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Michael Shayne: Private Detective (1940)

Approved | | Comedy, Mystery, Drama | 10 January 1941 (USA)
After gumshoe Mike Shayne is hired by a millionaire to keep his daughter away from gambling and gamblers, he becomes involved in the murder of a racetrack tout.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Marsha Gordon
Elliott Thomas
Aunt Olivia
Chief Painter
Gordon (as Douglas Dumbrille)
Harry Grange
Charles Coleman ...
Adrian Morris ...
Al (as Michael Morris)
Larry Kincaid


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. Written by Gabe Taverney (duke1029@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Mystery | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 January 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Detective Apaixonado  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


First in a series. See more »


Chief Painter: [arriving to find Shayne at the murder scene] Shayne? What are you doing here?
Michael Shayne: Ask me later. I haven't thought of an answer yet.
See more »


Followed by The Man Who Wouldn't Die (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

Lloyd Nolan's "Michael Shayne" Is Smart As a Whip, Fast With A Quip and Takes No Lip: What a Pip!
8 June 2015 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

"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.

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