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  • "With your nerve, I'd hate to have a tooth pulled!" That's Phyllis Brighton speaking indignantly to Mike Shayne, who has just intervened to keep her from betting a bundle she can't afford on a possibly rigged horse race. It doesn't help minutes later when the nag wins. Michael Shayne, Private Detective was the first of seven Shayne movies starring Lloyd Nolan. He crammed them all in a three year contract period. These are comedy-mysteries, all B movies, made quickly on tight budgets by journeyman directors, writers and actors, then shot out for quick play on the lower half of double bills across America. Sad to say, at least with this one, take away Nolan and we don't have much except nostalgia.

    Lloyd Nolan was one of those first-rate actors who had plenty of charm, energy and charisma, with confidence to spare. He always came across as smarter than he might seem, whether he played good guys or, more often, tough good guys. He seldom played bad guys. Nolan didn't have the Hollywood-handsome looks that would convince a studio head to make him into a big star. Because he had such a dynamic effect in most of his roles, I think it probably called for very confident leading heroes to agree to play with him in major movies. He was one of a small group of actors who could be so emphatic on screen because of their personality and style that they became memorable...actors like Chester Morris, Lee Tracy, Paul Kelly and, of course, James Cagney. Some made it big, some faded away. They're all great fun to watch in action. Even in old age Nolan could command a screen. He was 83 in his last movie, Hannah and Her Sisters, and is one of the best things about that fine movie. He'd had 50 years of making movies when he died of cancer shortly after finishing his part.

    As Michael Shayne, Nolan gives us a character who is tough, resourceful and cocky. He's usually good natured and usually impertinent. Shayne is a private eye who is impressed with no one. He has a sense of skeptical humor. He runs rings around the cops, who are usually portrayed as dunderheads. He's attractive to the the ladies but never seems to get too romantically involved. In Michael Shayne, Private Detective, the mystery is complex but not, unfortunately, all that interesting. The script has Shayne deal with inconveniences by simply tossing away evidence, his gun, into a field, or stripping down two revolvers to exchange gun barrels, or just lying with a smirk. It's never wise to expect good acting in most B movies, and this B movie doesn't disappoint. Besides Nolan, the only actors who show skill are Donald McBride as the police chief doing his frazzled double takes, Douglas Dumbrille as a confident crook, Walter Abel as a weak crook and Elisabeth Patterson as a crime-loving aunt. These are acting jobs the four of them could do in their sleep. They're skilled professionals, however, and they make their roles interesting. Oh, yes...the mystery. It has something to do with gambling debts, fixing horse races, a love that's too intense and a sleazy gambler.
  • A very enjoyable film, with Lloyd Nolan as Michael Shayne. The supporting cast is also a joy to watch, with Elizabeth Patterson stealing it away in every scene she is in!! She is a hoot to watch. About the only cast member not really giving a good performance is Joan Valerie. She is too sullen, but then maybe that is the way the character is supposed to be played, but she sort of dulls this film down a bit. It is always a treat to see Lloyd Nolan in a film and this one is another good one in his list!!
  • I like the Michael Shayne films, and this one from 1940 has humor, a decent mystery, and is generally fun.

    Millionaire Hiram Brighton hires Michael Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) to watch his daughter Phyllis (Marjorie Weaver) - she's a compulsive gambler. In fact Shayne moves into the house, to no avail, because Phyllis escapes him.

    Shayne fakes the murder of her gambler boyfriend to frighten her, but it doesn't come off, since upon his discovery, Shayne realizes he's been shot. Gun mix-ups, a frustrated and furious police chief (Donald McBride), and the casino owner's wife (Joan Valerie) are all present to mix things up.

    The end of this film falls apart and gets a little confusing with people faling down stairs and coming out of closets, but in reality, the lively characters are what keep this film going.

    Just about stealing the show is Phyllis' eccentric aunt (Elizabeth Patterson). She and the butler are mystery fanatics - she is a great follower of the "Baffle Book" and is always telling Shayne about different stories. She actually proves to be a great help to Shayne. Patterson is best remembered, of course, as Mrs. Trumble on I Love Lucy.

  • Fun start to a fun series of B detective movies starring Lloyd Nolan as the titular private eye. Probably my pick for most underrated classic detective series. This film, like the rest, is driven by Nolan's screen presence and memorable character actors in supporting parts. Here we have the extremely likable Elizabeth Patterson giving a standout performance. Marjorie Weaver does her best Ann Rutherford. Donald MacBride is also fun. The mystery here is pretty good but the comedy and likable characters are what really works. All in all it's an entertaining picture that moves along quickly. If you're a fan of detective movies from the 30s and 40s I'm sure you'll enjoy this one.
  • Lloyd Nolan stars as Michael Shayne, a down-on-his-luck P. I. who's having trouble paying his bills. His luck changes when he's hired to keep watch over rich girl Phyllis (Marjorie Weaver) who's been spending too much of daddy's money lately losing at the gambling house. A simple babysitting job gets complicated when a dead body pops up and Shayne looks like the guilty party.

