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


Robert Benton


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





Complete credited cast:
Art Carney ... Ira Wells
Lily Tomlin ... Margo Sterling
Bill Macy ... Charlie Hatter
Eugene Roche ... Ron Birdwell
Joanna Cassidy ... Laura Birdwell
John Considine ... Jeff Lamar
Ruth Nelson ... Mrs. Schmidt
John Davey John Davey ... Sergeant Dayton
Howard Duff ... Harry Regan
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ethel Reschke Ethel Reschke


Ira Wells is an aged retired Los Angeles, California based private investigator who comes out of retirement when his former partner, Harry Regan, shows up on his doorstep with a bullet wound to the gut and 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. Harry's client was Margo Sterling, a former client of Charlie's who is a flaky, penniless new-age actress, agent, and dress maker. She hired Harry to retrieve her missing cat, Winston, who is being held ransom by an acquaintance named Brian Hemphill, who stole Winston because Margo "borrowed" money. With all this, Ira has to figure out what would be the reason for someone to kill Harry. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Private investigator Ira Wells' (Art Carney's) fee per day was twenty-five dollars plus expenses. 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 »


[last lines]
Ira: Mrs. Schmidt asked me to move out. That place next door to you, is that still empty?
Margo Sperling: I don't know, Ira. I don't think I could take it. I mean you just never say anything, for God's sake. It's not fair, 'cause I have to keep up my side of the conversation and your side of the conversation. Yeah, that's it - you just never say anything, for God's sake. I want some feedback from you. I wanna... I wanna know what you think about things... and what you think about me.
Ira: Jesus Christ, would ...
See more »


What Was
Lyrics by Stephen Lehner
Music by Kenneth Wannberg (as Ken Wannberg)
Sung by Bev Kelly
See more »

User Reviews

Send-Up That's both Amusing and Poignant
25 May 2015 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

Inventive blend of humor and gumshoe. Carney's an over-the-hill keyhole peeper, while new-age Tomlin can't settle on any identity. All in all, it's a great send-up of all those tough-guy private dicks of the 1940's. But don't try to follow the murder plot, which has more little twists than a mountain road. Actually, more than a whodunit, the story's about two lonely people managing to overcome personality and generational differences. There's that, plus hints that old Ira's (Carney) ulcers may have failed, but the glands are still working.

As the odd couple, Carney and Tomlin shine in low-key fashion, which is as engaging as it is offbeat. There were a lot of these Chandler-Hammett spoofs at the time, (e.g. The Black Bird {1975}), but none are more imaginative than this-- after all, how many tough guys ride buses to work, or are hired to find a missing cat. Then too how many other send-ups can stand on their own apart from the spoofing format. Cleverly, this one can—as a poignant character study that somehow works. Kudoes Robert Benton for coming up with a truly novel approach to familiar subject matter. The result is both amusing and touching.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 41 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.


Official Sites:

Warner Bros.





Release Date:

4 July 1977 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

The Late Show See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed