank balance of 444 pounds, 4 shillings, and 4 pence.
In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot operates as a fairly conventional, clue-based detective, depending on logic, which is represented in his vocabulary by two common phrases: his use of "the little grey cells" and "order and method". Irritating to Hastings is the fact that Poirot will sometimes conceal from him important details of his plans, as in The Big Four where Hastings is kept in the dark throughout the climax. This aspect of Poirot is less evident in the later novels, partly because there is rarely a narrator so there is no one for Poirot to mislead.
As early as Murder on the Links, where he still largely depends on clues, Poirot mocks a rival "bloodhound" detective who focuses on the traditional trail of clues that had been established in detective fiction by the example of Sherlock Holmes: footprints, fingerprints and cigar ash. From this point on he establishes himself as a psychological detective who proceeds not by a painstaking examination of the crime scene, but by enquiring either into the nature of the victim or the psychology of the murderer. Central to his behaviour in the later novels is the underlying assumption that particular crimes are only committed by particular types of people.
Poirot's methods focus on getting people to talk. Early in the novels, he frequently casts himself in the role of "Papa Poirot", a benign confessor, especially to young women. Later he lies freely in order to gain the confidences of other characters, either inventing his own reason for being interested in the case or a family excuse for pursuing a line of questioning.
To this day Harold is not quite sure what made him suddenly pour out the whole story to a little man to whom he had only spoken a few minutes before.
Poirot is also willing to appear more foreign or vain than he really is in an effort to make people underestimate him. He admits as much:
It is true that I can speak the exact, the idiomatic English. But, my friend, to speak the broken English is an enormous asset. It leads people to despise you. They say – a foreigner – he can't even speak English properly. […] Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, "A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much. […] And so, you see, I put people off their guard.
In the later novels Christie often uses the word mountebank when Poirot is being assessed by other characters, showing that he has successfully passed himself off as a charlatan or fraud.
All these techniques help Poirot attain his principal target: "For in the long run, either through a lie, or through truth, people were bound to give themselves away…"
After solving a case Poirot has the habit of collecting all people involved into a single room and explaining them the reasoning that led him to the solution, and revealing that the murderer is one of them.
"I suppose you know pretty well everything there is to know about Poirot's family by this time". Christie made a point of having Poirot supply false or misleading information about himself or his background in order to assist him in obtaining information relevant to a particular case. In chapter 21 of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, for example, Poirot talks about a mentally disabled nephew: this proves to be a ruse so that he can find out about homes for the mentally unfit, and in Dumb Witness, Poirot tells of an elderly invalid mother as a pretence to investigate the local nurses.
The character was in the Brussels police force by 1893. A brief passage in The Big Four furnishes possible information about Poirot's birth or at least childhood in or near the town of Spa, Belgium or in the village of Ellezelles (province of Hainaut, Belgium - a few memorials dedicated to Hercule Poirot can be seen in the center of this village): "But we did not go into Spa itself. We left the main road and wound into the leafy fastnesses of the hills, till we reached a little hamlet and an isolated white villa high on the hillside." Christie strongly implies that this "quiet retreat in the Ardennes" near Spa is the Poirot family home. Christie is purposefully vague, as Poirot is thought to be elderly even in the early Poirot novels, and in An Autobiography she admitted that she already imagined him to be an old man in 1920. At the time, of course, she had no idea she would be going on writing Poirot books for many decades to come.
Christie wrote that Poirot is a Roman Catholic, and gave her character a strong sense of Catholic morality later in works. Christie wrote little of Poirot’s childhood though in Three Act Tragedy she writes that he comes from a large family with little wealth.
"Gustave […] was not a policeman. I have dealt with policemen all my life and I know. He could pass as a detective to an outsider but not to a man who was a policeman himself."
- — Hercule Poirot in "The Erymanthian Boar" (1940).
As an adult, Poirot joined the Belgian police force. Very little mention is made in Christie's work about this part of his life, but in "The Nemean Lion" (1939) Poirot himself refers to a Belgian case of his in which "a wealthy soap manufacturer […] poisoned his wife in order to be free to marry his secretary". We do not know whether this case resulted in a successful prosecution or not; moreover, Poirot is not above lying in order to produce a particular effect in the person to whom he is speaking, so this evidence is not reliable. Inspector Japp gives some insight into Poirot's career with the Belgian police when introducing him to a colleague:
You've heard me speak of Mr Poirot? It was in 1904 he and I worked together – the Abercrombie forgery case – you remember he was run down in Brussels. Ah, those were the days Moosier. Then, do you remember "Baron" Altara? There was a pretty rogue for you! He eluded the clutches of half the police in Europe. But we nailed him in Antwerp – thanks to Mr. Poirot here.
