The Singing Detective. Seduction and betrayal he wrote the book. Now he's living it! From his hospital bed, a writer suffering from a skin disease hallucinates musical numbers and paranoid plots. A writer of pulp detective novels is suffering from a debilitating form of psoriasis and in his pain and fevers and drugs he is writing a. Dennis Christopher George Potter (17 May 1935 – 7 June 1994) was an English television dramatist, screenwriter and journalist. He is best known for his BBC TV serials Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), and the television plays Blue Remembered Hills.
The Singing Detective: Skin (1/6)
The Singing Detective: Heat (2/6)
The Singing Detective: Clues (3/6)
YouTube: Skin(1/6), Heat (2/6), Lovely Days (3/6) Clues (4/6)
Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you. This is the new element added in this week’s episode. Philip Marlow’s (Michael Gambon) suspicions about the root causes of his psoriasis, given fictional form in the Singing Detective, now have analogues in real life. If the character, Philip Marlow, in the television drama, The Singing DetectiveThe best bittorrent. , written by Dennis Potter, can be considered real life. The Philip Marlow, that is, who is a hospital patient. I love the way Potter messes with our heads, nesting different levels of reality within the narrative, and sending us through the worm holes connecting realities in a way that subverts any hierarchies we try to construct.
In this case, he opens up a world outside the hospital and contemporaneous with it. This bubble of reality is Mark Finney’s (Patrick Malahide) flat on the Embankment, which is none other than Mark Binney’s (Patrick Malahide) flat in Marlow’s internal novel. And of course, Finney and Binney are played by the same actor.
Marlow’s wife, Nicola (Janet Suzman), visits him in hospital. I had assumed her participation in his recovery sprang from a desire to help, born out of residual affection for her husband. Apparently not. She wants him to write, can arrange for a side ward where he will be quiet, and someone to take dictation. But she doesn’t want him writing the novel in his head that’s helping the Singing Detective to ferret out the clues pointing to the root cause of his psoriasis. Instead, “Write about reality in a realistic way.” “All solutions and no clues,” sneers Marlow.
There’s a reason behind this. Marlow has received an offer to write a screenplay for a film of the The Singing Detective, his published novel. He tells her that he wrote a screenplay years before, but she pretends not to remember. And he’s already writing a novel in his head. Marlow is deeply suspicious of her involvement. He’s right to be. Nicola has intercepted the film offer and her lover, Mark Finney, has presented the old screenplay as his own work. But they need him to start writing again, and it’s Nicola’s job to persuade him. She fails this time, as Marlow sends her out of the ward with another stream of verbal abuse. I confess to not quite understanding why they want him to write, if it’s to be about “real life” and not as some contribution to the screenplay they’ve stolen.
That’s worrying Finney. Time is clearly of the essence. The other thing worrying him is that Marlow’s script from years ago has the Binney character living in his flat and with only a change from “F” to “B” in the name. Furthermore, it seems to change the plot of The Singing Detective (the novel) to reflect their plot against him. “I almost feel as though he’s made all this up.” Indeed, Marlow is writing the script for Nicola as she leaves the ward and meets Finney in the waiting room.
Meanwhile, the clues are becoming more tangible. It’s very clear that Marlow has a deep, existential guilt springing from his childhood. The earlier episodes gave a hint, but in those cases it really wasn’t his fault that his parents split up. Their wildly different expectations of him could be expected to produce psychological trauma. This time it’s something he did, or so I surmise from his treetop bargaining session with God, where he says, “Please God, I didn’t mean to do it.”
Someone has dropped a turd on his teacher’s desk. She leaves it in situ, then terrorizes the class with visions of a vengeful God who knows all their evil little thoughts – “He is going to point his Holy finger.” This woman is a world-class champion sadist. When she sees Philip crying, he’s called up to the front to confess, but will only concede that he knows who did it. So, under threat of an endless caning from the headmaster, Philip is told to stand stock still, eyes focused on both the cane and the turd, until he names the culprit. After seeing another child caned, merely for not paying attention, he says it was Mark Binney.
These scenes are interwoven with the appearance of a group of evangelical Christians on the ward, led by the risibly named and humourless Dr Finlay, who sing hymns.
It’s also interwoven with his internal novel. Earlier, the Singing Detective waited for HMS Amanda outside Skinskapes. When she emerges, he calls out from the shadows, “Achtung, Amanda.” She turns, the implication being that she knows Skinskapes is a front for processing Nazi rocket scientists to America. So the Singing Detective follows and discovers where she lives. But the two hoods at Skinskapes shoot her before he can make contact.
Now the Singing Detective is on stage at the Laguna Palais de Dance, singing Accentuate the Positive, while the two hoods from Skinskapes are waiting for the end of the set so they can kill him. Then the scene merges into the Jesus Freaks on the ward singing the same song and gathering round his bed like avenging angels. Here’s the video clip.
