Movie Review: Dressed to Kill (1941)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1941 murder mystery starring Lloyd Nolan and Mary Beth Hughes.

Synopsis: Private investigator Michael Shayne picks up a new suit and heads over to his girlfriend's hotel with plans to marry her that day. However, as they are about to leave, he hears a maid's scream from another room and, deciding to investigate despite his fiancee's protests, discovers the body of producer/hotel owner Louis Lathrop and actress Desiree Vance. Realizing he has an opportunity to make a lot of money if he catches the killer before the police do, Shayne puts off his marriage for a few more hours and begins his own investigation.


I was looking for something to watch while home for lunch earlier today and, mostly because it looked short enough to watch in the limited amount of time I had available, I decided to watch this particular film. 

Up until today, I had never heard of this movie or its lead character, Michael Shayne (Nolan), though he apparently had been in other movies. And, because of that, I wasn't really sure what to expect from it. As it turns out, however, it was actually a very enjoyable film.

There were a couple things, in particular, I found I really liked about this movie. The first was definitely Shayne himself. I loved how he was obviously brilliant (especially when it came to noticing things that, at first, weren't all that obvious) but, at the same time, this brilliance was cleverly disguised by his crudeness. I especially loved how he decided to take the case because he saw the potential to make money (from more than one client) rather than because he felt morally obligated to.

The mystery itself was also somewhat interesting, largely because there were several potential suspects but no clear motive. Making things even more difficult was the fact the the deceased producer's room had two secret entrances that were always left unlocked, giving pretty much everyone who knew about those entrances (including servants) access. And, that isn't even taking the fact one of the victims was wearing the head of a dog costume.

As I was watching this, I also realized there were actually two mysteries. The obvious one was the murder. But, at the same time, I couldn't help but wonder if Shayne really intended on marrying his fiancee (Hughes) since he didn't seem overly enthused about it in the beginning of the film. Even if he did intend on marrying her, I wasn't so sure she would be willing to go through with it after his numerous delays. That, alone, made the film worth watching because it did keep the movie from becoming overly predictable.

Dressed to Kill

Detective michael shayne solves the murders of actors.

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Final Opinion

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started watching this movie, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed watching it at lunch and would love to see some other Michael Shayne films in the future.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 11/10/2015, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/25/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system does not have the Dressed to Kill that you review above among its Blu-ray and DVD collections.

But it has a Sherlock Holmes film with Basil Rathbone and with that title. It is part of a two-film arrangement on one DVD that includes another Rathbone interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. That film is one you reviewed elsewhere, Terror by Night. So I'll be able to see it after all even though the online catalogue acted as though it wasn't among library holdings.

Would you happen to have seen the Sherlock Holmes film entitled Dressed to Kill?

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