Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Death Stalks the Big Top: Part 1 

When Jessica's niece receives a silver Leprechaun from someone who has been presumed dead for years, Jessica decides to hunt down the mysterious gift giver from beyond the grave.


Seymour Robbie


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 5 more credits »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Martin Balsam ... Edgar Carmody
Jackie Cooper ... Carl Schulman / Neil Fletcher
Alex Cord ... Preston Bartholomew
Courteney Cox ... Carol Bannister
Ronny Cox ... Mayor Powers
Joey Cramer ... Charlie McCallum
Laraine Day ... Constance Fletcher
Greg Evigan ... Brad Kaneally
Florence Henderson ... Maria Morgana
Gregg Henry ... Sheriff Lynn Childs
Charles Napier ... Hank Sutter
Lee Purcell ... Maylene Sutter
Mark Shera ... Raymond Carmody
Pamela Susan Shoop ... Katie McCallum


Favorite aunt Jessica arrives three days before the society wedding of Carol Bannister, who is convinced the silver leprechaun she receives among the wedding gifts is from her grandfather, Jessica's late husband Frank's brother Neil Fletcher, who is presumed dead. When the antiques salesman sort of recognizes his picture as the out of town buyer, Jessica guesses right that he may be among Edgar Carmody's family circus which was in town then, and goes snooping there. She is on Neil's trail, as he works there as a clown under the name Carl Schulman, as Edgar knows. Neil/Carl ran but is arrested after unpopular Hank Sutter, who harassed fellow artist Katie McCallum and bullied her teenage son Charlie, is found dead near, however not trampled by, elephants as none has a blood-stained foot, but beaten to death instead. Neil explains why he staged his own death to escape his loveless marriage. Jessica is determined to prove her brother-in-law's innocence, investigating the other circus ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

28 September 1986 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Carl is putting on his clown makeup, a close-up shows most of his right cheek covered in clown white. In the next shot, his cheek is clean and he starts applying make-up to it again. See more »


Maria Morgana: Love and loyalty. How admirable. A sentiment that certainly has its place... embroidered on a throw pillow.
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Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Murder at the circus
2 August 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

"Death Stalks the Big Top Part 1" is a great start for Season 3, and to me the best 'Murder She Wrote' since Season 2's "Keep the Home Fries Burning". To me it wasn't overblown and with such a lot of twists and a lot going on having the episode in two parts was not just justified but in some ways needed. Just personal opinion of course. The whole business with the leprechaun figurine did create some poignancy, while the scenes at the circus were fun and saw a lot of tension between the characters, hard not to with such a loathsome character in Hank.

Who's going to get killed is blatantly obvious, hardly the first time on 'Murder She Wrote' and certainly not the last, but in no way does that spoil the enjoyment of the episode.

Production values are high in quality as to be expected, with slick photography and a great circus setting that has so much colour and fun but also an equal amount of character tension under the surface. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

The writing is tight, thought-provoking and typically amiable and the characters and chemistry are good fun. The story is very engaging and suitably twisty.

Can't say enough good about Angela Lansbury, she is always dependable and there is a reason as to why Jessica Fletcher is one of her best-remembered roles. It was interesting to see a young Courteney Cox in an early role while former child star Jackie Cooper and Laraine Day bring classy colour and Charles Napier relishes his role as perhaps one of the show's most loathsome characters.

In conclusion, great season premiere. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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