The Cheap Detective (1978)

PG | 92 mins | Comedy, Mystery | 23 June 1978

Director:

Robert Moore

Writer:

Neil Simon

Producer:

Ray Stark

Cinematographer:

John Alonzo

Production Designer:

Robert Luthardt

Production Company:

EMI Films
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HISTORY

The opening credits appear on windows, walls and other portions of the set, with actors sometimes interacting with the titles.
       A scrolling prologue then reads: "In 1939, the ominous grey clouds of war broke loose over Western Europe and rained down havoc and destruction ... followed by humidity and gradual clearing.
       "In the Philippines, a small band of native guerrillas prepared secretly for the inevitable conflict that would soon engulf the East ... This has nothing to do with our story.
       "Our story is about crime. Not the bad crime we face each day on our streets ... but the good crime we came to know and love in a time when the world was innocent ... when murder wasn't something you were ashamed of ... when a bullet hole wasn't something disgusting ... and when a man could betray a woman without feeling guilty.
       "Our story starts in a fictitious city called San Francisco ... seven thousand miles away from Casablanca."
       Although Madeline Kahn’s role is listed as "Mrs. Montenegro" in the end credits, the Aug 1978 Films and Filming provides the other aliases the character uses throughout the film: "Denise Manderley," "Natasha Oublenskaya," "Sophia De Vega," "Wanda Coleman," "Chloe La Marr," "Alma Chambers," "Vivien Purcell" and "Lady Edwina Morgan St. Paul."
       On 24 Feb 1977, DV announced that Eileen Brennan was joining the cast as the secretary to Peter Falk’s character and reported that Lily Tomlin and Louis Jourdan were under consideration to join the cast as well. However, on 4 Mar 1977, DV reported that Stockard Channing had been cast in the role of the secretary. A news ... More Less

