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Curtain Call

Curtain Call title card

Year - 1999
Studio - Longfellow Pictures
Stars - James Spader, Polly Walker, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Sam Shepard, Buck Henry, Marcia Gay Harden, Frances Sternhagen
Director - Peter Yates
Writing Credits - Andrew S. Karsh (story), Todd Alcott (writer)
Music - Richard Hartley


Stevenson Lowe (James Spader) is a wealthy Creative Director for a prestigious New York City book publishing house that was founded by his grandfather. The firm has recently merged with another company, and the new president, Charles Van Allsburg (Buck Henry) has plans for it to start publishing more lowbrow, popular titles (e.g. "1000 Names for Your Cat"), much to Stevenson's dismay.

His girlfriend, Julia (Polly Walker), finds a magnificent old house in the city that has been vacant for 35 years and Stevenson buys it and moves in.

In his new home, Stevenson is startled to see two people appear and then disappear, a man in a smoking jacket and a women elegantly dressed and wearing a tiara. When they reappear, he learns that they are the ghosts of the house's former residents, Max Gale (Michael Caine) and Lily Marlow (Maggie Smith), famous husband and wife stage and vaudeville stars in the 1920s. The couple exchange witty barbs and insults constantly, and Max brags about his many extramarital conquests.

Curtain Call poster

Stevenson tries to tell Julia about the ghosts but she finds his claims preposterous. Frustrated with Stevenson's reluctance to commit to her, Julia begins dating a handsome U.S. Senator, Will Dodge (Sam Shepard). Stevenson realizes he is still in love with her, and he interrupts the pair as they dine, while the two ghosts (visible only to himself), try to help by whispering things to say to him. But the suggestions from Max and Lily are counterproductive, and he only worsens his situation with Julia.

Stevenson attends The Players New Years' Ball, an event that has been held for many years, where he sees Julia and the Senator dancing together. He also finds Max and Lily there, who admit that it was at this party where they first met in 1927. Stevenson dances with Lily, to the amusement of those around them, as they see only Stevenson dancing alone. Max and Lily, now visible to Julia and the Senator, cut in and dance, Max with Juia, Lily with the Senator. Julia realizes that these are the ghosts that Stevenson had tried to tell her about.

Max and Lily, having helped bring Stevenson and Julia together, rediscover their deep love for each other, and understand that the time has come for them to join their show business friends from their past.

Stevenson proposes marriage to Julia and she happily accepts. He leaves the publishing firm to start his own company with Julia. The first title they publish is "Max and Lily - A Love Story."

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