Celebrating Edward Gorey’s birth and remembering ‘Mystery’ on PBS before mystery was cool …

PBS Mystery series from 1980. Photo: PBS / WGBH

Edward Gorey, noted for his characteristic pen-and-ink drawings that often depicted vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings was also a Tony Award-winning costume designer and artist. Gorey was also known for his own illustrated books as well as cover art and illustration for books by other writers, would have been 98 years young on 22 February.

PBS fans of Mystery will immediately recognize the series’ animated opening and closing title sequences based on the drawings of Edward Gorey with animation from Derek Lamb as they were every bit as much a part of the weekly experience as the acclaimed hosts, actors and classic mysteries.

A little known fact about Gorey that would definitely make for great party trivia…Gorey’s stepmother, Corinna Mura was a cabaret singer who had a small role in Casablanca as the woman playing the guitar while singing “La Marseillaise” at Rick’s Café Américain.

For those PBS Mystery series fans that are anxiously awaiting the new seasons of Endeavour and Grantchester premiering this Summer, you may not be aware of the root history of ‘mystery’ on PBS and the Edward Gorey opens that needs to be recognized for those that remember way, way back into the 80’s, back when the Earth was beginning to cool from the Ice Age.

Mystery was originally created as a mystery, police and crime drama spin-off series of the long-running PBS series, Masterpiece Theatre. Long time viewers of British drama on PBS will remember that Masterpiece Theatre, hosted by Alistair Cooke, aired on Sunday nights and Mystery, with a variety of hosts including Vincent Price, Dame Diana Rigg and the first host of the series in 1980, Gene Shalit, aired on Thursdays.


From 1980-2006, Mystery fans on PBS were treated to weekly television greatness with the adventures and exploits of such classics characters as Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Rumpole of the Bailey, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Reilly: Ace of Spies, Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect and Brother Cadfael.

Each week, the brilliance of Jeremy Brett, John Thaw, Sam Neill, Helen Mirren, Geraldine McEwan, Joan Hickson, David Suchet, Derek Jacobi would grace the small screen in both classic mysteries and future classic series.

Even the hosts read like a who’s who with Vincent Price, Dame Diana Rigg and, for one season, Gene Shalit, as they would provide a bit of insight and background into the creation of the character and storyline you were about to see.

Here, from 1984, the great Vincent Price does his best Ben Mankiewicz imitation, introducing the first in the series of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett. Price would always give a tip-of-the-hat to Gorey by welcoming everyone to ‘Gorey Mansion’.

In 2008, Mystery was ‘absorbed’ into Masterpiece as Masterpiece Mystery, airing on Sunday evenings with Alan Cumming as host and the rest, as they say, is history. Anyone else remember watching Mystery on PBS before mystery was cool?

Happy 98th, Edward Gorey. Thank you and R.I.P.


In: Mystery,Odds & Sods