Hickson, Joan (1906–1998)

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Hickson, Joan (1906–1998)

British actress. Born in 1906; died on October 17, 1998, in Colchester, England; studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London; married Eric Butler, a physician (died 1967); children: two.

Known for her television role as Agatha Christie 's septuagenarian detective Miss Marple, British actress Joan Hickson worked on stage, screen, and television for more than half a century before her "overnight" success on the popular BBC television series. "Retirement is fatal," she often said, "Luckily, in my profession you don't have to."

An alumna of the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Hickson made her debut in London's West End in 1928, appearing in The Tragic Muse, then spent several years with the Oxford Repertory Company. She won critical acclaim for her role in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1967), which she reprised in the 1972 movie version. In 1977, she made her Broadway debut in Bedroom Farce, which won that year's Tony Award.

Joan Hickson made over 100 films, beginning in 1927 with Love From a Stranger and including the "Carry On …" comedy series, shown in American art houses. As late as 1992, she appeared in the film Century, which was her last acting assignment. She also pioneered in television, appearing in one of the BBC's earliest shows, the mystery Busman's Honeymoon in 1947. She was later seen as the receptionist in the dramatic series The Royalty and played the housekeeper to the vicar in the 1960s comedy series Our Man at St. Mark's. However, it was her performance as the amateur sleuth Miss Marple that captured the attention of worldwide audiences. The series was carried in 30 countries including the United States, where it was broadcast on PBS from 1986 to 1989. Hickson also portrayed Marple in several movies. The actress, who was married to a physician and was the mother of two children, counted among her fans Queen Elizabeth II , who bestowed upon her the Order of the British Empire in 1987.


"Obituaries," in The Boston Globe. October 20, 1998.

"Obituaries," in The Day [New London]. October 19, 1998.