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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) Poster

Goofs

Anachronisms 

Ed Crane is approached to invest in a "new" technology/ business idea - dry cleaning. In fact, dry cleaning had been a flourishing business since the early 20th century, a key principle of the process having been discovered in the mid-19th century by a French inventor. A town as large as Santa Rosa CA (the setting) would certainly already have had 10 or more dry cleaners by 1949.
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Big Dave Brewster is said to have attended Case Western Reserve around 1930, yet Case Institute and Western Reserve University did not merge until 1967.
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While driving home (in the 1940s), Ed and his wife pass a 1950 Buick.
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The telephones seen in Big Dave's office and in Crane's home are early 60s models. The big giveaways are the curly handset cords and the more modern shape of the base and receiver.
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The train horn heard in the background is a diesel horn (air chime) from contemporary railroads. The Northwestern Pacific Railroad that runs through Santa Rosa would have still been using steam locomotives or early diesels so this should have been a steam whistle or the more melodious air chimes of the parent Southern Pacific Railroad.
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In the fight between Ed and Dave, Ed is thrown to the ground. To his right is a three-prong electrical socket, not introduced until much later.
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Audio/visual unsynchronised 

When Ed first sees Birdy play the piano, her hands are not in the right places and do not move enough to play the notes heard.
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At the end of the movie, Ed enters the prison closing the door behind him. But as apparent from the light shining out, the sound of the closing door is heard well before the door actually closes.
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When the band is playing at the company party, the guitar player is seen strumming through what is clearly a drum solo.
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When Ed and Frank are at the bank, Ed lights up a cigarette, a distinctive Zippo lighter click is heard. But a few seconds earlier, one can clearly see that the lighter is already open.
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Character error 

Ed Crane says that human hair continues to grow after death. This is not actually true; since the skin dries out, shrinking and tightening around the hair follicles after death, this is in fact an optical illusion.
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Birdy Abundas says that Ludwig van Beethoven "was deaf when he wrote this. [...] He never actually heard it", referring to his Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, "Pathetique". When Beethoven composed this specific Sonata in 1798, he wasn't deaf. He already had some auditory troubles but he became totally deaf later, around 1815. During the very beginning of the 19th century he was still able to play public concerts and to hear the pieces he was composing.
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Freddy Riedenschneider says, "I litigate. I don't capitulate." The term "litigation" refers to a civil lawsuit. A criminal defense attorney does not litigate.
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After her concert, Birdy says "I messed up a little on the agitato". There is no agitato in Ludwig van Beethoven's Op. 13 (Pathetique) sonata, whose 2nd movement she was playing.
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When Riedenschneider is talking to Ed in the jail after receiving information from the private detective: "You can't know the reality of what happened, or what would have happened if you hadn't stuck in your own Goddamn schnoz. So, there is no 'what happened.' Looking at something changes it. They call it The Uncertainty Principle. Sure it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy is on to something." However, Albert Einstein never accepted Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as a fundamental physical law, stating: "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God)does not throw dice." [Quantum Mechanics is based on laws of probability ... hence the reference to dice.]
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Continuity 

The Crane automobile is a two-door sedan, but the flying car in the slow-motion accident scene is a coupe. Also, the rolling hubcap is not original to that vehicle.
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When Doris is in jail and is talking to Ed across the table, when the camera is behind Ed's shoulder, smoke is billowing from the cigarette, but when the camera switches to the one behind Doris' shoulder, no smoke is coming from the cigarette.
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When Ed lets himself in at Nirdlingers, he unlocks and opens the door on the right side. But when he leaves, he opens the door to the left. That door would have locks at the top and/or bottom that hold it closed even with the deadbolt unlocked and they can only be released from the inside (the order is you unlock the deadbolt, go inside and then release those locks so both doors swing free.) There would have been no reason for Ed to have unlocked those as well, since he wasn't opening the store for business, so that door should not have been able to be opened.
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Crew or equipment visible 

In the opening scene a reflection of the camera and scaffolding is visible in the barber pole as the angle shifts from looking up to looking down.
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When Big Dave confronts Ed Crane about the blackmail in his office, a member of the crew can be seen moving behind Ed, in the background.
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Factual errors 

The state of California has never used the electric chair as a means of execution.
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Revealing mistakes 

On at least one print the entire first reel is in color instead of black and white. (The movie was filmed in color, then printed in black and white by special processing.)
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See also

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

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