The Singing Detective (film)

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The Singing Detective
The Singing Detective.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKeith Gordon
Produced by
Screenplay byDennis Potter
Based onThe Singing Detective
by Dennis Potter
CinematographyTom Richmond
Edited byJeff Wishengrad
Distributed byParamount Classics
Release date
Running time
109 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[2]
Box office$435,625[3]

The Singing Detective is a 2003 American musical crime comedy film directed by Keith Gordon and loosely based on the BBC serial of the same name, a work by British writer Dennis Potter. It stars Robert Downey Jr. and features a supporting cast that includes Katie Holmes, Adrien Brody, Robin Wright Penn, Mel Gibson and Carla Gugino as well as a number of songs from the 1950s.


Suffering from the skin disease psoriasis and crippling psoriatic arthritis, detective novelist Dan Dark is in such pain in a hospital that he begins to delve into fantasy, resulting in several storylines told simultaneously:

  • A film noir based on Dark's novel, The Singing Detective, in which a nightclub singer/private eye, hired by Mark Binney, takes on a strange case involving prostitutes and two mysterious men. Nothing is ever solved from this, only a vague plot. Notably, all of the people in the film noir are played by people who are real people in Dark's life; for example, Dark's nurse plays a singer.
  • The present reality, in which Dark is tormented by incredible pain. Dark interacts with the various people around him, as the doctors and nurses attempt to help, but are dismissed by Dark's anger and bitterness towards everyone. His sense of reality then collapses into hallucinations as the people randomly sing choreographed musical numbers, such as "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?" In the end, his reality is blended with the film noir and he is abducted by the two mysterious men, only to be shot by the titular "singing detective".
  • Dark's traumatic childhood in the past, which explains Dark's repulsion toward sexuality (Dark had watched his mother have sex with other men, including his father's business partner), and his own fiery temper.



Potter's screenplay had been circulating in Hollywood for many years as Potter was enthusiastic about a film version. Robert Altman was at one time attached to direct with Dustin Hoffman in the lead, but financing proved difficult and the production was shelved. It was eventually discovered by an executive at Mel Gibson's production company Icon Productions, who loved it and got Gibson on board to produce. The screenplay had also been imagined as a horror film directed by genre veteran David Cronenberg and starring Al Pacino as the title character.[4]


The film scored a 39% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on reviews from 108 critics, with an average rating of 5.09/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Delightful performance from Robert Downey Jr. can't save The Singing Detective's transition from TV to the big screen".[5] While some critics, such as Roger Ebert, liked the film, others, like Joe Baltake at the Sacramento Bee, considered it an "interesting failure".[6]


The soundtrack to The Singing Detective was released on October 14, 2003. It consisted of songs from the 1950s rather than the 1940s as in the original television series.

1."In My Dreams"Gene Vincent3:02
2."Just Walking in the Rain"Johnnie Ray2:48
3."Mr. Sandman"The Chordettes2:24
4."It's All in the Game"Tommy Edwards2:37
5."Poison Ivy"The Coasters2:42
6."Important Words"Gene Vincent2:22
7."Harlem Nocturne"The Viscounts2:22
8."At the Hop"Danny & the Juniors2:29
9."Woman Love"Gene Vincent2:33
10."When"The Kalin Twins2:26
11."Flip Flop and Fly"Big Joe Turner2:47
12."Three Steps to Heaven"Eddie Cochran2:22
13."It's Only Make Believe"Conway Twitty2:14
14."In My Dreams"Robert Downey, Jr.4:12
Total length:37:20[7]


  1. ^ "THE SINGING DETECTIVE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. October 2, 2003. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Singing Detective (2003) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  3. ^ "The Singing Detective (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  4. ^ "The Singing Detective". November 14, 2003 – via IMDb.
  5. ^ "The Singing Detective".
  6. ^ "The Singing Detective".
  7. ^ The Singing Detective Soundtrack AllMusic. Retrieved February 27, 2014

External links[edit]