One of my favorite spoofs is Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), a spoof of the Film Noir genre and directed by television's great Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show). Not only is it hilarious, but it's full of familiar Film Noir faces: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurrey, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster and several more. And yes, this movie is from 1982.
According to Alan Ladd's #1 fan, Hamlette, he was actually 5'6" or 5'7"
I knew it was a one-in-a-million idea.
To do the costumes for the film, Edith Head came on board. "When Edith Head said she'd take the assignment, I knew we had a good movie," Reiner remembered. Martin said, "I felt a sense of history working with her and I wanted to live up to what she presented." Head made over 20 suits for Martin alone, injecting classic 40s style suits with a little bit of the 80s. She was also called upon to recreate costumes she had designed over 40 years ago. In one scene, Martin dresses like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. She had come full circle in her career. Two weeks after production wrapped, Head passed away.
The over 85 sets used in the film were created by Production Designer John De Cuir. He recreated sets to match the clips used in the film as well as original sets in the style of Classic Film Noir, like the quintessential cluttered detectives office. The Director of Photography watched Noir films to study the lighting and camera angles so that the old and new would match.
Martin with Cary Grant (Hitchcock's Suspicion)
The only person who didn't watch a lot of Noir films during preparation was it's star. His reason? "Simply because I didn't want to act like Humphrey Bogart. It is very easy to pick up his style. I consciously stayed away from them because I didn't want to be influenced." The result was one of the most unique films ever made, with Martin bringing the perfect amount of humor that the film called for.
Your typical Noir detective
In the film, Martin is a detective named Reardon hired by the beautiful Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) to investigate the murder of her father, who was a prominent scientist and cheesemaker. In Dr. Forrest's office, Reardon finds two lists: Friends of Carlotta and Enemies of Carlotta. He also finds a signed photo of Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner). The lists are stolen from him by Alan Ladd, who shoots Reardon in the arm (he gets shots in the same arm multiple times throughout the film). After Juliet removes the bullet, he begins to look up the people that were on the lists. The investigation eventually leads to South America (where his pajamas get dirty). He also falls in love with Juliet, despite the warnings of his partner Marlowe (Bogart).
I won't tell you how it ends (it involves cheese and Nazis). You'll have to watch the movie yourself (or look up the synopsis), but if you love Film Noir, you will love guessing what film all the clips come from (or you can scroll to the bottom of this post). Carl Reiner and Reni Santoni also star in the film.
The beautiful Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward)
Note: Unfortunately this film is not appropriate for children - unless you're good with the mute button - as there are several references to female body parts.
This post is part of The Film Noir Blogathon hosted by The Midnite Drive-In. Be sure to read all of the other posts! Also, check out my other post, Not Your Typical Noir: Nobody Lives Forever (1946).
- DVD Production Notes
- Edith Head's Hollywood. Edith Head and Paddy Calistro.
- Pull-out Poster Promotion
Scroll down to see all the actors and films used (or don't and just watch Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and test your knowledge of Noir films)