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The Late Show (1977)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Mystery, Thriller  |  4 July 1977 (Denmark)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 1,324 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 14 critic

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


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


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 July 1977 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

La última investigación  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The movie's screenplay by Robert Benton was actually Academy Award-nominated for the Best Original Screenplay in 1977 but did not win, losing to Woody Allen for Annie Hall (1977). The nomination was Benton's second - and having never won, was his last Oscar nom before he won two Oscars for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) two years later. 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 »


Ira: Why was, uh, this Escobar blackmailing you?
Laura Birdwell: Well, I was seeing this man. We were having an affair.
Ira: Your husband didn't know anything about it?
Margo Sperling: Does the Pope shit in the woods?
See more »


References The Thin Man (1957) See more »


What Was
Lyrics by Stephen Lehner
Music by Kenneth Wannberg (as Ken Wannberg)
Sung by Bev Kelly
See more »

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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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