Devil in a Blue Dress (film)

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Devil in a Blue Dress
Devil in a blue dress2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarl Franklin
Screenplay byCarl Franklin
Based onDevil in a Blue Dress
by Walter Mosley
Produced by
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Edited byCarole Kravetz
Music byElmer Bernstein
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$27 million
Box office$22 million[1]

Devil in a Blue Dress is a 1995 American neo-noir mystery thriller film written and directed by Carl Franklin. The film is based on Walter Mosley's 1990 novel of the same name and features Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, and Don Cheadle.[2]

In the summer of 1948, World War II veteran Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is in need of a job, and becomes drawn into the search for a mysterious woman. The film received positive reviews, with many praising Cheadle's scene-stealing performance.


In 1948 Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins is laid off from his job at Champion Aircraft, and needs money to pay his mortgage. Easy's friend Joppy introduces him to DeWitt Albright, a white man looking for a missing white woman, Daphne Monet. Explaining that Monet's disappearance led her wealthy fiancé, Todd Carter, to drop out of the Los Angeles mayoral race, Albright pays Easy to find Daphne, who is known to frequent the juke joints along Central Avenue.

Easy begins his search at an illegal club, where he sees the bouncer, Junior Fornay, eject a white man. Learning that his friend Dupree Brouchard's girlfriend, Coretta James, is a confidant of Daphne, Easy spends the night with Coretta and discovers Daphne is involved with gangster Frank Green. Albright arranges a meeting at the Malibu pier, where Easy is accosted by white youths, before Albright viciously humiliates one of the boys at gunpoint. Easy tells him about Green, and is given another payment to continue his search.

Returning home, Easy is arrested by LAPD homicide detectives, who reveal that Coretta has been murdered. Interrogated and beaten before being released, he is approached by Matthew Terell, the remaining mayoral candidate. Terell is with a young boy, supposedly his adopted son, and inquires about Daphne, but Easy divulges nothing. After a nightmare about Coretta, he receives a call from Daphne herself. They meet at the Ambassador Hotel, and she asks him to drive her to meet Richard McGee, a white man from the club. They arrive to find McGee dead, with his house ransacked. Easy notices a pack of Mexican cigarettes, the same brand smoked by Junior. Traumatized, after witnessing the grisly scene, Daphne panics and flees, driving off and stranding Easy.

Easy makes it home, but is threatened again by Albright and his partner, who demands he tracks Daphne down a second time or face murder charges. Easy sends for his friend, Raymond 'Mouse' Alexander, and confronts Joppy for leading Daphne to him. He meets with Todd Carter, realizing that Albright actually works for Terell, and secures another payment to locate Daphne. Returning home, he is ambushed by Frank Green but rescued by Mouse. Frank escapes after the trigger-happy Mouse shoots him in the shoulder, and Easy misses a call from Daphne. Questioned again by the detectives, Easy is given until the following morning to clear his name.

Easy and Mouse confront Junior – the owner of the cigarettes – who admits to driving McGee home and being given a letter for Coretta to deliver to Daphne. They visit Dupree; inside Coretta's Bible, Easy finds the contents of the letter: incriminating photographs of Terell with naked children. At home, Easy finds Daphne waiting, and she reveals that Frank is her half-brother: their mother was Creole, and Daphne's father was white, while Frank's was black. Terell learned of Daphne's heritage, and the potential scandal forced Carter to abandon his campaign, but Daphne bought the pictures from McGee to blackmail Terell into silence. Hunting for Daphne and the pictures, Albright murdered McGee. When Coretta threatened to sell the pictures to Terell, Daphne sent Joppy to intimidate her, but did not expect him to kill Coretta.

Albright and his men arrive, subduing Easy and kidnapping Daphne. Joined by Mouse, Easy abducts Joppy at gunpoint, forcing him to take them to Albright's cabin in the Hollywood Hills. Easy and Mouse kill Albright and his men and rescue Daphne; returning to the car, Easy learns Mouse killed Joppy. Daphne pays Easy and Mouse $7,000 for the pictures, and Mouse returns home to Houston with his share. Daphne reveals that Carter's family paid her $30,000 to leave town, but she believes that the pictures will ensure Carter's victory and their marriage. Driving Daphne to meet Carter, who rejects her, Easy receives the rest of his payment in exchange for the pictures. Daphne and her brother leave town, while Carter's election is assured. No longer in trouble with the police, Easy considers starting his own business as a private investigator.




Carl Franklin wrote and directed the neo-noir because he liked the novel by Walter Mosley, who in turn served as an associate producer on the film. Franklin thought the work was more than a detective story; he said that Mosley was able to transform an everyday guy into a detective. In the editing process, Franklin had to cut a steamy love scene between Beals and Washington because he believed the scene was not needed to convey the story.[3]


The film was shot mostly in Los Angeles, California. The pier shot where Easy Rawlins gets in trouble with local youths was filmed at the Malibu, California pier. Other locales in Los Angeles include the Griffith Park Observatory and the famed Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.


