Murder, She Wrote: Season 4, Episode 6

It Runs in the Family (1 Nov. 1987)

TV Episode  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama
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Jessica's British cousin, Emma MacGill (played by Angela Lansbury), is charged with an old flame's murder.



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Title: It Runs in the Family (01 Nov 1987)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
John David Bland ...
Derek Constable
Johnny Constable
Humphrey Defoe
Lord Geoffrey Constable
Gwen Petrie
Sybil Constable
Insp. Frost
Pauline Constable
Arthur Constable
Dr. Blandings
Lester Fletcher ...
Rev. Twilley
Pamela Kosh ...
Mrs. Dexter-Hundley
Peter Browne ...
Peter Ashton ...


His family solicitor and fellow Burma veteran Humphrey Defoe hands Jessica's lookalike cousin, London music hall performer Emma McGill, £1,000 just to visit her terminally ill old acquaintance Geoffrey Constable, recently the 18th viscount Blackraven since the 17th, Rupert, died at 87. Geoffrey tells her he's leaving her a country house with income, feels better and takes her on a picnic she packs, but dies from a heart-attack. Inspector Frost is right to insist on an autopsy: strychnine poison, in the hearing he was so fond of. The heir, eldest brother Arthur Constable, cuts his spoiled rotten 19 year-old son Derek short, who next gets lightly wounded while hunting with the third brother, Johnny Constable, who could have poisoned Rupert with candy he smuggled in against diet rules. Emma, Humphrey and the inspector ultimately set a trap. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

picnic | diet | poison | song | england | See All (8) »





Release Date:

1 November 1987 (USA)  »

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Production Co:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Though Angela Lansbury doesn't appear as Jessica Fletcher in this episode, her photo as famous author Jessica is clearly seen on the dust cover of a book carried by Ms. Lansbury's alternate character, cousin Emma MacGill. See more »


References Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) See more »


Early One Morning
English Folk Song
Performed by Angela Lansbury
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User Reviews

How the Other Half Lives and Murders
26 December 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode marks the last television role by Peter Ashton, who began acting in 1959, as well as the last television role by Lester Fletcher, who began acting in 1958. Anthony Newley, who began acting in film and television in 1944, and Christopher Hewett, who began acting in 1951, have unfortunately also since passed.

This also represents the one and only "Murder, She Wrote" episode which does not feature the character of Jessica Fletcher although she is mentioned by her identical British cousin, Emma McGill (Angela Lansbury).

It all begins at a table in a London pub, which the lively Emma McGill shares with friends Pru (D.J. Sullivan) and Burt Hawkins (Peter Ashton), when Humphrey Defoe (Christopher Hewett) approaches, to ask for a word with Miss McGill.

Humphrey explains that he represents a Viscount, Lord Geoffrey Constable (Richard Johnson), whose dying wish would be a visit from his old flame, one Emma McGill, at the Constable estate, in the British countryside a nominal distance from London.

An ever-humble Emma accepts the invitation for Humphrey to the estate of nobility, she standing on ceremony when the the Butler (Peter Browne) and the Constable family and Geoffrey receive her although Geoffrey confides to Emma that he admires her down-to-earth quality, and she his non-pretentious "salt of the earth" fortitude.

Geoffrey's sister, Sybil Constable (Rosemary Murphy), along with his elder nephew and wife, Arthur Constable (John Standing) and Pauline Constable (Carolyn Seymour), their son, Derek Constable (John David Bland), and Arthur's younger brother, Johnny Constable (Mark Lindsay Chapman) join Emma and Geoffrey at dinner, accompanied by Johnny's spirited guest, Gwen Petrie (Jane Leeves), whom Sybil and, especially, Pauline, treat in patronizing fashion, even more so than they do with the other "commoner" in their midst, Emma.

But Geoffrey and Johnny, even to an extent Arthur, receive Emma and Gwen well, Geoffrey then requesting that Emma perform for the family in the parlour on piano with vocals, to the disdain of Pauline, who feigns a headache.

When Emma launches into an English Folk Song "Early One Morning," Geoffrey asks her to liven the score, by playing something which he associates with her act of decades past. Emma then gleefully performs the Edward Laska-Jerome Kern composition "How'd You Like To Spoon With Me?," introduced in the 1946 film "Till the Clouds Roll By," some 41 years earlier--by Angela Lansbury.

The next day, Doctor Blandings (Ian Abercrombie) pays a call at the estate to examine Geoffrey, who announces that his patient's health has improved a great deal since his last visit, the results of which Geoffrey credits to Emma and her cheerful company.

While Emma packs a luncheon to picnic with Geoffrey, Gwen returns to London, Pauline prepares for a luncheon meeting with Mrs. Dexter-Hundley (Pamela Kosh) and her inner circle, and Derek joins his Uncle Johnny on a hunt in a nearby forest.

But soon Johnny and Emma find themselves in a great deal of trouble, as someone takes a shot at Derek, wounding him in the shoulder, and Emma is suspected of poisoning the body which she finds on her hands, with no explanation to the family or Scotland Yard Inspector Frost (Anthony Newley).

Emma suspects that the two incidents must certainly be related and carries her theories to Inspector Frost, she deducing that if one were poisoned, then an ancestor who had recently passed also may have been poisoned. With Arthur's permission, Emma and Inspector Frost approach Reverend Twilley (Lester Fletcher) to exhume the body from his church yard.

By the time that Emma is once again asked to leave the Constable estate, which she willingly agrees to do, she pieces together the puzzle after noticing one final clue of evidence, accepts the family's forgiveness for suspecting her, and agreeing with Inspector Frost about her Cousin Jessica's proclivity to sleuthing, Emma adding, "It Runs in the Family."

This episode represents the first of two "MSW" guest roles each for John Standing and John David Bland, the first of three "MSW" appearances for Carolyn Seymour, and the first of five "MSW" performances for Mark Lindsay Chapman.

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