Jessica narrates a story from 40 years ago when another female mystery writer helped to solve a mysterious murder aboard the Queen Mary.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Kroeger ...
James Stephens ...
Floyd Levine ...


As Jessica tells in her garden at Lady Abigail Austin's death aged 101, that mystery writing model once solved a real murder aboard the Queen Mary in 1947. Peter Daniken collapsed at her and millionaire Edwin Chancellor's table, stabbed to death. Questioned by New York reporter Christy McGinn, she volunteers her services to help him and waves her badge as honorary Scotland yard reporter to get access to his pa, NYPD lieutenant detective Martin McGinn. U.S. Treasury Agent Lennihan informs them Danikin was an alias for a Nazi smuggling a counterfeit dollar plate. But another murder in committed before three theories are tested. Written by KGF Vissers

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Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

8 October 1989 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed on board the Long Beach docked "Queen Mary" with the episode intended as a television series pilot. The interior corridors and state rooms, medical office, Captain's quarters were filmed at Universal Studios. The pilot was specifically filmed as a period 1946 scenario, with the "star cast" featured for the TV series pilot premise. MSW producer Peter Fischer first offered the pilot to CBS, which rejected the project. Peter Fisher then was rejected by ABC TV, and finally by NBC Programing. See more »

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User Reviews

Five Detectives on a Boat. Whose Theories Sink? And Whose Will Float?
28 September 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode marks the swan song appearance of actor Dane Clark, after a five-decade career of film and television performances.

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) appears from her Cabot Cove flower garden to introduce this episode regarding a real life murder investigation aboard a British ocean liner, the Queen Mary, outside of New York City harbor in 1947, witnessed by a novelist whose work has long inspired Jessica, Lady Abigail Austin (June Havoc).

A day's journey outside of NYC, the Queen Mary, a.k.a "The Grand Old Lady," sails upon return route to the United Kingdom, when one of its passengers is stabbed. The passenger scribbles a note to hand to a crew member, bearing a reference to a 1936 chess match. The injured passenger then stumbles into a lounge, succumbing before a roomful of witnesses, including Lady Abigail Austin and Radio Reporter Edwin Chancellor (Robert Vaughn), who unsuccessfully has been coaxing her to adapt one of her books for his program.

When the ship is returned to NYC Harbor for investigation, Daily Examiner Editor Harry Krumholtz (Floyd Levine) debates with Invesitgative Reporter Christy McGinn (Gary Kroeger), who has already solved two noteworthy cases. When Copy Boy (Gregg Binkley) informs them about the murder, Editor Harry Krumholtz assigns Christy to the case, in light of the fact that Christy's father, Lieutenant Martin McGinn (John Karlen) is heading the investigation aboard ship.

U.S. Treasury Agent Lennihan (James Stephens) also boards ship to investigate reports that the victim was smuggling counterfeit plates to mint five-dollar bills in a scheme to destroy the money market.

While Lieutenant McGinn conducts the murder investigation, Agent Lennihan conducts his missing plate investigation, and Lady Abigail Austin, Edwin Chancellor and Christy McGinn all get into the act of investigating, with Abigail's encouraging Christy to join forces to figure the culprits together.

The ship's crew, Captain Oliver (Paxton Whitehead), Purser Mr. Bellows (Aubrey Morris), 2nd Officer (Michael Douglas Scott), Ship's Doctor (Derek Partridge), Ship's Nurse (Joi Staton) and Ship's Bus Boy (Terry Sheppard) cooperates with the abundant supply of investigators, for they must remain in dock until the cases are solved. One of them, however, leaks information about the note regarding the European chess match.

Several passengers are naturally interrogated, especially some of whom who have booked last-minute sailings: U.S. Army Major Daniel McGuire (Gordon Thomson), U.S. Army Nurse Eleanor Cantrell (Joan McMurtrey), American Nicholas Crane (Donald Craig), European Paul Viscard (Mark Lindsay Chapman), his father, Henri Viscard (Dane Clark), Fashion Designer Arthur Bishop (Henry Polic II), and Peter Daniken (Wolf Muser), who claims to be a Danish wine merchant.

During the investigation, someone jumps ship, while a second individual leaps into the harbor to attempt to rescue the one who doesn't make it.

Lady Abigail Austin, Edwin Chancellor and Christy McGinn arrive at differing conclusion about the murder, the suicide and the rescue attempt, and the bearing of the information upon the victim's note to the forged plates.

Lisa Ryan has a non-speaking role as Mrs. McGuire near the ending, before Jessica summarizes the story in this "Bookend Episode," which features guest detectives with J.B. Fletcher on the outside, looking in. Jessica reports that Lady Abigail Austin would continue to write another dozen novels, before retiring to tend to her flower garden.

The script for "The Grand Old Lady" has been adapted from an un-produced episode of "Ellery Queen" (1975), with revisions to customize it to "MSW," making this one of the earliest writings for this series.

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