Fri 29 Jul 2011
TOO MANY WINNERS. Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), 1947. Hugh Beaumont (Michael Shayne), Trudy Marshall (Phyllis Hamilton), Charles Mitchell (Tim Rourke), Ralph Dunn, Claire Carleton, John Hamilton, Ben Welden, Byron Foulger. Based on the novel Tickets for Death, by Brett Halliday (source uncredited). Director: William Beaudine.
Neither of the usual sources (IMDB, American Film Institute) seem to know this, nor is Brett Halliday’s novel credited on the screen, but this final entry in the private eye Mike Shayne movie series was based on Tickets for Death (Holt, 1941), which I reviewed here on this blog over three years ago.
This is the last of five films in which Shayne was impersonated by Hugh Beaumont, which were preceded by seven in which Lloyd Nolan had the leading role. Beaumont does a better job than I expected in the part, especially after an opening scene in which Shayne and his secretary Phyllis Hamilton (played by Trudy Marshall) have great fun tootling each other with duck call devices, a means by which the producers of this film indicated that this was going to be a serious work of detective art.
The two are supposed to be going on a duck-hunting vacation together, but business seems to have a way of constantly interfering, to Phyllis’s great consternation. First, a gentleman stops by the office with $2000 in hand to persuade Shayne to give up the case he’s working on. This comes as a surprise to Shayne, since he’s not working on a case. Then he gets a phone call from a woman who has information he would like to have regarding, you guessed it, the case he’s not working on.
By this time, of course, there is nothing left but for Shayne to take the case, vacation (and unhappy secretary) or not. And what is the case? He’s hired by a racetrack to find out who’s been printing and cashing in on a flood of counterfeit tickets.
From this point on, there’s a lot of similarity between the book and the movie, though not completely, and if as I said in the book review, “Shayne runs into a lot of characters that both he and the reader have to keep constant track of,” it goes double for the film.
A sixty minute movie is simply too short for as much plot as there is in this one. I barely kept up, and that was only because I’d read the book. Audiences back in 1947 must have walked out of this movie in a daze, unless they just sat back and took it all in with their minds in an off position.
I enjoyed it, however, even though it’s a low-budget operation through and through, and in fact if I were to watch it again, it might even make sense. Great fun.