Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


MICHAEL SHAYNE (1960 TV series).

Brett Halliday's Miami private eye creation Michael Shayne was portrayed by a number of actors both in films and on television but they never seemed to get it right. In Halliday's novels Shayne was a tough, rough-hewn, vaguely amoral, borderline loutish character, but he was always cleaned up for visual consumption. The first TV Shayne was Mark Stevens (with Merry Anders as his secretary Lucy Hamilton), who did a 1958 pilot for a half hour show that never sold. Stevens, who also directed the pilot, might not have been perfect casting, but he was quite good as Shayne and the pilot was well-acted and well-done.

The next TV Shayne was Richard Denning, who made a perfectly nice alternate Shayne but was really nothing like the Shayne of the books, being urbane, gentlemanly, and suave. Michael Shayne nevertheless gave Denning a better role than the one he'd had in his previous mystery show, Mr. and Mrs. North, and he was fine. The show lasted for one season and 32 episodes. The first Lucy Hamilton was Patricia Donahue, who was replaced by Margie Regan for the second half of the season. Gary Clarke of Missile to the Moon played the first Lucy's bongo-playing brother, Dick; Clarke was clearly brought in to attract younger viewers, but in the second half of the season he was replaced by the equally young Meade Martin as reporter Joe Demarest. Jerry Paris played Michael's friend, reporter Tim Rourke, while Herbert Rudley was cast as his friend and nemesis, the homicide detective Will Gentry; both were excellent. Rudley later wound up on The Mothers-in-Law, which didn't really make good use of his talents.

Some of the episodes were adapted from Halliday's novels, while others were original stories. Among the more memorable were one with Rita Moreno wherein a Mike Shayne impostor is killed on a plane crash and one guest-starring Beverly Garland and involving a health farm. Other notable guest-stars included Faith Domergue, Jean Arliss [aka Joan Marshall], Herbert Marshall, Michael Forest, Grace Lee Whitney [Star Trek], Warren Oates, Eduardo Cianelli, Pat Crowley, Donna Douglas, Adam West, Lynn Bari, Robert Lansing, Carol Ohmart, and Richard Crane. The show was 60 minutes long, allowing for more developed story lines, and, in general, was quite entertaining, although not on the level of, say, Perry Mason.

Verdict: A second season would have been welcome. ***.

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