    This was the first in a series of Shayne mysteries starring Nolan, based on books by Brett Halliday. Nolan is very good as the genial Shayne, a decent guy who isn't afraid to use his fists but prefers using his wits. I liked that he's shown to be fallible, making clumsy mistakes like ripping his pants while sneaking around, which helps to humanize him compared to other movie sleuths who never seem to make a misstep. Weaver's spoiled rich girl act is irritating at first, but her character makes a big turnaround, and Elizabeth Patterson is a delight as Weaver's detective-story-addict aunt who helps out on the case. This movie doesn't do anything groundbreaking, but it knows its lane and travels it well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Michael Shayne has been employed by a rich guy to follow his wayward daughter and make sure she stays out of trouble. Now considering she was an obvious gambling addict, it seems that just cutting her off financially would have been more prudent! Regardless, shortly after Shayne goes to work, a man is murdered and Shayne is the most obvious perpetrator!! So, it's up to Shayne to unravel the mystery AND still keep this obnoxious spoiled brat out of trouble.

    MICHAEL SHAYNE: PRIVATE DETECTIVE is an excellent film as far as the chemistry of the characters goes. Lloyd Nolan is very good as the wisecracking detective and his supporting cast are more than up to the task (particularly Elizabeth Patterson as the adorable aunt). However, by the end of the film, the entire production bogs down because the writing is so bad. Sure, this is a B-detective film, but there is no reason the ending should have been so shabby. Instead of helping the viewer to understand the plot machinations and how the crime was committed by what they saw on the screen, the last 10 minutes consist of the police and Shayne talking and talking and talking until the murderer reveals themselves. This is VERY sloppy writing and then the audience is treated(?) to lengthy expositions by the killer and the illegal gambler as to why they did what they did. Wasn't this SUPPOSED to be something that the viewer could have been able to figure out by watching the mystery? Apparently not--and this makes for a film with a horrible unsatisfying feeling when it's all over.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Lloyd Nolan is Michael Shayne, a private eye hired to keep an eye on a young woman with a penchant for gambling. Shayne intends to save her from herself but ends up as the prime suspect of a murder. Shayne will have to act fast and untangle a web of gambling, drugged horses, a jilted lover, an overly zealous mystery fan, and a dead body if he's to stay out of the County Jail.

    I had never heard much about the Michael Shayne movies before I found a set of four on DVD. Being a fan of 1940s era mystery/thrillers, I decided to give them a chance. And the ridiculously low price didn't hurt matters any. I was hoping for something along the lines of Charlie Chan or The Thin Man. While I didn't enjoy this, the first in the series, as much as the better known movies I mentioned, Michael Shayne: Private Detective is a decent enough watch and worth the 77 minutes I put into it Lloyd Nolan gives a solid, albeit unspectacular, performance. The problem – while Nolan is a good actor, he is not what I would call a leading man. Nolan is joined by a capable cast that includes Douglass Dumbrille, Elizabeth Patterson, and Donald MacBride (who seemed to make a career out of playing the beleaguered, put-upon police inspector). Much of the movie has a feeling or atmosphere about it that many of the "light" detective movies of the period had that I find appealing. This feeling was almost undone, however, by a plot that seemed a little overly complicated for a throwaway B-movie. Maybe I was just too tired when I watched, but I found it difficult to follow – not that any of it was that interesting to begin with. So in the end, while I've given Michael Shayne: Private Detective a 6/10, I can't say I'm not a bit disappointed. Here's hoping the next three in the series are even more entertaining.
  • "Michael Shayne Private Detective" (1940), is an unexpected charmer: a delightful hardboiled private eye movie that will have you chuckling to the very last frame while trying to figure out the murderer before Mike Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) does.

    Starring that thoroughly likable no-nonsense pro, Lloyd Nolan ( who appeared in the first seven of a dozen Shayne movies), and set in the last peaceful days before World War II, "Michael Shayne Private Detective" – the first in the series -- is an enjoyable gift box of welcome surprises: a period piece where the cars are both boxy and racy, men's suits are double-breasted and boxy, and the private eyes think best when they're boxed in.

    Private detective Shayne, broke as usual, suddenly gets a juicy assignment. All he has to do is nursemaid a spoiled rich girl (Marjorie Weaver), who has the gambling bug and all the wrong friends. Mike's attempt to show her a lesson backfires, and suddenly he's the chief suspect in a murder.

