OLD TIME RADIO - 7 AUDIO CD - 14 Shows
Total Playtime: 8:23:33
The feel of Michael Shayne over the years most noticeably evolved over Radio. Wally Maher's portrayal of Michael Shayne was not only the first over Radio, and the longest-running over Radio, but it was also the most fully developed over Radio. Aided by Cathy Lewis in her role of feisty bright Phyllis Knight, as well as by Joe Forte as Lieutenant Farraday, the family nature of the growing radio ensemble over the years put far more flesh on the bones of Brett Halliday's character than any other characterization that succeeded it. Maher's characterization of Shayne was so successful that for the remainder of Maher's career he actively kneaded Shayne's basic attributes into virtually every other detective or crime drama genre character Maher appeared in until his untimely death in 1951.
From the November 7, 1946 edition of The Cedar Rapids Tribune:
Alias Michael Shayne
The fellow who plays Michael Shayne every Tuesday night is no stranger to the role of crime fiction. Wally Maher figures he's been killed more times than any other actor working in radio. He's been chewed by alligators, attacked by vampires, gassed, shot and various other methods of elimination. Wally never played a tough guy until he came to California, his forte is light comedy. In only half a dozen out of 127 pictures has he played light comedy, the rest were heavies.
After starting a radio career in his home town of Cincinnati, he went to New York where he won a host of theatrical roles. Then came Hollywood in 1935 where he continued his radio work and started on pictures. Wally likes comedy, so he likes Michael Shayne. He doesn't like to play tough guys so "Shayne" is as easygoing as a sleuth can be and still keep his self-respect.
He likes to read detective stories, but his favorite reading is American and Irish history, with, the accent on the latter. His grandparents on both sides came from Tipperary. He has three children, two girls and a boy. Two of the children look like their mother, who is of Italian decent, but Wally says all of them are Irish at heart.
Wally can speak Italian, and when he was working as baggage clerk on the Southern Pacific, he used to go out and greet the prisoner trains loaded with Italian PWs on their way through Glendale. He talked to them in Italian and used to get a kick out of watching their faces light up.
With his extensive theatrical experience, Wally Maher is capably suited to the role of the "private eye," "Michael Shayne." His secretary-girl friend, Phyllis, is right in there pitching, too. For the best in mystery dramas, "Michael Shayne" is on the air Tuesday nights at 9 o'clock.
Those who've had the chance to compare his characterization of Mike Shayne to, for example his Lieutenant Riley from Let George Do It, can't help but notice the similarities--and why not? If you've got a popular gig, let it ride. The public clearly couldn't get enough of it. Were it not for Maher's premature demise, one might easily imagine Wally Maher having evolved into one of the great, durable character actors of all time, much in the vein of Ken Christy for example.
As with many West Coast ensemble productions of the era, Michael Shayne: Private Detective soon evolved into a very secure set of well-explored character arcs, among which Cathy Lewis' character, Phyllis Knight, found herself more and more integrated into the scripts. Joe Forte's Lieutenant Farraday continued to grow into the role as well. If you're noticing a great many parallels between what you're reading--perhaps for the first time--about Michael Shayne, you might notice the increasing similarities to Let George Do It or Yours, Truly Johnny Dollar. Just as with a good gig, if a good formula is continuing to produce audience loyalty once you find the right ensemble/concept/scripting mix, then you'll naturally wish to milk it for all it's worth.
Freshness, innovation and novelty are the absolute life's blood of the entertainment industries. The true innovators of West Coast Radio were clearly onto something, as program after program, previously initiated on the West Coast, made the jump to full network exposure. The tight, clever, well-balanced ensemble productions emanating from the West Coast garnered previously unheard-of audience loyalty of the nature of that enjoyed by The Great Gildersleeve, Fibber McGee and Molly before it, and naturally Amos 'n' Andy and Lum 'n' Abner before them--but in a matter of months, and years, instead of decades or more.
All the above having been said, it was perhaps The New Adventures of Michael Shayne that was the most jarring of all Michael Shayne's incarnations. Bill Rousseau's image of Michael Shayne was more after the pattern of Jack Webb's characterizations of Pat Novak for Hire, or Johnny Madero, Pier 23--but amp'd up about 150% in the process. From some seventeen potential candidates, Rousseau felt that Jeff Chandler was the natural pick over his peers. Chandler could both amp up the electricity of Shayne's character and raise the introductory prologues about 10 decibels, as well as completely reinventing Michael Shayne in Chandler's own mold.
