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The Thin Man (1934)
Young Dorothy Wynant approaches amateur sleuth Nick Charles when her inventor father appears to be a major suspect in a murder case. In fact, Dorothy is so worried about her father's guilt that she tries to convince Nick that she did it. Nick's wife Nora wants him on the case so that she can experience some of the excitement herself. However, Nick is reluctant to get involved until he sees that police Lt. Guild is coming to the wrong conclusions. Nick decides that the best way to clear up the case is to invite all the suspects to dinner with Lt. Guild and see what happens...
William Powell ... Nick
Myrna Loy ... Nora
Maureen O'Sullivan ... Dorothy
Nat Pendleton ... Guild
Minna Gombell ... Mimi
Porter Hall ... MacCaulay
Henry Wadsworth ... Tommy
William Henry ... Gilbert
Harold Huber ... Nunheim
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Codecs: XVid / MP3
William Powell and Myrna Loy share a wonderful chemistry in this very close adaptation of the Dashiell Hammet novel. The interplay between Powell & Loy comes off very natural, as if they WERE married.
Nick is a lovable lush with a sharp mind and Nora is rich beyond imagination, with a freshness and innocence not found in today's movie characters. The film has plenty of site gags with some occasional drama interspersed.
All of the characters are made believable by the actors and the direction is superb. The plot revolves around the disappearance of Prof. Wynant and everyone seems to be involved in helping him stay missing. Nick reluctantly takes the case and the fun really gets going. Plenty of misdirection keeps you guessing "whodunnit". The now classic gathering of all suspects lets you know. A really odd family, some "shady" characters, and William Powell/Myrna Loy's acting make this one great! This is the first in The Thin Man series, and, in my opinion, the best.
Rated 10 in my book. A must see for fans of comedy and classics.
Where to begin? I guess I'll start off by saying that this is one of my favorite films of all time. I first saw it on TV years ago (I was probably eleven or twelve) and I still totally love it. Every time I see it, I feel like I get more out of it. I feel like I see AND hear more than I did before.
The story goes that creepy Clyde Wynant (wonderful character actor Edward Ellis) wants to give some bonds to his daughter Dorothy (Maureen O'Sullivan) as a wedding present. But his mistress Julia (Natalie Moorhead) has gotten rid of them. When Julia turns up murdered, Wynant is the obvious suspect, but nobody can find him.
Enter Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy), a detective and heiress, just recently married, and clearly very much in love. Nick finds himself pulled into the case, with everyone around him urging him into it. He's reluctant: it's his honeymoon after all. But sure enough he's persuaded to take the case, solves it and exposes the murderer at a climactic dinner party.
Bill Powell and Myrna Loy have astounding chemistry. As husband and wife, they are equals, equally hard-drinking, equally witty, equally fun-loving. They have the same sense of adventure, the same stubbornness, the same competitiveness. In so many scenes, Powell will saw something in his playful, semi-childish, half-drunk sort of way, and Loy will respond with some fabulously delivered retort, in a manner that is almost like a world-wary mother saying to her child 'Now, now, Junior...' It's hard to describe exactly. If anything, I suppose you could say it's deceptively simple. It's one of those things you have to see for yourself.
The rest of the cast is good. I particularly love Minna Gombell, Mynant's ex-wife Mimi, with her latin boyfriend (Cesar Romero) and her tight, shiny black dresses with white fur-lined princess sleeves. Slight, ernest and bespeckeled, William Henry turns in a riotous performance as Gilbert, Mimi and Clyde Wynant's son and Dorothy's brother. A Kinsey-lke figure, the role of Gilbert is one of those bookish, overly-analytical Hollywood stock characters who try to explain other character's subconscious reasons for their actions, and who give strangers peculiar looks at parties. Henry makes the character believable, and he stands out as one of the characters in the movie. Gerturde Short, in an uncredited role, gives a good performance as well. Her delivery of the "I don't like crooks, and if I did like'em..." line is unforgettable. (If you blink, you'll miss Tui Lorraine Bow, friend and step-mother of It Girl Clara Bow! Bert Roach of The Crowd has a small role as well.)
