French Connection’s “Picking Your Feet In Poughkeepsie” Line Explained

One of The French Connection’s most famous lines is Popeye’s “…picking your feet in Poughkeepsie,” and here’s what the bizarre quote means.

Picking your feet in Poughkeepsie“is one of The French Connections most memorable quotes, but what does the bizarre line actually mean? Director William Friedkin has directed several movies that are considered classics. The most famous would be 1973’s The Exorcist, a possession movie based on a true story that is regarded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time – though Friedkin disputes it’s a horror film. His follow up sorcerer is a grueling reimaging of The Wages Of Fear and is a nail biting suspense thriller. While it was positioned to be a major success in 1977, it was thoroughly beaten at the box office by a certain underdog called Star Wars.


Friedkin’s run of classics began with 1971’s French Connection – a movie that holds up today – which cast Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as New York cops “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy Russo respectively. The film was based on a 1969 book of the same name, which charted the real-life investigation of officers Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso as they investigated a major drug ring. The French Connection had a profound impact on the cop movie genre, thanks to its documentary-feel, iconic car/elevated train chase and Hackman’s uncompromising – and often unlikable – turn as the uncompromising Popeye.

Related: The Exorcist True Story: What Happened To Roland Doe, The Real Regan

The studio didn’t have much in the way of expectation for The French Connection, so its critical and commercial success came as a major surprise. one of The French Connections most famous scenes involves Popeye and Buddy chasing down a suspect, and during their interrogation, they play a strange game of “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” Jaws‘ star Scheider’s Buddy tries to calm down his seemingly agitated partner to bond with the suspect and asks straightforward questions, while Popeye bombards the man with strange queries like asking him about “Picking your feet in Poughkeepsie.” The meaning behind this line, it turns out, is that it has no real meaning.

french connection picking your feet in poughkeepsie scene

The real detectives behind The French Connections story Egan and Grosso acted as advisors to the production, including on this scene. “Picking your feet in Poughkeepsie” is a phrase that Egan would sometimes use during interrogations to disorient and confuse suspects during interrogations, with the aim of Grosso getting them to open up by asking more direct queries actually related to the case.

so, The French ConnectionsPicking your feet in Poughkeepsie” is all about confusing suspects with the oddly alliterative phrase, but it ultimately means nothing. While Hackman would eventually return for 1975’s well-received French Connection IIFriedkin refused to return for the follow-up, which John Frankenheimer (’96’s The Island Of Dr. moreau) helmeted. There was also a script for a third Popeye movie, but after Hackman refused another return, that project evolved into Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks.

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