The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1990)


The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1990)

“Put On By Cunning” episode, TVS, 1990
British production. Original month and day of air unknown
George Baker
Rossano Brazzi
Cherie Lunghi
Christopher Ravenscroft

Sandy Johnson

Trevor Preston

Neil Zeiger (Producer)
Graham Benson (Executive Producer)


The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, for those who haven’t seen it, revolves around two detectives working out of a fictional King’s Markham police station. Aside from their obvious brilliance in the casting of guest stars (!), this is an excellent series in general: a very well done, very intelligent, very dignified British production starring George Baker and Christopher Ravenscroft as the two detectives. It airs in New York on Encore’s “Mystery” channel. It would be enjoyable, even if they hadn’t had the good sense to cast Rossano in it.

But in fact they did, and this may have been Rossano’s last English-speaking role (though not his last Italian one). It is a bittersweet performance for many reasons — the first of which was quickly summed up by Cindy: “He’s still so beautiful!” And he was: dignified, white-haired, handsome, refined, sexy – who but Rossano Brazzi could inspire such sentiments so late in life, from women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s? He was 74.

Also, the character he plays – a famous musician – had made recordings – so you’ll note the VERY old photographs of him on the cover of a prop “Mozart”album and scattered throughout the estate – the Mozart album cover photo, in fact, is older than any stills we’ve ever seen of him, and may in fact be ones from his college or highschool days — what we wouldn’t have given to track THOSE photos down! (The collectors among us started drooling uncontrollably). His smile, his voice, his famous ability to kiss a woman with delicacy, tenderness and decisiveness – are not diminished an iota by time … he is just plain lovely in this. That it may have been the last performance by Rossano Brazzi we may ever see (though the way his filmography changes every time we blink, who knows?) — makes this especially poignant and sweet.

PLOT: It is the week before the marriage of Sir Mañuel Camarque, a world-renowned classical musician (flutist) to a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. As the episode opens, he and his young fiancee Dinah are seen enjoying a classical concert together — despite the difference in their ages, they are obviously very much in love. We see snippets of affectionate moments from their life together before their marriage.

At church services, bans are read for the third tune (giving anyone who wants to a chance to object to the proposed marriage); Sir Mañuel glances around nervously and observes many sour expressions of distaste at this May-December marriage – though there are no objections. The sole exception to the barrage of sourness is Dora Wexford (the sweet wife of Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford), who beams at him, obviously very happy for him. After the service, she intercepts him outside. Her daughter was a schoolmate of his fiancee’s, she tells him, and wishes them both great happiness. He remarks that not many others shared her point of view; “Don’t take any notice of them!”, she advises him. And he is delighted at her warm support.

That evening, Dinah phones him several times, “You don’t mind my ringing you so often?” she asks, over the phone. He smiles at the receiver. “I could talk to you all night …”, he tells her. They briefly discuss someone named Natalie. He frowns and wonders if he shouldn’t have gone to the police. He rings off to walk Nancy, his German shepherd around the estate — during the walk he is assaulted by a masked intruder, pushed into a lake on the estate and drowned. Initially, his death is termed “misadventure”, until Dinah tells Inspector Wexford of Mañuel’s suspicion that the woman who would inherit his fortune, his daughter Natalie, was not his daughter at all, but an imposter. Thus the “mystery” begins to unfold.

(Don’t flip off the TV after Mañuel’s tragic demise, by the way – he appears in photos and flashbacks throughout the program).

From the breathtakingly beautiful Leo Kovalensky in 1942’s Noi Vivi to the handsomely dignified and still very sexy Sir Mañuel Camarque in 1990’s “Ruth Rendell Mysteries” — nobody has had quite such an emotional impact on at least four generations of women with the finesse and style and permanence of Rossano Brazzi. He was – and is – and always will be – truly an original.

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