A grumpy semi-retired private investigator partners with a quirky female client to catch the people who murdered his partner.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Ira Wells
...
Margo Sterling
...
Charlie Hatter
...
Ron Birdwell
...
Laura Birdwell
...
Lamar
Ruth Nelson ...
Mrs. Schmidt
John Davey ...
Sergeant Dayton
...
Harry Regan
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Storyline

Ira Wells is an aged retired Los Angeles based private investigator, who is slightly overweight, needs to wear a hearing aid, has a bum leg and an ulcer-laden stomach, and can only afford to rent a room in a house as a place to live. He decides to come out of retirement when a still active contemporary, Harry Regan, shows up on his doorstep with a bullet wound to the gut, from which he eventually dies. Ira wants to find out who killed Harry. Ira is contacted by another long-time acquaintance, Charlie Hatter, a self-proclaimed loser and Hollywood hack, about Harry's last case, something about which probably led to Harry's death. Harry's client was Margo Sterling, a former client of Charlie's who is a flaky penniless new-ageist actress/agent/dress maker. She hired Harry to retrieve her missing cat, Winston, who is still being held ransom by an acquaintance named Brian Hemphill. Ira learns from Margo that Brian hired her to transport goods for him, she unconcerned that those goods ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The nicest, warmest, funniest, and most touching movie you'll ever see about blackmail, mystery, and murder. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

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4 July 1977 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

La última investigación  »

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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Both the second movie featuring actress-comedian Lily Tomlin and the second theatrical feature directed by writer-director Robert Benton. See more »

Goofs

The first close-up of Charlie's white shoes with blood on them also shows Ira's black shoes right next to him, but Ira doesn't walk up to help Charlie until the following shot. See more »

Quotes

Ira: I'm not as young as I used to be.
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Connections

Referenced in Yes Man (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

What Was
Lyrics by Stephen Lehner
Music by Kenneth Wannberg (as Ken Wannberg)
Sung by Bev Kelly
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User Reviews

 
A sweet and unsentimental masterpiece
27 December 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As many who have left comments before me have observed, this film echos the detective stories of the 1930s and 1940s. I would go a little further and suggest that the premise of the movie is what would the case be like if Philip Marlowe were roped into a mystery when he was pushing 80? Howard Duff's scene early in the film and even his character's name evoke The Big Sleep while Chandler allusions continue through the film. Art Carney's superbly underplayed Ira Wells is unquestionably an avatar of Marlowe surviving into the late 1970s and into his late 70s. He's a bit deaf, a bit slow, a bit more crotchety but he's still that one moral man walking down "these mean streets" of L.A.

Benton has done some extraordinary work, but this is his elevation to the sublime, a movie that one can watch again and again. It's a minor masterpiece. If producer Altman's own The Long Goodbye had been as good a Raymond Chandler film as this is, Goodbye would have risen to the level of the other two incomparable films of Chandler novels: the Howard Hawkes, Bogart and Bacall The Big Sleep and the Robert Mitchum Farewell, My Lovely.


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