The Last of Sheila
|The Last of Sheila|
Original movie poster
|Directed by||Herbert Ross|
|Produced by||Herbert Ross|
|Written by||Anthony Perkins
|Music by||Billy Goldenberg|
|Edited by||Edward Warschilka|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$2,200,000 (US/ Canada rentals)|
The Last of Sheila is a 1973 mystery film that was directed by Herbert Ross and written directly for the screen by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, It starred Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn, Joan Hackett, James Mason, Ian McShane, and Raquel Welch.
On a one-week Mediterranean pleasure cruise aboard the yacht of movie producer Clinton Greene (Coburn), the guests include actress Alice Wood (Welch), her talent-manager husband Anthony (McShane), talent agent Christine (Cannon), screenwriter Tom Parkman (Benjamin), Tom's wife Lee (Hackett), and film director Philip Dexter (Mason).
The trip is, in fact, a reunion. 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. (Yvonne Romain, a former Hammer horror actress, appeared as Sheila Greene in a cameo performance.)
Once the cruise is under way, Clinton, a parlor game enthusiast, informs everyone 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 (in Clinton's words, "a pretend piece of gossip") that must be kept hidden 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 receives no points on Clinton's scoreboard for that round. Following the revelation of the first card, "YOU are a SHOPLIFTER," suspicion begins that each guest's card does not contain "pretend" gossip but in fact an actual, embarrassing secret about each 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 and discover Clinton's corpse. Before contacting authorities, one reveals that his card reads, "YOU are a HIT-AND-RUN KILLER." This begins a macabre game of musical chairs of sorts, with guests jousting over who lays claim to which dirty little secret. Paranoia grows over the obvious implication that both Sheila and Clinton were killed by somebody on this yacht.
The game being played is actually just a portion of a more elaborate puzzle created by Clinton, including additional clues that are ever-present and the suggestion that any guest could win the game without even leaving the yacht, "If you're smart enough," Clinton taunted. Although his own diabolical game did not end as Clinton planned, characters continue to discover these clues, resulting in another death on board ship and the identity of which guest killed the host.
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 ("It's quarter to three ... 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. In an interview for a fortieth anniversary screening of the film, Cannon said that filming on an actual yacht proved to be too difficult, and so production was halted, stranding the cast on location: "So we had to wait in the south of France while they built a set at the Victorine Studios for us. We had to spend our days lying on the beach and going to lunch and shopping. It was a hard job!" 
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. The critical reception for the film was mostly positive. The film currently holds a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 12 reviews.
- Richard Benjamin as Tom Parkman
- Dyan Cannon as Christine
- James Coburn as Clinton Greene
- Joan Hackett as Lee Parkman
- James Mason as Philip Dexter
- Ian McShane as Anthony Wood
- Raquel Welch as Alice Wood
- Yvonne Romain as Sheila
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
- Schiff, Stephen (March 8, 1993). "Deconstructing Sondheim". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Stenros (March 16, 2009). "Pervasive Games in Films Part II: The Last of Sheila". Pervasive Games: Theory and Design. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- "Show Business: Sweet and Sour Sue". Time (magazine). March 26, 1973. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Mackie, Drew (April 8, 2013). "Dyan Cannon Talks 'Last of Sheila,' James Coburn, the Lakers". KCET.org. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- The Last of Sheila at the Internet Movie Database
- The Last of Sheila at AllMovie
- The Last of Sheila at the TCM Movie Database
- The Last of Sheila at Rotten Tomatoes