Philandering 1930s sheet music salesman Arthur Parker escapes from his dull life by fantasizing elaborately choreographed musical numbers in which he and the other characters lip-sync to original recordings of popular 1930s music.
Originally a 1978 BBC miniseries created by Dennis Potter and starring Bob Hoskins, Gemma Craven, and Cheryl Campbell, it was remade in 1981 as a feature film directed by Herbert Ross and starring Steve Martin, Jessica Harper, Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken.
Includes examples of the following tropes:
- Corrupt the Cutie: From meek schoolteacher to hooker in a few months.
- Deconstruction: Of Depression-era musicals.
- Driven to Suicide: The Accordian Man, in the original miniseries.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Accordian Man.
- Foreign Remake: The film version changes the setting from London to Chicago.
- The Great Depression: The film never holds back from showing just how wretchedly awful the characters' lives are and why they are so eager to escape into a fantasy world.
- Groin Attack: When Arthur's wife Joan receives the evidence confirming her suspicions that Arthur's been cheating on her from the police (as they tell her he's suspected of murdering a blind girl - which he's actually innocent of), she angrily demands that they "cut his thing off and bury it!"
- Lighter and Softer: The main point of contention from critics is that it was far more optimistic than the mini-series.
- Miscarriage of Justice: Arthur ends up hanging for the murder of the blind girl who was actually killed by the Accordian Man.
- Nothing but Hits: Averted - many of the songs are rather obscure.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Basically the central concept of both the mini-series and the film version.
- This Is Reality: The film plays quite fast and loose with the idea of fantasy interrupting reality.
- Tranquil Fury: Joan when she leans that he's been cheating on her - she demands his castration with quietly repressed rage.
- Woman Scorned: Joan will settle for nothing less than having his family jewels physically removed (see Groin Attack above) when she learns that Arthur has in fact been unfaithful to her.
- Your Cheating Heart