Dame Angela Lansbury received an Emmy nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the each of the show's twelve seasons. She did not win for any of the nominations.
Jessica never drove a car. She always rode her bicycle or took a cab. Sometimes she would ask someone to give her a ride.
The harbor of Jessica's home town, Cabot Cove, is actually the Jaws (1975) lake on the Universal Studios tram tour.
Dame Angela Lansbury and co-Creator and Producer Peter S. Fischer weren't particularly fond of one another, with numerous magazine articles documenting how overworked Lansbury was, and how she would insist on numerous revisions to her character. In fact, Lansbury was rumored to be ready to quit after her contract expired at the end of the fifth season, and the season-ending two-parter was supposed to be the series finale. When Lansbury decided at the last minute to come back after all (with much prodding from CBS, which desperately needed the hit show to stay on), Fischer had to re-write the entire script. For the final episode of the seventh season, Fischer (on his way out the door, while Lansbury had been promised the job of Executive Producer after a transition year under David Moessinger, whom she also didn't like) had two versions of the last scene filmed: one where Jessica nods in agreement to Harry McGraw's (Jerry Orbach's) "And that's all she wrote", and one where she winks at the audience, saying she'll come back.
Jessica's middle name is Beatrice, a link to Dame Angela Lansbury's best friend (and Mame co-star) Beatrice Arthur. Her late husband was named "Frank", another reference to Bea, whose birth name was "Bernice Frankel".
Another recurring character was Michael Hagarty (Len Cariou), an undercover agent, who met up with Jessica at many different locales all over the world. Cariou also starred with Dame Angela Lansbury on Broadway as part of the original cast in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street".
The show's title is a reference to the Miss Marple mystery Murder She Said (1961), which was based on a novel by Dame Agatha Christie.
Dame Angela Lansbury was the fourth choice to play Jessica Fletcher. Jean Stapleton was offered the part, but turned it down, as did Doris Day.
When Tom Bosley left the series, his absence was explained by having Sheriff Tupper retire from the position, and move to Kentucky to live near his family.
Before she met and married her late husband, Frank, Jessica was studying to become a journalist.
One of Producer Peter S. Fischer's favorite movie stars was Doris Day. This show's crew usually pitched who they "wished" could be cast in a featured guest spot to the two Producers, Peter Fischer and Bob O'Neill. During the 1991-1992 season, Doris Day was approached with an offer for a guest role. Interested, Day's response implied that she would spend two weeks away from Carmel Valley to film an episode. Then came Day's terms for her contract, which included her son receiving a "producer credit with pay" for her guest shot. Universal-MCA, CBS, and the producers had agreed upon her price to appear, but refused to agree with her contract clause for her son's credit and pay while she participated in the filming.
Dame Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach (a recurring actor on the show), and guest star David Ogden Stiers also appeared in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) and its sequels as Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, and Cogsworth, respectively, the first of which was filmed while this show was being aired.
Jessica (Dame Angela Lansbury) had four brothers and sisters. However, the only one that was seen was her brother Dr. Marshall MacGill (Jason Evers), who was a doctor. Another brother, Martin, was also mentioned, but never seen.
Jessica's maiden name was MacGill, taken from Dame Angela Lansbury's real-life mother, Moyna Macgill.
Grady Fletcher (Michael Horton) moved in with Jessica (Dame Angela Lansbury) and her husband Frank after Grady's parents, Frank's brother and his wife, were killed in an automobile accident.
