8.6/10
4,142
50 user 17 critic

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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Episodes

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Years



1  
1986  
6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete series cast summary:
Michael Gambon ...  Philip Marlow 6 episodes, 1986
Patrick Malahide ...  Mark Binney / ... 6 episodes, 1986
Joanne Whalley ...  Nurse Mills 6 episodes, 1986
David Ryall ...  Mr. Hall 6 episodes, 1986
Gerard Horan ...  Reginald 6 episodes, 1986
Leslie French Leslie French ...  Mr. Tomkey / ... 6 episodes, 1986
Ron Cook ...  First Mysterious Man 6 episodes, 1986
George Rossi ...  Second Mysterious Man 6 episodes, 1986
Sharon D. Clarke ...  Night Nurse 6 episodes, 1986
Lyndon Davies ...  Philip (aged 10) 6 episodes, 1986
Geff Francis ...  Porter 6 episodes, 1986
Janet Suzman ...  Nicola 5 episodes, 1986
Alison Steadman ...  Mrs. Marlow / ... 5 episodes, 1986
Jim Carter ...  Mr. Marlow 5 episodes, 1986
Imelda Staunton ...  Staff Nurse White 5 episodes, 1986
Janet Henfrey ...  Schoolteacher 5 episodes, 1986
Bill Paterson ...  Dr. Gibbon 4 episodes, 1986
William Speakman William Speakman ...  Mark Binney (aged 10) / ... 4 episodes, 1986
Simon Chandler ...  Dr. Finlay 3 episodes, 1986
Charles Simon Charles Simon ...  George Adams 3 episodes, 1986
Wally Thomas ...  Grandad Baxter 3 episodes, 1986
Kate McKenzie Kate McKenzie ...  Sonia 3 episodes, 1986
Trevor Cooper ...  Cloth Cap / ... 3 episodes, 1986
Charon Bourke Charon Bourke ...  Amanda 2 episodes, 1986
Mary MacLeod ...  Sister Malone 2 episodes, 1986
Thomas Wheatley Thomas Wheatley ...  Registrar 2 episodes, 1986
Ken Stott ...  Uncle John 2 episodes, 1986
Jo Cameron Brown ...  Aunt Emily 2 episodes, 1986
Niven Boyd Niven Boyd ...  First Soldier 2 episodes, 1986
Angela Curran Angela Curran ...  Mary 2 episodes, 1986
David Thewlis ...  Second Soldier 2 episodes, 1986
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Storyline

Re-working 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, Writer Dennis Potter delivered a drama now regarded as a twentieth century masterwork. Detective novelist Philip Marlow (Sir Michael Gambon) suffers from the crippling disease of psoriatic arthritis. Confined to a hospital bed, Marlow mentally re-writes his early Chandleresque thriller, "The Singing Detective", with him 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 ... Written by Bhob Stewart <bhob2@aol.com>

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Did You Know?

Trivia

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, Sir Michael Gambon had had stockings and suspenders painted onto his legs, the sight of which made the whole cast and crew burst into laughter. See more »

Quotes

Mark Binney: You're cheap, Marlow.
Philip Marlow: Ten cents a dance, fella.
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Connections

Featured in Screenwipe: Episode #2.3 (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

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

As good as it gets
6 August 2003 | by McGonigleSee all my reviews

There's no point in reiterating the praise for this miniseries. Many have called it the best television production ever, and as far as I can tell, they're absolutely correct. This is (NBC notwithstanding) the true definition of 'must-see TV'.

I just want to comment on something that struck me when I watched this recently on DVD. There's no way that an actor like Michael Gambon could ever get cast as the leading man in an American production (for TV or movies). He's just not physically attractive enough in the conventional sense; for example, he has the beginnings of a double-chin (more of a sloping-down from his chin to his collar), and I can't imagine any American producer being willing to give such an "not hot" actor so much screen time in the lead role.

Yet, it hardly needs be said, he is 100% perfect in this role, and it's hard to imagine anyone else doing as good a job. He can convey more feeling (rage, helplessness, love, hatred) in one close-up of his eyes than some actors do in their entire careers. His presence in this film is, in a sense, a reminder of how lucky we all are that it ever got made at all, by a BBC that was willing to give producer Kenith Trodd almost complete autonomy, as long as he stayed within budget. With the possible exception of HBO, you just don't see that sort of artistic freedom too often over on this side of the pond.

Anyway, as others said, it's a masterpiece, brilliantly written and brilliantly acted. Truly one of the most incredible uses of the television medium ever.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

UK | Australia

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 November 1986 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Singing Detective See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(6 episodes)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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