The Late Show (1977)

PG | 94 mins | Drama, Film noir | 1977

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HISTORY

The summary for this entry was completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary was written by participant Grace Amodeo, a student at Emerson College, with Eric Schaefer as academic advisor.

According to a 9 Apr 1976 HR news item, the working title of the film and its original screenplay, was Double Solitaire . Production began 21 Apr 1976 on location in Los Angeles, California. On 28 Apr 1976, Var reported that the film was also previously known as Remember Ira Wells and that it did not yet have a distributor. Although Var notes that Group-Lustre Films was producing the film, the company is not mentioned in the credits. On 1 Sep 1976, HR announced that Warner Bros. had negotiated to distribute The Late Show , and that Lion’s Gate Films was producing. Lion’s Gate, however, only appears in the credits for providing the sound system.
       A 10 Oct 1976 LAT article states that the film was made in eight weeks, but was slightly over schedule. Director Robert Benton, who was directing from his own screenplay for the first time, shot each scene from a variety of angles to allow for more selection in the editing process.
       Actor Howard Duff, who appeared briefly as “Ira Wells’s” dying partner, “Harry Regan,” was the first “Sam Spade” on the radio production The Adventures of Sam Spade (1946-1950) and was associated with a number of “film noir” roles in films such as All My Sons (1948, see entry) and Panic in the City (1968, ... More Less

The summary for this entry was completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary was written by participant Grace Amodeo, a student at Emerson College, with Eric Schaefer as academic advisor.

According to a 9 Apr 1976 HR news item, the working title of the film and its original screenplay, was Double Solitaire . Production began 21 Apr 1976 on location in Los Angeles, California. On 28 Apr 1976, Var reported that the film was also previously known as Remember Ira Wells and that it did not yet have a distributor. Although Var notes that Group-Lustre Films was producing the film, the company is not mentioned in the credits. On 1 Sep 1976, HR announced that Warner Bros. had negotiated to distribute The Late Show , and that Lion’s Gate Films was producing. Lion’s Gate, however, only appears in the credits for providing the sound system.
       A 10 Oct 1976 LAT article states that the film was made in eight weeks, but was slightly over schedule. Director Robert Benton, who was directing from his own screenplay for the first time, shot each scene from a variety of angles to allow for more selection in the editing process.
       Actor Howard Duff, who appeared briefly as “Ira Wells’s” dying partner, “Harry Regan,” was the first “Sam Spade” on the radio production The Adventures of Sam Spade (1946-1950) and was associated with a number of “film noir” roles in films such as All My Sons (1948, see entry) and Panic in the City (1968, see entry).
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Sep 1976.
---
Daily Variety
2 Feb 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1977
pp. 3-4.
Los Angeles Times
10 Oct 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Feb 1977
p. 1.
New York Times
11 Feb 1977
p. 4.
New York Times
25 Dec 1977.
---
Time
7 Feb 1977.
---
Variety
28 Apr 1976.
---
Variety
8 Sep 1976.
---
Variety
2 Feb 1977
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
Gaffer
Key grip
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual coord
Title des
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod accountant
Post prod supv
Scr supv
Loc equip furnished by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
SONGS
"What Was," lyrics by Stephen Lehner, music by Ken Wannberg, sung by Bev Kelly.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Double Solitaire
Remember Ira Wells
Release Date:
1977
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 February 1977
Los Angeles opening: 25 February 1977
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 February 1976
Copyright Number:
LP47223
Physical Properties:
Sound
Lion's Gate 8 Track Soundsystem; Dolby Systems, noise reduction high fidelity
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24771
SYNOPSIS

