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


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


A classic murder mystery with an offbeat twist. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 July 1977 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

La última investigación  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The picture went into development and production after screenwriter Robert Benton in early 1976 took his screenplay to Robert Altman, who after reading the script decided to make the picture and produce it. See more »


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 »


Margo Sperling: I'm gonna' go down to the police station and get a private detective's license. If we teamed up, we'd be great together.
Ira: That's just what this town has been waiting for. A broken-down old private eye with a bum leg and a hearing aid, and a fruitcake like you.
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Referenced in Yes Man (2008) See more »


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

A smart, wonderfully acted, wistful, fun homage to the great detective films
24 January 2012 | by (US) – See all my reviews

I really like this sweet semi-comic homage to the great detective films. Art Carney is simply wonderful as a gumshoe now in his 60s, gaining weight and losing foot-speed, but with wits as sharp as ever, and wisdom gained by time. This is what one of Bogie's great detective characters probably would be like 30 years later.

He's drawn into an absurdly complex crime situation, when a slightly wacko aging hippie wanna-be actress (played by Lily Tomlin) hires him to help find her lost cat. '

Some of the humor is a bit broad for the more serious themes underneath, and as much as I always love Tomlin, there were times she seemed to be flirting with caricature.

But the almost-romantic chemistry between this supremely miss-matched pair is terrific and fun to watch. It doesn't add up to anything huge, but it's intelligent, fun well-executed entertainment for grown ups – something that's far too rare in the current cinema.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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