Nick and Nora's hopes for a pleasant afternoon at the local race track are dashed when a jockey is found shot dead in the locker room. Nick's friend Lt. Abrams wants him to help out but Nick is enjoying the good life too much to get involved. However, he is subsequently approached by Major Scully to look into corruption and the role of organized crime in gambling. Others are killed but in the end, Nick gathers all of the suspects into a room and identifies the killer. Written by
Prior to Nick going into "Whitey" Barrow's apartment, when the police have already searched it, the camera cuts to Asta with the leash on the floor. Next shot is Nick opening the door with the leash in his hand. See more »
[Reading the "laundry list" found in Whitey Barrow's pocket]
Three bloomers, twenty-five kimonos, ten slips, five panties, fifteen chemises.
Sounds like wash day at Vassar.
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An amusing murder mystery at the racetrack, with Nick and Nora Charles...and a waiter who insists they order the sea bass
"You know that jockey, Gomez," says Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene) to Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) as the two arrive at the racetrack for a little betting, "the one who was caught throwing the fourth race yesterday? He was shot." "My," says Nora, "they're strict at this track." And we're off on the fourth of the Nick and Nora Charles Thin Man series. The mystery isn't bad. The Powell-Loy chemistry is just as fine as always, and the characters...well, Nick remains the suave, gentleman private detective, fond of martinis and double-breasted suits, clever at putting puzzles together, and a man who seems to know everyone from distinguished officials to Rainbow Benny, a racetrack tout. Nora, his wealthy, socialite wife, remains most of the time a skeptical, affectionate, funny helpmate who can match her husband's martini intake whenever she chooses. However, slowly the series is turning Nora into a more conventional wife and mother. In Shadow of the Thin Man, the writers have Nora sometimes just being a ditzy, adoring wife. Myrna Loy makes it work, but some of Nora's smartness and wit have been dumbed down.
Nick agrees to look into the death of the jockey, but then another shooting takes place, this time of Whitey Barrow, a corrupt reporter who is in cahoots with a ring of racketeers who are making a fortune on racetrack gambling. When the dignified Major Jason Scully, hired by the track commission to clean up the situation, and Paul Clark, a young, crusading reporter, visit Nick and try to enlist his services, he turns them down. He's got too much on his hands already with Nora and their three-year-old son, Nick, Jr. That second murder makes him change his mind. Before long he's up to his waist in suspects. There's Link Stephens, the tough smoothie who runs the syndicate and who is weak around the edges; Fred Main, his wise-guy enforcer; Claire Porter, Stephen's upper-class girl friend; and Baku, her chauffeur. There is even a ticket seller to be suspicious of. Plus, just maybe Paul Clark (Barry Nelson) isn't as honest as he seems, especially since his girlfriend, Molly (Donna Reed), works for Stephens. It all comes together, of course, with a big meeting of all the suspects, with Nick taking apart the case clue by clue until the murderer is unmasked. This time, Nora does a bit of heroics that ends with a loving smooch by our favorite couple, with Asta the dog covering its eyes with a paw.
The movie features three genuinely funny set pieces. First up is Nick and Nora at a crowded wrestling match. It's reassuring to see that professional wrestling hasn't advanced an inch in more than 65 years when it comes to the need for great acting ability. Next is the merry-go- round where Nick has to prove that he's not a scaredy-cat to a group of sneering tykes. And finally is a classic that should be revived, where the waiter at Mario's Grotto is determined Nick and Nora and their two guests will all order the sea bass. He will not take broiled lobster as an answer.
And let's spend a moment with Stella Adler, who plays Claire Porter. She was 40 when she made this movie. She was born into one of the leading Yiddish theater families in New York, and became a star in Yiddish theater in the Twenties. In the Thirties she joined the Group Theater, became a star on Broadway, went to the Soviet Union to study under Stanislavsky himself, and returned to become one of America's great drama teachers, as well as an actor and director. Adler never made much of an impression in Hollywood; she spent most of her life in New York. She taught and mentored Marlon Brando and was the single most important influence on his acting career. She died, honored and full of years, in 1992. Just watch her as Porter, a lush, well-bred blonde with a voice as cultured as clotted cream. Except that Claire had been a professional woman, as in the oldest profession. When Claire loses her temper, she loses her culture, her class and her accent. Nick finds this out. Adler handles the role with aplomb, and her instant transformation from cultured to common is something to see.
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