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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.
"The Thin Man", a deliciously superb mix that keeps getting richer becomes
better with every single viewing. The first time I missed a bit of the
murder plot, but repeated viewings just enhance the movie.
It has started making me wanted to go out, get a terrier and call it Asta, drink too much for my own good and become a private eye detective. And move to New York. The lovable couple make it all look fun, and even if they do drink too much. Only after I have snapped out of admiration mode for the movie I remember that they were highly paid actors following a script in a hit film of 1934, and I'm living in the year 2000, cannot get a dog, am living in Sydney, and worst of all, I'm fourteen, so I can't drink or become a detective. Such is the modern manner of the movie. It is one of the very few films of its time that retains its freshness, intrigue and brilliant humour.
William Powell and Myrna Loy are incredibly likeable, the wisecracking darlings of society who we all want to know. Their performances were both absolutely brilliant! Some of their antics are a good deal wilder than those we are used to, but in fear of being caught up in murder would keep me away from them, but not long enough. I don't believe there are any shallow characters at all. Thank goodness for "The Thin Man". One of the first to show an affectionate couple in love, I'm still scanning for the same in movies of the 50s.
W.S Dyke is of course not one of the most remembered directors of his time, but for this alone he could be considered a great director. He was not Alfred Hitchcock, but he successfully combined high comedy, crime and thrills into one film. No wonder the major film studios were hot after this property. And Dyke didn't have to rely on the excruciatingly hilarious elements of slapstick. A married couple and a dog was all that was needed. Such a simple thing to emphasise on, and how well it worked! Could there be a more stolen plot of today?
Unfortunately, MGM, despite creating one of the best teamings of the era by putting the platonic Powell and Loy together, released this film in 1934. A nominee for Best Picture, Actor and Director, among other things, it was Capra's "It Happened One Night" that made history by becoming the first film in history to sweep the five major categories at the Oscars. If it had been released in 1933, it would have beaten the now forgotten "Calvacade", in 1935 it may have swept some Oscars up against "Mutiny on the Bounty". I wonder why Loy was not nominated. The film simply could not have been done without her.
Powell and Loy went on to make many movies together. Asta, appeared again as George in the 1938 slapstick masterpiece "Bringing Up Baby".
Although we need some good movies now, no one should even think contemplate for a split second on a remake. There is no way justice could be done to this film. It is a comic masterpiece that continually tricks the viewers, and without a doubt, one of the very best and brightest movies of the 1930s.
I hope I can watch the other "Thin Man" movies. I will definitely be reading the book. The film ended half an hour ago, but I already feel like going back for a second helping.
W.S. Van Dyke's 1934 film "The Thin Man" stars Myrna Loy and William
Powell as Nora and Nick Charles, upper class sleuths who unwittingly
become caught up in the case of a missing friend and former client.
Nick is a former detective who has been in retirement for the last four
years, living the high life with Nora when Dorothy Wynant (Maureen
O'Sullivan) implores with them to help find her father, who has been
missing for three months. Throughout the investigation, Nick and Nora
rarely are without a drink in their hands, are forever trading bons
mots and getting themselves into comical situations; they even get
their terrier Asta in on their investigation.
"The Thin Man" is a great detective story that is enhanced by its classiness and humor. Powell is definitely the physical comedian of the pair, with Loy looking stunning and conveying so much with the looks she gives him. I honestly found myself guessing the outcome until the end, which culminates in a deliciously wonderful dinner party where all of the guests are suspects. It is stunning that this film was made in 1934, because it seems so ahead of its time; which is probably just one reason why it is so highly regarded and remains on many critics' lists. "The Thin Man" is so thoroughly enjoyable, and its stars (including Asta) are so engaging that I look forward to seeing more in the six-film series. Rent this one or catch it on Turner Classic Movies, like I did. It is well worth seeing, and surely an inspiration to many film genres ranging from screwball comedies to detective stories. A very strong 8/10.
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.
