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The Last of Sheila

Original movie poster
Directed by Herbert Ross
Produced by Herbert Ross
Written by Anthony Perkins
Stephen Sondheim
Starring James Coburn
Richard Benjamin
Dyan Cannon
James Mason
Raquel Welch
Joan Hackett
Ian McShane
Music by Billy Goldenberg
Cinematography Gerry Turpin
Editing by Edward Warschilka
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) June 14, 1973
Running time 120 min
Country  United States
Language English

The Last of Sheila is a 1973 mystery film directed by Herbert Ross, written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, and starring Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn, James Mason, Ian McShane, Joan Hackett, and Raquel Welch. The original music score was composed by Billy Goldenberg. The song "Friends", sung by Bette Midler, can be heard during the final scene of the film and the end credits.

Contents

Plot

On a one-week Mediterranean pleasure cruise aboard the yacht of movie producer Clinton Greene (Coburn), the guests include actress Alice Wood (Welch), Anthony Wood, her talent manager/husband (McShane), Christine, a talent agent (Cannon), screenwriter Tom Parkman (Benjamin), Lee Parkman, his wife descended from Hollywood royalty (Hackett), and film director Philip Dexter (Mason). The event is, in fact, a reunion. With the exception of Lee, all were together at Clinton's home one year before, on the night a hit-and-run accident resulted in the death of Clinton's wife, gossip columnist Sheila Greene.

Once the cruise is under way, Clinton, a well known parlor game enthusiast, informs that the week's entertainment will consist of "The Sheila Greene Memorial Gossip Game." The six guests are each assigned an index card containing a secret (or in Clinton's words, "a pretend piece of gossip") that each must hide from the others. The object of the game is to discover everyone else's secret while protecting one's own.

Each night the yacht anchors at a different Mediterranean port city, where one of the six secrets is disclosed to the entire group. The guests are given a clue, then sent ashore to find the proof of who among them holds the card bearing that night's secret. The game for that night ends when the actual holder of the subject secret discovers the proof. Anyone who has not yet solved the clue is shut out for that round.

Following the revelation of the first card, "YOU are a SHOPLIFTER," members of the company grow uneasy and suspect that each guest's card does not contain a "pretend piece of gossip," as suggested by Clinton, but in fact an actual, embarrassing secret of another guest.

When Clinton does not return from the second evening's installment of the game (where the second card was revealed to be "YOU are a HOMOSEXUAL") the guests return ashore to the scene of the game and discover Clinton's corpse. While waiting for authorities, one of the guests reveals that his card reads, "YOU are a HIT-AND-RUN KILLER." The remainder of the film involves a macabre Musical Chairs of sorts, with the characters jousting over who lays claim to which dirty little secret and growing increasingly paranoid over the obvious implication that both Sheila and Clinton were killed by somebody in the room.

The game the characters play is actually just a portion of a more elaborate puzzle created by Clinton, such that additional clues are ever-present and any guest could win the game without even leaving the yacht. "If you're smart enough," Clinton taunts. Although the game ends prematurely due to Clinton's death, characters continue to discover these additional clues which point to who really killed Clinton and why.

Inspiration

The movie was inspired by an irregular series of elaborate, real-life scavenger hunts Sondheim and Perkins arranged for their show business friends (including Lee Remick and George Segal) in Manhattan in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The climax of one hunt was staged in the lobby of a seedy flophouse, where participants heard a skipping LP record endlessly repeating the first line of the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer standard One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) ("It's quarter to three...") The winning team eventually recognized the clue—2:45—and immediately headed for room 245 of the hotel, where bottles of Champagne awaited them.

The Dyan Cannon character was based on talent agent Sue Mengers.[1]

Reception

Perkins and Sondheim won the 1974 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Their script was novelized by Alexander Edwards.

References

  1. ^ Time Magazine article, Mar. 26, 1973, retrieved May 26, 2009.

External links

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