Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
3 user

A Christmas Secret 

The future son-in-law of a prominent Cabot Cove family is suspected in a shooting.


Anthony Pullen Shaw (as Anthony Shaw)


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 2 more credits »

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Episode cast overview:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Diane Baker ... Mary Forsythe
Corinne Bohrer ... Wanda Andrews
Amy Brenneman ... Amy Wainwright
Ron Masak ... Sheriff Mort Metzger (as Ron Másak)
Sean O'Bryan ... Charlie D. McCumber
Eileen Seeley Eileen Seeley ... Elizabeth Forsythe
Ken Swofford ... Alan Forsythe
Mary Tanner Bailey Mary Tanner Bailey ... Monica McCumber (as Mary Tanner)
Larry Wilcox ... Floyd Bigelow
William Windom ... Dr. Seth Hazlitt
Louis Herthum ... Deputy Andy Broom
Craig Hamann ... Bert Lazarus


Shortly before Christmas Cabot Cove tycoon Alan Forsythe welcomes Charlie Davenport McCumber into the family, fiancé of his daughter Elisabeth 'Beth' and the new firm partner, which Bert Lazarus begrudges. Charlie answers an anonymous blackmail tape with a message from a woman, in his car. Beth finds it and sees him kiss a mystery girl there. At a charity raffle a Santa shoots (but not fatally) Wanda Andrews, employed in the hardware store by real estate magnate Floyd Bigelow, who reveals he suspects her of embezzling $400,000 from the pension fund. Jessica doubts the obvious and sets a trap to clear Charlie. Written by KGF Vissers

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Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

13 December 1992 (USA) See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Deck the Halls with Threats and Bodies
4 February 2010 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

One of the many observant regulars on IMDb's "Murder, She Wrote" message boards questions resolving a "suspension of disbelief" with "Eleanor Thune's" transformation into "Mary Forsythe." Guest star Diane Baker portrays both roles, one here, and one in an earlier "MSW" episode set in Cabot Cove, as both characters are dear friends and neighbors of Jessic and active in community leadership.

As we may have seen upon very many occasions by now, guest stars often portray differing characters from one appearance to another, but rarely does an instance of this sort occur when one would play two similar characters in different Cabot Cove episodes.

Of course, some actors do, such as other "A Christmas Secret" guest stars Ken Swofford and Larry Wilcox, whose "MSW" credits include other visits into Cabot Cove. (There are also other actors achieving this feat, but the ever-lovely Diana Baker hasn't changed whatsoever since Eleanor Thune, six seasons earlier.)

And now, as the Yuletide season arrives in Cabot Cove, a series of Christmas week celebrations begin (even though leaves upon the hardwoods in the distance in opening shots remain green and intact upon the late December...and in Maine...?)

Mary Forsythe (Diane Baker) and Alan Forsythe (Ken Swofford) welcome guests into their residence to kick off the first holiday celebration with the announcement of the engagement of their lovely daughter, Elizabeth Forsythe (Eileen Seeley) (often addressed as "Beth") to returning U.S. Army veteran Charlie D. McCumber (Sean O'Bryan), who has served his nation in wartime, and plans to settle into his new life in Cabot Cove with Elizabeth and his new position as a tax accountant in a local firm.

Amid a round of applause, Party Guest (Ryal Haakenson) acknowledges the hiring, while his son, Bert Lazarus (Craig Hamann), objects to Charlie's working in Bert's father's firm, as he confides to Floyd Bigelow (Larry Wilcox), owner of a local hardware store.

Amy Wainwright (Amy Brenneman) works tirelessly for Floyd as his dependable employee and secret admirer, as she doesn't dare to share her feelings with Floyd, but, between hours, chairs the decorating committee for the next Christmas celebration, at Cabot Cove Community Center, and often eavesdrops on his telephone calls in the process.

Wanda Andrews (Corinne Bohrer), Cabot Cove's resident discord-generator for the episode, works for the City in a financial capacity, finds herself mixed up in an embezzling scheme, and makes plays for Floyd and Bert and probably Charlie when she can divert his attention from Elizabeth. While the males discuss her as amoral, the other females discuss Wanda in somewhat harsher terms.

One of those who attends the first party discovers a gift-wrapped audio-cassette tape inside the automobile, immediately unwraps and plays the tape, to discover a blackmail threat, before driving to Hill House Hotel, to play it over. (It's labeled "Willie Nelson.")

Someone then enters the vacant Hill House room, picks up the audio-cassette and plays it, leading upon a trail to Light-House Motel, and the room of the self-sacrificing Monica McCumber (Mary Tanner Bailey). When Jessica and Mort later follow the same trail later, one of them reaches for the cassette to play to hear the blackmail message once again. ...It's almost instinctive for everyone to play that tape...labeled "Willie Nelson."

Doctor Seth Hazlitt (William Windom) and Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) are on hand for the gatherings at the Forsythe residence, as well as the Community Center, even though Seth yields to a grumpy "humbug" attitude, while reminiscing about his disappointment for receiving a practical gift rather than an electric train set when he was ten, and everyone else's merriment casts a shadow upon that, or his upon theirs, or something like that.

Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak) also attends the festivities in necktie and blazer rather than his customary uniform, as in Mort without wife, Adele, who's busy delivering goods to the needy out of town. But Deputy Andy Broom (Louis Herthum) appears in uniform to help the investigating team to collect evidence once a body is discovered in the locker room at the Community Center even though the victim hasn't perished as of yet.

By way of pleasant variety, three episodes in Season Nine feature victims who do not succumb to attempted murder, and there is a possibility that this may become one of these, as Seth diagnoses the victim with the gunshot wound and figures a very slight chance of recovery. During the course, Seth often exits parties and meetings in Jessica's kitchen to check in on the victim, almost like a hobby.

Jessica then unravels a series of secrets transpiring throughout the community when she stumbles across Baby Belinda (uncredited actress), who affords Jessica with her sudden revelation of logic, as Baby Belinda gleefully plays with her toys.

Celebrants soon delight in the adorable Baby Belinda's company, as she attends the third Yuletide gathering, once she, by her very presence, reveals "A Christmas Secret" or three.

This episode represents the first of three "MSW" guest roles each for Corinne Bohrer, Sean O'Bryan and Ryal Haakenson, the third of three for Diane Baker, the fourth of four for Larry Wilcox, and the eleventh of eleven for Ken Swofford (playing six characters, including his six turns as Lieutenant Catalano in the Dennis Stanton book-end episodes).

Three, Seven, Nine: Diane Baker as Eleanor Thane in "Simon Says, Color Me Dead (#3.17)," Diane Baker as Anna Louise Barlow in "The Great Twain Robbery (#7.08)," Diane Baker as Mary Forsythe in "A Christmas Secret(#9.09)."

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