Created by Robert Garland & George Yanok
If it wasn’t for the fact that there’s an IMDB page for this made-for-TV movie, I might think I just imagined that I watched Last Hours Before Morning back in 1975. There are no clips from it on YouTube, no images that a Google search came up with. But I recall liking it a lot and have never forgotten watching it.
First of all, it’s a private eye movie, and not only that, it’s also set in the Forties. Those two things make me predisposed to like a film. Veteran character Ed Lauter, who has stayed busy in Hollywood for more than four decades now, plays one of his few leading roles as private detective BUD DELANEY, who also works as the house dick in a rundown hotel, if my memories of the story are correct. That’s really all I recall. IMBD says:
An ex-cop, now a private detective, investigating a gambler’s murder finds that there may be a connection between that crime and the jewel robbery at a beautiful movie star’s home.
I’ll have to take their word for it, but that sounds right. The cast also includes the beautiful Rhonda Fleming and a young Victoria Principal, still several years away from playing Pam Ewing on Dallas. I recall thinking at the time that the movie was well-made and that I liked the Forties/private eye music.
One thing I had forgotten was the name of the private eye played by Lauter. A couple of years later, I started writing stories about a private eye named Delaney, although I never gave him a first name. I don’t recall intentionally naming him after the character in this movie, but I have to wonder if that was still lurking around in my head. At this late date, who knows? I do know that I didn’t visualize him as the character for the movie. In my mind he always looked like an obscure character actor named Sandy Kenyon.
So, does anybody else remember watching Last Hours Before Morning?
- “Although Lauter is usually described as a “character actor,” the role for which I remember him best is as the star of Last Hours Before Morning, an unsuccessful 1975 pilot film for NBC-TV. He played Bud Delaney, a 1940s Los Angeles cop who was booted from the force “after being framed by a mysterious higher-up,” and took a job working as the house detective for a down-at-heels Hollywood hotel. Lauter brought to that role a world-weariness and rather reluctant brilliance that I recall even now–even though I haven’t seen Last Hours Before Morningsince its premiere… one of my favorite old TV pilots.
— J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet
- LAST HOURS BEFORE MORNING
Premiere: April 19, 1975
Written by Robert Garland, George Yanok
Directed by Joseph Hardy
Music by Pete Rugolo
Starring Ed Lauter as BUD DELANEY
Also starring Thalmus Rasulala, Rhonda Fleming, George Murdock, Sheila Sullivan, Robert Alda, Kaz Garas, Victoria Principle, Don Porter
Apparently, the film was intended as a pilot for a potential series, to be called Delaney, and was all set to be picked up by NBC, but the network changed their minds at the last moment, and optioned Ellery Queen with Jim Hutton instead.