Murder, She Wrote: Season 7, Episode 8

The Great Twain Robbery (25 Nov. 1990)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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A alleged Twain manuscript begets greed, deception, arson, and murder.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Keith Michell ...
Anna Louise Barlow
Lawrence Erlich
Professor Chandler Fitzpatrick
Lindsey Barlow
Constantin Stavros
Stephen Prutting ...
Sergeant Oliver
Russ Marin ...
Book Lover
Lewis Dauber ...
Daniel Namath ...
Maitre D'


Master forger Lawrence Erlich presents to a New york congress of Twain adepts an alleged new manuscript, 'Wild, wicked wench', authentic according to leading expert professor Chandler Fitzpatrick. After it's authenticated on his authority and accepted for $5,000,000 by his insurance company, Dennis Stanton sets out to have that disproved. The manuscript is destroyed in a fire. Expert Constantin Stavros leaves a message he found the answer, but is killed. He left a literary clue, which NYPD lieutenant Catalano assumes to indicate adultery. Stanton later realizes the more intricate meaning and sets a cunning trap, with a twist after a suspicious second death. Written by KGF Vissers

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Plot Keywords:

fire | arson | adultery | forgery | fall | See All (8) »


Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

25 November 1990 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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References The Great Train Robbery (1979) See more »

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User Reviews

"They'll Never Forget the Day They Ignited a Book"
30 March 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The title of this episode parodies "The Great Train Robbery" (1903), often considered a milestone in film-making, as the first commercially-successful movie short.

Dennis Stanton (Keith Michell) approaches Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) at a San Francisco book-signing event to offer to treat her to dinner in Carmel, as he begins to relate his involvement in this "Book-end" episode which seems to contain a major plot loop-hole regarding a recently-discovered Mark Twain manuscript.

As Dennis escorts Jessica across the bookstore, he reaches for a copy of the recently-published "The Wild and Wicked Wench," the focal point of this story, which debates its authenticity, as well as its destruction, after being insured for $five million by his Consolodated Casualty Insurance Company.

Whether or not the manuscript is genuine, whether or not it is destroyed in the blaze, and whether or not Consolodated Casualty Insurance is liable to remit payment ... all seem to remain unresolved by the narrative, but Dennis and Jessica observe a published copy bearing Mark Twain as its author, and so the mystery begins....

Lawrence Erlich (David Birney), with Anna Louise Barlow (Diane Baker) at his left and Constantin Stavros (Nehemiah Persoff) at his right, addresses a press conference gathering at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, to announce that a Mark Twain manuscript has been discovered in Anna Louise Barlow's attic, presented by Twain to Anna Louise's grandmother, and authenticated by Constantin Stavros as genuine.

When the trio attempt to purchase insurance coverage from Robert Butler (James Sloyan) at Consolodated Casualty, to protect the manuscript for $five million, Butler solicits Authenticator (Russ Marin) to prove it genuine...or to disprove the allegation.

But Lawrence Erlich and Dennis Stanton share a sordid past as illegal confidence scheme operators, and neither trusts the other, who claims that he now conducts legitimate dealings. And so, Dennis creates an inter-office diversion to sneak a page from the manuscript to a third Twain expert, Professor Chandler Fitzpatrick (Roy Dotrice), for verification.

At a costume ball back at the Fairmont Hotel, Dennis and Lawrence engage in an altercation, each charging the other with unfair tactics and criminal intentions. But, after the ball, a fire breaks out at the Fairmont in the vicinity of the encased manuscript, which is now reportedly destroyed (except for the page which has been secretly lifted).

Lindsey Barlow (Holly Gagnier), the young adult daughter of Anna Louise Barlow, receives Dennis, who arrives at the Barlow residence to discuss insurance payment conditions with Anna Louise. Lindsey, however, makes a play for Dennis, which he finds convenient to attempt to achieve Anna Louise's trust.

Rhoda Markowitz (Hallie Todd), as Stanton's Receptionist, has little to do this time around except to listen as Stanton continuously repeats the clue, "The Scarlet Letter," but Lieutenant Catalano (Ken Swofford) has his hands full when he beats Dennis to the scene of the first murder, after a victim is found shot in a ransacked residence.

When Dennis later returns to the scene of the crime, he encounters Lawrence Erlich for another altercation, this time at gunpoint, as Lawrence finally admits that he had no intention of trying to break up Dennis and his late wife, Elizabeth.

But after a second body is found, the victim of a shoving from Fairmont Hotel, Dennis convinces Lieutenant Catalano and Sergeant Oliver (Stephen Prutting) of his plan to set a trap to nab the perpetrator of both murders amid "The Great Twain Robbery."

The cast is rounded out by Jan Hoag as Nadine the Book Lover, Susan Ware as Newscaster, Delana Michaels as Reporter #2, Freddie Dawson as Reporter #1, Daniel Namath as Maitre D', and Lewis Dauber as Duke of Nonesuch.

This episode represents the first acting credit each by Jan Hoag and Daniel Namath, and one of the last roles by Russ Marin.

This also marks the second of two "MSW" appearances for Russ Marin, the first of three for Roy Dotrice, the second of three for Diane Baker, the second of four for David Birney, the fourth of seven for Hallie Todd (and her third of six as Rhoda Markowitz), the fourth of seven for James Sloyan (and his second of five as Robert Butler), the fifth of nine for Keith Michell (each in his role as Dennis Stanton), and the seventh of eleven "MSW's" for Ken Swofford (and his third of six as Lieutenant Catalano).

Russ Marin, acting in film and on television since 1970, has unfortunately since passed.

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