In the short story The Chocolate Box (1923) Poirot provides Captain Arthur Hastings with an account of what he considers to be his only failure. Poirot admits that he has failed to solve a crime "innumerable" times:
I have been called in too late. Very often another, working towards the same goal, has arrived there first. Twice I have been struck down with illness just as I was on the point of success.
Nevertheless, he regards the case in "The Chocolate Box", which took place in 1893, as his only actual failure of detection. Again, Poirot is not reliable as a narrator of his personal history and there is no evidence that Christie sketched it out in any depth.
It was also in this period that Poirot shot a man who was firing from a roof onto the public below.
Poirot had been forcibly retired from the Belgian police force prior to the time he met Hastings in 1916 as a refugee on the case retold in The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
In The Double Clue Poirot mentions that he was Chief of Police of Brussels, until "the Great War" (WWI) forced him to leave for England.
I had called in at my friend Poirot's rooms to find him sadly overworked. So much had he become the rage that every rich woman who had mislaid a bracelet or lost a pet kitten rushed to secure the services of the great Hercule Poirot.
During World War I, Poirot left Belgium for Britain as a refugee (although he returned a few times). It was here, on 16 July 1916, that he again met his lifelong friend, Captain Arthur Hastings, and solved the first of his cases to be published: The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It is clear that Hastings and Poirot are already friends when they meet in Chapter 2 of the novel, because Hastings tells Cynthia that he has not seen him for "some years". The date of 1916 for the case, and the fact that Hastings had met Poirot in Belgium, is given in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, Chapter 1 (someone had been shot in a village where Hastings was duck-shooting and Poirot had been called in from the Brussels police to investigate). After that case Poirot apparently came to the attention of the British secret service, and undertook cases for the British government, including foiling the attempted abduction of the Prime Minister. Readers were told that the British authority learned about Poirot's keen investigative ability from certain Belgian royals.
After the war Poirot became a free agent and began undertaking civilian cases. He moved into what became both his home and work address, 56B Whitehaven Mansions. Hastings first visits the apartment when he returns to England in June 1935 from Argentina in The A.B.C. Murders, Chapter 1 (it is a plot point in the novel that the flat is at Whitehaven Mansions because a letter to Poirot is misaddressed). It was chosen by Poirot for its symmetry. (This building was in fact built in 1936, decades later than Poirot fictionally moved in.) His first case was "The Affair at the Victory Ball", which saw Poirot enter high society and begin his career as a private detective.
Between the world wars, Poirot travelled all over Europe, Africa, Asia, and half of South America investigating crimes and murders. Most of his cases happened during this period and he was at the height of his powers at this point in his life. The Murder On the Links saw the Belgian pit his grey cells against a French murderer. In the Middle East he solved the cases of Death on the Nile, and Murder in Mesopotamia with ease and even survived An Appointment with Death. As he passed through Eastern Europe on his return trip, he solved The Murder on the Orient Express. However he did not travel to the North America, the West Indies or Australia, probably due to his sea sickness.
It is this villainous sea that troubles me! The mal de mer – it is horrible suffering!
Through his career, Hercule Poirot met many unpleasant men who befriended him including Samuel Ratchett, George Edgeware, Gervaise Chevenix, Roger Ackroyd, Benedict Farley, and Henry Gasgoine.
It was during this time he met the Countess Vera Rossakoff, a glamorous jewel thief. The history of the Countess is, like Poirot's, steeped in mystery. She claims to have been a member of the Russian aristocracy before the Russian Revolution and suffered greatly as a result, but how much of that story is true is an open question. Even Poirot acknowledges that Rossakoff has told several wildly varying accounts of her early life. Poirot later became smitten with the woman and allowed her to escape justice.
It is the misfortune of small, precise men always to hanker after large and flamboyant women. Poirot had never been able to rid himself of the fatal fascination that the Countess held for him.
