Murder on the Orient Express (1974) Poster


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Virtually all of Ingrid Bergman's Oscar-winning performance is contained in a single scene: her interrogation by Poirot, captured in a single continuous take, nearly five minutes long.
Since Albert Finney's required many hours of make-up procedures before shooting each day and because he was performing in a stage play at the same time, he didn't have much time for his badly-needed sleep. A daily routine was developed where an ambulance arrived to pick-up the sleeping actor at his home, in his pajamas, carefully trying not to wake him up. During the half-hour commute to the studio, the make-up artists would begin the rough work on his face. The rest of the fine detail work was completed at the the studio on a still sleeping Finney.
An 84-year-old Agatha Christie attended the movie premiere in November of 1974. It was the only film adaptation in her lifetime that she was completely satisfied with. In particular, she felt that Albert Finney's performance came closest to her idea of Poirot (though was reportedly unimpressed with her sleuth's moustache). The premiere would be her final public appearance: she died fourteen months later, on January 12, 1976.
After nearly forty years' work in English-language films, Ingrid Bergman's Swedish accent was so slight that a dialogue coach had to be brought in to help her speak with a thick accent.
Wendy Hiller was second choice for Princess Dragonmiroff. Director Sidney Lumet's first choice was vetoed by the producers. The role was also turned down by Ingrid Bergman who chose instead to play Greta Ohlsson, the somewhat crazy Swedish nanny, even if this part had fewer scenes than the part of the Princess. Ingrid Bergman had good instincts since she won an Oscar for the role.
The final scene, in which Poirot shares his solution of the case, required more shots and camera angles than could be captured in a single take on the cramped set. The cast had to shoot the scene multiple times, as the required number of cameras didn't fit in such a small space. This was especially hard on Albert Finney, whose monologue was eight pages long.
Agatha Christie's story was inspired by the notorious kidnap and subsequent murder of famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's baby, Charles Lindbergh Jr. in 1932. Charles A. Lindbergh died three months before the movie was released.
Albert Finney, who was then 37 years old, was the third choice for the much-older Poirot. The role was offered to Alec Guinness who was unavailable as well as Paul Scofield. Special make-up was created to give Finney the appearance of the 55-60 year old beloved but peculiar Belgian detective.
Richard Widmark agreed to do the movie just to have the chance to meet the other stars.
The luxury food that is inspected and carried aboard the train early in the film had been stolen from the set just before shooting. All the food had to be bought again, in the middle of the night, on location in Paris.
In 1929 a westbound Orient Express train was stuck in snow for 5 days at Tcherkesskeuy, some 130km from Istanbul. This incident inspired the setting of the book and film.
Sean Connery earlier appeared in another movie that featured the Orient Express: From Russia with Love (1963).
There are eight re-pairings from several other movies: Martin Balsam and Anthony Perkins were in Psycho (1960) together. Colin Blakely and Rachel Roberts both appeared in This Sporting Life (1963). Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset both appeared in Under the Volcano (1984) and 'Two for the Road' (1967). Colin Blakely and Wendy Hiller both appeared in A Man for All Seasons (1966). Jean-Pierre Cassel and Jacqueline Bisset appeared as husband and wife in La Cérémonie (1995); Albert Finney and Rachel Roberts appeared together in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960); Martin Balsam and Sean Connery appeared together in The Anderson Tapes (1971) also directed by Sidney Lumet just like this movie; Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave would later star in The Gathering Storm (2002)..
There are two references to 'Alfred Hitchcock''s The Lady Vanishes (1938): Ratchett disappears in a tunnel, and (later) an initial is drawn on a fogged window.
Upon accepting her Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Ingrid Bergman apologized to fellow actress Valentina Cortese, who was nominated for Day for Night (1973), saying that she deserved the award more.
The film boasts 58 Oscar nominations and 14 wins (not including 2 Honorary wins) from its principal cast and crew. Martin Balsam (1), Ingrid Bergman (3; 7 nods), Sean Connery (1), John Gielgud (1; 2 nods), Wendy Hiller (1; 3 nods), Vanessa Redgrave (1; 6 nods), Paul Dehn (1; 2 nods), Geoffrey Unsworth (2; 4 nods), Anne V. Coates (1; 5 nods), Tony Walton (1; 5 nods) and Jack Stephens (1; 2 nods) are Oscar winners; Lauren Bacall and Sidney Lumet are Honorary Oscar winners. Albert Finney (5), Bacall (1), Anthony Perkins (1), Rachel Roberts (1), Richard Widmark (1), Lumet (5), Richard Rodney Bennett (3) and producers Richard B. Goodwin (1) and John Brabourne (2) are Oscar nominees.
In one scene Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman are sitting at the same table. Both were famous for pairing alongside Humphrey Bogart in many 1940's films.
The actual Orient Express trains were no longer in existence at the time of shooting. However, the real Orient Express engine was used in the film although it couldn't travel very far. Only portions of the carriages still existed in museums, mostly in Belgium, and sometimes had to be recreated from real portions borrowed.
