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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.