Late Show, The (1977): Darkly Comic Film Noir, Produced by Robert Altman, Directed by Robert Benton

Art Carney renders a much more interesting performance in Robert Benton’s The Late Show than he did three years earlier in his Oscar winning turn, Harry and Tonto.

Written and directed by Benton before his 1979 Oscar movie, Kramer Vs. Kramer, the film is well produced by director Robert Altman, who puts his signature style through the loose and ambiguous scenario as well as loose and quirky style.

Carney plays aging detective Ira Wells, who doesn’t make enough money to cover his expenses.  However, determined to stay active and to retain some amount of self-respect, he seeks cases. When his partner Harry Regan (Howard Duff) is killed on assignment, Ira agrees to take on a case, although he can’t see how it has anything to do with his friend’s murder, which he is anxious to solve.

To survive, and solving the murder of his friend, Ira is assisted by his quirky client Margo (Lily Tomlin).  An offbeat romance follows between the two eccentric and flawed individuals

While paying homage to the detective genre of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, as well as film noir, The Late Show is an original piece of work.


Oscar Nominations: 1

Screenplay (Original): Robert Benton

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Original Screenplay Oscar was Woody Allen for Annie Hall.


Running time: 94 minutes.

Directed and scripted by Robert Benton

Theatrical release:  February 10, 1977.

DVD:  March 30, 2004