Thin Man

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The Thin Man (1934)

Dec 5, 1999
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Loy, Powell, Asta, humor

Cons:supporting characters, misrepresentation of alcohol

"The Thin Man" is a mystery thriller and romantic comedy, based on Dashiell Hammett's novel.

William Powell stars as Nick Charles, a hard-drinking former detective now blissfully wed to heiress Nora (Myrna Loy). He is slowly dragged into a murder case involving a former client, ill-tempered inventor Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis). Clyde's daughter is Dorothy (Maureen O'Sullivan) who is the fiancee of bland Tommy (Henry Wadsworth). Clyde is missing, and suspected of murdering his mistress Julia (Natalie Moorhead). His ex-wife Mimi (Minna Gombell) is also suspected. She is now wed to a playboy (Cesar Romero). Herbert MacCauley (Porter Hall) is Clyde's lawyer.

Powell's character may be an alcoholic. In one scene, he admits to having just downed six martinis. Learning this, Loy responds by having six martinis as well! Many of the film's best lines refer to Powell's heavy drinking. Powell's drinking is never cast in a negative light, however, but is treated as a charming eccentricity, or even as a reinforcement of his manhood.

"The Thin Man" was one of fourteen films in which William Powell and Myrna Loy worked together. Six of these films were part of the 'Thin Man' series, which continued until 1947. Their onscreen chemistry was first apparent in "Manhattan Melodrama", which had opened a few months earlier in 1934.

"The Thin Man" may mark the acting debut of Asta. He is an adorable, talented pooch who is also featured in several Cary Grant romantic comedies, "The Awful Truth", "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Philadelphia Story".

"The Thin Man" was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Powell), Best Director (W.S. Van Dyke), and Best Writing (Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett). It lost in every category to another romantic comedy, "It Happened One Night".

Although "The Thin Man" is a good film, with some clever dialogue, I don't consider it to be a great film. There are too many supporting characters, none of which are credibly fleshed out except for Dorothy's father Clyde. Dorothy's attempt to take the rap for her father would only happen in a movie. Her brother Gilbert (William Henry) is a strange comic figure, fond of making curious observations and staring into the faces of policemen. Mimi and Julia are gold digger stereotypes. Many of the cops and robbers are the dreary, slang-talking tough guy characters found in so many films from the 1930s and 1940s. The detective skills for Powell's character, years out of use, are practically worshipped by crooks, cops, reporters and socialites alike. This culminates in the dinner scene finale, by which time Powell is seemingly running the police department.

My opinion is definitely in the minority, however. My favorite detective films are "Chinatown" (1974) and "The Maltese Falcon" (1941). (67/100)


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