The Thin Man Reviews
The thirties style of slap-dash, madcap overlapping dialogue highlights the excellent performances of this very strong film. Comparing this film to the mysteries of today proves how much harder screenwriters of the old days had to work and how much more language was valued. Every line of this film is so witty and sharp, and William Powell and Myrna Loy never seem like people you know, but they always seem like people you wish you knew.
The mystery, originally penned by Dashiell Hammett, is not terribly predictable, but it's solvable, which is the way mysteries should be.
Overall, I enjoyed this film immensely, and it made me long to hear more dialogue from this era.
the thin man detective plot is simply operated on the formula of "who'dun'it!" but the point is not about the crime but its seemingly insipid detective who doesn't wanna tackle this case at the first place but gets involved due to the whim of his mischievous wife.
the constant requirement of booze is one element in this flick to indicate the hedonism of the well-to-do but the point is they drink with class and glamour without objectionable gaffe. every moment is a joyous drinking time, and being leisure gracefully seems to be their sacred obligation to perform. the camera looms over powell's cynically mocking gestures for times as he exuberates the cigarette circles aloofly or his famours line "oh! bull's eyes!" and loy's comic flair could rival with powell with her perfect timing of grimaces toward his trivial mild jokes that is adorably likable as well.
the best allure of thin man is also the cozy backset of gender symmetry with agreeable family picture, powell as good paternal image who respects his lovely wife who also expresses enough matron sophistication as a demure female. they sleep in seperate beds without contiminating audience's consecrated protype of parents, and there's one cute puppy who could only bark but hide during the gun shots. the whole picture arouses audience's thick nostalgia of soundly ideal family atmosphere as if you back to the easeful days of childhood without the complex misgivings of life as you burden in your adulthood.
One of the things I love about The Thin Man is that William Powell's character Nick is drunk from beginning to end! Playing a drunk is one of those things that looks so easy when it's done well but it's notoriously difficult to play it convincingly and Powell pulls it off for the length of the film!
Myrna Loy & William Powell play their characters as hedonists - they are in this for the laughs and good times and it's what makes it so charming and seductive - it pulls you in for the ride!
I love the scene as the two heroes lounge around enjoying their Christmas day. Nick shooting a pellet gun at the balloons on the tree and Nora looking on disapprovingly in a massive mink coat "Say, aren't you hot in that?" "Yes, I'm stifling, but it's SO pretty?"
They made many sequels. After The Thin Man, the 2nd film, is ok, but they only got steadily more tiresome: Nick and Nora becoming 'respectable' - less of the inebriated Nick and even producing offspring!? (Asta was a true star and the baby of this family and didn't need 'real' children upstaging him!)
The Thin Man is a glorious escapist movie, and a riot at times. The story itself is fine enough, a solid, mostly serious yarn about an engineer (the 'Thin Man' of the title actually) who goes missing, and a woman he was seeing is found dead. Who killed her? Where is Clyde Wynant? Did he commit the murder and go off with money and skip town? There's a lot of questions to be answered, to be sure - it is Hammett, after all, the author of The Maltese Falcon and all those Continental Op thrillers. But that's not why the film is still fresh today, maybe even better by the passage of time like wine, because of the characters and the snappy dialog.
By the 'characters' I do mean mostly our leads, Nick and Nora, though the supporting characters - played by the likes of Maureen O'Sullivan, Nathalie Moorehead and the original Joker himself Cesar Romero - are perfectly fine and acted memorably. They are a catty couple of people, and are constantly kidding themselves, though certainly are very seriously in love. They're the kind of couple who, when Nora walks in and sees Nick trying (little as he really can given his disposition) to give comfort to a sorrowful Dorothy, they make faces at one another to kill the tension. Outstanding comic timing. And speaking of not being able to do certain things today as in 1934, the moment where, to distract a heavy holding a gun on the two of them, Nick slugs Nora so he can then get HIS gun away! Whether this was right before the Code fully took effect, I'm not sure, but it wouldn't surprise me (the innuendo at the end is perfectly cute, though I'm sure rather scandalous also for 34).
There are so many juicy and awesome moments between these two that it's little wonder they went on to make five more films over the course of fifteen years, and the public thought the actors were married in real life (!) The chemistry enough would make it a crackerjack semi-screwball comedy, though what levels it out as a great film of its year is that the director, WS Van Dyke, and the screenwriters, make some indelible set pieces. The Christmas dinner party, for one, really gets the audience fully immersed into the quick wit and here-to-there-and-again timing of a party where everybody wants a drink, one guy really wants to call home to his mother, and everyone keeps hounding Nick Charles to take on a case after being away from the sleuthing for years. This alone would make the movie a must see - but that ending, where everybody involved with the case is brought in so that Nick can crack it (he even admits, you know, he isn't entirely sure to Nora, who can do nothing but make spectacular quips) pushes it over into classic territory.
When The Thin Man wants to be suspenseful, it can be as well. When Nick has to go looking in a dark place after hours and someone is coming in, all the lights go off and it takes on the air of an early noir. This, again, really is necessary though, and Van Dyke really makes sure that the more dramatic elements work in their vein, the comedy in its own, but that the two sides can meet, rather deliriously and uproariously into a charming package of a Hollywood movie. It's the kind of movie that I'm sure inspired Hitchcock, too, with the younger brother obsessed with morbid crimes and bodies; notice the reaction of the police when he offers to help them with forensics work. Again, 1934 people.
It's an amazingly fun film, Powell and Loy are a delight to watch, their clever & always loving banter never fails to make me smile.
Of course, it comes highly recommended.