Detective Radio

Michael Shayne, A Private Detective With Adventures and New Adventures

No matter who originally created him, a great detective can survive through several creators. In some instances, the shamus gains new traction and life when he is taken from the original author’s hand, in others a beloved character moves to new adventures with little more than his name intact.

The two fisted Irish private eye Michael Shayne came from the pulps authored by Brett Halliday. Halliday himself had many different lives, or rather many different sets of fingers tapping at his typewriter. Brett Halliday was originally the nom de plume of Davis Dresser, who was the first to bring Michael Shayne to life in fifty or so novels. Dresser opened a literary agency with his second wife and farmed the writing chore of the Michael Shayne series to several other authors. The Michael Shayne mystery magazine, which included a Michael Shayne story or novella in each edition, ran for nearly three decades. There were a dozen Michael Shane movies, a TV series, and of course, the semi-hard boiled character came to life on the Radio, as well.

The radio Mike Shayne was a follow up to the success of the first movie Mike Shayne. The Red-headed Irish detective first appeared on the screen played by Lloyd Nolan in five different films released by 20th Century Fox between 1940 and 1942. In mid-October, 1944, the Mutual Network revived the franchise with The Adventures of Michael Shayne, Private Detective, starring Wally Maher. Dresser later commented that of all the portrayals of his character, both on film and on the air, Maher’s was the author’s personal favorite.

The first radio iteration of Mike Shayne featured his blond-bombshell girlfriend, Phyllis “Phyl” Knight, voiced by Cathy Lewis. Phyl certainly took the sting out of chasing crooks, the pulp version of Shayne was married to Phyllis Shayne in the earlier novels, but she was a somewhat limited character who was often out of town. Dresser “killed her off” when he sold the movie rights to the character. As a result,  the later novels were darker as Shayne was forced to deal with the death of his wife.

Producers Releasing Corporation brought Shayne back to the screen for five more films in 1945-46, starring Hugh Beaumont (yes, that Hugh Beaumont). The best thing that can be said for the later films was that they helped to promote Maher’s program on Mutual.

Maher, Lewis, and Mutual stayed with Mike Shane until 1947. In 1948, director Bill Rousseau brought The New Adventures of Michael Shayne to the airwaves, under Don W. Sharp syndication. Rousseau was good friends with Jack Webb, and the uncredited collaboration gave The New Adventures a feel similar to Pat Novak, For Hire. Although the program lost some of the lightheartedness of the original stories, it did benefit from the use of Jeff Chandler in the title role. Rosseau set The New Adventures in exotic New Orleans.

Chandler only appeared in 26 episodes, but thanks to syndication, they received the widest airplay, and was part of the AFRTS line-up into the late 1960s. In 1952, Rousseau convinced ABC to give the character one last shot at the radio on Friday nights in The Adventures of Michael Shame. The two biggest developments of the ABC incarnation were a new love interest for Shayne, Lucy Hamilton played by Dorothy Donahue, and a return to his Miami stomping grounds.

Your Movietown Radio Theater

Your Movietown Radio Theater

For movie actors on their way up to the A-List, Your Movietown Theater provided a showcase.

One result of the symbiosis between the Studio System and Radio Row was Your Movietown Theater.

Jeff Chandler

Symbiosis is a scientific term describing two different organisms which live in close proximity to one another, usually to the benefit of each. The classic example of this is bees and flowers; the flower’s colorful display attracts the bee who gathers nectar to feed the hive and at the same time spreads the pollen which helps the flowers make more flowers.

Radio Row and Hollywood Studios also enjoyed a symbiotic relationship on many levels. A radio show would not need as many players as a Hollywood movie but Radio Row had an insatiable appetite for talent, and several actors worked in Radio on their way up (or down) the ladder of Stardom. The Studios took advantage of Radio’s reach into nearly all the households in America by having Stars appear on comedy and variety programs and plugging their latest film.

Another example of Studio and Radio symbiosis was the Movie Adaptation Anthology Program. At first, this seemed like a bad idea to the Studio execs; why would anyone want to pay to see a film after Lux or Lady Esther gave the story away? The films adapted were usually not “first-run” although some were. When a film was adapted while it was still playing in theaters, the adaptation made more people want to see the real thing.

Your Movietown Theater took a slightly different approach; rather than featuring A-list actors in stories adapted from film scripts, producer/director Les Mitchell hired up-and-coming players and used original story scripts. The show often featured a “get to know the Star” segment along with the main story; Ginger Rodgers got to introduce her mother, journalist Leila Rogers, Lurene Tuttle talked about her first day on a movie set, and William Lundigan talks about his golf game.

Movietown was a product of ZIV Syndications, which had a big impact on the show’s success. Fred Ziv came from an advertising and legal background and was known to pitch a show like he was making a court case. Although Movietown appeared to be a relatively low-budget project, Ziv was willing to spend lavishly to get big names on his programs, including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Adolphe Menjou, Fred MacMurray, Ronald Colman, and Irene Dunne. Ziv’s marketing philosophy was that he could make more money selling his programs to local sponsors at unaffiliated stations than he could by dealing with the big networks.

A member of Movietown‘s regular company who was also an up-and-comer was Jeff Chandler, appearing here under his given name, Ira Grossel. Growing up in Brooklyn, Chandler always wanted to act although he admitted later that commercial art lessons were cheaper than acting lessons, so that is the direction his early career followed. He eventually formed an acting company in the Midwest during the summer of 1941. During the War, he served in the Aleutians and managed to save $3,000, which he used to stake himself while giving Hollywood a shot. Jeff was on his way to a screen test when he was in an auto accident that left him scared across the forehead. Fortunately, the bandages didn?t show on Radio, and he managed to find work on the air just before the $3,000 ran out. In addition to Movietown, he made a splash on Escape, Academy Award Theater, Rogues Gallery, Frontier Town, and Our Miss Brooks before finding success on the silver screen.