Although letting the Countess escape is morally questionable, that impulse to take the law into his own hands was far from unique. In The Nemean Lion, he sided with the criminal, Miss Amy Carnaby, and saved her from having to face justice by blackmailing his client Sir Joseph Hoggins, who himself was plotting murder and was unwise enough to let Poirot discover this. Poirot even sent Miss Carnaby two hundred pounds as a final payoff before her dog kidnapping campaign came to an end. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, he allowed the murderer to escape justice through suicide and then ensured the truth was never known to spare the feelings of the murderer's relatives. In The Augean Stables, he helped the government to cover up vast corruption.
In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot allows the murderers to escape justice as well, after he discovers that twelve different people stabbed the victim – Mr. Ratchett – in his sleep. This is because they were only carrying out the sentence of death that he would have faced had he not been acquitted on a technicality. It may also be because, since 12 people stabbed the victim, none was certain who delivered the killing blow. Ultimately a falsehood is made up to tell the police and the 12 perpetrators are allowed to go free.
After his cases in the Middle East, Poirot returned to Britain. Apart from some of the so-called "Labours of Hercules" (see next section) he very rarely travelled abroad during his later career.
While Poirot is usually paid handsomely by clients who request his help, he is known to also take on cases that may not pay well simply because the mystery interests him.
Poirot is also shown to have an love of steam trains, which contrasts Hasting's love of cars: this is shown in The Mystery of the Blue Train, Murder on the Orient Express, and The ABC Murders (in the TV series, steam trains are seen in nearly all of the episodes). In The Big Four, Poirot pretends to have a younger brother called Achille Poirot. This is interesting as both names are from famous Greek athletes and in both their names, the final letter "S" is taken off. The most famous cases of Poirot's career are considered to be Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, The ABC Murders, and Peril at End House.
That’s the way of it. Just a case or two, just one case more – the Prima Donna’s farewell performance won’t be in it with yours, Poirot.
There is a great deal of confusion about Poirot's retirement. Most of the cases covered by Poirot's private detective agency take place before his retirement to grow marrows, at which time he solves The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It has been said that twelve cases related in The Labours of Hercules (1947) must refer to a different retirement, but the fact that Poirot specifically says that he intends to grow marrows indicates that these stories also take place before Roger Ackroyd, and presumably Poirot closed his agency once he had completed them. There is specific mention in "The Capture of Cerberus" to the fact that there has been a gap of twenty years between Poirot's previous meeting with Countess Rossakoff and this one. If the Labours precede the events in Roger Ackroyd, then the Roger Ackroyd case must have taken place around twenty years later than it was published, and so must any of the cases that refer to it. One alternative would be that having failed to grow marrows once, Poirot is determined to have another go, but this is specifically denied by Poirot himself. Also, in "The Erymanthian Boar", a character is said to have been turned out of Austria by the Nazis, implying that the events of The Labours of Hercules took place after 1937. Another alternative would be to suggest that the Preface to the Labours takes place at one date but that the labours are completed over a matter of twenty years. None of the explanations is especially attractive.
In terms of a rudimentary chronology, Poirot speaks of retiring to grow marrows in Chapter 18 of The Big Four (1927), which places that novel out of published order before Roger Ackroyd. He declines to solve a case for the Home Secretary because he is retired in Chapter One of Peril at End House (1932). He is certainly retired at the time of Three Act Tragedy (1935) but he does not enjoy his retirement and comes repeatedly out of it thereafter when his curiosity is engaged. Nevertheless, he continues to employ his secretary, Miss Lemon, at the time of the cases retold in Hickory Dickory Dock and Dead Man's Folly, which take place in the mid-1950s. It is therefore better to assume that Christie provided no authoritative chronology for Poirot's retirement, but assumed that he could either be an active detective, a consulting detective, or a retired detective as the needs of the immediate case required.
One thing that is consistent about Poirot's retirement is that his fame declines during it, so that in the later novels he is often disappointed when characters (especially younger characters) recognize neither him nor his name:
"I should, perhaps, Madame, tell you a little more about myself. I am Hercule Poirot."
The revelation left Mrs Summerhayes unmoved.
"What a lovely name," she said kindly. "Greek, isn't it?"
He, I knew, was not likely to be far from his headquarters. The time when cases had drawn him from one end of England to the other was past.
