Cast & Crew
On his thirty-first birthday, Liverpool nightclub emcee and budding comic Eddie Ginley visits his psychiatrist and shows him a classified newspaper ad he has taken out that reads: "Sam Spade/Ginley's the Name/Gumshoe's the Game/Private Investigations/No Divorce Work." Frustrated by Eddie's lack of progress, the psychiatrist asks him what he wants and Eddie replies, to write a book like Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon , sing "Blue Suede Shoes" and play Las Vegas. That night, Eddie receives an anonymous telephone call instructing him to go to the Plaza Hotel, room 322. Thinking he is being summoned to a surprise party thrown by friends, Eddie enters the room where a fat man watching television hands him a parcel containing £1,000, a .38mm handgun and a photograph of a young woman named Alison Wyatt. Later, after announcing the acts at the Broadway, the club and bingo parlor where Eddie works, Eddie calls the Plaza and learns that the room was rented to someone named Blankerscoon. Before Eddie leaves for the night, his manager, Tommy, tells him that he can try out a comedy spot the following night. Later, Eddie goes to the house owned by his well-to-do brother William and talks with Ellen, William's wife and Eddie's former lover. When William comes home he rebukes Eddie for his failures and Eddie insults William. The next day, Eddie finds Alison studying at the library. When he asks her if she gave him the £1,000, she says no, but after bantering with Eddie agrees to call him some time. While they are speaking, an African man sitting across from Alison sternly tells Eddie to move on. Later, near his export company, William offers Eddie money, saying it is a birthday gift, but Eddie, who mutually detests his brother, refuses. That night, after Eddie's comedy routine goes over well with the audience, he goes to Tommy's office, where he learns that someone called Tommy and threatened him if he did not fire Eddie. When Eddie later enters his flat, he is attacked by Azinge, the African from the library, who asks Eddie if he sent "the fat man," but Eddie says he does not know a fat man and tells him to get out. Eddie then calls Ellen, who comes to his flat. When Eddie suggests that it was William who made the threatening call to Tommy, it is confirmed by Ellen, who says that William did it because he was angry over the ad, which listed their home telephone number. She refuses to spend the night with Eddie, and the next morning he is awakened by an expensively dressed American woman named Mrs. Blankerscoon. She claims that she saw his ad and wants to hire him because she is being blackmailed, but Eddie dismisses her. After she leaves, Eddie wonders how she found him because his address was not in the ad. After getting a call from Alison, Eddie goes to meet her at the Labour Exchange and learns that Azinge, with whom she lives, never came home after he left for Eddie's flat. She then leaves, after which a man who had been following Eddie, John Straker, moves next to him and says he is after "the black lad and the young lady" and that Eddie took his job and £1,000 that was supposed to be his. Feeling threatened, Eddie sneaks out the back door, then goes to the train station. There he is met by Ellen, whom he had called to retrieve the £1,000 package. As she gives him the parcel, she relates that there was a dead black man in his flat and she is worried. Eddie then kisses her goodbye as he boards a train for London to trace the return address on the package. At the address, a bookshop specializing in the occult, when Eddie flirts with the attractive, spectacle-wearing clerk, she tells him her boss, who receives a lot of mysterious phone calls, is not there. Late that night, after the shop is closed, Eddie returns and roughs up the owner, who admits that the packages he sends contain heroin but that he only sends them to parcel service at the Red Star office in the Liverpool train station and does not know the person who picks them up. While they are talking, Straker enters but is overcome by Eddie, who then races into an Underground station and hops onto a departing train. Straker follows and says that he would not enjoying "knocking off" Eddie, but wants the £1,000. Eddie is able to elude Straker at the next station and the following morning arrives back in Liverpool. After Eddie confronts William about threatening Tommy, William says that he was angry over the ad, but that Ellen convinced him to help his brother by getting rid of the body in Eddie's flat. Later, at the train station, Eddie observes the fat man pick up the bookshop owner's parcel at the Red Star office. Eddie confronts the fat man, who goes to his place with Eddie. The man, a South African named De Fries, reveals that Alison, who is also from South Africa, is wanted because her father is organizing the blacks there. He also reveals that, while Alison has been abducted she is safe and that Azinge was only killed because he got in the way. De Fries also