Vince Keenan, my mystical master in all matters movie-wise, recently mentioned on his blog a soon-to-released boxed set of DVDs that is simply said, a must-not-miss. Available on March 20th is a boxed set of four Michael Shayne films from the forties that I have not seen in a long, long time, if ever.

   All four of them star Lloyd Nolan, whom youíd never go too far wrong by casting him as a semi-down-on-his heels private eye, but as Vince says, the perfect fellow would have been Ken Tobey.

   Contained in this set are:

Michael Shayne, Private Detective. 1940. This is one of the very few Mike Shayne movies that was actually based on a Mike Shayne novel. I’ve not checked to see how many of the rest of them were, but in this case it was Dividend on Death (Holt, 1939). [Note that Crime Fiction IV is in error on this point, and a statement to that effect has been made in the online Addenda to the Revised Edition, Part 12.]

The Man Who Wouldnít Die.
1942. Credit is given to the Brett Halliday characters, but the novel itís based on was Clayton Rawsonís No Coffin for the Corpse, a classic Great Merlini “locked room” mystery. Having never seen this film, and I’m very eager to, I don’t know how much of the plot line has been preserved, but for what it’s worth, way down in the IMBD credits is Charles Irwin as “Gus, the Great Merlini” (uncredited).

Sleepers West.
1941. This oneís based on Frederick Nebelís mystery novel, Sleepers East. I donít know. You tell me.

Poster

Blue, White and Perfect. 1942. Credit for the characters was once again given to Brett Halliday, but the story the movie’s based on was actually written by Borden Chase. It didn’t appear in book form until it came out as a 1947 digest paperback entitled Diamonds of Death (Hart K-2). The first appearance of the story was probably as a serial in one of the pulp fiction magazines in the 1930s.

Hart K2

   As much as Iíd like to, I canít review the movies now, but the odds are that I will, as soon as Iím able. Letís go back to Vinceís comment that the perfect gent to play Michael Shayne would be Ken Tobey. (Looking back, I see that Iíve been assuming all along that you know who Mike Shayne is, and who Brett Halliday was. I didnít intend to go into it here, and I wonít, but what I will do to send you to Kevin Burton Smithís Thrilling Detective PI site, and trust to your good judgment to come back. Itís a gamble on my part, because I know from experience that you could easily get lost and spend days on end there, if youíre not careful.)

   Hereís a picture of Mike Shayne that was used on the covers of tons of 1950s Dell paperbacks. Iím not sure, but I suspect that the artist responsible was Robert Stanley. I’m sorry that it’s rather small, but it was only used in the corner of the covers.

Cover

   Now here’s one of Lloyd Nolan. I can’t at the moment guarantee that this comes from one of the Mike Shayne movies, but I think it does. It’s the right vintage, at least:

Nolan

   Maybe he needs a hat and a cigarette drooping out of his lip, but I don’t see a resemblance.

   Here’s one of Hugh Beaumont. Before he became famous as Beaver’s dad, Hugh Beaumont remained fairly non-famous by playing the part of Mike Shayne in five films cranked out for PRC between 1946 and 1947. (Will these show up on DVD some day?)

Beaumont

   He isn’t bad, but it’s tough to tell, since all we see in this photo is his profile, but if you think about the Beaver’s show, and think Mike Shayne, do you get the same disconnect that I do?

   Mike Shayne was also the star of aTV show for one season on NBC, 1960-61. I was away at school then, and didn’t have time for TV, so I never saw it. I believe some of the shows are available on DVD, and if so, that’s one more item I’ll have to addto my next Amazon purchase. I also just realized that I didn’t mention that Richard Denning was the star. Here’s his likeness:

Denning

   Do you know what? As the years went on, I think the producers and the casting personnel were getting closer.

   Vince said Kenneth Tobey was the man, though, and I’m in full agreement. What do you think?

Tobey


[UPDATE] 03-19-07. A few typos have been corrected in the essay above, and several questions of a bibliographic nature have been answered, requiring a bit of revising here and there. This is now (um) the current version. Thanks again to Vince Keenan for allowing me to play on his ground.