Chandler was aided by no less than Jack Webb himself, who'd already collaborated often with Bill Rousseau in several projects and who leant his talent to the New Adventures of Michael Shayne--entirely unaccredited. Indeed, many of Webb and Rousseau's old friends, allies and peers alike, leant their considerable weight to The New Adventures of Michael Shayne over it's comparatively short run.
But much like the Pat Novak, For Hire productions that competed with it, the important initial formula and ensemble cast, soon gave way to several other incarnations. Chandler left the production after some 26 performances, to be replaced, briefly, by Film actor, Donald Curtis for two broadcast episodes. Thereafter, Robert Sterling, best known for his work in Television's Topper as one of the ghosts with the most. And finally transitioning to Vinton Hayworth for the last twenty-five episodes of The Adventures of Michael Shayne. In even more of a transition, Michael Shayne returned to his roots in Florida for the last incarnation of Michael Shayne over Radio.
As with many of the more action-oriented genres from the Golden Age of Radio, The Adventures of Michael Shayne eventually made the jump to Television, albeit it a bit later than many of its predecessors--in 1961 in the guise of Richard Denning. Denning portrayed Michael Shayne as a far less emotional, far more calculating and far and away less 'Irish' than all of his predecessors--combined. But the new formula held up for another thirty-two episodes. Based, as in its last Radio incarnation, in Miami, Phyllis Hamilton became 'Lois Hamilton' in the TV version, performed by two different actresses. Jerry Paris and Gary Clarke alternated in sidekick duties as Tim Rourke and Dick Hamilton, respectively. Not the franchise's greatest send-up by any means--one is reminded of "in like a lion out like a lamb." But it did, indeed extend the franchise to a total of almost 35 years. Not bad for a character its creator had all but abandoned for twenty of those years.
The specific varying flavors of the Michael Shayne incarnations over the years are also worth discussion. Wally Maher's original Michael Shayne over Radio was presented as a comedy-mystery. As such the interplay and byplay between Cathy Lewis as Phyllis Knight and Wally Maher as Michael Shayne, was often complimented by Joe Forte as Lieutenant Farraday. The dialogue wasn't as crisp as what one may have heard in a Film version of The Thin Man, for example, or even a Film version of Mike Shayne for that matter. But it was humorous, witty, ironic and pretty much what radio listeners had come to expect from a comedy detective mystery series.
What elevated it a bit above its peers of the day, were the talents of its stars, Wally Maher and Cathy Lewis. Wally Maher, as already reported above was a particular favorite of Brett Halliday. And of course Cathy Lewis was a brilliant, versatile, highly sympathetic and convincing actor in her own right. Joe Forte brought the weight of decades of Radio character acting behind him, and the Director for most of the Wally Maher run was Michael Raffeto, better known for his long running characters in One Man's Family and virtually all of Carleton E. Morse's adventure dramas of the era.
Bill Rousseau's interpretation of Michael Shayne was an almost 180 degree departure from all previous incarnations of the Florida-based detective. For one, he was plopped down in New Orleans for the transcribed, syndicated run under the Broadcasters' Guild. Another departure was the choice of Jeff Chandler as the protagonist, the elimination of a steady love interest or sidekick, and the introduction of stalwart contributors to Rousseau's other radio noir productions such as Jack Webb, William Conrad, Tudor Owen, and Raymond Burr. Michael Shayne became a clone of Pat Novak almost overnight. Chandler's twenty-six characterizations of Mike Shayne were punctuated by continual impending peril, a series of gunshots whizzing past his ears at most opening credits, or the intent to convey an omnipresent doom surrounding his character's every movement from episode to episode. The twenty-six scripts were as follows:
A Problem in Murder
The Man Who Lived Forever (a.k.a. Anthony Carrell; The Man Who Couldn't Die)
The Case of Tahlani's Tears
The Case of The Bayou Monster
The Case Of the Blood-Stained Pearls
The Case of the Borrowed Heirloom
The Case Of the Carnival Killer
The Case Of the Constant Companion
The Case of the Corresponding Corpse
The Case Of the Crooked Wheel
The Case of the Deadly Dough
The Case of the Eager Victim (a.k.a. The Case of the Willing Victim)
The Case of the Generous Killer
The Case of the Grey-Eyed Blonde
The Case of the High Priced Twins
The Case of the Hunted Bride
The Case Of the Left Handed Fan
The Case of the Mail Order Murders
The Case of the Model Murder
The Case of the Phantom Gun
The Case of the Phantom Neighbor
The Case of the Popular Corpse
The Case of the Purloined Corpse
The Case of the Wandering Finger Prints
The Hate That Killed
The Pursuit Of Death
That Chandler pulled it off for twenty-six episodes is itself a tribute to his talent. But as with all good things, Bill Rousseau's syndication of Michael Shayne ran its course after one short season of transcriptions were in the can. The series ran on in Canada, Jamaica, various parts of the U.S., and reportedly in Australia and Great Britain as well for the following three years, until ABC determined to take one final run at Michael Shayne.
