Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

PG | 89 mins | Comedy | 21 May 1982

Director:

Carl Reiner

Cinematographer:

Michael Chapman

Editor:

Bud Molin

Production Designer:

John De Cuir

Production Companies:

Aspen Film Society, Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

       The character of “Warden Dudley” is not credited onscreen, and the actor remains undetermined.
       The majority of the characters in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid are constructed through the use of scene clips from various 1940s and 1950s motion pictures, edited to suggest their involvement in the story narrated by Steve Martin’s character, “Rigby Reardon.”
       Referring to the picture by its working title, Untitled Man, a 1 Jun 1979 DV news item announced that writer-director Carl Reiner passed on an offer to direct a different movie for Warner Bros. to work on this film. According to 9 Mar 1982 production notes found in AMPAS library files, Reiner, writer George Gipe, and writer-actor Steve Martin conceived the concept for the screenplay in 1980, following Martin and Reiner’s successful collaboration on The Jerk (1980, see entry). After developing the story using ad libbed dialogue and compiled film clips from 1940s and 1950s motion pictures, Gipe completed a draft of the script, which the filmmakers then spent an additional four weeks editing. On 16 Sep 1980, DV reported that the project, now operating under the working title, Three Faces of Steve, was on hold while Martin completed production on Pennies from Heaven (1981, see entry). Three months later, a 23 Dec 1980 DV brief referred to the picture as Suck the Bullet, and on 3 Jul 1981, DV indicated that the title had been changed to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.
       Production notes stated that principal photography began 7 Jul 1981 on the Laird International Studios soundstages ... More Less

       The character of “Warden Dudley” is not credited onscreen, and the actor remains undetermined.
       The majority of the characters in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid are constructed through the use of scene clips from various 1940s and 1950s motion pictures, edited to suggest their involvement in the story narrated by Steve Martin’s character, “Rigby Reardon.”
       Referring to the picture by its working title, Untitled Man, a 1 Jun 1979 DV news item announced that writer-director Carl Reiner passed on an offer to direct a different movie for Warner Bros. to work on this film. According to 9 Mar 1982 production notes found in AMPAS library files, Reiner, writer George Gipe, and writer-actor Steve Martin conceived the concept for the screenplay in 1980, following Martin and Reiner’s successful collaboration on The Jerk (1980, see entry). After developing the story using ad libbed dialogue and compiled film clips from 1940s and 1950s motion pictures, Gipe completed a draft of the script, which the filmmakers then spent an additional four weeks editing. On 16 Sep 1980, DV reported that the project, now operating under the working title, Three Faces of Steve, was on hold while Martin completed production on Pennies from Heaven (1981, see entry). Three months later, a 23 Dec 1980 DV brief referred to the picture as Suck the Bullet, and on 3 Jul 1981, DV indicated that the title had been changed to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.
       Production notes stated that principal photography began 7 Jul 1981 on the Laird International Studios soundstages in Culver City, CA, and additional Los Angeles, CA locations. A shooting schedule, dated 29 May 1981, indicated that filming for Three Faces of Steve was planned for 7 Jul 1981 through 8 Sep 1981 in downtown Los Angeles, Union Station, and at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA. The 9 Jul 1981 HR confirmed the nine-week shooting schedule and announced an anticipated summer 1982 release. During filming, the 4 Aug 1981 HR stated that actor Mack Chandler had joined the project, though he is not credited onscreen and his participation is undetermined. The 18 Sep 1981 DV reported that filming had officially concluded.
       In a 9 Mar 1982 news item, DV announced that the film would be screened at the Avco Center theater in Westwood, CA, on 9 May 1982, to benefit the Motion Picture & Television Fund. In addition, one percent of the film’s box office returns would be donated to the foundation in honor of the professionals who worked on the classic films featured in the movie. The 26 Apr 1982 HR stated that Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid would be included in the USA Film Festival on 4 May 1982, while the 29 Apr 1982 DV indicated the film’s showing at the Santa Fe Film Fest that same day.
             End credits include the following statement: “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid was Edith Head’s final film. To her, and to all the brilliant technical and creative people who worked on the films of the 1940’s and 1950’s, this motion picture is affectionately dedicated.” Costumer Edith Head died 24 Oct 1981, shortly after production.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1980.
---
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1980.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1981.
---
Daily Variety
18 Sep 1981.
---
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1982.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 1982
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1982
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
20 May 1982
p. 6.
New York Times
21 May 1982
p. 8.
Variety
24 Mar 1982
p. 41.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
in This Gun for Hire
in Sorry, Wrong Number
in The Killers, The Bribe
in The Big Sleep, In a Lonely Place, Dark Passage
in Suspicion
+

