Portraying Brett Halliday’s character Michael Shayne, Lloyd Nolan would star in a series of films with The Man Who Wouldn’t Die from 1942 being the fifth picture. The movie would also end up being a lot of fun with Nolan giving a performance that would be light, breezy and self-assured, the man sliding into the role effortlessly as if he actually were the character and not simply the man behind it.
Here, Shayne is called in on a case by a friend, a woman named Catherine who is positive that she saw a ghost fire a gun at her the previous night. Deciding to take her up on it and posing as her husband in order to make solving the case a little easier, Shayne wastes no time and is on the trail right away. With a little mystery and a generous amount of giggles, some from Shayne and many at the expense of the local Chief of Police as played by Olin Howland (Olin Howlin), the film is never less than highly enjoyable. Soon the assailant strikes again and now one of the household lies murdered and Shayne has his hands full trying to juggle the various members of the house who may or may not be involved.
Blending comedy and mystery does not always work, but it is done to perfection in this film and that can be attributed to not only writer Arnaud d’Usseau or director Herbert I. Leeds, but to the cast which pulls it off by enchanting its audience right from the start. Nolan as mentioned previously is a natural in the lead and Marjorie Weaver is wonderful, if not hilarious at times with her character’s insistence that she saw a ghost. The rest of the cast including Helene Reynolds, Paul Harvey and Henry Wilcoxon among a few others are just as good and the film which only runs just over an hour flies by with no wasted moments, the players entertaining as it goes. While the mystery of who fired the shots and did the murder, not to mention why being the driving force behind the story, it goes hand in hand with the character relationships that unfold on-screen with Nolan at the center of it all.
Altogether, The Man Who Wouldn’t Die is a feel-good film despite the crime that takes place. It is played for laughs more than anything else and it succeeds in that department quite ably making for both a light diversion and a good movie.
3.5 out of 5