Monday, May 30, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Michael Shayne, Private Detective (1940)

I've gradually been developing a real appreciation for actor Lloyd Nolan, so I was glad when I recently had the chance to pick up a DVD set of his MICHAEL SHAYNE mysteries for a good price. I'd never heard of this series of detective films before some of the titles came out on DVD a couple of years ago.

Michael Shayne is a private investigator based on a character created by Brett Halliday. Watching Nolan as the wisecracking, broke P.I., who has an iffy relationship with the police, I couldn't help wondering if Shayne might have provided some of the inspiration for one of my favorite TV characters, Jim Rockford!

MICHAEL SHAYNE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE is the first film in the seven-film series. Four of the films are part of the Michael Shayne Mysteries, Vol. I, and another of the movies was released as a single title, DRESSED TO KILL. Volume 1 includes informative featurettes about the history of Michael Shayne. Alas, to date there hasn't been a Volume 2 release with the final two titles. Nolan made all the films between 1940 and 1942.

The plot of MICHAEL SHAYNE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE is a bit meandering and not always easy to follow, but it's also somewhat beside the point. It's simply fun watching Nolan's genial character, and I also enjoyed the supporting cast and the setting, including beautiful mansions, men in fedoras, and a gorgeous convertible, which IMDb identifies as a 1940 La Salle.

Leading lady Marjorie Weaver is cute, after initially being unlikeable; Weaver appears in a total of three of the films, each time as a different character!

There are great faces scattered throughout the cast. Elizabeth Patterson and Charles Coleman are very amusing as Weaver's aunt and butler. (When Shayne is trying to change clothes, Patterson's somewhat dotty character says "Don't mind me, young man, I was once an art student!") Clarence Kolb, Walter Abel, Irving Bacon, Douglas Dumbrille, and Donald MacBride are also in the movie.

The film was directed by Eugene Forde, who directed two more titles in the series, SLEEPERS WEST (1941) and DRESSED TO KILL (1941). The movie runs 77 minutes.

The actors in future entries in the series include Lynn Bari, Henry Wilcoxon, Mary Beth Hughes, George Reeves, Phil Silvers, Janis Carter, and William Demarest. I think I'm going to have a good time becoming familiar with these films.

As a side note, Netflix does not currently have the Shayne DVDs in stock, but they can be obtained from retailers such as Amazon or Deep Discount.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I like the Michael Shayne films quite a bit. My favorite is "The Man Who Wouldn't Die" which is a really neat little B mystery.

Lloyd Nolan can do no wrong.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the tip on your favorite Shayne movie, Kevin!

I was especially impressed with Nolan recently in SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT. When he walked in the room it was like a breeze of fresh air or some such cliche. :) Really got my attention.

Best wishes,

1:52 PM  
Blogger DorianTB said...

Laura, I'm delighted to hear that there's a Michael Shayne DVD set available! I had liked Brett Halliday's novels when I was a youngster looking through my brother's vintage paperbacks (he had been a fan of vintage books and movies, and he got me interested in them), and I always wanted to see the Lloyd Nolan films, but never got to catch up with them. Thanks for the tip!

6:12 PM  

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