A shitload of guilt. It sounds like Marlow is ready to face his demons. I think he said, right after the evangelical assault, “Lord, let it come on.” And another short phrase I couldn’t catch.
The BBC TV serial drama, written by Dennis Potter, directed by Jon Amiel, and starring Mchael Gambon, was broadcast in the UK on Sunday nights in November and December.
There were later PBS and TV showings in the U.S. Its six episodes were: “Skin”, “Heat”, “Lovely Days”, “Clues”, “Pitter Patter” and “Who Done It”.
Mystery writer Philip E. Marlow, suffering writer’s block, is hospitalized due to his psoriatic arthritis, a chronic skin and joint disease. This acute stage forms lesions and sores over his entire body, and partially cripples his hands and feet.
Potter suffered from this disease himself. He wrote with a pen tied to his fist, just as Marlow does in the last episode. The pain, the fever and his refusal to take medication cause Marlow to enter a fantasy world, inspired by his Chandleresque novel, The Singing Detective, an escapist adventure about a detective named “Philip Marlow,” who sings at a dance hall.
There are flashbacks to his childhood in rural country, and his mother’s life in wartime London. The suicide of his mother is one of the series’ recurring images. Marlow sometimes replaces her face with different women in his life, real and imaginary.
The noir mystery, a vague plot about smuggled Nazi war criminals, protected by the Allies and Soviet agents attempting to stop them, is not resolved, based on Marlow’s view that fiction should be “all clues and no solutions”.
The tale’s three worlds of the hospital, the noir thriller, and wartime England often merge in Marlow’s mind, resulting in a fourth layer, in which there are interactions between fictional and non-fictional characters. Some of Marlow’s friends and enemies (perceived or not) are represented by characters in the novel. Marlow’s mother’s lover, Raymond, appears as the antagonist in the “real” and noir worlds (though the “real” Binney/Finney is a fantasy as well). Binney’s villain committed fornication with Marlow’s mum and cuckolded Marlow’s dad, who Marlow loved.
Marlow’s guilt that he caused his parent’s separation and his mother’s suicide is exacerbated by early childhood memory when he framed young Mark Binney for defecating on the desk of a rigid elementary teacher (Janet Henfrey). The innocent Binney is brutally beaten in the classroom, and Marlow is lauded for telling the “truth.”
Various events haunt Marlow. The real Mark Binney ends up in a mental institution, as Marlow confesses to the psychiatrist. The villainous Binney/Finney character is killed off in both realities. In each reality, the guilt of Binney/Finney/Mark is entirely the product of Marlow’s imagination. However, the killer, who looks more like adult Binney, lives, and he dies.
Some members of the cast play multiple roles. Marlow and his alter-ego, the singing detective, are both played by Gambon. Marlow as a boy is played by Lyndon Davies. Mark Binney (schoolboy) is played by William Speakman. Davies and Speakman were contemporaries at Chosen Hill school in Gloucestershire, near Potter’s birthplace. Patrick Malahide plays three central characters: the contemporary Finney, who Marlow thinks is having an affair with his ex-wife Nicola (played by Janet Suzman); the imaginary Binney, a central character in the murder plot; and Raymond, a friend of Marlow’s father who has an affair with his mother (Alison Steadman). Steadman plays both Marlow’s mother, and the mysterious “Lili,” one of the victims. At the end of the serial, Marlow and Nicola repair their relationship.
In Potter’s original script, the hospital scenes and noir scenes were to be shot with video and film cameras respectively, with the period material (Marlow’s childhood) filmed in black-and-white. However, all scenes were shot on film, despite objections from Potter, who wanted the hospital scenes to display the tone of sitcoms.
Initially, the series’ title was “Smoke Rings,” and the Singing Detective noir thriller was to be dropped after the first episode, because Potter feared that it would not hold attention. The title may have referred to a particular monologue Marlow has in the first episode, referring to the fact that, despite everything else, the one thing he really wants is a cigarette. Marlow’s medical and mental progress is subtly gauged by his ability to reach over to his dresser and get his cigarettes.
Borrowing portions of his first novel, Hide and Seek (1973), Potter added autobiographical and deeply “personal” aspects, along with 1940s popular music and the film noir stylistics.
Marlow’s hallucinations bear some resemblance to Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, the 1944 film of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, with Dick Powell as Marlowe. (Incidentally, Powell himself portrayed a “singing detective” on radio’s Richard Diamond, Private Detective, serenading girlfriend Helen Asher (Virginia Gregg), at the end of each episode.
The Singing Detective was not a huge success but it was influential and critically acclaimed. Steven Bochco has credited the series as chief inspiration for Cop Rock (1990), though unlike The Singing Detective, Bochco’s drama features specially recorded musical numbers rather than pre-existing work.
The serial was adapted, with a new America setting, into a very bad American film, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Mel Gibson.