admits that he "slightly" knows Ellen. While they are talking, someone comes to the door, forcing De Fries to hide Eddie in the bathroom. The visitor is Mrs. Blankerscoon and her chauffeur, Clifford, who give De Fries an ampoule of heroin, which the fat man anxiously injects into his arm. After they leave, De Fries happily talks about going home, then falls to the floor, dead. Eddie calls the police and gives an anonymous tip about the overdose death, then goes to William's office. Although William is not there, his secretary reveals that William is meeting some people on a ship that night. Later, Eddie meets Ellen, who says she has money and suggests that they run away together. Eddie also learns from her that William has been shipping guns and other illegal items to Africa. After showing Ellen a newspaper headline reporting De Fries' death, Eddie talks with Tommy about borrowing the services of Joey, one of Tommy's men. A short time later, Joey meets Eddie and gives him a Molotov cocktail. After calling in a tip to the fire brigade summoning them to the house where De Fries died, Eddie waits until just before they arrive and throws the bottle through the window. When the contents explode, William, Ellen, Mrs. Blankerscoon, Clifford and Alison rush out of the house and try to speed away but are blocked by Joey's car. Once Eddie gets into Mrs. Blankerscoon's car, he draws his gun and has Clifford drive off. He tells Alison that she should leave with him but she says that she wants to go home because her father needs her. When the car arrives at the docks, Mrs. Blankerscoon suggests that Eddie join them, otherwise they will make sure that Eddie is blamed for De Fries' death, as well as that of Azinge, whose body she assumes is still in Eddie's flat. As Eddie leaves the car, he throws the syringe that killed De Fries into the car, takes the keys from the ignition and shoots his gun into the air, summoning the police. When the police later drop Eddie at his flat, he finds Straker waiting for him and learns that Straker, like Eddie, is merely an amateur detective who wanted the £1,000. After laughing about how incompetent William and the others were, Straker amiably calls Eddie "Gumshoe," prompting Eddie to smile and say "Here's looking at you kid." Eddie then puts on his fedora, lights a cigarette and plays one of his favorite records.
The Saturated Seven
N. J. Napier-bell
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Finney plays a bingo caller and failed comedian in a seedy Liverpool nightclub who imagines himself a Bogart-like detective ("gumshoe" was a common slang term for a private eye, a reference to the soft-soled shoes worn for sneaking around unheard). The story, narrated by Finney's Eddie Ginley in language imitative of the tough-talking heroes created by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, follows Ginley's initial foray into his dream job when his advertised services are called upon by a mysterious fat man who provides him with a young woman's photo, a gun, and a 1000 pounds in cash but no instructions. Ginley becomes enmeshed in a highly convoluted case involving heroin smuggling, gun running, and African politics.
The movie is chock full of direct references to such classics of the genre as The Thin Man (1934), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and The Big Sleep (1946), along with such diverse movies as Mighty Joe Young (1949), Rancho Notorious (1952), Casablanca (1942), and Born Yesterday (1950). The film works as both a pastiche and a traditional thriller, although the mystery plot, as Vincent Canby noted in his New York Times review, is handled with "affection and great good humor, as well as with the awareness that it's impossible to make a 1935 American private-eye movie in 1972, especially if one is English...."
The screenplay for Gumshoe was the first and only feature for British actor Neville Smith, who wrote occasionally for television over the course of a few decades. Smith plays a small role in the picture and also worked again for Frears in a couple of television plays by Alan Bennett and a small role as a police inspector in Prick Up Your Ears (1987), the screen biography of iconoclastic playwright Joe Orton.
Achieving another first here is Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer of such blockbuster stage hits as Jesus Christ, Superstar, Evita, and The Phantom of the Opera, all of them later adapted to the screen. Webber wrote the musical score for Gumshoe, his first for a feature film, as well as the song "Baby, You're Good for Me," with lyrics by his longtime collaborator Tim Rice.
Gumshoe was shot on location in London and Liverpool and at Lee International Studios in Shepperton by Chris Menges, who went on to award-winning work on The Killing Fields (1984), The Mission (1986), and Michael Collins (1996). Menges worked with Frears frequently on TV both before and after Gumshoe and later served as cinematographer on Frears's feature Dirty Pretty Things (2002).
