Calendar Feature: July 2017 — Dame Agatha Christie (1890–1976)

Historical Society Calendar July 2017
Historical Society Calendar July 2017

After the Fourth of July weekend, we’re getting back into the swing of things at the Historical Society. Calendar production for 2018 has just begun, so please enjoy the July feature from this year’s edition. Who knew Agatha Christie was involved in a case in the New York Courts? Read below for more about Hicks v. Casablanca Records.

Dame Agatha Christie, one of the best-selling novelists of all time with works translated into over 100 languages, made her appearance in New York law in Hicks v. Casablanca Records:

In the winter of 1977, defendants in the movie case began the filming of a movie entitled, “Agatha” which, like the book in the related case, presents a fictionalized account of a true incident which occurred during the life of Mrs. Christie…

It appears that on or about December 4, 1926, Mrs. Christie, then married to Colonel Archibald Christie, disappeared from her home in England. This disappearance was widely-publicized and, although a major effort was launched to find her, everyone was at a loss to explain her disappearance. However, eleven days after she was reported missing, Mrs. Christie reappeared, but her true whereabouts and the reasons for her disappearance are, to this day, a mystery.

In view of the death of Mrs. Christie, the public may never know the facts surrounding this incident, but should the defendants prevail herein, the public will have a fictionalized account of this disappearance as set forth in the movie… In each instance, Mrs. Christie is portrayed as an emotionally unstable woman, who, during her eleven-day disappearance, engages in a sinister plot to murder her husband’s mistress, in an attempt to regain the alienated affections of her husband. Given this portrayal of their decedent and assignor, plaintiffs, mindful of the personal nature of defamation and privacy actions, bring the instant actions [for injunctive relief] alleging unfair competition and infringement of the right of publicity.[1]

The court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, finding no right of privacy “where a fictionalized account of an event in the life of a public figure is depicted in a novel or a movie, and in such novel or movie it is evident to the public that the events so depicted are fictitious.”

Her disappearance remains a mystery, but some have speculated…

[1] 464 F. Supp. 426, 429 (S.D.N.Y. 1978)
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