    A little thing like that's not going to stop Mike Shayne. Ingenious and inventive, fast-thinking and fast-talking, he has to dodge the cops while finding the real murderer. And now he's acquired a zany assistant, a proper old lady with a surprising taste for blood.

    Aunt Olivia: It was the great piano mystery. The body was found under the piano, his throat was strangled with piano wires, the soft pedal was found embedded in his neck, and somebody had completely severed the head from the body. He was dead!

    Michael Shayne: (dryly) Oh, suicide, hmmm?

    Mike's proficient with both a riposte and a pistol. ("Hey, that brooch is as phony as a mother-in-law's kiss!") And he's not bad with badinage.

    Cop: When are you gonna start talking straight?

    Mike: Not until my attorney gets out of law school!

    Shayne may have a quip for every question; but he's also sentimental, full of malarkey and blarney, whimsical, perpetually broke and a sucker for a pretty face.

    Add a batch of odd characters played by a superb supporting cast: Douglas Dumbrille, Elizabeth Patterson, George Meeker, Walter Abel and Irving Bacon; and you've got a screwball comedy with smooth ensemble acting, an ample supply of corpses and a solution that actually makes sense.

    An appreciation of Lloyd Nolan: "The actor who was generally credited with 'A' performances in a decade-long series of 'B' films became so good, in fact, that he permitted himself the luxury of turning down work, a privilege that ordinarily falls to far better known stars." -- The Los Angeles Times.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When a wise-cracking detective takes on high society and is hired to keep an eye on an old friends' rebellious daughter, he finds out that such an assignment can lead to murder. Lloyd Nolan began his brief spell as detective Michael Shayne in this enjoyable detective drama which has a lot of elements of comedy and a few of that growing genre called film noir.

    At first, debutante want to be Marjorie Reynolds finds Nolan's presence an aggravation, especially when he spoils her fun by bringing her home from a gambling joint after she's used up all of her allowance. Her domineering father (Clarence Kolb) is so grateful that he employs Shayne immediately to keep an eye on her while he's away on business. He's grateful because his office has just been cleared of its furniture. Her dotty aunt (Elizabeth Patterson) is intrigued because she's obsessed with murder, and when a real one does occur (following an unfortunate joke that Nolan tried to perpetrate on the unknowing Reynolds), it is Patterson who will aid him the most, although a lot of her advising chatter is based on nothing more than "True Detective" magazines she's read.

    The mystery takes the viewer to the races, to a gambling house, and to the countryside where Nolan left the victim after he slipped him a mickey. It is all a rouse to try to keep Reynolds in line (she was romantically involved with the man), but everything turns haywire when the ketchup on the man's shirt is joined by the blood gushing from his head. Among the others involved are Douglas Dumbrille as the gambling house owner, Joan Valerie as his hot-tempered daughter, and Donald MacBride as an initially seeming smart cop whose idiotic partner could fry anybody's brain cells. It's all entertainingly presented, decently acted, and well produced, resulting in a "B" mystery where the laughs come just as frequently as the thrills.
  • When I began researching Lloyd Nolan in preparation for writing his biography, I had seen him in only two roles -- as the crusty doctor in the TV series JULIA, and as the compassionate policeman in the 1940s movie A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. Then I got a DVD of some of his Michael Shayne movies and was blown away by the first one, MICHAEL SHAYNE: PRIVATE DETECTIVE. It was so refreshing to see Lloyd as a young man and playing such a lighthearted character! Since then, I've watched videos of much of his work, and he's totally believable no matter what kind of character he's playing. I think this movie will always be my favorite, though.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The first film in the (quite prolific) Michael Shayne series, and also the first one I watched. There is nothing much above the ordinary in the direction or the production values (which may account for the film, and perhaps the whole series, being largely forgotten today), but the plot is dense (so dense, in fact, that you'll need to watch the final explanations by Shayne AT LEAST twice to get everything straight), Nolan makes a likable Shayne, Marjorie Weaver is a perky and appealing leading lady, the supporting cast is full of familiar faces (if not necessarily names - I'm sure I've seen the guy playing the gruff inspector before - playing, again, the gruff inspector!), and there is the occasional clever line ("This thing is as phony as a mother-in-law's kiss"). I think fans of the genre will go for this. **1/2 out of 4.
  • This is a very entertaining series and affords Lloyd Nolan a charismatic part as Mike Shayne, street-wise Private Eye. "Michael Shayne, Private Detective" is better than "The Man Who Wouldn't Die" but not as good as "Just Off Broadway", and it is also the first entry in the series. The usual strong support cast is on hand, and Fox surrounded him with some of the best character actors available. Among them are Douglas Dumbrille, Elizabeth Patterson, Donald McBride and Walter Abel.

