I’ve now seen all four of the currently released Michael Shayne pictures from the 1940s, and I’m almost completely out of steam to review them. There’s not a lot of differentiation because they’re b-roll pictures that acted as companions to bigger budgeted main features.
Shayne (Lloyd Nolan once again) is now confronted with a girlfriend, Merle Garland (Mary Beth Hughes, returning to the series as a different character), who wishes him to leave the detective business so that she will marry him. Shayne agrees, asking a friend to set him up in the Thomas Aircraft factory, where he masquerades as a riveter, but in fact aims to prevent sabotage (since it’s wartime and all). He stumbles across a diamond smuggling plot which leads him to the Daisy Bell dress company, where he meets with Rudolph Hagerman (Henry Victor) as “Colonel Henry Breckenridge Lee, Jr.,” a southern salesman. The perp who put him on the trail of the diamonds in the first place happens to catch him, though, so he’s left trying to follow the diamonds on a ship, where he meets up with former flame Helen Shaw (Helene Reynolds) and playboy-type Juan Arturo O’Hara (George “Superman” Reeves). Naturally the diamond thieves aim to protect their quarry, but O’Hara seems to know more than he’s letting on as well.
Much like Sleepers West, I was more entertained by this film than the other two. Nolan continues to shine in his role as Shayne, especially his amusing turn as the disguised Southerner, where he even goes so far as to carry himself differently and avoids really harping on his dialect choice. The best part was doubtless his interaction with the Tobys, who own a store right next to the Daisy Bell company. Mr. (Frank Orth) and Mrs. Toby (Mae Marsh) are left stunned and staring as Shayne wanders in and out of their store, attempting to keep himself below the radar in his investigations–or in attempting to continue his deception of Merle regarding his occupation. Reeves is interesting to see long before his Superman days, and interesting in his role as a whole, with a similarly subdued approach to an accent he doesn’t naturally possess. Neither is of course perfectly accurate at it, but it’s refreshingly low-key, especially for a film that not a lot of star power or money was dumped into.