Movie Morsel: Clue — A Board Game Becomes a Movie
Clue is a board game where the players must guess who committed a murder, in what room, and with what murder weapon. From a list of suspects that include Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, and Professor Plum, they must divine whether the culprit used a wrench, a lead pipe, a revolver, a knife, a candlestick, or a length of rope to kill a guest in a sprawling estate. Almost everyone has played some form of this game, as it has been around since 1947 when it was developed in Birmingham, England by Anthony E. Pratt. It was known as “Cluedo” at the time, but when it came to America in 1949, Parker Brothers shortened the title to “Clue”.
If we are to be honest, the idea of turning Clue into a film was not all that earth-shaking of an idea. Moviegoers love a good whodunit, so why not capitalize on a board game that had already established the framework for the story. You had your characters, you had your location, it stands to reason that someone in Hollywood would fill in the blanks and create a film. So, in 1985, Jonathan Lynn and John Landis created a script for the murder mystery comedy film Clue. To make their mystery a novelty, the decided to create three different possible endings for the film. Depending on what theatre you attended, a different killer, weapon, and room in the mansion would be revealed at the conclusion. Just like the board game, the outcome would be a surprise.
Clue was not a box office success upon its initial release, but over time it has gained a cult following. This most likely has to do with the unforgettable performances by some of comedy’s greatest geniuses: Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White), Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum), Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet), Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard), and Michael McKean (Mr. Green). Also onboard were Tim Curry as Wadsworth the Butler, and Colleen Camp as Yvette the maid. It was a high energy, wacky bunch, at the top of their comedic form.
Fun Fact: Carrie Fisher was originally signed to play the role of Miss Scarlet, but she had to withdraw from the film. Also, the set for Clue was purchased by the producers of the TV show Dynasty. They reworked it to become a hotel for the show.