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The Late Show (1977)

7.1
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A grumpy semi-retired private investigator partners with a quirky female client to catch the people who murdered his partner.

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Title: The Late Show (1977)

The Late Show (1977) on IMDb 7.1/10

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

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Cast

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

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Mystery | Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

4 July 1977 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

A Última Investigação  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

| (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie featured Group Theatre founder actress Ruth Nelson portraying the landlady Mrs. Schmidt, this character name being a spoof of the German aircraft manufacturing company "Messerschmitt". This film was astonishingly Nelson's first theatrical film role in almost thirty years. 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's talking to Margo]
Ira: Back in the Forties, this town was crawlin' with dollies like you. Good-lookin' coquettes tryin' their damnedest to act tough as hell. I got news for you: they did it better back then. This town doesn't change - they just push the names around. Same dames... screwin' up their lives just the same way.
See more »

Connections

References The Thin Man (1957) See more »

Soundtracks

What Was
Lyrics by Stephen Lehner
Music by Ken Wannberg
Sung by Bev Kelly
See more »

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User Reviews

One of my top ten overlooked classics
7 July 2000 | by (San Francisco, California) – See all my reviews

Here's a wonderful, offbeat little film directed by Robert Benton, who directed Kramer vs. Kramer, and Nobody's Fool. He also wrote the screenplay, which received an Oscar nomination, so I guess it wasn't ignored entirely when it came out. Critics often dismiss The Late Show with a tart "Well, it's no Chinatown" (which came out three years earlier). That's too bad because it's a sly, engaging, funny detective thriller in its own right that manages to rise above the constraints of the genre and reach some memorable emotional heights along the way.

Art Carney plays Ira Welles, an over-the-hill private eye with a hearing aid, a bad leg, and a bleeding ulcer. It's almost as if Benton said: "hey, what would happen if Phillip Marlowe were still alive and kicking and living in the seedy part of Los Angeles in the mid-'70s?" Making the hero a senior citizen makes even more sense in the noir context than having him be the usual tough guy in the peak of health.

Things start off with a bang, or at least a whimper, when his partner Harry shows up with a bullet hole in his stomach (a la Maltese Falcon). Ira shows us what he's all about right away when tells his soon to be dead colleague: "Sorry you're going off, pal. You've been real good company." Ira is a throwback who spends serious amounts of time at the racetrack, lives in a boarding house, gets everywhere by bus (in LA?), calls women "Dolly," and values notions of honor and loyalty to one's partner above all else.

This world runs smack against the more permissive, loopy, go with-the-flow attitudes of the late-Sixties, early-Seventies, in the guise of Margo (Lily Tomlin). Margo is a laconic blatherskite who burns incense, lives in a room full of batik and macramé, and listens to meditation tapes. She goes to Ira for help when her cat Winston is kidnapped by a disgruntled fence whom she neglected to pay. Ira refuses to get involved with such nonsense until he realizes the catnapper also had something to with the death of his partner.

This kicks off an appropriately convoluted noir plot of epic complexity that involves murderous fences, infidelity, blackmail, and a steadily mounting body count. But the plot takes a backseat to the subtly changing, often touching relationship between the two lead characters. These two seemingly polar opposites actually have a lot in common.

They are both misfits who have constructed elaborate lies that they inhabit. Ira tells Margo that he's always been a loner, yet he spends his evenings playing canasta with his landlady, risks his life to find his partner's killer, and finds himself slowly warming up to Margo despite her air of flaky desperation. Margo flits from one identity to the next. One minute she's an actress, the next a dress designer, and the next a talent agent. In reality, she's mule for a two-bit fence and has to deal grass on the side to make ends meet. "I only do it to get my shrink paid," she tells a disapproving Ira.

Art Carney and Lily Tomlin play the push-me-pull-you dynamic between the two for all they're worth. Carney has a terrific moment when he collapses in pain due to ulcer pain and tells Margo not to take him to the hospital. In Tomlin's hands, Margo is one of the great screen neurotics, yet she's much savvier and sharper than she seems at first, and is able to finally rise to face the challenge of some pretty hairy situations. The Late Show is a real gem from the last truly great decade of American movies.


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