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
in This Gun for Hire
in Sorry, Wrong Number
in The Killers, The Bribe
in The Big Sleep, In a Lonely Place, Dark Passage
in Suspicion
in The Glass Key
in Johnny Eager, The Postman Always Rings Twice
in Johnny Eager
in I Walk Alone
in Double Indemnity
in The Bribe
in The Bribe
German henchmen:
[and]
And Appearing in The Killers:
[and]
And Appearing in The Glass Key:
[and]
And Appearing in White Heat:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Aspen Film Society William E. McEuen David V. Picker Production
A Carl Reiner Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Still photog
VTR op
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Paint foreman
COSTUMES
Cost
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Orch cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Boom man
Cable man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles
Process
Plates
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Prod coord
Asst to Mr. Picker
Asst to Mr. Reiner
Asst to Mr. Martin
Casting
Transportation coord
Driver capt
Film trainee
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod accountant
Craft service
First aid
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
SONGS
"Dead Men's Bolero," music by Miklos Rozsa, lyrics by Steve Goodman.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Untitled Man
Three Faces of Steve
Suck the Bullet
Release Date:
21 May 1982
Premiere Information:
Santa Fe Film Fest premiere: 29 April 1982
USA Film Festival screening: 4 May 1982
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 May 1982
Production Date:
7 July--mid September 1981 in Los Angeles, CA and Pasadena, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 July 1982
Copyright Number:
PA141968
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Lenses/Prints
Camera and Lenses by Panavision ®; Prints by Technicolor ®
Duration(in mins):
89
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26624
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a stormy night, in a forest outside of 1940s Los Angeles, California, a car swerves off the road and over a cliff. At a detective agency, private investigator Rigby Reardon reads the newspaper reporting the death of scientist, philanthropist, and cheesemaker Dr. John Hay Forrest. Suddenly, Dr. Forrest's daughter Juliet knocks at the door, but when she notices the headline announcing her father’s death, she faints into Rigby’s arms. Enamored with Juliet’s beauty, Rigby kisses her and lays her on the couch. As Juliet awakens, Rigby guesses that she suspects her father’s death was not an accident. Juliet explains that her father had written a list of names on a torn scrap of a dollar bill, which she believes connected him to a conspiracy. She pays Rigby a $200 advance and gives him the key to her father’s office in the city. At Dr. Forrest’s office, Rigby uncovers two lists titled “Enemies of Carlotta” and “Friends of Carlotta.” On the latter slip of paper, he notices the names “Kitty Collins” and “Swede Anderson.” A man posing as an exterminator enters the office and shoots Rigby in the arm. Rigby pretends to be dead, and the man steals the lists from his pocket. In pain, Rigby goes to Juliet’s house, where she uses her mouth to suck the bullet from his wound. She explains that Kitty was her father’s mistress, and Swede was Kitty’s boyfriend, both of whom live in Santa Barbara. She shows him a paper that reads: “Thanks for the check. In case I’m indisposed, that dollar you gave me for safekeeping is in the top of the sugar bowl. –SHH.” Juliet says “SHH” stands for Samuel ... +


