Helen Shingler – Madame Maigret

Maigret Couple Davies Shingler

Friend of the blog Berthold Deutschmann has written this interesting article (in addition to supplying an impressive piece of artwork) about Helen Shingler, who played Madame Maigret in the classic 1960’s BBC series

According to the latest dates on the Internet, Helen Shingler (“Madame Maigret”) recently celebrated her 100th birthday, on August 29th, 2019. I have found just one birthday greeting. Actually, I read somewhere that she would belong to a list of “forgotten actors”. I was taken aback by that. And Rupert Davies would be a “forgotten actor”, too. I don’t believe it! At least in Germany both are still known as the ideal tv Maigret couple. In fact, from the DVDs you might get the impression, the Maigrets are still in deep love, even after many years of marriage. This is played so convincingly, that a friend of mine believes there could have been a real relationship between the two actors. I do not agree with her, because I think, both were absolutely loyal to their own familiy.

As for the Maigret tv series, Mrs. Shingler’s desire was to have a bit more influence on the solution of the murder cases of her tv husband, Chief Inspector Maigret. I know of just one case in which she really can help him, shown in the episode “The White Hat” (German version: “Madame Maigret als Detektiv”). Gererally, she remains the housewife in the Maigret flat at Richard Lenoir Boulevard in Paris, but still she is absolutely essential for “Monsieur Maigret”. He would not be the successful Sureté commissaire without her at his side, or in the background, at home. On the writing desk in the commissioner’s office at Quai des Orfèvres there is put up, quite obviously, her framed picture.

For my comic-style illustration I had a scene in mind, in which Madame, for the time being, happens to know more than Monsieur, perhaps some fine detail that could be helpful to solve the current crime mystery. I hope you will like my work.

Below is an interview with Helen Shingler, conducted by Sheila Purcell, from 1962.

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6 thoughts on “Helen Shingler – Madame Maigret

  1. Thank you for your marvellous piece on Maigret. I was born in the early Sixties so would not remember this series, though I have heard good things about it.

    Sadly many actors like Rupert Davis and Helen Shingler are forgotten Actors, as Television moves on, bringing new talent to the fore.

    The sad fact is Maigret, even the Nineties version with Michael Gambon are no longer repeated.

    Fortunately in the UK, there is a digital channel called Talking Movies TV that shows old film and TV Series. I have been fortunate to re-discover Actors like Derren Nesbit (who starred in a recent film, at the age of 83), Rita Tushingham, Shirley Ann Field, Robert Stephens, Dinsdale Langton and many more.

    Sadly nothing from the BBC Archives appears on this Channel.

    Maybe we should write to the Head of BBC Four to show more drama from its archive, if they still exist and the tapes haven’t been wiped.

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  2. Thank you for your answer, Daniel. Luckily you can get the Gambon Maigret in English on DVD, and so it should be bearable to go on existing without any further repeats on TV. I like that series from the nineties, too, still I miss the original sixties version with Rupert Davies and Helen Shingler. Specially for you, and for those, who only have heard of that b&w series and never seen it, I add my colour photo-collage representing the very first tv series Maigret team.

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    • Thank you for your response Berthold. I will look into getting the 90s Version with Michael Gambon. I liked Michael’s easygoing and understanding nature in his portrayal. I will also look into getting my hands in the original BBC series.

      Can’t say I impressed with Rowan Atkinson ITV’s latest incarnation of Maigret but then I have never been a fan of Atkinson to be bluntly honest but that also comes from my dislike of British ‘Alternative Comedy’, which a top PC-centric for my taste.

      Interestingly, Richard Harris played Maigret in a TV movie in the late 1990s.

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  3. Daniel, I am very sorry for the delay of my answer. I read your text shortly after you had posted it, and I thought: “Well, we are not in a hurry, I shall answer tomorrow,” and I went on surfing the internet. I found bad news: Helen Shingler had died already on October 8th, but nobody told me. She celebrated her 100th birthday with her family, and only about 5 weeks later she passed away “gracefully as she had lived”.

    May I offer my sincere condolences to her family.

    Before there will be more bad news, I’d better answer you right now, Daniel. I have heard of the Richard Harris tv Maigret and seen some photos in the nineties, but I never watched the film. There was no German version, either. I know that fabulous actor from “The Wild Geese” and “The Man Called Horse”. Today I have read a very positive review about the Harris Maigret. At the moment, that film is not available on antique video tapes or in newer DVD editions, at least, I did not find any, but I would be interested to see it to form my own opinion.

    Georges Simenon’s Maigret is a very special character. In the books he is described to be heavy, sympathetic, thoughtful, fatherly, good-natured, with much powers of empathy, a man to got to and confess without much hesitation, even a crime. It must be very hard to find an actor who can fulfil all these features. The first impression is very important. You won’t go to a man and confess him anything, when the first impression says to you: better not, he will not understand. Maigret is a man you go to with a confession in mind, and before you tell him, you already know, afterwards you will feel better, even if the guillotine awaits you.

    Maigret author Georges Simenon himself was a man with very much powers of empathy. You stand in front of him, for the first time, and he tells you who you are. It’s not necessary to tell him much, you can keep your mouth shut, he already knows almost everything. Georges Simenon was a genius!

    When he first saw Rupert Davies in front of him, he knew: “That’s Maigret!” When I saw Rupert Davies for the first time on the screen, I knew: In that man you can have confidence, he will solve every crime, for sure. He will find out everything.

    There are more than 30 actors worldwide that have played the role of Maigret on the small screen and on the big screen. Only a few of them are convincing. Rupert Davies was, in my opinion, the best Maigret of all those, that I have seen. And Helen Shingler was, of course, the very best Madame Maigret.

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  4. Helen Shingler actually appeared in 29 of the 52 tv Maigret episodes (about 50 up to 55 minutes each), in addition she starred in the 90 minutes special “Maigret at Bay”. In the sixties she also was portrayed on paperback covers:

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  5. “Madame” and “Monsieur” in colour:

    A London restaurant was temporarily transformed into a French one. Such a thing probably only existed in the early 1960s, when the fictional Maigret from Paris became very popular on television in England. When Rupert Davies visited the French-style restaurant, he was accompanied by his two wives: Jessica Davies, his real wife, and Helen Shingler, his TV wife (“Madame Maigret”).

    Two films document this in color, at the end of the first film and at the beginning of the second one, which unfortunately has no sound.

    https://www.britishpathe.com/video/maigret-cafe/query/maigret

    https://www.britishpathe.com/video/out-takes-cuts-from-cp-424-maigret-cafe-glass/query/maigret

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