Devil in a Blue Dress (film)
Devil in a Blue Dress is a 1995 American neo-noir mystery thriller film written and directed by Carl Franklin. The film is based on Walter Mosley's 1990 novel of the same name and features Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, and Don Cheadle.
|Devil in a Blue Dress|
|Directed by||Carl Franklin|
|Screenplay by||Carl Franklin|
|Based on||Devil in a Blue Dress|
by Walter Mosley
|Edited by||Carole Kravetz|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$16.1 million |
In the summer of 1948, World War II veteran Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is in need of a job, and becomes drawn into the search for a mysterious woman. The film received generally positive reviews, with many praising Cheadle's scene-stealing performance but was a box office bomb grossing just $16.1 million against a budget of $27 million.
In 1948 Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins is laid off from his job at Champion Aircraft, and needs money to pay his mortgage. Easy's friend Joppy introduces him to DeWitt Albright, a white man looking for a missing white woman, Daphne Monet. Explaining that Monet's disappearance led her wealthy fiancé, Todd Carter, to drop out of the Los Angeles mayoral race, Albright pays Easy $100 ($1,100 today) to find Daphne, who is known to frequent the juke joints along Central Avenue.
Easy begins his search at an illegal club, where he sees the bouncer, Junior Fornay, eject a white man. Learning that his friend Dupree Brouchard's girlfriend, Coretta James, is a confidant of Daphne, Easy spends the night with Coretta and discovers Daphne is involved with gangster Frank Green. Albright arranges a meeting at the Malibu pier, where Easy is accosted by white youths, before Albright viciously humiliates one of the boys at gunpoint. Easy tells him about Green, and is given another payment to continue his search.
Returning home, Easy is arrested by LAPD homicide detectives, who reveal that Coretta has been murdered. Interrogated and beaten before being released, he is approached by Matthew Terell, the remaining mayoral candidate. Terell is with a young boy, supposedly his adopted son, and inquires about Daphne, but Easy divulges nothing. After a nightmare about Coretta, he receives a call from Daphne herself. They meet at the Ambassador Hotel, and she asks him to drive her to meet a man named Richard McGee. Arriving to find McGee – the white man from the club – dead, and his house ransacked, Easy notices a pack of Mexican cigarettes while Daphne flees.
At home, Easy is threatened by Albright and his goons to track Daphne down again. Easy sends for his friend, Raymond 'Mouse' Alexander, and confronts Joppy for leading Daphne to him. He meets with Todd Carter, realizing that Albright actually works for Terell, and secures another payment to locate Daphne. Returning home, he is ambushed by Frank Green but rescued by Mouse. Frank escapes after the trigger-happy Mouse shoots him in the shoulder, and Easy misses a call from Daphne. Questioned again by the detectives, Easy is given until the following morning to clear his name.
Easy and Mouse confront Junior – the owner of the cigarettes – who admits to driving McGee home and being given a letter for Coretta to deliver to Daphne. They visit Dupree; inside Coretta's Bible, Easy finds the contents of the letter: incriminating photographs of Terell with naked children. At home, Easy finds Daphne waiting, and she reveals that Frank is her half-brother: their mother was Creole, and Daphne's father was white, while Frank's was black. Terell learned of Daphne's heritage, and the potential scandal forced Carter to abandon his campaign, but Daphne bought the pictures from McGee to blackmail Terell into silence. Hunting for Daphne and the pictures, Albright murdered McGee. When Coretta threatened to sell the pictures to Terell, Daphne sent Joppy to intimidate her, but did not expect him to kill Coretta.
Albright and his men arrive, subduing Easy and kidnapping Daphne. Joined by Mouse, Easy abducts Joppy at gunpoint, forcing him to take them to Albright's cabin in the Hollywood Hills. Easy and Mouse kill Albright and his men and rescue Daphne; returning to the car, Easy learns Mouse killed Joppy. Daphne pays Easy and Mouse $7,000 for the pictures, and Mouse returns home to Houston with his share. Daphne reveals that Carter's family paid her $30,000 to leave town, but she believes that the pictures will ensure Carter's victory and their marriage. Driving Daphne to meet Carter, who rejects her, Easy receives the rest of his payment in exchange for the pictures. Daphne and her brother leave town, while Carter's election is assured. No longer in trouble with the police, Easy considers starting his own business as a private investigator.
- Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins
- Tom Sizemore as DeWitt Albright
- Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet
- Don Cheadle as Mouse
- Maury Chaykin as Matthew Terell
- Terry Kinney as Todd Carter
- Mel Winkler as Joppy
- Albert Hall as Odell
- Lisa Nicole Carson as Coretta James
- Jernard Burks as Dupree Brouchard
- David Wolos-Fonteno as Junior Fornay
- Beau Starr as Miller, LAPD
- John Roselius as Mason, LAPD
- Nicky Corell as Shariff
- Joseph Latimore as Frank Green
- Poppy Montgomery as Barbara's Sister
Carl Franklin wrote and directed the neo-noir because he liked the novel by Walter Mosley, who in turn served as an associate producer on the film. Franklin thought the work was more than a detective story; he said that Mosley was able to transform an everyday guy into a detective. In the editing process, Franklin had to cut a steamy love scene between Beals and Washington because he believed the scene was not needed to convey the story.
