Based on “The Private Practice Of Michael Shayne” by series creator Brett Halliday. I’ve read the series twice over the years and was disappointed the film makers moved the location from Miami to L.A. Since that’s done all the time it’s a minor point. What’s a major point is the turn into comedy during the last half. What started out like it was going to be a good P.I. movie sinks like a stone. Lloyd Nolan plays Shayne. This is the first of twelve Mike Shayne movies. Lloyd Nolan starred in the first seven and Hugh “Ward Cleaver” Beaumont took over for the last five.
Phyllis Brighton (Marjorie Weaver) is about to give a bookie her brooch as security for a bet she wants to make on a horse she’s sure is going to be a 15-1 winner. Shayne interferes b cause he thinks the fix is in and she’ll lose. She’s not happy..especially when the horse wins. She didn’t know Shayne is a friend of her father Hiram (Clarence Kolb).
Hiram is going out of town and hires Shayne to keep an eye on her while he’s gone. He’ll move into their mansion. Shayne is down to his last cent. The furniture in his office is being taken away for non payment. He might get a break when Lawyer Kincaid offers him a thousand bucks to collect money owed by Harry Grange. Her welched on a bet. Shayne throws him out nut not before Kincaid grabs his gun.
That night Shayne runs into Phyllis at a casino owned by Benny Gordon (Douglas Dumbrille). She’s with Granger, She’s lost two grand. He goes upstairs to Gordon’s office. He’s giving his daughter Marsha hell about hanging out with Grange. Before she leaves a butterfly pin falls off her dress and Shayne returns it to her. Shayne tells Benny he’ll expose his crooked wheel if he doesn’t give Phyllis her losses back. He does.
Shayne moves into Brighton’s place. Along with the butler there’s eccentric Aunt Olivia (Elizabeth Patterson). She’s a super mystery lover and reads all the books she can and listens to mystery shows on the radio. Phyllis is missing and Shayne tracks her back to the casino.
She’s playing roulette with Elliot Thomas (Walter Abel). He owns the race horse she almost bet on. Shayne spots Granger at the bar. He drugs his drink and takes him to Phyliss’s car and leaves him a half mile away. He put catsup on his shirt and then using a fake voice calls his nemesis police Chief Peter Painter (Donald MacBride) and tells him he just came across a body in a car. Meanwhile Marsha is having jealous fits over Granger’s attentions to Phyliss.
Shayne takes Phyllis outside and drives her to her car. She sees Granger and then realizes that’s catsup and not blood on his shirt. Another look finds a bullet hole. He does notice Maraha’s brooch in the car. Shayne tosses his gun away. He tells Phyllis to go home. Painter and his men get there and Shayne is arrested. Painter tries to convince the press he’s got Shayne this time but he doesn’t count on Shayne turning things around.
Shayne gets into all kinds of typical P.I. trouble but now the comedy mode shows up as he gets help from Aunt Olivia to solve the case. Too bad the comedy ruined what could have been a decent crime movie.