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The Late Show (1977)

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
Jeff Lamar
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

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The nicest movie you'll ever see about murder and blackmail. [Lobby Card] See more »


PG | See all certifications »

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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?


Writer-director Robert Benton later took on the gumshoe private eye movie again with the later detective mystery movie Twilight (1998). 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: Listen, doll, let's get something straight. As long as we're gonna' be working together, try to act like a lady, will you?
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
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User Reviews

If you lay a hand on me I swear you'll pay for it in your next life!
16 January 2006 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** Nostalgic 1977 movie that's more like a 1940's film-noir crime suspense/drama with an over the hill private eye Ira Wells, Art Carney, teaming up with a middle-age hippie Margo Sperling, Lily Tomlin, to solve the murder of Ira's long-time friend of over 30 years, and also private detective, Harry Regan, Howard Duff.

Harry coming to see Ira at his rooming house one evening collapses and dies right in front of him from a 45 slug in his chest. At Harry's funeral Ira gets to see his friend Charlie, Bill Macy, who has this young woman Margo Sperling with him and want's Ira to find her missing cat Winston. Having no patience to go looking for cats at his age Ira changes his mind when he finds out that Harry was on the case, in finding Winston, at the time of his murder and feels that Harry trying to find Margo's cat may have had something to do with his untimely death. Ira was right dead right.

The serious Ira teaming up with spaced-out, on ideas about life not drugs, Margo realizes that Harry's murder was but a small part of a series of crimes, including at least four other killings, involving big time L.A gangster Ron Birdwell, Eugene Roche. Brdwell's wife Laura, Joanna Cassidy, has been missing for some three days and was involved with a Mr. Whiting who together with his wife both ended up dead.

It takes a while for Ira to get to the bottom of what's been going on between Birdwell and the Whitings but with the help of screwy pseudo-philosophical Margo, who turns out to be a lot smarter then Ira at first thought, he puts all the pieces together. Ira comes up with not only who killed both the Whitings but who murdered his friend Harry Regan as well and, on top of all that, Ira finds Margo's cat Winston. The cat it turns out has been sitting on the evidence, a .32 pistol, to connect all the killings as well as it being used to blackmail Laura; in keeping her mouth shut about who's responsible for a sting of unconnected and unsolved murders in the L.A area.

Art Carney giving the performance of his life as the broken down PI Ira Wells takes it on the chin and in the gut throughout the entire movie from hoodlums like Birdwell and his sadistic bodyguard Lamar, John Considine. Ira also has to puts up with the New Age Guru-like Margo, who he gets to like despite her almost talking him to death.

Lily Tomlin is perfect as the over-age hippie Margo Sperling who also begins to take life seriously when she realizes that she and Ira's lives are in danger in an elaborate scheme to distance the Whiting murders away from those responsible for them and make them look like a robbery gone wrong.

Ira who really got on the case to find who murdered Harry Regan finding Winston was only secondary for him and gets a lot more then he bargained for including a brutal beating by Lamar ,who he later pays back with interest. In the end he finds not only who killed Harry but a new place to stay, Margo's place, after his landlady kicked him out of her house for giving her more headaches and excitement then his rent could compensate her for: $42,50 a month.

Art Carney besides having ulcers problems in the movie as Ira Wells walked with a limp, because of a bum leg, which in real life he really had from being wounded in France, by an exploding German artillery shell in World War Two.

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