The opening credits appear on windows, walls and other portions of the set, with actors sometimes interacting with the titles.
       A scrolling prologue then reads: "In 1939, the ominous grey clouds of war broke loose over Western Europe and rained down havoc and destruction ... followed by humidity and gradual clearing.
       "In the Philippines, a small band of native guerrillas prepared secretly for the inevitable conflict that would soon engulf the East ... This has nothing to do with our story.
       "Our story is about crime. Not the bad crime we face each day on our streets ... but the good crime we came to know and love in a time when the world was innocent ... when murder wasn't something you were ashamed of ... when a bullet hole wasn't something disgusting ... and when a man could betray a woman without feeling guilty.
       "Our story starts in a fictitious city called San Francisco ... seven thousand miles away from Casablanca."
       Although Madeline Kahn’s role is listed as "Mrs. Montenegro" in the end credits, the Aug 1978 Films and Filming provides the other aliases the character uses throughout the film: "Denise Manderley," "Natasha Oublenskaya," "Sophia De Vega," "Wanda Coleman," "Chloe La Marr," "Alma Chambers," "Vivien Purcell" and "Lady Edwina Morgan St. Paul."
       On 24 Feb 1977, DV announced that Eileen Brennan was joining the cast as the secretary to Peter Falk’s character and reported that Lily Tomlin and Louis Jourdan were under consideration to join the cast as well. However, on 4 Mar 1977, DV reported that Stockard Channing had been cast in the role of the secretary. A news item in the 8 Mar 1977 DV announced that Eileen Brennan would be playing one of five “femmes fatales” in the movie and that Lily Tomlin and Stockard Channing had already been cast as two of the others. On 15 Apr 1977, HR and DV announced that Lily Tomlin was unable to co-star in the movie because her one-woman Broadway show had extended its run. According to a 22 May 1977 LAHExam article, Ann-Margret replaced Lily Tomlin in the cast. A LAHExam article from 5 May 1977 reported that the 16 May 1977 start date for The Cheap Detective coincided with the start date for Superman (1978, see entry), for which Stockard Channing was the first choice to play Lois Lane. She would be able to act in Superman only if the producers for The Cheap Detective released her from her contract. On 18 Jul 1977, HR announced that Charles A. Bastin, who reportedly appeared in Casablanca (1943, see entry) had been cast in The Cheap Detective, which parodied Casablanca, among other films. Bastin’s name is not listed in onscreen credits for the older film, however.
       According to a HR article from 1 Apr 1977 and a news item in the 6 Jan 1977 DV, The Cheap Detective was scheduled to begin principal photography 16 May 1977 in San Francisco, CA, with a budget of $5 million-$6 million. A news item in the 25 May 1977 Var mentioned that the King Edward Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, CA would be one of the movie’s shooting locations. On 27 Jul 1977, HR announced that the ten-week shoot had completed production. An article in the 15 Aug 1977 Box reported that the film finished shooting two days ahead of schedule.
       According to the 15 Jun 1978 HR, Peter Falk informed Columbia Pictures that he would not do any advance publicity for the film. But on 21 Jun 1978, Var reported that Falk joined co-stars Eileen Brennan, Dom DeLuise and Louise Fletcher at a “press session” in New York City to talk about the movie.
       According to production materials in AMPAS library files, the movie opened in Los Angeles, CA on 23 Jun 1978 at Avco Cinema. On 27 Jun 1978, HR reported that The Cheap Detective grossed over $5 million in 648 theaters nationwide its opening weekend. A news item in HR on 7 Jul 1978 announced the film had grossed nearly $15 million in its first two weeks.
       The film received rave reviews in DV and HR on 5 Jun 1978. HR praised most of the performances, with the exception of Louise Fletcher, of whom the reviewer wrote that she “can’t really act.” Both publications also commended the writing, direction, art direction, cinematography and score. The opening title sequence was singled out as amusingly noteworthy by DV and the 18 Jun 1978 LAT. Reviews in the LAHExam on 23 Jun 1978 and in the New Yorker on 5 Jul 1978 were less enthusiastic, mostly faulting the writing, while the New Times on 24 Jul 1978 took exception to Robert Moore’s direction.
       DV reported that The Cheap Detective was a sequel to producer Ray Stark, writer Neil Simon, director Robert Moore and star Peter Falk’s previous feature film collaboration, Murder By Death (1976, see entry), while Women’s Wear Daily, on 11 Mar 1977, called it a “spin-off” of the earlier film.
       News items in the 19 Jul 1979 Jet and the 10 Nov 1979 TV Guide reported that comedian Flip Wilson was in negotiations with NBC to star in a television pilot spinoff of the film. The Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925-2010 indicated that NBC aired the pilot on 3 Jun 1980. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Feb 1977.
---
Box Office
14 Feb 1977.