The film was shot mostly in Los Angeles, California. The pier shot where Easy Rawlins gets in trouble with local youths was filmed at the Malibu, California pier. Other locales in Los Angeles include the Griffith Park Observatory and the famed Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.
The producers used the following tagline to market the film:
- In a world divided by black and white, Easy Rawlins is about to cross the line.
Devil in a Blue Dress premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 16, 1995. In the United States, it opened in wide release on September 29, 1995.
The first week's gross was $5,422,385 (1,432 screens) and the total receipts for the run were $16,004,418. The film was in wide release for 12 weeks (87 days). In its widest release the film was featured in 1,432 theaters across the country.
Devil in a Blue Dress was released on VHS on April 2, 1996, and then on laserdisc in June 1996 (included the original theatrical trailer). A DVD version was released on 9 March 1999 and includes an audio commentary by director Carl Franklin. Twilight Time released on the film on Blu-ray on October 13, 2015 featuring the aforementioned commentary as well as an isolated score track and a screen test from Don Cheadle.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Devil in a Blue Dress has an approval rating of 90%, based on reviews from 88 critics, with an average score of 7.40/10. Its critical consensus reads: 'Humor, interesting characters, and attention to details make the stylish Devil in a Blue Dress an above average noir.' On Metacritic the film has a score of 78 out of 100, based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A- on scale of A to F.
In a positive film review, critic James Berardinelli discussed Devil in a Blue Dress from a sociological viewpoint, especially one involving the 1990s. He concludes, 'The most interesting element of Devil in a Blue Dress is not the whodunit, but the 'whydunit.' Finding the guilty parties isn't as involving as learning their motivation, which is buried in society's perception of racial interaction. By uncovering the truth behind this mystery, Franklin illustrates that some attitudes have indeed changed for the better over the last forty years.'
Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, did not like the story much but did like the look and tone of the film, and wrote: 'I liked the movie without quite being caught up in it: I liked the period, tone and look more than the story, which I never really cared much about. The explanation, when it comes, tidies all the loose ends, but you're aware it's arbitrary – an elegant solution to a chess problem, rather than a necessary outcome of guilt and passion.'
Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR, liked the film, and wrote: 'Hard-boiled fiction is a been-around genre about done-that individuals, so the pleasant air of newness and excitement that Devil in a Blue Dress gives off isn't due to its familiar find-the-girl plot. Rather it's the film's glowing visual qualities, a striking performance by Denzel Washington and the elegant control Carl Franklin has over it all that create the most exotic crime entertainment of the season."
Many critics applauded Don Cheadle's performance, for which he won multiple awards. Jerry Renshaw said, 'Cheadle steals every scene where he appears as Mouse...' Although he was disappointed by Beals' lackluster, vanilla performance. In Variety, film critic Todd McCarthy wrote, 'Entering the main flow of the story relatively late, Don Cheadle steals all his scenes as a live-wire, trigger-happy old buddy of Easy’s from Texas, while Sizemore and Mel Winkler, as colorful underworld figures, make strong impressions.'
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: LAFCA Award; Best Supporting Actor, Don Cheadle; 1995.
- National Society of Film Critics Awards: NSFC Award; Best Cinematography, Tak Fujimoto; Best Supporting Actor, Don Cheadle; 1996.
- San Sebastián International Film Festival: Golden Seashell Award, Carl Franklin; 1995.
- Edgar Allan Poe Award: Best Motion Picture, Carl Franklin; 1996.
- Image Awards: Image Award; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, Jennifer Beals; Outstanding Motion Picture; Outstanding Soundtrack Album; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Don Cheadle; 1996.
- Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Don Cheadle; 1996.
The original score for the film was written and recorded by Elmer Bernstein. The original music soundtrack was released on September 12, 1995, by Sony. The CD included 14 tracks, three of them written by Bernstein (theme, etc.).
- "West Side Baby" - T-Bone Walker
- "Ain't Nobody's Business" - Jimmy Witherspoon
- "Hy-Ah-Su" - Duke Ellington
- "Hop Skip And Jump" - Roy Milton
- "Good Rockin' Tonight" - Wynonie Harris
- "Blues After Hours" - Pee Wee Crayton
- "I Can't Go On Without You" - Bull Moose Jackson
- "'Round Midnight" - Thelonious Monk
- "Chicken Shack Boogie" - Amos Milburn
- "Messin' Around" - Memphis Slim
- "Chica Boo" - Lloyd Glenn
- "Theme From 'Devil In A Blue Dress'" - Elmer Bernstein
- "Malibu Chase" - Elmer Bernstein
- "End Credits" - Elmer Bernstein
- "Devil in a Blue Dress". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
- Devil in a Blue Dress at the American Film Institute Catalog.
- Tornquist, Cynthia. CNN, "Showbiz Tonight", September 28, 1995.
- The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: December 5, 2007.
- "Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-10-26.
- "Devil in a Blue Dress". Metacritic.
- "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- Berardinelli, James. Reel Views, 1995.
- Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun-Times, September 29, 1995. Accessed: August 10, 2013.
- Turan, Kenneth Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine. The Los Angeles Times, film review, September 29, 1995. Last accessed: February 11, 2011.
- Renshaw, Jerry. The Austin Chronicle, film review, October 12, 1998.
- McCarthy, Todd (1995-09-18). "Devil in a Blue Dress - Variety". Variety. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
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