Year: 1987 

Movie / TV:  - A Dorothy L Sayers Mystery - Have His Carcase


Others in the Cast: Rowena Cooper, Jeremy Sinden, Angela Morant, Ray Armstrong, Michael Troughton, Simon Cuff, John Cater, Colin Higgins, Arthur Cox, Arthur Hewlett, Barbara Young, Peter Benson. 

Plot summary: After being tried for murder and acquitted due to the intervention of Lord Peter Wimsy, Harriet Vane needs to get away from everything. She sets out on a walking tour of the west country, and starts working on a new novel. In her travels, she stumbles across a corpse, and reports it as a good citizen, and finds herself as suspect #1 again. Much to her chagrin, she again needs the help of Lord Peter Wimsy who rushes to her aid, and the two work together to solve the mystery. In the course of solving the mystery, they also figure out how to create a friendship. 

Peth’s role:  Lord Peter Wimsey

ReviewsMr. Petherbridge… not only looks the part but also manages to convey the darker tones beneath the surface frivolity of the character as well. In a brief interview for the series, the actor explains how he sees Wimsey as maintaining the impenetrable shell of the silly fool, the complete comedian, to camouflage an underlying ''extraordinary seriousness.''  - NY Times

A good example of the precision, economy and depth of Petherbridge’s line can be seen in the 1987 television adaptation of Dorothy L. Sayers’s Have His Carcase in which he plays Lord Peter Wimsey. In the story, Lord Peter has just re-entered the ballroom of the Hotel Resplendent in Wilvercombe. He pauses at the top of the steps, and there is a supreme moment of stillness as he catches sight of Harriet Vane dancing with one of the hotel’s professional partners. His bodily attitude, the slight inclination of his head, the way he puts his hands in his pockets, his half-smile and the focus of his eyes are all eloquent of quiet suffering beneath a surface of urbane composure. They are also the manifestation of a technique — the actor’s and the character’s — so well honed and assimilated as not to be obvious or distracting. The moment is made even more riveting by the fact that Petherbridge occupies, as Astaire’s dancing figure invariably does, the central third of the frame. The camera then follows his elegant passage across the crowded dance floor. The entire sequence is of only seconds’ duration, but it tells us a great deal about the psychology of the character and something of the emotional complexity and the fragile, self-imposed constraint of his relationship with Harriet Vane.  There is another moment of spellbinding stillness in Have His Carcase, in which not only Petherbridge’s line is apparent but also his pantomimic meaningful use of his eyes.13 As Harriet and Peter sit poring over a list of murder suspects in her seaside bedsit, she draws her chair nearer to him and the effect on Peter of her unusual physical proximity is indicated entirely by Petherbridge’s eyes. They convey the eroticism of the moment and, however transitorily, his unguarded and concentrated longing, stripped of its protective layers of erudite piffle and carefully cultivated lightness. As Harriet catches his gaze and shifts slightly under its intensity, his eyes articulate fleeting hopefulness, then discomfiture and withdrawal. - Kathleen Riley

Product description from Amazon

The great Lord Peter Wimsey embodies amateur sleuthing at its best in Have His Carcase. Dorothy L. Sayers's impeccable plotting, wry humor, and touching fondness for her favorite characters all shine in this perfect adaptation of her novel. Wimsey's special friend Harriet Vane (Harriet Walter), fresh from a murder trial of her own, tries to get away from it all and ends up stumbling over a freshly killed body. Unable to resist a crime (or, for that matter, Harriet), Wimsey is soon on the case. Edward Petherbridge is perfect as Wimsey, revealing his brilliance and allowing him to be hopelessly in love without ever damaging his dignity. Walter plays Harriet with rich nuance, saying as much with her silences as she does with her lines. Most fun is Richard Morant as the astonishingly resourceful Bunting. The mystery spools out over four episodes, and very satisfyingly too. --Ali Davis

User Reviews


From Amazon


Needless to say, I have become an instant fan of Mr. Petherbridge and can only hope I may find more of his work on film. (This is a daunting task since this distinguished stage performer seems to shy away from the camera. Something about acting for the love of the thing and not the money. Oh these serious actors!! By the way, isn't he WAY OVERDUE for some sort of Knighthood or something ...hmm??!!)