Often said, but still a marvel to watch, even after 72 years. If you
want some intelligent fun with that since long vanished Hollywood
class, catch this one. This comic murder mystery introduced the world
to one of the most perfect screen matches I know, the incomparable duo
William Powell and Myrna Loy. Shot by Woody "one shot" van Dyke in just
twelve days with many of the first takes used in the film, it still
comes across as wonderfully fresh.
The story revolves around William Powell as detective Nick Charles, who tries to crack the case of a missing scientist, together with his wife Nora (Myrna Loy). But forget about this whodunit aspect of the film, it's not that important. It's just adding to the fun. It's all about the marvellous interaction between Powell and Loy, simply the most wonderful screen pairing ever. Their constant courtship is a marvel to look at and watching the wonderful chemistry burning of the screen leaves me in a pleasant happy daze, slightly intoxicating.
They must be one of the very few boozy characters in the history of cinema, that seem to be drunk all the time and be continuously happy at the same time. On a continuous drinking frenzy, they're either perpetually pixillated or fighting the hang-over. Never marry someone who doesn't join you when drinking. Nora certainly does.
When they meet up in a restaurant Nora asks: 'Say, how many drinks have you had?'. 'Uhmm, this will make six Martini's.' 'Alright, waiter, will you bring me five more Martini's. You can all line them up right here.'
Between the endless string of cocktail parties their lives seem to consist of, he still needs to crack a murder case, as a journalist remembers him. 'Do you know anything about the case?' 'Yes, it's putting me way behind in my drinking.'
A stellar supporting cast, a witty script with wonderful dialog, style and class to spare, and most importantly, the one of a kind chemistry between Powell and Loy all contribute to the enjoyment of this film. A real winner.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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 are these kinds of movies nowdays?
Never mind trying to follow plot, instead follow the banter between
Nick and Nora Charles, as portrayed by William Powell and Myrna Loy in
this delightful comic mystery. Between the banter and the sexual
innuendoes, the constant guzzling and shennanigans, this sophisticated
couple actually do manage to solve a murder or three.
This seventy year old film still holds up well today and the reason is that the screenwriters knew how to write dialogue and character and were not dependent on action sequences to fill in the blanks like so many of today's screenwriters and directors, who are too busy chasing the big dollar to make a movie that is going to stand up over time. How many of today's action movies will we be watching seventy years from now?
Admittedly, there is some clumsy acting by some of the minor characters, at least viewed from today's point of view, but don't let that, like the plot, get in your way or you will miss out on what this charming film has to offer. And say, who was that Thin Man, anyway?
Though five sequel films were made from this very popular original
there are still to this day people who will answer the question who is
the Thin Man with William Powell.
The answer of course is Edward Ellis, an inventor whose disappearance gets a recently retired detective named Nick Charles to solving a case where three murders are committed almost in spite of himself. Ellis is a tall and very skinny man, hence the title.
One thing I always liked about The Thin Man. The formula never varied, MGM didn't believe in tampering with success. It was always that Nick and Nora Charles get dragged almost kicking and screaming into some homicide. Nick is always four jumps ahead of the police be it Nat Pendleton or Sam Levene. Two or three other murders are committed before the solution is arrived at. And always the gathering of the suspects at the end when Nick lays it all out for them, the cops and we the audience. And of course Nora whose help except for moral support is somewhat dubious.
One thing that was cut down on was Nick's alcoholic consumption. The Thin Man just beat it under the wire with The Code and as the Charles had a baby in later stories, it wouldn't do to have one of the father role models in America be a complete drunk all the time.
I always liked the fact that in all The Thin Man stories the murderer is never obvious. A twist in the plot could have made any one of the suspects the guilty party.
The Thin Man was nominated for Best Picture and Oscar nominations were given out to William Powell, director Woody Van Dyke, and screenwriters Goodrich and Hackett for adapting Dashiell Hammett's original story. Unfortunately The Thin Man ran up against It Happened One Night and got skunked out of all the top prizes.
But amazingly enough Myrna Loy was not nominated for Best Actress. In fact the woman NEVER got an Oscar nomination. If there was every a case where the chemistry between the leads made a film, The Thin Man was it. How you could nominate Powell and not Loy is beyond me.
