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The Singing Detective 

Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.

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Complete series cast summary:
 Mr. Hall 6 episodes, 1986
Gerard Horan ...
Leslie French ...
 Mr. Tomkey / ... 6 episodes, 1986
Sharon D. Clarke ...
 Night Nurse 6 episodes, 1986
Lyndon Davies ...
 Philip (aged 10) 6 episodes, 1986
 Mrs. Marlow / ... 5 episodes, 1986
 Mr. Marlow 5 episodes, 1986
 Staff Nurse White 5 episodes, 1986
Janet Henfrey ...
 Schoolteacher 5 episodes, 1986
William Speakman ...
 Mark Binney (aged 10) / ... 4 episodes, 1986
 Dr. Finlay 4 episodes, 1986
Charles Simon ...
 George Adams 4 episodes, 1986
 Grandad Baxter 3 episodes, 1986
Kate McKenzie ...
 Cloth Cap / ... 3 episodes, 1986
Charon Bourke ...
Mary MacLeod ...
 Sister Malone 2 episodes, 1986
Thomas Wheatley ...
 Registrar 2 episodes, 1986
 Uncle John 2 episodes, 1986
 Aunt Emily 2 episodes, 1986
Niven Boyd ...
Angela Curran ...
 Second Soldier 2 episodes, 1986


Reworking material from his first novel, "Hide and Seek" (1973), and folding this into a prismatic blend of autobiographical details, popular music and 1940s film noir, Dennis Potter delivered a drama now regarded as a 20th-century masterwork. Detective novelist Philip Marlow (Michael Gambon) suffers from the crippling disease of psoriatic arthritis. Confined to a hospital bed, Marlow mentally rewrites his early Chandleresque thriller, "The Singing Detective," with himself in the title role, drifting into a surreal 1945 fantasy of spies and criminals, along with vivid memories of a childhood in the Forest of Dean. As past events and 1940s songs surface in his subconscious, Marlow's voyage of self-discovery provides a key to conquering his illness, while his noir-styled hallucinations evoke the Philip Marlowe of Chandler's "Murder, My Sweet" (1944), starring Dick Powell, who later became a "singing detective" on radio's "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" (1949), crooning to ... Written by Bhob Stewart <bhob2@aol.com>

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Release Date:

16 November 1986 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Az éneklő detektív  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(6 episodes)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Prepping and filming took almost exactly 11 months. See more »


Philip Marlow: So, psychiatry's not nasty enough for you? You still want to get into literary criticism?
See more »


Referenced in Bottom: Accident (1991) See more »


Peg o' My Heart
Music by Fred Fisher
Performed by Max Harris & His Novelty Trio during the credits
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User Reviews

Dennis Potter's masterpiece
15 June 2002 | by See all my reviews

The picture opens with a rather "Casablanca" like WW2 waterfront dive, where everyone looks like they're auditioning to become Nazi spies, or British Intelligence. So far okay. Then we see a man clad only in a diaperlike wrap around, ninety per cent nude. He is covered from head to toe with horrible sores. I knew something different was about to happen, because even in standard TV disease movies they don't shock the viewers with scenes this repulsive. The man turns out to be a mystery writer, afflicted with a fiedish type of psoriasis, and the opening spy scene is a chapter from a book he is writing. This is autobiographical, as Dennis Potter suffered, and died from this disease. There are so many plots and subplots going on that I'm not sure I could map it out. It's about Potter's childhood, the every day day nitty gritty of writing, a husband/wife can't live with, can't live without'em (Gambon/Suzman) infidelity(Malahide/ Suzman) and something I will not forgive Potter for, the hackneyed scene that never happens in therapy, where the psychiatrist says, "That's it! You've been suppressing it for years." And the paralyzed patient gets up and walks. Balderdash. Never has happened, never will. Okay. Except for the standard shrink nonsense, I'm compelled to call this the greatest production of this kind I have ever seen. To me, it's only rivals are Ken Finkleman's "Newsroom", and "More Tears". The entire production is woven with Potter's trademark. At certain intervals the characters break out and lip sync to the hit records of the forties. I'm not ashamed to say I found myself sobbing over the pop tunes of my childhood.(Crying for my lost youth?) The performances? Can you have bad performnces with Michael Gabon, Janet Suzman, Patrick Malahide, Jim Carter, Joanne Whalley, Allison Steadman, and Bill Paterson? No. They are the elite of the British stage. When not doing a movie, they're acting every night in the theatre. Miss this masterpiece at your own peril.

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