Sorry Ian Carmichael fans, but Edward Petherbridge is absolutely Wimsey (don'tcher know), accent, looks, everything. He and Harriet Walter bring Wimsey and Harriet Vane to life as no-one else could. With very few changes to the novel, this video brings 'Have His Carcase' straight onto the small screen in all its glory.
Superb, compulsive viewing for Dorothy L Sayers fans - unmissable.

An admirable follow up to Strong Poison. The book of Have His Carcase contains several lengthy passages that test the reader's patience, not the least of these being the tedious section on code breaking of the fatal letter. Here, it is truncated into a (suspiciously) quick process from LPW and Harriet. However, the story is the better for it. Excellent production values, evoking the ambience of the 1930s, and Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter are wonderful in the two main roles. Looking forward to Gaudy Night......

User reviews from IMDB - 

This adaptation of Dorothy L Sayers' novel is excellently adapted for television. I watched this in junior high school and credit its production for tweaking my interest in reading Sayers' novels themselves. The acting is phenomenal. Lord Peter is played by the sublime Edward Petherbridge, who absolutely epitomises the character. Harriet Walter, although not posessing the adequate deep voice for Harriet Vane, nonetheless shines as the character and is absolutely believeable. The beautiful Cornish coast is a gorgeous backdrop. The story is fairly true to the original book; with some exceptions...but it is so well-directed that one barely notices. Fantastic production. Two thumbs up. 

Wimsey is a gentleman amateur sleuth. Carmichael (who is after all known as a comic actor) emphasizes the gentleman and amateur, full of hearty bonhomie. Petherbridge's Wimsey, on the other hand, is much more reticent, sensitive, even melancholy, while capable of merciless confrontation when he has cornered the villain. Bunter observes that he has a mind like mousetrap. Compare the climactic interview in "Strong Poison" with its counterpart in "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club." He is first and foremost a man of keen observation and penetrating intelligence, an avid disciple of Sherlock Holmes in his intellectual and emotional makeup as probably in his appearance. Underneath his sometimes frosty persona, however, beats a compassionate heart that doesn't fail to go out to various characters whom society exploits while considering unsavory because... well, just because.

Carmichael bounded about with such satisfied zest and interest in other mysterious matters, houseman Bunter perfecting his Lord's environmental whimsies, and, when amour reared a merry tendril, Lord Peter would simply plop his elbows on a couch behind, say, Phyllida Law, and jauntily demand, "NOW what shall we do?" and Phyllida's eyes would POP! Not so Petherbridge's wooing of Harriet Vane. He is her love captive and she - for reasons I could not determine in this episode - does not wish to be dependent upon him or anyone and she resists him mightily, sending him off with limp spirits and dashed hopes on successive occasions. But his valiant repartee is so convivial and his banter so droll, Harriet succumbs to laughter if not kisses. Petherbridge has a marvelous mouth, sort of Cupid's bow, and an arch proboscis that marks his aristocracy.

Official website

IMDB page: 

Related links

The Seeds of Lord Peter Wimsey, by Peth himself:  At drama school I had been expanding my efforts to play gentlemen of all kinds, poets or not, and to become a gentleman actor with a poetic gentleman’s voice. Yes, it was difficult whilst living at home, but my parents never complained – I don’t know how much I soft-pedalled the posh when talking to them.... The voice is only the tip of the personality iceberg. The cultured voices I’d grown up with had emanated from the wireless on our windowsill, courtesy of the BBC. They came from an otherwise unreachable world of dreaming spires, erudite opinions, and country-house weekends set in olde worlde villages or amongst trees in peaceful pastureland, of fees in guineas and private incomes, of knowing which knife to use and having the right kind of furled umbrella, or of being one of the scruffy tweed-and-corduroy-wearing poets haunting the pubs around Broadcasting House, or of being T. S. Eliot, who wore a four-piece suit, as Virginia Woolf quipped, and went to work in a bank.

Have His Carcase in pics at Live Journal, with commentary. Pages  take a bit of time to load. A little too much Harriet and too little Peter for my taste, though :-)



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