On a stormy night, in a forest outside of 1940s Los Angeles, California, a car swerves off the road and over a cliff. At a detective agency, private investigator Rigby Reardon reads the newspaper reporting the death of scientist, philanthropist, and cheesemaker Dr. John Hay Forrest. Suddenly, Dr. Forrest's daughter Juliet knocks at the door, but when she notices the headline announcing her father’s death, she faints into Rigby’s arms. Enamored with Juliet’s beauty, Rigby kisses her and lays her on the couch. As Juliet awakens, Rigby guesses that she suspects her father’s death was not an accident. Juliet explains that her father had written a list of names on a torn scrap of a dollar bill, which she believes connected him to a conspiracy. She pays Rigby a $200 advance and gives him the key to her father’s office in the city. At Dr. Forrest’s office, Rigby uncovers two lists titled “Enemies of Carlotta” and “Friends of Carlotta.” On the latter slip of paper, he notices the names “Kitty Collins” and “Swede Anderson.” A man posing as an exterminator enters the office and shoots Rigby in the arm. Rigby pretends to be dead, and the man steals the lists from his pocket. In pain, Rigby goes to Juliet’s house, where she uses her mouth to suck the bullet from his wound. She explains that Kitty was her father’s mistress, and Swede was Kitty’s boyfriend, both of whom live in Santa Barbara. She shows him a paper that reads: “Thanks for the check. In case I’m indisposed, that dollar you gave me for safekeeping is in the top of the sugar bowl. –SHH.” Juliet says “SHH” stands for Samuel H. Hastings, her former drunkard brother-in-law. Juliet phones her hypochondriac sister, Leona Hastings, to ask about Samuel’s whereabouts, but Leona cries hysterically and hangs up. As Rigby leaves to look for Samuel, Juliet tells him to leave messages of any news with her cleaning woman. Upon hearing the words, “cleaning woman,” Rigby becomes enraged and throttles Juliet around the neck. After calming down, Rigby confesses that his father ran off with their family's cleaning woman when he was a child, which caused his mother to die of a broken heart. He later finds Samuel in a hotel and gives him $5 in exchange for the dollar bill in Samuel’s sugar bowl. Dr. Forrest’s torn scrap matches with the bill, which contains a copy of Dr. Forrest’s “Friends of Carlotta” list. Rigby drives to Santa Barbara and finds Kitty Collins working as a lounge singer, but when he mentions Carlotta, Kitty excuses herself from the conversation. The next day, he follows her to a restaurant. When she notices him watching her, she removes her crab-shaped broach and drops it in her soup. Rigby retrieves the broach from the kitchen and discovers that there is an “Enemies of Carlotta” list hidden inside it, with many of the names crossed off. The only remaining name is Swede Anderson, who Rigby finds unconscious in a grimy apartment. While Rigby prepares coffee in the kitchen, two men barge in, kill Swede, and shoot Rigby in the arm. Juliet again removes the bullet and Rigby calls his detective friend, Alan Marlowe, instructing him to come over. Juliet finds a train station locker key in her father’s desk and Rigby deduces the locker number. When Marlowe arrives, Rigby asks him to investigate the names on Kitty Collins’ “Enemies” list. Rigby opens the locker at Los Angeles Union Station, where he finds more copies of the two lists, including the name and address of F. X. Huberman. He boards a train to visit Huberman, and is followed into his compartment by a handsome man. Rigby lulls the man to sleep and sneaks off the train without his pursuer. Upon reaching the house, Rigby realizes that Huberman is actually a woman. Huberman spikes Rigby’s drink with drugs and he passes out. Huberman steals the locker key, and Rigby later wakes up in his office with Juliet standing over him. She announces that Samuel Hastings is dead and that she found a note containing the date and issue of an old New York Times article. The article mentions the South American cruise ship, S.S. Immer Essen, which Samuel boarded after separating from Leona. Marlowe calls Rigby’s office and tells him that Walter Neff, owner of the cruise line, has a weakness for beautiful blonde women. Juliet offers to dye her hair and pose as a spy, but Rigby refuses, attempting to hide his romantic interest in her. After failing to hire various former girl friends and associates as his spy, Rigby seduces a rich society woman named Jimmi Sue Altfeld and convinces her to agree. Following a meeting with Jimmi Sue’s disapproving father, Mr. Altfeld, Rigby is beaten up by a group of men. Juliet finds him and begs him to end the investigation, but he plans to disguise himself as a blonde woman. While wearing women’s clothes and makeup, Rigby seduces Walter Neff, drugs his drink, and steals the passenger list for the S.S. Immer Essen, containing the name of Captain Cody Jarrett. Before Rigby, disguised as the captain’s mother, speaks with Jarrett, Juliet confesses her love for him and they kiss. Believing Jarrett to be in danger, Rigby poses as a prisoner to protect him, and attempts to learn more about Carlotta’s identity. That night, Jarrett breaks out of prison, throws Rigby in the trunk of a car, and shoots him in the arm. When Rigby returns to his office many hours later, he and Juliet begin to make love, but she leaves to get medicine for his bullet wound. He receives a telephone call from a former lover, Margaret Croyden, which Juliet overhears and misinterprets. Her heart broken, she telephones Rigby from a telephone booth and tells him to cancel the investigation. Later, Marlowe reveals that Carlotta is actually a South American island near Peru. Rigby travels to Peru and finds Kitty Collins and Carlos Rodriguez, and an old war friend, who gives him the name of Kitty Collins’ murderous lover, Rice. A few days later, Carlos telephones to inform Rigby that a plane full of Germans gave Rice a suspicious packet of instructions, but Kitty cuts the telephone line. She fixes Rigby a drugged drink and he passes out. When Rigby awakens, Rice attempts to smother him with a pillow. Rigby fires his gun, prompting Rice to flee. Rigby and Carlos chase Rice through the crowded street, but Carlos is shot in the shoulder and falls behind. Rigby kills Rice and steals his top secret papers. He follows the instructions to a warehouse, where Juliet and her father, still alive, speak with their family butler, who is dressed in a Nazi uniform. Although Rigby believes Juliet betrayed him, she insists that she was tricked by the butler, Field Marshall Wilfred VonKluk, and only knew to come to Carlotta after Marlowe informed her. VonKluk reveals that that Dr. Forrest had discovered a powerful, destructive cheese mold and the Nazis tricked him into sharing the information in order to create an explosive that would obliterate the entire U.S. Forrest realized the plan and composed a list of VonKluk’s agents to take to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As a result, VonKluk faked Forrest’s death and kidnapped him. While testing the cheese mold on the island of Carlotta, passengers of the S.S. Immer Essen witnessed the land mass disappear, forcing VonKluk to label them as “enemies” and assassinate them. VonKluk announces that he has planted a series of cheese bombs throughout the U.S. Juliet tricks VonKluk into say the words “cleaning woman,” prompting Rigby to lose control and strangle the field marshall. VonKluk flips a switch and detonates the city of Terre Haute, Indiana, but Rigby kills him and stops further destruction. Carlos arrests the remaining Nazis as Rigby and Juliet kiss. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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