The entire cast of Gumshoe received good notices for their work, particularly Billie Whitelaw as Ginley's ex-girlfriend, now married to his disapproving brother. An acclaimed stage actress best known for her work in a number of plays by Samuel Beckett, Whitelaw worked with Finney previously as his wife in Charlie Bubbles. Shortly after this movie she appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) and a short time later as the demonic nanny Mrs. Baylock in The Omen (1976).
Director: Stephen Frears
Producer: Albert Finney
Screenplay: Neville Smith
Cinematography: Chris Menges
Editing: Fergus McDonald
Art Direction: Michael Seymour
Original Music: Andrew Lloyd Weber
Cast: Albert Finney (Eddie Ginley), Billie Whitelaw (Ellen Ginley), Frank Finlay (William Ginley), Janice Rule (Mrs. Blankerscoon), Carolyn Seymour (Alison Wyatt).
by Rob Nixon
Gumshoe - Albert Finney Stars in the 1971 Private Eye Satire, GUMSHOE
"I want to write The Maltese Falcon, record 'Blue Suede Shoes' and play Las Vegas," proclaims Eddie Ginley (Albert Finney) to his therapist in the opening scene. He settles for running an ad in the local paper offering his services as a private detective (under the name Sam Spade), a present to himself for his 31st birthday. When he gets a call, he just assumes his buddies are playing along for a laugh, but the package he gets from the mystery client (whom he dubs "The Fat Man" in his best Bogart impression) includes ₤1,000, a picture of a girl and a gun. Eddie's no tough-guy and he has no illusions otherwise, but he can't seem to help following the clues and putting the pieces together. Especially after his big brother William (a sneering snob played by Frank Finlay) first warns him off the case and then has him fired from his job at the club. William has clout. All Eddie has is a quick wit and a stubborn streak.
Eddie's the kind of guy who can't help but slip into hard-boiled patter (delivered with a touch of Bogie) when the opportunity arises, even if he's wearing nothing but BVDs and a ratty bathrobe and devouring a bowl of cold cereal between his tough-guy cracks. It's the kind of touch that makes Eddie Ginley so genuine. Finney plays him as a regular bloke with a non-stop sense of whimsy, a smart retort for occasion and a penchant for narrating his story in the vernacular of an American wise guy. Even his simmering antipathy for his brother, an arrogant twit who stole Eddie's girl (Billie Whitelaw) and quite possibly the family business, doesn't stop him lobbing cracks and insults in their brotherly bonding sessions. When the case turns downright dangerous, there's a bit of shamus chivalry in Eddie's act, as if the trenchcoat and hard-boiled affectation gives him the courage (or at least the stubbornness) to play the hero for real. He knows the score, but that doesn't mean he can't have a little fun while he plays out his hand. The film is full of playful quotes and references (Eddie all but replays a scene from The Big Sleep when he visits a London bookshop and sends the film off with Bogie's signature line: "Here's looking at you, kid") without getting too insular or in-jokey. Frears roots the film in the dreary atmosphere of working-class Liverpool, where the folks escape the industrial grime in "The Broadway Club," a working man's music hall where the locals gather to eat, drink and enjoy the entertainment between rounds of bingo. It may be a shabby place, more beer garden than night club, but Frears never stoops to ridicule the audience or the entertainers. The club boss, a semi-connected guy with an affection for Eddie, is a character cut from the same cloth: the photos of show-biz royalty posing with him are all lovingly-produced fakes. They both play out their dreams in harmless games while keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Stephen Frears had worked his way into directing by first apprenticing as an assistant to directors Karel Reisz (on Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment) and Lindsay Anderson (on If...). "Film schools didn't exist when I was growing up," he explained in an interview. "I learned by working with clever people. Good writers and cinematographers. And before them, Karel [Reisz] and Lindsay [Anderson], who gave me a kind of foundation course." He went on to direct episodes of a couple of British dramas, but was likely another early job that played a key role in making Gumshoe: he was the "personal assistant to director" on Charlie Bubbles (1967), a film directed by and starring Albert Finney. According to the IMDb, Finney subsequently served as an uncredited producer on Frears' 1968 short film The Burning and it was likely his support that gave Frears this first shot at feature directing. Frears returned to the small screen after this production, directing numerous acclaimed TV dramas and teleplays by the likes of Alan Bennett, Christopher Hampton, David Hare and Tom Stoppard (among many others), and did not direct another theatrical feature until 1984, when he made the taut little thriller The Hit.