Director Sidney Lumet thought the best way to acquire an all-star cast was to sign the biggest star first. In 1974, that was Sean Connery, whom Lumet had previously directed.
A set of lyrics was composed for the main-title theme but was never used. The first line went, "Silky, there is murder in your eyes."
Sound recordist Peter Handford pioneered the use of radio mikes in a feature film on this production. The microphones were concealed in table fittings.
After several disappointing film adaptations, Agatha Christie initially refused to sell the film rights to any more of her books, but EMI chairman Nat Coleman enlisted the aid of Lord Louis Mountbatten to persuade Christie to allow the filming of her 1934 novel. It turned out to be her favorite film adaptation of any of her books. Mountbatten was the father-in-law of the film's producer John Brabourne
The first of four Agatha Christie film and TV productions featuring Sir John Gielgud.
The poem that Rachel Roberts reads to the dozing Countess is "Kennst du das Land," by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, later set to music by Beethoven. The verse goes like this: Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn, Im dunklen Laub die Gold-Orangen glühn, Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht, Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht, Kennst du es wohl? Dahin! Dahin Mocht ich mit dir, o mein Geliebter, ziehn.
There are two musical references to Shirley Temple movies. In the restaurant where Bianchi and Poirot dine, a trio plays "On The Good Ship Lollipop." And later Poirot sings two lines from "Animal Crackers in my Soup"
Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins AND Jean-Pierre Cassel already starred together in Goodbye Again (1961).
Although the producers agreed to all the other suggestions from casting director Dyson Lovell, they balked at his choice of Marlene Dietrich as The Countess, believing it was "too campy." Wendy Hiller ultimately played the role.
Beddoes reads (the fictional) "Love's Captive" by Mrs Arabella Richardson.
Richard Rodney Bennett was originally hired to arrange 1930s tunes for the soundtrack, but persuaded the studio that this was a cliché and that he should write an original score. Bennett said "Sidney Lumet wanted Eddie Duchin ... I wanted the Warsaw Concerto... the waltz [theme] was a combination of the two."
Poirot's summation scene, from where he begins to speak after laying out the evidence on the table to when he sits down concluding his summation, runs for 27 minutes 57 seconds.
Just like in Psycho (1960) Anthony Perkins also play a man who lost his mother at an early age and who has difficulties in having relationships with women.
In the seventeen members cast, four players are Americans, one is French and one is Swedish. The eleven others was born in United Kingdom.
The poem that the Princess's maid reads aloud is "Kennst Du das Land" by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The poem contains a line that translates as "What have they done, oh wretched child, to thee?" a reference to the murder of Daisy Armstrong.
The photo gallery on the German DVD by Kinowelt includes one photo hinting at a scene not used in the final film. It shows Bianchi in his bed on the train with Pierre standing beside him.
As shooting went on, five of the actors were involved in West End stage plays at the same time. John Gielgud and Denis Quilley in "The Tempest". Vanessa Redgrave, Albert Finney and Ingrid Bergman were also performing in other productions.
Albert Finney's denouement summation at the film's climax runs eight pages.
Three of the cast - Colin Blakely, Denis Quilley and George Silver - would appear in other Agatha Christie films by the the same producers (Richard B. Goodwin and John Brabourne). George Silver would have a minor part in The Mirror Crack'd (1980), while Blakely and Quilley would have more prominent roles in Evil Under the Sun (1982).
Lauren Bacall and John Gielgud have re-appeared after 14 years in an Agatha Christie movie: Appointment with Death (1988).
There is a frequent mention of the place 'Shimoga' in the movie. At the time of the novel being written, Shimoga was indeed part of the kingdom of Mysore. By the time movie was made, kingdom of Mysore ceased to exist after Indian independence in 1947. Now, Shimoga is one of the popular districts in the state of Karnataka, which happens to be in South India.
Ingrid Bergman played Mrs. Frankweiler in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973) in 1973. Lauren Bacall played Mrs. Frankweiler in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1995) in 1995.
The actor John Moffatt, who is listed in the cast as 'Chief Attendant' would later go on to provide the voice of Poirot himself in the BBC audio dramatization of 'Murder on the Orient Express' broadcast from 28 December 1993 to 1 January 1994.
Mrs. Hubbard mentions several times about the fact of being married two times. Lauren Bacall was really married two times (with Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards. Coincidentally, the name Hubbard sounds a little like Robards and both were the second husband of character and also of the actress.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

When she has finished giving her evidence, Poirot thanks Mrs Hubbard for "playing your part". When she later appears with the dagger, he asks "Why did you bring this dagger from the place?". This indicates that Poirot has long identified her as Linda Arden, an actress famous for her performance as Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth and the line "Why did you bring these daggers from the place?"

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