---
Box Office
9 May 1977.
---
Box Office
27 Jun 1977.
---
Box Office
15 Aug 1977.
---
Box Office
17 Jul 1978.
---
Cosmopolitan
Sept 1978.
---
Cue
23 Jul 1977.
---
Cue
24 Jun 1978
p. 21, 124.
Daily Variety
8 Dec 1976
p. 1, 16.
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1976.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
24 Feb 1977.
---
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
10 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
10 May 1977.
---
Daily Variety
19 May 1977.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1977.
---
Daily Variety
1 Jul 1977.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1978
p. 3, 6.
Films and Filming
Aug 1978
p. 25.
Films in Review
Oct 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1978
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 1978.
---
Independent Film Journal
Jul 1978.
---
LAHExam
14 Mar 1977.
---
LAHExam
5 May 1977.
---
LAHExam
20 May 1977.
---
LAHExam
22 May 1977.
---
LAHExam
23 Jun 1978
Section B, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 May 1977
Section IV, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
28 Mar 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1978
p. 1, 38.
Motion Picture Product Digest
5 July 1978.
---
New Times
24 Jul 1978.
---
New West
17 Jul 1978.
---
New York
10 Jul 1978.
---
New York Times
23 Jun 1978
p. 8.
New Yorker
5 Jul 1978
p. 74.
Newsweek
26 Jun 1978
p, 80.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
24 Jun 1978.
---
The Pittsburgh Press Roto
14 Aug 1977.
---
Time
13 Jun 1977.
---
Time
10 Jul 1978.
---
Variety
12 Jan 1977.
---
Variety
20 Apr 1977.
---
Variety
7 Jun 1978
p. 25.
Variety
25 May 1977.
---
Variety
24 May 1978.
---
Variety
7 Jun 1978.
---
Variety
21 Jun 1978.
---
Variety
28 Jun 1978.
---
Village Voice
26 Jun 1978.
---
Village Voice
10 Jul 1978.
---
Vogue
Jul 1978
p. 30.
Women's Wear Daily
11 Mar 1977.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Also co-starring
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Columbia/EMI Presentation
A Ray Stark Production of
A Robert Moore Film
From Rastar
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Stills
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Best boy
Best boy
Dolly grip
Elec
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Draftsman
Draftsman
Draftsman
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Set dec
Const coord
Leadman
Asst props
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
Asst men's cost
Asst women's cost
Asst to Theoni Aldredge
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd mixer
Re-rec
Boomman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up supv
Make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Unit pub
Scr supv
Auditor
Transportation
Transportation
Dial coach
Asst to the prod
Prod secy
Craft service man
Secy to dir
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Neil Simon's The Cheap Detective
Release Date:
23 June 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 23 June 1978 at Avco Cinema #1
New York opening: 23 June 1978
Production Date:
began 16 May 1977 in San Francisco, CA
ended 27 July 1977 Burbank, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Rastar Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
15 August 1978
Copyright Number:
PA12308
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
92
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25073
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Police detectives investigate the murder of gunshot victim Floyd Merkle at a San Francisco hotel. The main suspect in the crime is Merkle’s partner in the private detective business, Lew Peckinpaugh, who has been having an affair with Merkle’s wife, Georgia. When the detectives question Georgia, she calls Peckinpaugh and asks him if he killed Merkle in order to have Georgia to himself. Peckinpaugh urges Georgia to stop implicating him in front of the police. Peckinpaugh goes to his office and meets the mysterious Mrs. Montenegro. After she explains that she hired Merkle to find her missing niece, Peckinpaugh says he’ll take over the case. The private investigator returns home to find Georgia and the police detectives waiting for him. Peckinpaugh admits to the police that he and Merkle fought over the business. Once the police leave, Peckinpaugh ends the relationship with Georgia. He then gets a phone call from a stranger who claims to have information on Mrs. Montenegro’s missing niece and Peckinpaugh agrees to meet the informant at a nightclub that night. At the club, Peckinpaugh catches the eye of the singer, Betty DeBoop, while on his way to his meeting. The stranger, Pepe Damascus, reveals to Peckinpaugh that Mrs. Montenegro lied about her niece; she really hired Merkle to find a valuable object. Damascus suggests that Mrs. Montenegro killed Merkle out of fear that Merkle would double cross her. Damascus then proposes that Peckinpaugh work for him instead: if Peckinpaugh finds the treasure, Damascus will split it with him. Meanwhile, club owner Marcel warns Paul DuChard, the leader of the French underground resistance, and his wife Marlene that Colonel Schlissel, of the Cincinnati Gestapo, is at ... +


