The Singing Detective (film)

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The Singing Detective
The Singing Detective.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Keith Gordon
Produced by
Screenplay by Dennis Potter
Based on The Singing Detective
by Dennis Potter
Cinematography Tom Richmond
Edited by Jeff Wishengrad
Distributed by Paramount Classics
Release date
Running time
109 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[2]
Box office $337,174[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, and Mel Gibson, 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, with the consensus being '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.

No. Title Artist Length
1. "In My Dreams" Gene Vincent 3:02
2. "Just Walking in the Rain" Johnnie Ray 2:48
3. "Mr. Sandman" The Chordettes 2:24
4. "It's All in the Game" Tommy Edwards 2:37
5. "Poison Ivy" The Coasters 2:42
6. "Important Words" Gene Vincent 2:22
7. "Harlem Nocturne" The Viscounts 2:22
8. "At the Hop" Danny & the Juniors 2:29
9. "Woman Love" Gene Vincent 2:33
10. "When" The Kalin Twins 2:26
11. "Flip Flop and Fly" Big Joe Turner 2:47
12. "Three Steps to Heaven" Eddie Cochran 2:22
13. "It's Only Make Believe" Conway Twitty 2:14
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 14 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Singing Detective (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 June 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]