Michael Shayne: Private Detective

20th Century Fox

Comedy Mystery
77 min     6.5     1940     USA


Millionaire sportsman Hiram Brighton hires gumshoe Michael Shayne to keep his spoiled daughter Phyllis away from racetrack betting windows and roulette wheels. After Phyllis slips away and continues her compulsive gambling, Shayne fakes the murder of her gambler boyfriend, who is also romancing the daughter of casino owner Benny Gordon, in order to frighten her. When the tout really ends up murdered, Shayne and Phyllis' Aunt Olivia, an avid reader of murder mysteries, both try to find the identity of the killer.


CinemaSerf wrote:
For some reason, this starts with and features a slightly Scottish lilt to the score throughout, as we follow the slightly zany investigations of the eponymous down-at-heel PI (Lloyd Nolan) as he tries to wade his way through the murky worlds of horse racing, gaming addicts and, of course, murder! He's initially retained by the wealthy "Brighton" (Clarence Kolb) to rein in his unruly daughter "Phyllis" (Marjorie Weaver) but as the bodies start to pile up and he finds that he has to stay clear of the suspecting police chief "Painter" (Donald MacBride) we find ourselves in quite an entertainingly internecine mess of who did what and why? No absence of suspects and no shortage of crimes to suspect them of - all good fun! The star is really Elizabeth Patterson as the sleuthing "Aunt Olivia" whom, with her butler "Ponsby" (Charles Coleman) provide quite a lively conduit to bring the themes together at the end of what is quite a quickly paced eighty minutes. The denouement is a bit far-fetched - you probably wouldn't ever guess it - but Nolan is on good form with some quick-witted, dry, dialogue to deliver and there is a good chemistry between him, Weaver and MacBride as the story clears each fence. It's much better than I was expecting!