review for The Late Show on AllMovie

The Late Show (1977)
by Lucia Bozzola review

Produced by Robert Altman, writer-director Robert Benton's The Late Show (1977) treads similar comic neo-noir territory as Altman's earlier The Long Goodbye (1973), but with a distinctly wistful flavor. Paying homage to the legacy of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett while lightening the proceedings with a dash of humor, Benton's L.A. story about an aging detective's investigation of his partner's death is an intricate yarn that involves assorted Hollywood fringe players and low-lifes on the way to a slyly happy ending. Unlike Altman's Marlowe, Art Carney's cynical loner Ira emerges from the case with a gleam of hope, embodied in Lily Tomlin's dizzy client-turned-sidekick Margo (who also manages to find her lost cat). In the inspired pairing of comic talents, Tomlin's quintessential SoCal eccentric meshes charmingly with Carney's gruff Ira, creating a unique Hollywood crime-solving duo. Coming off her Oscar-nominated dramatic performance in Altman's Nashville (1975), Tomlin received raves for her second film role, establishing her as a formidably varied movie actress as well as TV and stage performer. The Late Show's savvy combination of hard-boiled verbiage and California neuroses earned Benton a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for his first solo script effort.