Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Overlooked Movies: Murder is My Business (1946)

After seven Michael Shayne movies starring Lloyd Nolan were made by Twentieth Century Fox during the first half of the Forties, in the second half of that decade the series moved over to the much lower budger Producers Releasing Corporation and Hugh Beaumont replaced Nolan as the big redheaded private detective from Miami. I saw one of the movies with Beaumont many years ago and remembered liking it, but recently Steve Mertz recommended them to me and I wound up buying all of them on DVD. Now I’ve watched the first one, MURDER IS MY BUSINESS (1946) and liked it quite a bit.

The screenwriter, Fred Myton, makes some interesting choices in the script. Shayne’s secretary is Phyllis Hamilton, combining his girlfriend/wife in the early books, Phyllis Brighton, with his secretary/love interest in the later books, Lucy Hamilton. Police detective/nemesis Peter Painter becomes Pete Rafferty. There’s no sign of Shayne’s friend Chief Will Gentry, but reporter Tim Rourke is still there and doesn’t have his name changed. Although there’s a Shayne novel entitled MURDER IS MY BUSINESS, the plot of this one doesn’t have anything to do with it, as far as I can tell. However, the story, which involves the murder of a wealthy woman whose stepchildren are angling for her money, seems familiar to me, so I think maybe it was based on yet another Shayne novel, although I can’t say which one.

PRC was notorious for its low production values, but this movie actually looks pretty good most of the time. Director Sam Newfield knew how to keep a movie perking along, if nothing else. The real revelation, though, is just how good Hugh Beaumont is as Mike Shayne. We all know him as Ward Cleaver on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, of course, but before that he made quite a few low-budget hardboiled movies and could handle both the rough stuff and the wisecracks. The tone in this movie is a little lighter than the Shayne novels but not as light as the Lloyd Nolan films, and with his physique, his slightly craggy features, and a fedora thumbed back on his head, Beaumont really looks like the portrait of Shayne on all those Dell paperback editions of the novels. (Thanks again to Steve for pointing this out and piquing my interest.) Based on this movie, at least, he comes closer to capturing the character of the books than either Lloyd Nolan or Richard Denning (the star of the one-season NBC TV show in the Sixties) ever did.

MURDER IS MY BUSINESS isn’t a great film, by any means, but I enjoyed it and look forward to watching the other movies in the series. I’ll be reporting on them here when I do.


Rick said...

I'd love to see these movies. May I ask where you found them? I've looked but have seen nothing. Thank you for the review. I do have the Lloyd Nolan collection but these later ones you speak of I have never seen.

Brian Drake said...

I snagged a VHS set of the Nolan movies off eBay years and years and years ago, and always wanted to find the Beaumont movies, too, but they weren't available at the time. Nice to hear they are on DVD! I should see if the Nolans are too.

Mike Doran said...

Possibly irrelevant, but what the hey:

I read somewhere that in his real life, Hugh Beaumont was an early sufferer from Tourette's Syndrome, which causes its victims to experience sudden bouts of extreme profanity.
(My source for this is a memoir by Jerry Mathers. Honest.)
Not knowing how far back this affliction might have gone (and yes, I'm aware that Beaumont was an ordained minister), I'd guess that this might have gone by with little notice on crime 'B's - but I still wonder what the set of Leave It To Beaver must have sounded like …

James Reasoner said...

The Hugh Beaumont Shaynes are part of this collection, even though they're not mentioned anywhere in the product description.


The DVD transfer isn't great, but they're watchable. All the Lloyd Nolan Shaynes are in there, too.

I didn't know that about the Tourette's Syndrome! Hard to imagine, but I don't doubt Jerry Mathers.