The fictional "Cabot Cove" Maine setting for this show is an actual harbor inlet in the town of Kennebunkport, Maine. "Cabot Cove" is located on a main road leading from the township, with a bridge over the small inlet bay. Local motor-hotels and lobster/crab shack restaurants are nearby the cove, a short walk from the main village. The pilot episode town exteriors were filmed in Mendocino, California; subsequently, filming each season with a two hour (sometimes split airing as a two parter) show. The main (in town) Victorian mansion stood in for Jessica's house. The exterior Sheriff Station was the local Rangers Station. In 1992, this exterior was changed, using a coastal bluff building on the main frontal street. Several small business shops were filmed for the exteriors of a beauty salon, a newspaper office, et cetera, with the "Hill House Hotel" utilizing the Mendocino town's largest hotel's exterior, grounds, parking, and interior lobby and check-in desk. The beach and bluff area filmed mainly for specific episodes. The Harbor of Fort Bragg was filmed for the docks, exterior pub and bar dressing decorated wharf buildings. Interior restaurants above the harbor were also filmed as "Cabot Cove" sights. At Universal Studios' backlot, the Jaws Lake attraction was filmed as the exterior village. The show maintained the studio attraction's exterior buildings until cancellation in 1996, afterwards, falling into disrepair. The exterior Victorian "Best Little Whorehouse" set, relocated from stage 12 feature filming to a hill area on the backlot, was a stand-in for the Mendocino Victorian Jessica's house. The interiors of this house were filmed, redressed, repainted, and redecorated for many of the episodes for other story scenarios.
Many viewers (as well as Dame Angela Lansbury) believed that the move of the venerable show from Sunday to Thursday for the twelfth season was a deliberate plan by CBS programming chief Leslie Moonves to kill it. After all, it was going up against Friends (1994), which was about to get super-show status. But everything Moonves tried in the Sunday slot failed so badly that he wound up double-running this show on Thursdays and Sundays for the last few weeks of the regular season, and then for a summer of reruns. He had to place Touched by an Angel (1994) in the time slot the following fall to get a decent audience. The final season alludes to this, with episodes Murder, She Wrote: Murder Among Friends (1996) (featuring the ensemble cast of the fictional hit television series "Buds") and Murder, She Wrote: Death by Demographics (1996), the final regular edition, before the show switched to television movies.
Sheriff Metzger's (Ron Masak's) wife Adelle was often talked about, but was never seen.
Although set on the East Coast of America, Jessica's home in Cabot Cove, Maine, was filmed on the West Coast, in Mendocino, California, and the Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles. The location filming in Mendocino, utilized the Blair House Inn Bed and Breakfast, as the exterior of Jessica Fletcher's house. It was built in 1888 for Elisha Blair and his family by Oliver Johnson, a local builder. Due to the amount of filming that took place at the location for the series, a V.I.P. room was renamed as Angela's Suite, and a replica of Jessica's bike is in the garden. Many other locations purporting to be in New England were filmed in Oregon and Northern California. Other movies filmed in Mendocino include: East of Eden (1955), The Karate Kid Part III (1989), and Forever Young (1992).
Dame Angela Lansbury also played Jessica's look-alike cousin Emma MacGill, who was a performer on the London stage, appearing in two episodes: Murder, She Wrote: Sing a Song of Murder (1985) and Murder, She Wrote: It Runs in the Family (1987).
Prior to creating this show, Producers Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson, and William Link produced Ellery Queen (1975), which used an almost identical format. A baffling murder solved by a mystery writer, with a mixture of old stars, veteran character actors, and young newcomers playing the suspects.
This show was in a shared universe with Magnum, P.I. (1980), Jessica (Dame Angela Lansbury) was in Hawaii, and was drawn into a case where Magnum (Tom Selleck) was framed, and Higgins (John Hillerman) asked her to get involved, in Murder, She Wrote: Magnum on Ice (1986).
In several episodes, Dame Angela Lansbury, as Jessica, would just appear briefly at the beginning to introduce that week's episode and many of those episodes featured Keith Michell as Jessica's friend Dennis Stanton.
Besides Dennis Stanton (Keith Michell), other recurring characters who helped Jessica (Dame Angela Lansbury) solve the various murders she encountered were private investigators Harry McGraw (Jerry Orbach) and Charlie Garrett (Wayne Rogers), British Intelligence Agent Michael Haggerty (Len Cariou) and N.Y.P.D. Detective Lieutenant Artie Gelber (Herb Edelman). However, the only one of these characters to be spun off onto his own series was Harry McGraw, in the short-lived series titled, The Law and Harry McGraw (1987).
