31 user 16 critic

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 »


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
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ethel Reschke


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 »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



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 movie's head producer Robert Altman and the film's writer-director Robert Benton were both first named "Robert". 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: You know what I had to go through to hassle up this dough? I laid off four ounces of pure red Colombian for $15 an ounce. I mean, it's disgusting. Some freak over on Pico thinks I'm Santa Claus, I swear to God. $15 an ounce... $15 an ounce. This grass was so great, I can't tell you. There was so much resin in it, it made your lips stick together.
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References Gone with the Wind (1939) 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

Wonderful performances in an overlooked film
10 August 2006 | by See all my reviews

The Late Show is one of the most underrated films of all time. It's somewhat convoluted detective plot has raised comparisons to Chinatown, which is both unfair and unfortunate. This is a film that stands out on its own.

The acting is generally very good, and the performances by the leads are particularly strong. Dialogue which might have seemed forced or corny with less assured actors is believable and often funny here. Art Carney and Lily Tomlin are fun to watch as a bickering detective duo brought together as much by mutual loneliness as by anything the plot throws at them. Both are able to keep their characters interesting without overdoing it. It would have been especially easy for Ms. Tomlin to go over the top with her depiction of the rather flighty Margo, but she manages to balance her character's peculiarities and make it look effortless.

Robert Benton received an academy award nomination for his screenplay, but he really deserved more recognition for directing a film in which he gets the mood just right, and trusts his cast to do their jobs well. This was no mean feat for a work that needs to be film noir with some comic timing.

I saw this film when it first came out nearly 30 years ago, and then watched it again recently. At a time when so many films rely on computer generated images, and plots that seem dreamed up by marketing departments, it was refreshing to rediscover a film that relies on strong direction, and outstanding acting.

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