Posts Tagged ‘The Thin Man’

Movie Reviews 457 – The Thin Man (1934)

November 6, 2020

Novelist Dashiell Hammett will forever be identified by his signature hard-boiled detective Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon but just as much a treasure is his novel The Thin Man. That acclaim is largely due to the film adaptation and the stellar performances by William Powell and Myrna Loy in the roles of Nick and Nora Charles, the tippling erstwhile detective and his equally imbibing socialite wife.

The ‘thin man’ in the title refers to an inventor who suddenly goes missing when his secretary/mistress is found dead, making him the prime suspect. Nick and Nora are in town celebrating a Christmas holiday and Nick is reluctantly drawn into the mystery as more bodies pile up lending credence to the notion of the inventor being responsible. Nick emphatically refuses to work the case, preferring to work on dry martinis instead, while everyone including the police seem to rely on his renown mystery solving abilities. In the end Nick has established who is the murderer and holds a large dinner party with everyone linked to the case invited (or coerced) to attend where he finally reveals the culprit.

While the comedy takes center stage, the clues and scenarios are intricate with lots of surprises providing an entertaining whodunnit on it’s own merits. Among the many roles we have the usual motley of family members, indiscreet liaisons and mobsters to name just to name a few of the suspects. Even the clues that are unearthed (literally) are not always what they seem.

No matter how wrapped up you get in the case however, all the guesswork falls to the side whenever Powell and Loy and their snowy white dog Asta are onscreen. The couple, ever sparring with one another and yet unmistakable an inseparable pair, are simply mesmerizing. Their smoothly delivered banter is hilarious and surprisingly was often filmed while the two were merely rehearsing and using unscripted dialog. To say that they had onscreen chemistry is an understatement.  Even shots of Powell just fooling around on the set were so fun and in character they made it into the film.

Sadly, Hammett was one of the many writers who would be unfairly blacklisted by Hollywood’s infamous Red Scare under the auspices of HUAC McCarthy witch hunt hearings. While this was in the latter period of his life one can only wonder if that deprived us of other fine characters.

The Thin Man was an immediate hit and while Hammett never wrote any more books featuring the dynamic couple Hollywood plodded on with several sequels. I ended up picking up the Silver Screen Icons DVD set that has the first four films; The Thin Man, After the Thin Man, Another Thin Man, and The Shadow of the Thin Man. There are two additional movies that I have yet to track down, The Thin Man Goes Home and finally A Song for the Thin Man. Not bad for what was originally considered a B movie.