Police detectives investigate the murder of gunshot victim Floyd Merkle at a San Francisco hotel. The main suspect in the crime is Merkle’s partner in the private detective business, Lew Peckinpaugh, who has been having an affair with Merkle’s wife, Georgia. When the detectives question Georgia, she calls Peckinpaugh and asks him if he killed Merkle in order to have Georgia to himself. Peckinpaugh urges Georgia to stop implicating him in front of the police. Peckinpaugh goes to his office and meets the mysterious Mrs. Montenegro. After she explains that she hired Merkle to find her missing niece, Peckinpaugh says he’ll take over the case. The private investigator returns home to find Georgia and the police detectives waiting for him. Peckinpaugh admits to the police that he and Merkle fought over the business. Once the police leave, Peckinpaugh ends the relationship with Georgia. He then gets a phone call from a stranger who claims to have information on Mrs. Montenegro’s missing niece and Peckinpaugh agrees to meet the informant at a nightclub that night. At the club, Peckinpaugh catches the eye of the singer, Betty DeBoop, while on his way to his meeting. The stranger, Pepe Damascus, reveals to Peckinpaugh that Mrs. Montenegro lied about her niece; she really hired Merkle to find a valuable object. Damascus suggests that Mrs. Montenegro killed Merkle out of fear that Merkle would double cross her. Damascus then proposes that Peckinpaugh work for him instead: if Peckinpaugh finds the treasure, Damascus will split it with him. Meanwhile, club owner Marcel warns Paul DuChard, the leader of the French underground resistance, and his wife Marlene that Colonel Schlissel, of the Cincinnati Gestapo, is at the club and has been looking for Paul. Schlissel knows of Paul’s plan to open a French restaurant in Oakland. Marcel confirms to Paul that ownership papers for the restaurant will be delivered to the club that night. Later at the club, Peckinpaugh is reunited with Marlene, who is an old flame of his, and they reminisce about their days in France together. However, Peckinpaugh leaves with Betty. When Paul’s documents are delivered, the papers are immediately stolen by the Gestapo. The next day, Marcel and Paul visit Peckinpaugh and try to persuade him to get Paul’s stolen documents back, but, since they can’t pay him, Peckinpaugh refuses. After they leave, Peckinpaugh gets a call from Jasper Blubber regarding the lost item coveted by Damascus and Mrs. Montenegro, and the two men agree to meet later. At that time, Blubber explains that he wants to find Vladimir Tserijemiwtz, a Romanian who stole the object in question: a necklace made of twelve egg-sized diamonds. Blubber has tracked the thief to San Francisco, where he is living under a name that is an anagram of Vladimir Tserijemiwtz. Back at his office, Peckinpaugh gives the task of unscrambling Vladimir’s name to his secretary, Bess Duffy, then meets his next appointment, a woman claiming to be Mrs. Montenegro’s sister. When she asks him to find Vladimir, Peckinpaugh realizes the woman is actually Mrs. Montenegro in disguise. Peckinpaugh returns home to find Marlene waiting for him in the living room and Betty hiding in the kitchen. At first, Marlene asks to get back together with him, then she admits she is really there to persuade Peckinpaugh to help Paul. Peckinpaugh agrees to retrieve the papers from the Germans, but on the condition that Paul leave town on the Oakland ferry and that Marlene stay behind with him. Marlene does agree and leaves. Peckinpaugh then asks Betty to get Paul’s papers from Schlissel when she sees him at the club that night. Afterward, she should meet him at the Oakland ferry where they’ll run away together. After Betty leaves, Peckinpaugh discovers Georgia hiding in the bathroom. She demands that Peckinpaugh come back to her or she’ll have him arrested for Merkle’s murder. Peckinpaugh tells Georgia to meet him at the Oakland ferry the next night. As Georgia leaves, Bess arrives to tell Peckinpaugh she has solved the anagram: the Romanian is now known as Ezra Dezire, the owner of the Brooklyn Bridge. The next morning, Peckinpaugh meets the sickly Dezire and his seductive wife, Jezebel Dezire, at their estate, where Peckinpaugh confirms that Dezire is actually Tserijemiwtz. Dezire explains that the diamond eggs were stolen from his safe the night before, most likely by the man who originally helped him steal them in the first place. Dezire shot his partner years ago, but he is not yet dead. Dezire pulls a gun on Peckinpaugh, but is shot and killed by someone hiding behind a curtain who then flees. Peckinpaugh deduces that the gunman is Dezire’s old partner. Back at his office, Peckinpaugh meets Marcel, who confirms that he is Dezire’s former partner and that he is still bleeding from the gunshot wound Dezire gave him. Marcel will exchange the treasure, wrapped in the parcel he’s carrying, for Paul’s documents. Betty arrives and relates that, while she obtained the papers from the Germans, Blubber’s henchman stole them from her. Marcel pulls a gun and explains that if they don’t give him the papers, he won’t give them the diamonds. Peckinpaugh gets a call from Blubber and arranges to meet at Peckinpaugh’s apartment to give Blubber the diamond eggs in exchange for Paul’s papers. Marcel dies and Peckinpaugh takes his package. Peckinpaugh tells Bess to inform the police where he’ll be. At his apartment, Peckinpaugh gets Paul’s papers while Blubber, Montenegro and Damascus tear open the package, which is full of real eggs that hatch chicks. The police arrive and arrest the three criminals. At the docks, Peckinpaugh gives Paul his documents in exchange for Marlene staying behind with him. Colonel Schlissel shows up and tries to apprehend Paul, but, before he can capture the Frenchman, an unseen assailant shoots and kills Schlissel. As the police arrive, Peckinpaugh proves that he knows who the shooter is. He calls for the person to come out of hiding and Georgia emerges. She admits that she shot the German by mistake; she was aiming at Marlene. Georgia gets very jealous of anyone with Peckinpaugh, which is also why she killed Merkle; he was spending more time with Peckinpaugh than she was. As the police take Georgia away, Peckinpaugh leaves with Marlene and explains to her how different things will be. They get into a car with Bess, Betty, Jezebel and Mrs. Montenegro and drive away. +

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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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