[[quoteright:287:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/man-who-wasnt-5_403.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:287:I don't talk much, I just cut the hair.]]

->''"A movie about a barber who wants to be a dry cleaner"''
-->-- The pitch for the movie.

There is a totally emotionless barber named Ed Crane. It's 1949 and a bald man, Creighton Tolliver, has some sales pitch about "Dry Cleaning". Ed's wife, Doris, is having an affair with her boss, "Big" Dave Brewster. Ed decides to blackmail the pair to pay for a silent partnership. When Mr. Tolliver asks Mr. Brewster for the same amount of money for which he was being blackmailed, Mr. Brewster finds Mr. Tolliver and beats the whole story out of him. From there, things spiral out of control.

A FilmNoir from infamous oddballs Creator/TheCoenBrothers played so straight that JamesMCain could have written it without any changes.
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!!This film provides examples of:

* AmoralAttorney: The lawyer hired to defend [[spoiler:Doris]] is willing to spin ''any'' tale to get [[spoiler:her]] off the hook, so long as he thinks the jury might buy it. [[spoiler:When Ed makes a confession to him, he dismisses it out of hand, saying it's too cockamamie a story for anyone to believe.]]
* AlienAbduction: [[spoiler: According to his wife Big Dave was abducted; she thinks he was killed by TheGovernment to cover it up]]
* BigEater: Freddy Reidenschnieder
* {{Blackmail}}
* ContemplateOurNavels: "The hair. It keeps growing... It's part of us. And we cut it off."
* ChewbaccaDefense: Freddy Riedenschnieder's defense of Doris Crane involves a truly baffling spiel about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
** [[spoiler:Subverted, obviously.]]
** And from the second trial where he spouts weird, vaguely existentialist drivel about Ed being a "New Man" in this morally ambiguous modern world who thus presumably is not responsible: "He told them to look, not at the facts, but at the meaning of the facts. Then he said the facts had no meaning."
* DownerEnding
* DVDCommentary: The only one Creator/TheCoenBrothers have done.
* DeliberatelyMonochrome
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Doris, because her affair with Big Dave will become public when her pregnancy is revealed.]]
* DullSurprise: Ed Crane, the character, has no emotions.
* FilmNoir: Played straight to the point it snaps.
* FlamboyantGay: Jon Polito as Creighton Tolliver. Perhaps he only seems flamboyant next to Ed though.
** He made a pass at Ed by sitting back on his bed and loosening his necktie. Most people today would consider that "relaxing," but apparently in 1940s America it was a blatant come-on. You couldn't be ''too'' flamboyant without getting arrested.
*** He also winked at him.
* FramingTheGuiltyParty: Category 2, in a way. [[spoiler: While Ed, Doris, and Riedenschneider are brainstorming Doris's defense, Ed states that he killed Big Dave. Riedenschneider doesn't notice (or doesn't care) that he just confessed to the crime, and mulls over how well accusing Ed of murdering Big Dave in a jealous rage would hold up in court. He rules it out for being too implausible.]]
* TheNounWhoVerbed: The title.
* IShouldWriteABookAboutThis: [[spoiler: Just before his execution Ed writes his life story for publication in a pulp men's magazine. He apologizes to the audience for the unnecessary digressions in the story we have just heard narrated, explaining he was paid by the word.]]
* ItWillNeverCatchOn: "Dry" Cleaning. [[spoiler:Subverted in that it doesn't, instead the salesman is murdered!]]
* PhonyVeteran: "Big" Dave Brewster boast about his heroic exploits in the pacific theater of world war II while it turns out he in fact served throughout the war in a administrative capacity in the San Franciso naval yard.
* ThePollyanna: Ed is perhaps the oddest version in film history, mixed with enormous amounts of apathy and stoicism. Even with all the bad things that happen, he never holds anyone up for blame and is unresentful of even the worst that fate hands him. Even at the end, he holds no ill will against the world.
* {{Narrator}}: Ed Crane. Oddly enough, the least [[FirstPersonSmartass smart ass]] person in the world.
* ShoutOut: A notable one to ''Film/TheNightOfTheHunter''.
* SmokingIsCool:
* TheStoic: Ed Crane.
* TwiceToldTale: The similarities to Creator/AlbertCamus' ''[[TheStranger L'Étranger]]'' are undeniable.
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