The producers used the following tagline to market the film:

In a world divided by black and white, Easy Rawlins is about to cross the line.

Devil in a Blue Dress premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 16, 1995. In the United States, it opened in wide release on September 29, 1995. In its widest release the film was featured in 1,432 theaters across the country.[4]

Home media[edit]

Devil in a Blue Dress was released on VHS on April 2, 1996, and then on laserdisc in June 1996 (included the original theatrical trailer). A DVD version was released on 9 March 1999 and includes an audio commentary by director Carl Franklin. Twilight Time released on the film on Blu-ray on October 13, 2015 featuring the aforementioned commentary as well as an isolated score track and a screen test from Don Cheadle.


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Devil in a Blue Dress has an approval rating of 92%, based on reviews from 118 critics, with an average score of 7.50/10. Its critical consensus reads: "Humor, interesting characters, and attention to details make the stylish Devil in a Blue Dress an above average noir."[5] On Metacritic the film has a score of 78 out of 100, based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A− on scale of A to F.[7]

In a positive film review, critic James Berardinelli discussed Devil in a Blue Dress from a sociological viewpoint, especially one involving the 1990s. He concludes, "The most interesting element of Devil in a Blue Dress is not the whodunit, but the 'whydunit.' Finding the guilty parties isn't as involving as learning their motivation, which is buried in society's perception of racial interaction. By uncovering the truth behind this mystery, Franklin illustrates that some attitudes have indeed changed for the better over the last forty years."[8]

Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, did not like the story much but enjoyed the look and tone of the film: "I liked the movie without quite being caught up in it: I liked the period, tone and look more than the story, which I never really cared much about. The explanation, when it comes, tidies all the loose ends, but you're aware it's arbitrary – an elegant solution to a chess problem, rather than a necessary outcome of guilt and passion."[9]

Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR, liked the film, and wrote: "Hard-boiled fiction is a been-around genre about done-that individuals, so the pleasant air of newness and excitement that Devil in a Blue Dress gives off isn't due to its familiar find-the-girl plot. Rather it's the film's glowing visual qualities, a striking performance by Denzel Washington and the elegant control Carl Franklin has over it all that create the most exotic crime entertainment of the season."[10]

Many critics applauded Don Cheadle's performance, for which he won multiple awards. Jerry Renshaw said, "Cheadle steals every scene where he appears as Mouse ..." but he was disappointed by Beals' performance.[11] In Variety, film critic Todd McCarthy wrote, "Entering the main flow of the story relatively late, Don Cheadle steals all his scenes as a live-wire, trigger-happy old buddy of Easy’s from Texas, while Sizemore and Mel Winkler, as colorful underworld figures, make strong impressions."[12]

Box office[edit]

The first week's gross was $5,422,385 from 1,432 screens and the total receipts in the United States and Canada were $16,004,418.[13] The film grossed $22 million worldwide[1] against a budget of $27 million.





In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated Devil in a Blue Dress for its Top 10 Mystery Films list.[14]


The original score for the film was written and recorded by Elmer Bernstein. The original music soundtrack was released on September 12, 1995, by Sony. The CD included 14 tracks, three of them written by Bernstein (theme, etc.).

  1. "West Side Baby" - T-Bone Walker
  2. "Ain't Nobody's Business" - Jimmy Witherspoon
  3. "Hy-Ah-Su" - Duke Ellington
  4. "Hop Skip And Jump" - Roy Milton
  5. "Good Rockin' Tonight" - Wynonie Harris
  6. "Blues After Hours" - Pee Wee Crayton
  7. "I Can't Go On Without You" - Bull Moose Jackson
  8. "'Round Midnight" - Thelonious Monk
  9. "Chicken Shack Boogie" - Amos Milburn
  10. "Messin' Around" - Memphis Slim
  11. "Chica Boo" - Lloyd Glenn
  12. "Theme From 'Devil In A Blue Dress'" - Elmer Bernstein
  13. "Malibu Chase" - Elmer Bernstein
  14. "End Credits" - Elmer Bernstein

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Planet Hollywood". Screen International. August 30, 1996. pp. 14–15.
  2. ^ Devil in a Blue Dress at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ Tornquist, Cynthia. CNN, "Showbiz Tonight", September 28, 1995.
  4. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: December 5, 2007.
  5. ^ "Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2022-05-13.
  6. ^ "Devil in a Blue Dress". Metacritic.
  7. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  8. ^ Berardinelli, James. Reel Views, 1995.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun-Times, September 29, 1995. Accessed: August 10, 2013.
  10. ^ Turan, Kenneth Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine. The Los Angeles Times, film review, September 29, 1995. Last accessed: February 11, 2011.
  11. ^ Renshaw, Jerry. The Austin Chronicle, film review, October 12, 1998.
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (1995-09-18). "Devil in a Blue Dress - Variety". Variety. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  13. ^ "Devil in a Blue Dress". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  14. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]