Poirot is less active during the cases that take place at the end of his career. Beginning with Three Act Tragedy (1934), Christie had perfected during the inter-war years a sub-genre of Poirot novel in which the detective himself spent much of the first third of the novel on the periphery of events. In novels such as Taken at the Flood, After the Funeral, and Hickory Dickory Dock, he is even less in evidence, frequently passing the duties of main interviewing detective to a subsidiary character. In Cat Among the Pigeons, Poirot's entrance is so late as to be almost an afterthought. Whether this was a reflection of his age or of the fact that Christie was by now heartily sick of him, it is difficult to assess. There is certainly a case for saying that Crooked House (1949) and Ordeal by Innocence (1957), which are not Poirot novels at all but so easily could have been, represent a logical endpoint of the general diminution of Poirot himself within the Poirot sequence.
Towards the end of his career, it becomes clear that Poirot's retirement is no longer a convenient fiction. He assumes a genuinely inactive lifestyle during which he concerns himself with studying famous unsolved cases of the past and reading detective novels. He even writes a book about mystery fiction in which he deals sternly with Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins. In the absence of a more appropriate puzzle, he solves such inconsequential domestic problems as the presence of three pieces of orange peel in his umbrella stand.
Poirot (and, it is reasonable to suppose, his creator) becomes increasingly bemused by the vulgarism of the up-and-coming generation's young people. In Hickory Dickory Dock, he investigates the strange goings on in a student hostel, while in Third Girl (1966) he is forced into contact with the smart set of Chelsea youths. In the growing drug and pop culture of the sixties, he proves himself once again, but has become heavily reliant on other investigators (especially the private investigator, Mr. Goby) who provide him with the clues that he can no longer gather for himself.
You're too old. Nobody told me you were so old. I really don't want to be rude but – there it is. You're too old. I'm really very sorry.
Notably, during this time his physical characteristics also change dramatically, and by the time Arthur Hastings meets Poirot again in Curtain, he looks very different from his previous appearances, having become thin with age and with obviously dyed hair.
Poirot passes away from complications of a heart condition at the end of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. He had moved his amyl nitrite pills out of his reach, possibly because of guilt. He was forced to become the murderer in Curtain, although it was for the benefit of others. Poirot himself noted that he wanted to kill his victim shortly before his own death so that he could avoid succumbing to the arrogance of the murderer, concerned that he may come to view himself as entitled to kill those he deemed necessary to eliminate.
The "murderer" he was hunting had never expressly killed anyone, but subtly and psychologically, he had manipulated others to kill for him, manipulating the moments where others desire to commit murder so that they carry out the crime when they might otherwise dismiss their thoughts as nothing more than the heat of the moment. Poirot thus was forced to kill the man himself, as otherwise he would have continued his actions and never been officially convicted as he did not legally do anything wrong. It is revealed at the end of Curtain that he fakes his need for a wheelchair so as to fool people into believing that he is suffering from arthritis, to give the impression that he is more infirm than he is. His last recorded words are "Cher ami!", spoken to Hastings as the Captain left his room. Poirot was buried at Styles, and his funeral was arranged by his best friend Hastings and Hastings' daughter Judith. Hastings reasoned, "Here was the spot where he had lived when he first came to this country. He was to lie here at the last."
While Poirot's actual death and funeral occurred in Curtain, years after his retirement from active investigation, it was not the first time Hastings attended the funeral of his best friend. In The Big Four (1927) Poirot feigned his death and subsequent funeral in order to launch a surprise attack on the Big Four.
Hastings, a former British Army officer, first meets Poirot during Poirot's years as a police officer in Belgium and almost immediately after they both arrive in England. He becomes Poirot's lifelong friend and appears in many of the novels and stories. Poirot regards Hastings as a poor private detective, not particularly intelligent, yet helpful in his way of being fooled by the criminal or seeing things the way the average man would see them, and for his tendency to unknowingly "stumble" onto the truth. Hastings marries and has four children – two sons and two daughters.
Hastings is a man who is capable of great bravery and courage, facing death unflinchingly when confronted by The Big Four and possessing unwavering loyalty towards Poirot. However, when forced to choose between Poirot and his wife in that novel, he initially chooses to betray Poirot to the Big Four so that they would not torture and kill his wife. Later, though, he tells Poirot to draw back and escape the trap.