The film was shot in dull, desaturated colors befitting the industrial environment of Liverpool and set in locations that keep the film firmly planted in the blue-collar reality of Eddie's world: the crowded little music hall, Eddie's cramped apartment, a walk along waterfront warehouses and a trip to the unemployment office. The score provides the counterpoint of Eddie's detective movie fantasy, a dramatic orchestral soundtrack that recalls the symphonic drama of a fifties film. It was, notably, the first score composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
The DVD letterboxed at 1.66:1 (you can just see the slivers of black on each side of the screen) and preserves the soft colors and grimy atmosphere of the film with a clean, clear print. The bare-bones DVD release features the film's original trailer and two "Martini Minutes" featurettes, which are nothing more than tongue-in-cheek self-promotions.
For more information about Gumshoe, visit Sony Pictures. To order Gumshoe, go to TCM Shopping.
by Sean Axmaker
Gumshoe - Albert Finney Stars in the 1971 Private Eye Satire, GUMSHOE
As noted in the onscreen credits, Gumshoe was shot in Liverpool and London and at Lee International Studios, London. News items added that the London bookshop scene was shot in Museum Street at the Atlantis Bookshop, an occult bookshop established in 1922, as well as in the Ladbroke Grove area of London. Liverpool locations included the main train station and the dock area. Red Star Parcel, which was a plot point in the film, was a then recently started package delivery service operated by British Rail and continues to the present time under the name Red Star Express. Gumshoe is a slang term, popular in the 1940s and 1950s, that referred to private detectives, often low-level plodders who wore rubber-soled shoes to soften the sound of their footsteps while on surveillance.
The film opens with a voice-over narration by Albert Finney as "Eddie Ginley." The narration, done in a tongue-in-check, 1940s, film noir style, continues intermittently throughout the picture. The film's dialogue emulated the style found in American detective dramas from the 1940s and 1950s, and included lines that incorporated popular film titles and songs of the period. For example, at one point Eddie welcomes his brother "William Ginley" to "Rancho Notorious" (see below), a reference to the dark, 1952 Fritz Lang-directed Western. At another point in the film, Eddie tells "Azinge," "Get Out, Mighty Joe Young," referring to the 1949 film (see below). When Eddie enters the hotel room and meets "De Fries," he is watching the gin rummy scene from the 1950 Columbia release Born Yesterday. De Fries is referred to as "the fat man" throughout the film, a reference to Sidney Greenstreet's character in the 1941 Warner Bros. film based on Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (see below). In another scene, Eddie is reading a copy of The Thin Man, which was also written by Hammett, his character's literary hero.
Eddie wears a trench coat, smokes cigarettes and uses detective fiction slang, often speaking in a style reminiscent of "Sam Spade," Humphrey Bogart's character in The Maltese Falcon, and the name that Eddie uses in his newspaper ad. The sequence set in the London bookshop is very similar to a scene in Howard Hawks's 1946 film The Big Sleep, which starred Bogart. At the end of Gumshoe, Eddie says goodbye to "John Straker" with Bogart's signature line from Casablanca, "Here's looking at you, kid."
Columbia Pictures partially financed the picture, which was the third production of Michael Medwin and Albert Finney's London-based Memorial Enterprises, Ltd., according to a August 19, 1970 Daily Variety news item and other sources. Finney and Billie Whitelaw also co-starred in the 1968 Memorial Enterprises production Charlie Bubbles, which Finney also directed. As noted in reviews, Gumshoe was the first feature-length theatrical film directed by Stephen Frears, who previously had worked on television and as an assistant director on feature films and had been Finney's assistant on Charlie Bubbles. Gumshoe was also the first produced screenplay of actor Neville Smith.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States November 1972
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States November 1972 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Contemporary Cinema) November 9-19, 1972.)