But that's Hollywood for you. The Thin Man is a fresh today as it was over 70 years ago.
There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when Ian Fleming was first introduced to the actor who would bring his 007 to life in "Dr. No," his immediate reaction was a loud and emphatic, "Oh, NO! Anybody but HIM!" Luckily, of course, no one paid him any attention, and a largely unknown actor and former bodybuilder named Sean Connery was off and running toward stardom. Likely enough, had anyone thought to run the idea of William Powell as Nick Charles past Dashiell Hammett -- always assuming, somewhat blithely, that the author would have been sober at the moment -- his reaction would have been identical to Fleming's years later. Powell, insouciantly dapper and suave, almost as slender as the silly mustache he affected, was virtually the complete antithesis of Hammett's concept of Charles, the hard-drinking, two-fisted former New York detective who married an heiress much younger than he and yet somehow managed to remain uncorrupted by his good fortune. Yet Powell -- as would Humphrey Bogart several years later, when similarly physically miscast as Sam Spade in the third film version of "The Maltese Falcon" -- went on to make the character of Nick Charles so totally his own that even today, six films and almost sixty years later, it is well-nigh impossible to envision anyone else in the role. Powell was always at his best when playing opposite a strong leading lady -- i.e., Rosalind Russell, Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne -- yet he was never better than when paired with Myrna Loy as Nora in the six "Thin Man" films. Every bit his equal at the backchat and martini-tossing, Loy proved the perfect collaborator in making the Charleses lovely people to visit (but you wouldn't want their livers) time and time and time again. Particularly in this, the adaptation of Hammett's novel, which created the audience demand for the ensuing series. And which also shows that, even if you do consult the writer, it's not necessarily wise to give him/her final approval over casting.
Come celebrate the end of prohibition with William Powell and Myrna Loy as the high society and wise-cracking Nick and Nora Charles. Not only do they put away a large quantity of alcohol, but they solve a bizarre and fascinating murder case in the process despite Nick's best efforts not to get involved. He finally succumbs by taking the case to not only outside pressure, but instinctive curiosity and boredom that goes with being part of the idle class. Not only is he a super sleuth turned gentleman, but he is quite the aficionado on mixing drinks. We are first introduced to Nick as he instructs bartenders on the proper technique on mixing drinks ("In mixing the important thing is the rhythm. You should always have rhythm in your shaking. A manhattan you shake to a foxtrot, a dry martini you shake to a waltz", etc.) Also added into the fray, is their terrier, Asta, who helps Nick solve the mystery. Despite being made nearly 70 years ago, Powell and Loy's performances and chemistry together remain as strong today as they were then. This detective has clearly married into a family with a significant fortune, but Nick and Nora's love for each other is genuine and often reflected in sarcastic teasing of each other. When Nora walks in on him consoling a beautiful young woman by embracing her, he just wrinkles his nose at her and she returns the gesture which indicates the level of trust that exists among this couple. While Nick is often observant of an attractive woman, Nora doesn't keep him on a tight leash because their instinctive trust with one another. The film is packed with humor centering around the Charles' vices, mainly drinking and the subsequent hangovers and the complacency of not being required to work for a living. How many detectives are such smooth talkers that they befriend the criminals they helped convict once they've served their time and party with them on Christmas Eve? So if you enjoy a bit of sarcastic humor in your murder mysteries, chances are you'll love this film. A few side notes: Watch for Cesar Romero in this film. He later played The Joker in the Batman series in the 1960's. In later Thin Man movies, you can see a young Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Dean Stockwell, and Penny Singleton. Also, I noticed that it was Christmas Eve in this movie 2 days in a row. First, in the bar where we first see Nick, Maureen O'Sullivan says to her boyfriend that it's Christmas Eve and the next morning when Nora wakes up with a hangover they say it's Christmas Eve then. My only other criticism was the scene where Nick diverts the attention of a man holding him at gunpoint in the bedroom by tossing a pillow at him. I wish they had come up with something a little more believable. Other than those 2 minor points, an outstanding movie. I don't think Hollywood could make something as original and entertaining today if their lives depended on it. On a scale of 10 martinis, 9/10.
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