MURDER IS MY BUSINESS (1946). Director: Sam Newfield.
After Lloyd Nolan did a series of Michael Shayne movies for Fox, Hugh Beaumont -- best known as Ward Cleaver, the dad of Leave it to Beaver -- took over the role for five films for low-budget studio PRC, of which Murder is My Business is the first. Beaumont may hardly be the best choice to play Shayne, but he really isn't bad in the role, somewhere between the rough-hewn character of the novels and the urbane pretty boy of the later TV series. In this story Shayne is hired by Eleanor Ramsey (Helene Heigh), whose two grown step-children are a couple of selfish brats. Her husband (Pierre Watkin) wants Shayne to help him commit insurance fraud, and Eleanor is receiving threatening letters demanding cash. Later there's a murder and one of Shayne's friends is suspected even though he, too, is dead. At one point Shayne's secretary Phyllis (Cheryl Walker) gets into a fairly zesty cat fight with the aforementioned step-daughter, Dorothy (Julia McMillan). It's quite unbelievable that pudgy Lyle Talbot, cast as Eleanor's unpleasant brother, knocks out Michael Shayne with one punch not once but twice! George Meeker is cast as the gigolo Carl, and Carol Andrews makes an impression as his sexy confederate, Mona. Murder is My Business is pretty minor-league P.I. fare, however; although the story is not without interest, the direction lacks panache. Still Michael Shayne fans may find it somewhat absorbing.
Verdict: Possibly for Shayne addicts only. **.