Aging private detective, Ira Wells, is visited by his former partner, Harry Regan. As Harry tries to speak, blood spills from his mouth. While Ira cleans the gunshot wound in Harry’s abdomen, Harry says that he has a deal for them to make a lot of money, but dies before he can disclose the details. At Harry's funeral, Ira is approached by Charlie Hatter and his client, Margo Sperling, who explains that her cat, Winston, was stolen by Brian Hemphill for a $500 ransom. When she offers Ira $25 to retrieve her pet, he is offended and declines, but he later meets Charlie in Hollywood to inquire what the case has to do with Harry’s murder. When Charlie tells him that Harry was working for Margo, Ira goes to her apartment and says that he wants revenge for Harry’s death. He learns that Margo had a brief sexual relationship with Hemphill, but now makes occasional appliance deliveries for him. When Ira suggests the appliances are stolen, Margo doesn’t care. He deduces that Margo lifted Hemphill’s share of the delivery payment and he kidnapped her cat in retaliation. Margo argues that the money was a loan to start her dressmaking business, which she has fallen back on after a discouraging battle to become an actress and Ira instructs her to arrange a meeting with Hemphill. That evening, Margo and Charlie arrive at the house where Ira boards to tell him about Margo’s conversation with Hemphill. She had inadvertently threatened him to show up at Ira’s place. As Ira loads his gun, two men appear outside. One man ... +


