In this Pilot episode we are introduced to Jessica Fletcher, a recent widow, who lives in Cabot Cove, Maine. Jessica is an English teacher who becomes a mystery book author thanks to her nephew, Grady Fletcher. Grady submits his Aunts manuscript to a publishing company who loves it and publishes it immediately. It is a best-seller and Jessica goes to New York City to promote her new book. While there Jessica gets involved in a murder while at her publishers home for a costume party. When her nephew becomes a suspect of the murder, Jessica must find the real killer. Written by
The pilot art director was Tomas Azzari, and Marry Ann Biddle was his assistant art director. The Mendocino, (Northern California) location stood in for Cabot Cove, Maine. In the heart of the small seaside village, the Jessica Fletcher's Victorian residence was chosen. The Victorian house was actually a doctor's office. The pilot established this exterior as Jessica's home. The interior foyer-living room was filmed in the week on location. A Ranger's office exterior was filmed for the Sheriff's office and jail. Other business store fronts were filmed establishing the newspaper, the beauty shop, the doctor's office, the local hotel became the infamous Hill House hotel and lobby interior. All of these location sites, established throughout the series, return during ensuing location filming in various trips the production company made. When the company returned to Universal Studios, Stage 29, Jessica's kitchen and dining room, the doctor's residence foyer and converted living room, which became his office, were ready for filming. The Sheriff's office had originally been a standing cabin interior with a rustic fireplace. The front wall of the set was replaced, matching the Mendocino Ranger's Station, floor to ceiling glass plate windows and a side entry door. Added to the rectangular floor plan was a jail cell wing. These three sets became the permanent series sets. After the pilot was filmed, Leslie Parsons (art director) added onto Jessica's set, adding the living room and entrance foyer hall (front double door and front window bay matching the Mendocino location). Leslie repeated the use of wallpaper (as the kitchen and dining room) in these set areas. Rob Wingo decorated both the pilot and the series. Azzari and Biddle did not continue with the series' art department after finishing the pilot. See more »
When Jessica sneaks into Ashley's office, the double light switch on the wall had the left switch up, and the right switch down, and the lights were off. When Jessica peaks down the hall (because she hears Ashley coming), both light switches are up, but the lights are still off in the office. When Ashley comes in, she changes one switch and the office lights go on (but we can't see which switch she changes). When Ashley leaves the office, she flips the right switch down and the lights go off. See more »
[Police Chief Gunderson questions Preston Giles and his house guests]
Chief Roy Gunderson:
Suppose you tell me what happened here last night, Mr. Giles. Folks don't go 'round gettin' half their heads blown off for no reason. I'm lookin' for motive.
For killing Caleb McCallum? Surely you jest. Half the country had reason to kill him. The other half didn't know him.
Chief Roy Gunderson:
Not funny, friend.
But accurate. The Captain wasn't particularly well loved. Though I doubt that any of us despised him enough to kill him.
Except for me....
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Each week for many years I looked forward to watching this show which is one of my all time favorite television shows. Although some shows were better than others, it never disappointed. This pilot episode sets the stage for the future episodes: the sophisticated yet kindly retired teacher who genuinely likes and is comfortable with all kinds of people from the young to the aged, from the poor to the wealthy, from cab drivers to powerful business leaders, a middle aged woman who is keenly observant, even tempered and oh so confident. The show also continues to have top-notch supporting casts of well known television and/or movie actors as well as often talented new comers. In this one, Jessica Fletcher solves the first of a mind boggling 264 mysteries. After the death of her husband, Jessica writes a mystery novel and unbeknown to her, her nephew submits it to a publisher. It becomes a runaway best seller and Jessica is invited to New York by her publisher and does the television and talk show circuit. The segment of these interviews is priceless in its' put down of such interviews. Jessica is later invited to her publisher's estate and attends big bash costume party. A glimpse into how the rich and powerful live is another recurring motif of this series. A man dressed in a Sherlock Holmes costume is murdered. The sincere but bumbling detective is at sea so it is Jessica who must catch the culprit. Which, of course, she does. The one thing that does not continue in the series, unfortunately, is Jessica's offering down home advice or remedies to strangers she meets along the way. The producers or the star must have seen this as too hokey for a character they wanted to be portrayed as so very sophisticated. Shame really as this motherly advice touch added a nice dimension to the character.
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