The two are an airtight team until Hastings meets and marries Dulcie Duveen, a beautiful music hall performer half his age. They later emigrate to Argentina, leaving Poirot behind as a "very unhappy old man", Poirot and Hastings are reunited in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, having been earlier reunited in The ABC Murders and Dumb Witness when Hastings arrives in England for business.
The detective novelist Ariadne Oliver is Agatha Christie's humorous self-caricature. Like Agatha Christie, she is not overly fond of the detective she is most famous for creating – in Ariadne's case the Finnish sleuth Sven Hjerson. We never learn anything about her husband, but we do know that she hates alcohol and public appearances, and has a great fondness for apples until she is put off them by the events of Hallowe'en Party. She also has a habit of constantly changing her hairstyle, and in every appearance by her much is made of the clothes and hats she wears. She has a maid called Maria who prevents the public adoration from becoming too much of a burden on her employer, but does nothing to prevent her from becoming too much of a burden on others.
She has authored over fifty-six novels and she has a great dislike of people taking and modifying her story characters. She is also the only one in Poirot's universe to have noted that "It’s not natural for five or six people to be on the spot when B is murdered and all have a motive for killing B." She first met Poirot in the story Cards on the Table and has been bothering him ever since.
Poirot's secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon, has few human weaknesses. The only mistakes she makes within the series are a typing error during the events of Hickory Dickory Dock and the mis-mailing of an electricity bill, although she was worried about strange events surrounding her sister at the time. Poirot described her as being "Unbelievably ugly and incredibly efficient. Anything that she mentioned as worth consideration usually was worth consideration." She is an expert on nearly everything and plans to create the perfect filing system. She also worked for the government statistician-turned-philanthropist, Parker Pyne. Whether this was during one of Poirot’s numerous retirements or before she entered his employment is unknown. In The Agatha Christie Hour, she was portrayed by British actress Angela Easterling, while in Agatha Christie's Poirot, she was portrayed by Pauline Moran. A marked difference from the text exists in Moran's portrayal, where she is shown to be an attractive, fashionable, and emotional woman showing an occasional soft corner for Poirot.
Japp is an Inspector from Scotland Yard and appears in many of the stories trying to solve the cases Poirot is working on. Japp is outgoing, loud and sometimes inconsiderate by nature, and his relationship with the bourgeois Belgian is one of the stranger aspects of Poirot’s world. He first met Poirot in Belgium, 1904, during the Abercrombie Forgery and later that year they joined forces again to hunt down a criminal known as Baron Altara. They also meet in England where Poirot often helps Japp solve a case and lets him take credit in return for special favours. These favours usually entail Poirot being supplied with cases that would interest him. In Agatha Christie's Poirot, Japp was portrayed by Philip Jackson. In the film, Thirteen at Dinner (1985), adapted from Lord Edgware Dies, the role of Japp was taken by the actor David Suchet, who would later star as Poirot in the ITV adaptations.
The Poirot books take readers through the whole of his life in England, from the first book (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), where he is a refugee staying at Styles, to the last Poirot book (Curtain), where he visits Styles once again before his death. In between, Poirot solves cases outside England as well, including his most famous case, Murder on the Orient Express (1934).
Hercule Poirot became famous with the publication, in 1926, of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, whose surprising solution proved controversial. The novel is still among the most famous of all detective novels: Edmund Wilson alludes to it in the title of his well-known attack on detective fiction, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Aside from Roger Ackroyd, the most critically acclaimed Poirot novels appeared from 1932 to 1942, including such acknowledged classics as Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders (1935), Cards on the Table (1936), and Death on the Nile (1937). The last of these, a tale of multiple homicide upon a Nile steamer, was judged by the celebrated detective novelist John Dickson Carr to be among the ten greatest mystery novels of all time.
The 1942 novel Five Little Pigs (aka Murder in Retrospect), in which Poirot investigates a murder committed sixteen years before by analysing various accounts of the tragedy, is a Rashomon-like performance that critic and mystery novelist Robert Barnard called the best of the Christie novels.
The first actor to portray Hercule Poirot was Charles Laughton. He appeared on the West End in 1928 in the play Alibi which had been adapted by Michael Morton from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Austin Trevor debuted the role of Poirot on screen in the 1931 British film Alibi. The film was based on the stage play. Trevor reprised the role of Poirot twice, in Black Coffee and Lord Edgware Dies. Trevor said once that he was probably cast as Poirot simply because he could do a French accent. Leslie S. Hiscott directed the first two films, with Henry Edwards taking over for the third.