Murder, She Wrote: Jack and Bill (1989) and Murder, She Wrote: Murder: According to Maggie (1990) were apparently pilots for other shows, that were broadcast as Murder, She Wrote (1984) episodes, apparently in an attempt to create a spin-off. The only successful spin-off of this series was The Law and Harry McGraw (1987).
The episode Murder, She Wrote: Mr. Penroy's Vacation (1988) shares several plot points with Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). At one point, Helen Appletree (Teresa Wright) says to Lillian Appletree (Joan Leslie), "Not my best lace tablecloth!"
Nine episodes and exteriors for numerous others were shot in Mendocino, California, including the exterior of Jessica Fletcher's house.
As part of producing the series, Peter Fischer developed characters and scenarios within the "Murderer, She Wrote" format storyline, with the premise for specific "characters" leading off into another network weekly series. In 1989, two shows, Murder, She Wrote: The Grand Old Lady (1989) (aired October 8, 1989) and Murder, She Wrote: Jack and Bill (1989) (aired October 29, 1989) were potential film series pilots, with Dame Angela Lansbury introducing each of the show's narrative. The two pilots were filmed at the end of the fifth season, June, 1989, after Angela and Peter Shaw had departed for their summer break. Angela's filming for each of the new show's preliminary introductions and last line wrap-up, were filmed at the start of the new 1989-90 season, filming the intros in September 1989. The "Grand Old Lady" was filmed aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, with a 1947 era mystery-murder scenario. The leading investigator and his sidekick intended as the basis for another mystery show spin-off, establishing a 1947-50 period environment. The contemporary "Jack and Bill" pilot involved two detectives with a bright pink standard poodle, aiding in sniffing out the criminals. Neither pilot was picked up by CBS, but the two shows were offered, independently, to both ABC, and then NBC, after CBS answered "no thanks". What was unusual with Lansbury's contract with CBS, Angela's "Corymore Production" company had an option for a "movie of the week", which could be filmed during her yearly summer hiatus. She could pick her property, cast and crew the project, producing the movie of the week, each year the series had been contracted. Angela and Peter Shaw's "Corymore Productions" never exercised the movie of the week deal option. When CBS and Les Moonvies axed the Universal-MCA Murder, She Wrote series, the four Murder, She Wrote movies of the week were offered as a contractual settlement. The Jerry Herman "Mrs. Santa Claus" musical "1996 Christmas Special movie of the week" was the whipped cream, cherry on the top, agreement to finalize the cancellation contract. Peter Fisher cut his ties with Universal-MCA and CBS when he departed the Murder, She Wrote series in June, 1992.
The title is meant to evoke, and be a riff on, Dame Agatha Christie's "Murder, She Said". Fletcher is in many ways a combination of Dame Agatha Christie, Miss Marple, and Ariadne Oliver, and the show is meant to evoke a Dame Agatha Christie murder-mystery-type feeling. It's no coincidence that Dame Angela Lansbury was tapped by producers to play this character, as she starred as Miss Marple in Dame Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd (1980) and Salome Otterbourne in Death on the Nile (1978).
Dame Angela Lansbury (Jessica Fletcher) and Tom Bosley (Sheriff Amos Tupper) appeared as husband and wife in The World of Henry Orient (1964).
Dame Angela Lansbury appeared with Hurd Hatfield in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). He guest starred in three episodes of this show.
The series became the longest-running American prime time scripted series then on the air after Cheers (1982) ended on May 20, 1993, and retained that status until its final episode on May 19, 1996. It was succeeded by Married... with Children (1987). It remains the last drama series to have held this distinction, as Married... with Children (1987), Murphy Brown (1988), Family Matters (1989), and The Simpsons (1989) are all sitcoms.