For a modestly-budgeted, rapidly shot, b-level production, The Thin Man is a classy and stylish film. The clothes, assembled by the genial Dolly Tree, are great, and make this a must-see anyone even remotely interested in period fashions. The art deco sets are quite fine, if modest and at times a bit sparse. The editing is good, as is the fairly simplistic photography. Woody Van Dyke, the director, always worked fast, and Myrna Loy recalled that all the movies they worked together on were made at frantic pace. Part of the reason that The Thin Man moves so quickly is the fact that production was so hurried.
The Thin Man gets a ten out of ten from me for being one of the best films ever produced, and one of my absolute favorites of all time.
I am not really a fan of comedies, but I can definitely appreciate a good one when it comes along. Often times comedies only really work when they are combined with another genre (in the case of this film, the 'hard-boiled detective' film)... and sometimes they achieve brilliance.
In what might have otherwise been a sort of mediocre movie, Bill Powell and Myrna Loy breath a phenomenal life into the roles of Nick and Nora Charles, a rich woman and her dandyish (but dangerous) lush of a detective husband. This film entertains on so many levels and establishes (not exploits) so many cliches that it should be mandatory viewing in any introductory film class.
The plot of The Thin Man is pretty much peripheral to the performances by Low and Powell, but it is involving in its own way. Murder, loose women, police brutality (fun police brutality), adultery, polygamy, science, swindles, two dinner parties and drinking... lots and lots of drinking... all combine into one hell of fun movie. There is even a fair amount of tension in the film and all kinds of great one-liners and set-ups.
This is quite simply a phenomenal film, lots of fun (even for Gen Xers like myself), and well worth watching.
* Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, originally was against the idea of Myrna Loy being cast in this picture but director W.S. Van Dyke wanted to use the stars of the movie Manhattan Melodrama (1934), William Powell and Myrna Loy. Mayer said that Powell was OK for the part since he had already played detectives in other films. Loy eventually got the part and made new image for herself.
* Lux Radio Theatre version starring Myrna Loy, William Powell, Porter Hall aired June 8, 1936.
* Film was shot only in about two weeks. Was originally said to be a "B" picture. First of six in The Thin Man series.
* The title does not refer to Nick Charles (William Powell), but to the murder victim (Edward Ellis). Audiences and critics alike kept referring to Nick Charles as "the Thin Man", so subsequent films kept the name.
* "The Thin Man" author Dashiell Hammett drew on his experiences as a union-busting Pinkerton detective in Butte, Montana, in creating his detective characters. Meanwhile, "The Thin Man" star Myrna Loy was born near and raised in Helena, Montana.
* While the "Thin Man" in the movie refers to character Clyde Wynant, in the opening credits of the film the cover of the novel "The Thin Man" is shown. On the dust jacket of the book we see a thin man who's not just a model for the photo but who is also author Dashiell Hammett.
* In the original novel, Jorgensen was Rosewater. For some reason, this was later changed or filmed and cut to get the movie the Hays seal.
* Given three weeks to shoot the film, W.S. van Dyke managed it all in 12 days for the paltry budget of $231,000. The film surprised everyone by becoming a major box office hit, ranking in $1.4 million.
* Skippy, who played Asta the dog, bit Myrna Loy during filming.
* Reportedly, Dashiell Hammett based Nick and Nora's banter upon his rocky relationship with playwright Lillian Hellman.
* In "The Thin Man" while serving guests at a Christmas Party, and in My Man Godfrey (1936) when he comes home "intoxicated" William Powell sings the same line to a song, "For tomorrow may bring sorrow, so tonight let us be gay"
* While Powell, Loy, Gombell, Hall, and Henry recreated their roles in the June 8, 1936 Lux Radio Theater broadcast, Thomas Jackson was promoted from an uncredited bit as a reporter to the major supporting role of Lt. Guild. Even though Cecil B. DeMille had begun his 9 year run as Lux Theater host on June 1, only one week before, he was missing from this broadcast. Taking his place was THE THIN MAN's director Woody Van Dyke. Legendary silent star Theda Bara made an appearance and reminisced with him about silent film acting and the research she had to do to play Cleopatra in 1917. The washed-up Bara, who hadn't made a film in years, talked about making a comeback in films and strongly suggests Norma Desmond. One wonders if either Billy Wilder or Charles Brackett was listening that night. Bara's unusual appearance suggests that Van Dyke was doing it as a favor to Charles Brabin, Bara's husband, who was a director colleague of his at MGM and whose career was ostensibly over too.