Classic Movie Tribute from TV Show "Moonlighting"

When  a TV show pays homage to classic films, you cannot help but love it. There were a great many shows in the 1980s which take a page or two from the studio era of movies. "Moonlighting" does so from time to time. It's high point in classic movie tributes is the notable episode from Season 2, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice."

Dutch angles for David's dream

Writers Debra Frank and Carl Sautter came up with a dual storyline to be shot in black and white. Modern day detectives Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis) hear a story from the 1940s about a woman and her boyfriend who blame each other for the death of her husband.

David's dream

Maddie and David each dream about the unsolved mystery in black and white. Maddie dreams the woman is innocent; David dreams the woman is to blame.

The seamy side for David's dream

The director (Peter Werner) and producer/creator (Glenn Gordon Caron) came up with two different visual styles for the dreams. According to them, Maddie's is told in a "slick, MGM" style centered on the female, like Mildred Pierce.

A crying female for Maddie's dream

Addison's dream is told like a Warner Brothers movie -"Raymond Chandler style" that is "grittier" and boasts a dangerous femme fatale.

A femme fatale for David's dream

There is also a voice over for David's version with words like, "She smelled of violets and rainy nights. What I didn't realize is she also smelled of trouble."

Demure outfits for Maddie's dream

The costumes follow the respective differences in tone as well. The woman is dressed modestly in button down blouses for Maddie's dream - totally Joan Crawford. She's tarted up with Veronica Lake peekaboos and plunging necklines for David's gritty dream.

Saucy dresses for David's dream

I highly recommend this episode of "Moonlighting." If you can, listen to the commentary track as well; it's informative. Watch for a special introduction from Orson Welles in his last appearance on camera before his death a week later.

Further Resources
"Moonlighting" Season 2 is available on DVD at Amazon.


  1. Thanks for reminding me of this episode of "Moonlight," I don't think I''ve seen it since it aired. Definitely memorable and worth watching again.

  2. Have never seen this! Looks fantastic! And I love this line: "What I didn't realize is she also smelled of trouble."

  3. I've found that there were lots of classic movie fans among the writers of 1980s TV shows. I think that hint of timelessness taken from the movies are part of why Moonlighting and Remington Steele and Hart to Hart are still watched today.

    Thanks to both of you for your comments.


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