The fourth of 20th Century-Fox's "Michael Shayne" mysteries finds private detective Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) anxiously preparing for his long-delayed marriage to showgirl Joanne La Mar (Mary Beth Hughes). Alas, Mike's pre-nuptual tete-a-tete with Joanne is interrupted by the sound of a scream. Rushing into a well-appointed hotel room, Shayne finds Emily the maid (Virginia Brissac) trembling beside the dead bodies of a washed-up Broadway producer and a faded stage actress. Noodling around the room a bit, our hero discovers that both murder victims had participated in a popular musical comedy some 25 years earlier. A souvenir program from that production provides a lengthy list of potential suspects, sending Shayne off on another clue-hunting expedition, while Joanne fusses and fumes in her apartment. Hired by two of the suspects, Phyllis Lathrop (Mae Beatty) and Julian Davis (Henry Daniell), to locate the real murderer, Mike has a high old time confounding police inspector Pierson (William Demarest) and reconstructing the crime with the reluctant aid of janitors Rusty (Ben Carter) and Sam (Mantan Moreland). This time around, however, Mike is just as surprised as the audience when the "mystery killer" is revealed, and for a few anxious moments it looks like curtains for Mr. Shayne. A dizzying blend of comedy and melodrama, Dressed to Kill benefits from a powerhouse supporting cast and the effectively moody cinematography of Glenn MacWilliams. The film was based on The Dead Take No Bows, a "Quinny Hite" mystery written by Richard Burke.
by Hal Erickson synopsis