Aging private detective, Ira Wells, is visited by his former partner, Harry Regan. As Harry tries to speak, blood spills from his mouth. While Ira cleans the gunshot wound in Harry’s abdomen, Harry says that he has a deal for them to make a lot of money, but dies before he can disclose the details. At Harry's funeral, Ira is approached by Charlie Hatter and his client, Margo Sperling, who explains that her cat, Winston, was stolen by Brian Hemphill for a $500 ransom. When she offers Ira $25 to retrieve her pet, he is offended and declines, but he later meets Charlie in Hollywood to inquire what the case has to do with Harry’s murder. When Charlie tells him that Harry was working for Margo, Ira goes to her apartment and says that he wants revenge for Harry’s death. He learns that Margo had a brief sexual relationship with Hemphill, but now makes occasional appliance deliveries for him. When Ira suggests the appliances are stolen, Margo doesn’t care. He deduces that Margo lifted Hemphill’s share of the delivery payment and he kidnapped her cat in retaliation. Margo argues that the money was a loan to start her dressmaking business, which she has fallen back on after a discouraging battle to become an actress and Ira instructs her to arrange a meeting with Hemphill. That evening, Margo and Charlie arrive at the house where Ira boards to tell him about Margo’s conversation with Hemphill. She had inadvertently threatened him to show up at Ira’s place. As Ira loads his gun, two men appear outside. One man shoots the other dead, then fires into Ira’s living room. Ira gives chase and shoots the tire of the getaway car, but the attacker escapes. Back in the house, Ira demands that Charlie hand over the items he took from Hemphill’s body. When Charlie produces a book of stamps, Ira recalls that a $50,000 collection of stamps was recently stolen from a man named Whiting, whose wife was killed during the heist, and deduces that Harry was murdered because he made the connection to Hemphill. Accusing Charlie of knowing about the heist, Ira learns that Hemphill had a partner, Ray Escobar, and that Charlie and Harry had planned to split a $15,000 reward for the stamps. After bribing Margo with a split of the reward money, she reveals that Escobar had a deal with Ron “Ronny” Birdwell, a broker of stolen goods. At Birdwell’s estate, Ira is beaten, frisked and held at gunpoint by Birdwell’s associate, Jeff Lamar, before being led through a living room stocked with appliances to Birdwell’s office. When Ira suggests Birdwell is connected to the Whiting heist, Birdwell denies the accusation. Meanwhile, Charlie tracks down an informant with Escobar’s address but the man demands $100 for the tip and Margo acquires the money by selling marijuana. Breaking into Escobar's apartment, Margo and Ira find the place ransacked. While Margo collects Winston in a cat carrier and urges Ira to leave, Ira follows a trail of blood to the shower and finds a woman, armed with a handgun. Birdwell’s wife, Laura, claims Escobar was blackmailing her about an affair, but when Margo finds Escobar’s body in the refrigerator, Laura disappears. As Margo and Ira chase a car from the scene, Margo begs Ira to turn the case over to the police and accuses him of using Harry’s murder as an excuse to relive his youth. When the car they are chasing crashes, they celebrate their victory. Back at her apartment, Margo speculates that Laura was having an affair with Whiting and that Hemphill and Escobar did not leave town after the stamp heist because they discovered they could blackmail her. When Margo suggests that Ira take her on as a partner and move in to the vacant apartment next door, Ira insists that he is happy as a loner and leaves. Returning to Birdwell’s estate, Ira disarms Lamar, then forces him to jump into the pool. Ira tells Birdwell that Escobar was killed the previous evening and that Laura was at the scene. When Ira mentions Laura was being blackmailed and asks to see her, Birdwell says that Laura has disappeared. Birdwell admits to knowing about Laura’s affair, but insists he did not have him killed and says he’ll give Ira a Cadillac in return for his missing wife. Later, Birdwell and Lamar find Charlie at a pornographic movie house. As Lamar knocks Charlie in the chest, Birdwell offers Charlie a five-figure financial reward to recover a .32 Colt handgun that was in Escobar’s possession. Meanwhile, at a diner, Ira proudly recaps the events at Birdwell’s estate to Margo, then falls over in pain. As Margo tends to him, Ira says he has an ulcer, but he refuses to endure another operation at the Veteran’s Hospital. Returning home, Ira finds Laura in his room. She begs for his help, claiming that she gave a handgun to Whiting for protection from her husband, but Escobar was blackmailing her with it because it was used to kill Mrs. Whiting. Back at Margo’s apartment, Winston moves from his cat carrier to reveal Laura’s .32 Colt. Meanwhile, Laura takes Ira to an apartment where she and Whiting would meet and they find Whiting dead on the waterbed. In her attempts to reach Ira, Margo calls Charlie and tells him about the gun while Laura informs Ira that she was with Whiting at the apartment that afternoon and Birdwell must have followed her and killed him. When Ira pulls a .32 Colt bullet from the wall, he realizes that Mrs. Whiting was shot in the apartment. At the same time, Charlie, Birdwell and Lamar arrive at Margo’s apartment to collect the gun, but Margo refuses to comply without Ira’s approval. As Lamar punches Charlie and points a gun at Margo, the phone rings and Birdwell tells her to pick up. Birdwell listens as Ira informs Margo that he has solved the case: Birdwell killed Harry. Ira says he is on his way over to her apartment and hangs up before Margo can object. As Lamar prepares to kill Ira, Margo gives Birdwell the gun and he admits to killing Harry. When Ira and Laura arrive, Lamar greets them at the door with a gun, but as Ira collapses in pain and Lamar leans over him, Ira pulls a gun and disarms him. Telling Margo that he has never felt better, Ira reveals that he never had an ulcer and Margo is upset that she was used as a guinea pig in his ruse. Ira explains that Laura killed Mrs. Whiting and called Hemphill and Escobar to clean up her mess. They faked the stamp heist to cover the murder, but Escobar used the gun to blackmail Laura. Birdwell realized that if he had possession of the gun, he could use it to control his wife and went after Escobar. After Lamar killed Escobar, Whiting threatened to go to the police and Laura killed him to protect herself from being implicated in his wife’s murder. Although Birdwell offers Ira money to keep quiet, Ira instructs Margo to call the police. As she goes to the phone, however, Charlie draws a gun and demands that they use the opportunity to get rich. While Ira argues that Birdwell will never go through with the payoff and will kill Charlie, just as he did Harry, Birdwell draws a concealed gun and shoots Charlie, who in turn shoots Lamar. Ira kills Birdwell. Some time later, after Charlie’s funeral, Ira tells Margo that he has been evicted and asks if her neighboring apartment is still vacant. Unsure about letting Ira get closer to her, Margo says that she needs him to be more communicative, and Ira derides her for not wearing dresses. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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