8.6/10
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48 user 16 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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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 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 4 episodes, 1986
Charles Simon Charles Simon ...  George Adams 4 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

According to Director Jon Amiel in the audio commentary, Janet Henfrey, who played 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. See more »

Quotes

Philip E. Marlow: I've not seriously doubted since that afternoon that any lie will receive almost instant corroboration, and almost instant collaboration, if the maintenance of it results in the public enjoyment of someone else's pain, someone else's humiliation.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

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

User Reviews

Like a giant jigsaw
26 July 2002 | by nick_okeSee all my reviews

This is Dennis Potter's 'Sergeant Pepper' - the work of his life. One of those times when the recurring themes and characters from an artist's collected works come together at the right moment, with the right direction and the right actors.

The story is simple - embittered, sarcastic, over-the-hill author is admitted to hospital with a highly disfiguring skin condition. Whilst lying virtually helpless in his bed, he begins to rewrite one of his pulp novels (The Singing Detective) and to reminisce on his childhood in the Forest of Dean and London. But the memories and fiction start to overlap, with some hallucinations thrown in for good measure!

In the hands of lesser mortals, this could have been a disaster (I fear for the 2003 remake. Robert Downey Jr?!). But the direction of Amiel and the acting of the entire cast are outstanding. Michael Gambon is stunning as the (initially) sour and downright nasty Marlowe. That we sympathise with him given all of his shortcomings is testament to this.

The subtext is of a man exorcising his demons and coming to terms with his guilt: guilt about the death of his mother, guilt about his treatment of the women in his life, guilt about his victimisation of a schoolmate.

One of those films that is like a giant jigsaw - at first what appear to be a random collection of unrelated images which are rearranged, flipped over and pieced together. Ultimately we are presented with solutions to everything - almost.

After all, not everything has a solution...


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Details

Country:

Australia | UK

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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