A trip to New Orleans gets off to an eventful start when the leader of a popular jazz band is poisoned during a performance.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Callie Coleman
Det. Lt. Simeon Kershaw
George Kirby ...
Eubie Sherwin
Dr. Aaron Kramer
Lafayette Duquesne
Carl Turnball
Jonathan Hawley
Eddie Walters
Jimmy Firth
Ben Coleman
David Whitfield ...
Hec Tattersal
Doctor Alan Collyer
Elaine Hobson ...


Jessica is invited to New Orleans by TV station WDX, but arrives two days early by mistake, so her host Jonathan Hawley has 48 hours to show her the 'Cajun paradise' (French quarter). Jessica soon notices the jazz show circuit can be nastily competitive; then clarinetist Ben Coleman dies from an apparent heart-attack during a recording, as she presumed actually curare-poisoning, but why and how exactly? NOPD Detective Lt. Simeon Kershaw gets help from Jessica investigating Ben's private, artistic and business context, even smuggling... Written by KGF Vissers

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Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

3 February 1985 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The news director at WBBX New Orleans keeps referring to "The 11 O'clock News". New Orleans is on Central Time, so the news would have been on at 10 o'clock. See more »


When the Saints Go Marching In
Played by band at funeral
See more »

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User Reviews

"When the Clues Go Marching On and On."
5 January 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Familiar performers Robert Clarke, Olivia Cole, Bradford Dillman, George Kirby, Jackie Joseph, Cameron Mitchell, Garrett Morris, Ed Nelson, Clive Revill, Stan Shaw, Bobby Sherman and Glynn Turman guest star in this episode, which represents the first of four journeys for Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) into the State of Louisiana, and the first of three set in the City of New Orleans.

"Murder, She Wrote" (subject to your personal interpretation) seems to guard its characters of various ethnic descent, whether of African, Asian, European or Hispanic heritage, by portraying minorities in relatively non-violent, role model fashion of sorts, in an ambassadorship of good will to one and all. Characters representing minority groups seem rarely typecast here, and rarely as perpetrators of crimes unless, perhaps, those committed upon a peer of one's own ethnic demography, considering the times.

We're up to one of the earliest of these "MSW" episodes featuring ethnic characters included among a host of murder suspects. One may decide this 1984 outing years ahead of its time, or, perhaps behind its time, depending upon point of view. Yet, the programs handles its subject content sensitively while adding character dimension to afford those of many demographic backgrounds the opportunity to portray a character with dimension.

The story begins at a New Orleans television station, at which Jonathan Hawley (Clive Revill) invites J.B. Fletcher to be interviewed upon a book program, but wires are crossed, and Jessica arrives two days ahead of schedule. Amid a production in process, with Jackie Joseph as Actress, Robert Clarke as Actor, Mario Machado as TV Announcer, and Bruce Marchiano as Assistant Director, Jonathan invites Jessica on a tour of the city, specifically to a Jazz concert in the French Quarter.

Ben Coleman (Glynn Turman) leads a jazz band, he proficient on clarinet, and well-known as a perfectionist by those around him. Ben's wife, Callie Coleman (Olivia Cole) and Ben's assistant, Eddie Walters (Stan Shaw), sacrifice their everything to provide for Ben's success at his venture.

Eubie Sherwin (George Kirby), Jimmy Firth (Bobby Sherman) and Hec Tattersal (David Whitfield) work as instrumentalists in Ben's troupe, which performs before a gathering including Jessica and Jonathan, plus Carl Turnball (Ed Nelson), who operates the club and senses a mounting discourse among band members, some who may be forced to leave through no specific fault of their own.

One of Jonathan's television camera crews films the concert, during which, a musician staggers in place, before collapsing as the result of a fatal dosage of poison.

Doctor Aaron Kramer (Cameron Mitchell) and Doctor Allan Collyer (Michael Canavan) tend to the victim and, subsequently, identify the toxic substance, while NOPD Detective Lieutenant Simeon Kershaw (Bradford Dillman) investigates possible sources and suspects, while accepting Jessica's assistance to determine exactly how the fast-acting poison was administered during a live concert, in a "Murder to a Jazz Beat."

Cab Driver Lafayette Duquesne (Garrett Morris), who has taxied Jessica from the airport to the television station, returns to taxi Jessica around New Orleans, from the club where the murder occurs to a club where possible suspects rehearse (with Wally K. Berns as Proprietor), and from the police station to the television station, to review a tape of the performance during that fatal night, to spot idiosyncrasies which other experts may be overlooking.

Jessica keeps her eyes open for clues which seem to counter her own theories, until the showdown at the memorial park on the day of the services, as the jazz band plays its instrumental rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching On."

This episode marks the most recent television acting role to date for David Whitfield, the first of two "MSW" guest appearances each for Michael Canavan and Clive Revill, the first of three performances each for Olivia Cole, Mario Machado, Stan Shaw, Glynn Turman, the first of five performances for Ed Nelson, and the first of a record-setting eight "MSW" guest roles (as different characters) for Bradford Dillman.

Veteran film and television actor Cameron Mitchell, performing since 1945, Robert Clarke, since 1944, George Kirby, since 1951, and Wally K. Berns, since 1965, have unfortunately since passed.

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