Albert Finney played Poirot in 1974 in the cinematic version of Murder on the Orient Express. As of 2013[update] Finney is the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for playing Poirot, though he did not win.
He appeared again as Poirot in three made-for-television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Dead Man's Folly (1986), and Murder in Three Acts (1986). Unlike earlier adaptations that were set during the time in which the novels were written, however, these TV movies were set in the contemporary era. The first of these was based on Lord Edgware Dies and was made by Warner Brothers. It also starred Faye Dunaway and David Suchet as Inspector Japp, just before Suchet began to play the famous detective. David Suchet considers his performance as Japp to be "possibly the worst performance of [his] career".
David Suchet has starred as the eponymous detective in Agatha Christie's Poirot in the ITV series since 1989. In late 2011, ITV announced that it would be filming the remaining Poirot stories in 2012[dead link]. Those films will be: Labours of Hercules; Dead Man’s Folly; The Big Four; Elephants Can Remember; and Curtain. As a result, Suchet will have filmed adaptations of every Poirot novel, and all but one Poirot short story.
In 2004, NHK (Japanese public TV network) produced a 39 episode anime series titled Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, as well as a manga series under the same title released in 2005. The series, adapting several of the best-known Poirot and Marple stories, ran from 4 July 2004 through 15 May 2005, and has since been shown in repeated reruns on NHK and other networks in Japan. Poirot was voiced by Kōtarō Satomi and Miss Marple was voiced by Kaoru Yachigusa.
There have been a number of radio adaptations of the Poirot stories, most recently twenty seven of them on BBC Radio 4 (and regularly repeated on BBC 7), starring John Moffatt (Maurice Denham and Peter Sallis have also played Poirot on BBC Radio 4, Mr. Denham in The Mystery of the Blue Train and Mr. Sallis in Hercule Poirot's Christmas). In 1939, Orson Welles and the Mercury Players dramatized The Murder of Roger Ackroyd on CBS's Campbell Playhouse. A 1945 radio series of at least 13 original half-hour episodes (none of which apparently adapt any Christie stories) transferred Poirot from London to New York and starred character actor Harold Huber, perhaps better known for his appearances as a police officer in various Charlie Chan films. On 22 February 1945, "speaking from London, Agatha Christie introduced the initial broadcast of the Poirot series via shortwave".
Recorded and released (John Moffatt stars as Poirot unless otherwise indicated):
Yet to be recorded:
In Revenge of the Pink Panther, Poirot makes a cameo appearance in a mental asylum, portrayed by Andrew Sachs and claiming to be "the greatest detective in all of France, the greatest in all the world".
In Neil Simon's Murder By Death, American actor James Coco plays "Milo Perrier", a parody of Poirot. The film also features parodies of Charlie Chan, Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and Miss Marple.
Tony Randall portrayed Poirot in The Alphabet Murders, a 1965 film also known as The ABC Murders. This was more a satire of Poirot than a straightforward adaptation, and was greatly changed from the original. Much of the story, set in contemporary times, was played for comedy, with Poirot investigating the murders while evading the attempts by Hastings (Robert Morley) and the police to get him out of England and back to Belgium.
Dudley Jones played Poirot in the film The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977).
In Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Poirot appears as a young boy on the train transporting Holmes and Watson. Holmes helps the boy in opening a puzzle-box, with Watson giving the boy advice about using his "little grey cells", giving the impression that Poirot first heard about grey cells and their uses from Dr. Watson. Poirot would go on to use the "little grey cells" line countless times throughout Agatha Christie's fiction.
The Belgian brewery Brasserie Ellezelloise makes a highly rated stout called Hercule with a moustachioed caricature of Hercule Poirot on the label.
In the final host segment of Mystery Science Theater 3000's episode "The Rebel Set", Tom Servo dresses up as Poirot and impersonates him in an attempt to discover the identity of B-movie actor Merritt Stone.
Poirot is parodied twice in sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look, where he is played by David Mitchell; one sketch sees him identifying a killer due to her use of "the evil voice"—a voice that only murderers use—admitting that he otherwise had no evidence, and a later sketch sees him meeting a ship captain who is also played by Mitchell.