    As far as the story goes, I think 'planktonrules' hit the nail on the head - the film was cruising along and then dropped the ball with a hastily contrived ending which no one could see coming. But, as I say, you root for the chipper and cheerful Nolan, who carries nearly every scene he's in. The picture also employs one of my pet peeves, that of mixing mystery and comedy, which was often done prior to WW II and which I don't feel go well together.

    Recapping; excellent series, passable entry.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Speaking of series pictures, one of the best centers around the Michael Shayne character created by Davis Dresser.

    Although there are twelve movies in the Hollywood series, it's only the first seven, all starring Lloyd Nolan, that are really worth seeing.

    The opening entry, "Michael Shayne, Private Detective" (1941) has all the assets of the other Lloyd Nolan entries, bar one — an exciting plot.

    Twentieth Cenury Fox made the big mistake of basing this number one entry on an actual Davis Dresser novel. Mr Dresser's plots improved considerably as the more than seventy books in the series got underway, but in this one the old-hat story, filled to bursting with equally old-hat characters, will bore most audiences silly, despite the commendable efforts of a really first-rate cast, including the lovely heroine, Marjorie Weaver.
  • jldmp13 May 2006
    This comes across as a stew of screwball comedy and whodunnit literary conventions. Within the story, we have Patterson, an avid mystery novel reader, occupying the position of the target movie-watcher.

    Rather stagy and uncinematic, with bad acoustics, and the usual-for-the-period (bad) sped up camera tricks.

    Nolan is the only one with an actual clue here...his stance is that of an actor playing a character playing several personas (each distinguished by putting on different voices)in order to flummox the cast of dimwits. This is a rough template for the far better "Fletch" movies.

    The tracing by pencil of the paper imprints is spoofed in "Big Lebowski".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ****SPOILERS*** The first of the Michael Shayne Private Detective movie has our hero Michael Shayne, Lloyd Noland,about to get evicted from his office with all the furniture taken off his hands for him being behind in his monthly payments. That's when fate shines on him with Michael being given the job by money man and race horse connoisseur Mr. Brighton, Clarence Kolb, to look after his out of control daughter Phyllis, Marjorie Weaver, and keep her away from any gambling establishment like casinos and race tracks that she's hopelessly addicted to.

    Not much of a job at first for Michael but later in trying to scare Phillis stiff and straighten her out after getting away from him and ending up losing $2,000.00 that she didn't have at the nearest casino things backfire on him. Michael ends up getting Phillis' boyfriend Harry Grange, George Meeker, smashed by spiking his drink after Michael clobbered him for taking Phillis there. Later Michael alter he kissed and make up with a barley able to stand on his feet Harry drives him out into the woods in Phillis' car and leaves him for dead spraying a bottle of catchup on him to make it look like blood.

    This joke soon turned out to be a disaster for Michael in that later, after he called the police to revive and sober up Harry, he as well as Phillis found him dead as a door nail by being shot in the head! With his chief protagonist in the movie Police Chief Painter, Donald McBrie, about to run Michael in for murder he turns the tables on him by planning to expose his crooked dealings, whatever they are, under the table that aren't exactly kosher!

    ***SPOILERS*** Despite working on his own Michael gets help from Aunt Olivia, Elizabeth Patterson, a self styled gumshoe who gets her training in detective work from reading murder mysteries from cheap dine store novels she buys at the supermarket. It's here that Aunt Olivia shows that she's not the hair brained screwball that everyone thinks she is by helping Michael, who at one point ended up losing his pants, cover all the clues as well as his behind that he may have missed that exposed who Harry's killer really was. As usual it, the murder of Harry, had to do with money the killer expected to have won at the race track that was cashed by Harry, who put the bet in for him, before he got it! Which had to do with a scam the killer try to pull off by entering a "Ringer", a champion South American racehorse, in the race which he bet $10,000.00 on that he replaced a ready for the glue factory nag "Bonjo Boy" who went off at odds of 15 to 1!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I like the Michael Shayne movies. They are fun to watch. I always liked Lloyd Nolan. However, I find it difficult to believe him as Michael Shayne. He is good but not that believable. Also, when you watch them closely he doesn't seem to deduce anything until the very end. Good series overall.
  • A private detective is hired by a millionaire to stop his daughter gambling. When he fakes the murder of a tout to shock her, and the tout ends up dead, he has to clear his name.

    First in a series of B films featuring the character Michael Shayne, it has a decent mixture of crime and comedy. The main character is played by Lloyd Nolan with the right degree of humour and seriousness.