ABC's take on Michael Shayne was not without its growing pains. ABC inaugurated their 1952 Run during the pinnacle of Election Year fever on October 7, 1952 (on the West Coast) or October 9, 1952 (on the East Coast). With Election Day only weeks away, The Adventures of Michael Shayne first aired with a placeholder in the role of the lead. Film actor Donald Curtis was brought in for the first two to four episodes to kick off the first ABC season. After only two broadcasts, the remaining two broadcasts were preempted in most parts of the country for either eleventh hour senatorial election appeals in prime time, or for the Election Results coverage itself.
By the time that ABC's Michael Shayne was gaining some traction, the network pulled Donald Curtis, citing 'other commitments' and installed future Topper Television co-star Robert Sterling in Curtis' place. Sterling portrayed Michael Shayne for ten episodes, to be replaced, yet again, by veteran Radio, Stage, Film and Television actor, Vinton Hayworth. Hayworth remained in the role from January 15, 1953 until the very last Adventure of Michael Shayne over Radio on July 10, 1953--a total of twenty-five episodes in the role.
ABC's conception of The Adventures of Michael Shayne was another jarring departure, compared to Bill Rousseau's syndicated send up starring Jeff Chandler. For the ABC run, Michael Shayne returns to his roots in Miami, Florida. Secretary Phyllis Knight from Cathy Lewis' characterization in the original series with Wally Maher returns to the format, but in the personage of Lucy Hamilton this time around and portrayed by Dorothy Donahue.
The ABC series, once it finally sorted out its cast, proved to be an adequate depiction of Brett Halliday's original character, albeit it of a somewhat less piquant variety. But the series held up well enough to last another 39 episodes over Radio. Not bad, considering that in the view of most Golden Age Radio historians, the Golden Age of Radio had passed the Golden mantel to Television by around 1951 or 1952. That Radio's smallest network--at the time--could re-launch and recapture a fourth major incarnation of Michael Shayne over Radio when everyone was making a mass exodus to Television remains an accomplishment in itself.
Michael Shayne faded off into the Radio sunset, except for seemingly endless repeats of the twenty-six, syndicated Jeff Chandler episodes that kept resurfacing well into 1954 during the era. Radio's last flirtation with Jeff Chandler's Michael Shayne would come during the 1968-1969 period with the AFRTS- denatured Bill Rousseau-syndicated run of twenty-six programs. The AFRTS transcriptions aired in Europe and Southeast Asia over the Armed Forces Network and Far East Network respectively.
But Radio wasn't quite the end of the line for durable Michael Shayne. Ida Lupino, Dick Powell, Charles Boyer and David Niven's Television upstart, Four Star Productions aired thirty-two, hour long broadcasts of "Michael Shayne" over the National Broadcasting Company in 1960 and 1961. Starring Richard Denning as Michael Shayne, the series brings back Lucy Hamilton from the last Radio rendition of Michael Shayne, as portrayed first by Patricia Donahue, then Margie Regan.
The Television series spawned a brief series of Dell Comic Book adventures of Mike Shayne, but it died with the Television series after a few issues based not on the TV program but some of Brett Halliday's earliest Michael Shayne novellas.
Michael Shayne's had quite a run at fame, fortune and notoriety through the years. As resilient as he's proven to be thus far, there's no reason not to imagine him resurfacing yet again in the near future. For the present we have twelve feature films, some 45 paperbacks and novellas, at least sixty circulating exemplars of his Radio incarnations, and we understand a full release of Michael Shayne's first and only Television season is on the horizon.
The red-haired Irishman lives on . . .
Text From Digital Deli Too
48-11-27 Case Of The Carnival Killer
48-12-04 Case Of The Constant Companion
48-12-11 Case Of The Borrowed Heirloom
48-12-18 Case of the Eager Victim
49-01-01 Case of the Mail-Order Murders
49-01-08 The Phantom Neighbor
49-01-15 Case Of The Tahlani's Tears
49-05-07 Case Of The Man Who Lived Forever
49-08-27 The Hate That Killed
49-10-12 Case of the Phantom Gun
53-04-03 Case Of The Queen Of Narcotics
xx-xx-xx The Case of The Corresponding Corpse
xx-xx-xx The Body In The Trunk
xx-xx-xx Too Many Suspects - Too Many Alibis
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