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The Singing Detective (TV Mini-Series 1986) Poster

(1986 TV Mini-Series)

Trivia

The most controversial scene in the entire production was when the young Philip witnesses his mother having sex in the undergrowth with a local man. This brought howls of protest from the puritanical quarters of the British press, partly for the graphic nature of the scene (Patrick Malahide is seen to be thrusting into Alison Steadman) and the fact that such a scene was being played out in front of a child. In reality of course the latter was simply not true. Child actor Lyndon Davies wasn't involved with the filming of this scene at all, apart from his own close-ups which were shot separately. For his close-ups, Davies was reacting to the director, Jon Amiel. Nevertheless, Amiel and producer Kenith Trodd had to convince BBC1 controller Michael Grade that the scene should air intact. To his credit, Grade agreed to this.
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The first time Michael Gambon was wheeled onto set in his full make-up, all the cast and crew were reduced to a stunned silence. Gambon broke the ice by saying "What's all this fuss about Chernobyl then? I went there for a holiday and it didn't do me any harm".
Like Philip Marlow, Potter himself suffered from psoriatic arthopathy, a condition that attacks the skin and joints. As gruesome as the condition is as depicted here, the production actually downplayed it for, in reality, it can be much worse with bleeding skin and pustulent sores.
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All the incidental music for the 1940s "spy thriller" segments was taken from royalty-free collections of "clip music".
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Three actresses were involved in the recurring image of a naked female being fished out of the River Thames and laid out in the bottom of a boat - Kay McKenzie, Alison Steadman and Janet Suzman. The scene was shot in the middle of winter.
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According to director Jon Amiel in the audio commentary, Janet Henfrey, who plays the cruel school teacher, is in reality "a very deeply gentle woman", and she had to go through a lot of painful rehearsing to muster the kind of cruelty towards children that the part required of her.
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Producer Kenith Trodd originally wanted Nicol Williamson for the lead role. Director Jon Amiel insisted on Michael Gambon instead. (Ironically, Williamson turned down the role when offered it.)
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Dennis Potter originally wanted the period material to be filmed in black and white but budgetary constraints ruled against that.
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Michael Gambon would regularly spend up to 6 hours getting his flaky skin make-up applied. Gelatin was a key component of the make-up which meant it would only last about 2-3 hours under the hot studio lights.
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Prepping and filming took almost exactly 11 months.
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Filming had to be stopped for one scene where Joanne Whalley, playing Marlow's nurse, pulls down his pyjama bottoms to administer soothing cream to his skin. Unbeknownst to Whalley, Michael Gambon had had stockings and suspenders painted onto his legs, the sight of which made the whole cast and crew burst into laughter.
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The scene where a delusional old patient climbs into bed with Marlow, thinking that he is his wife, actually happened for real to Dennis Potter during one of his innumerable stays in hospital.
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Marlow's psychiatrist remarks to him that he's starting to look better and that his skin condition is clearing up. This meant that Michael Gambon was only spending 4 hours in the make-up room instead of 6 at this stage in the production.
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Michael Grade, Controller of BBC One (1984-1987), later claimed he commissioned this series while he was visiting the lavatory at the BBC and heard about the idea from Jonathan Powell, the BBC's Head of Drama.
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Charlie Simon played the old man in the bed next to Marlow who we see singing to him in close-up, thereby revealing his uneven teeth, Shortly after filming this, Simon had his teeth removed and replaced with perfect false ones.
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'Dennis Potter' originally wanted the hospital scenes to be shot on videotape, so they would look like a TV sitcom. Producer Kenith Trodd convinced him that they could get a better director if the whole thing were shot on film.
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The series' original title was "Smoke Rings".
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Potter originally planned to drop the noir thriller aspect of the plot after the first episode as he felt that it wouldn't hold the audience's attention.
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The portrait in Binney's flat of a naked woman that the two thugs who visit him remark on is actually of Janet Suzman, who plays Marlow's wife.
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Due to the then Government's lack of funding and the amount of cuts being made throughout the National Health Service at the time, the production team had the choice of many different hospital wards which were all being closed. They opted to use one in a hospital in Tottenham in London.
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The illustrations during the opening titles were done by comic book artist Mark Thomas.
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Janet Henfrey, who plays the frightening schoolteacher, played an exact same character in a previous Dennis Potter play, "Stand Up Nigel Barton". Jon Amiel wasn't influenced by this when he cast her.
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The third episode "Lovely Days" derives its title from the song "It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow" which crops up several times throughout.
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The contemporary character of Finney's apartment is the same as the fictional character of Binney. Both are played by Patrick Malahide.
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Peggy Ashcroft was first offered the School Teacher role (source Janet Henfrey).
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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