Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Thin Man (1934)

Director: W.S. Van Dyke                               Writers: Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich
Film Score: William Axt                                 Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan and Nat Pendleton

The classic Dashiell Hammett novel brought to the screen with style and brash, The Thin Man would spawn numerous sequels and the team of William Powell and Myrna Loy would become an iconic screen duo in the process. In fact, the two were so popular that they were also cast together in a number of non-Thin Man films. Powell and Loy are two of a kind, irreverent, carefree, and very much in love. What The Thin Man series has going for it is turning murder mysteries into screwball comedies, something that hadn’t been done before, and the two leads are great in their roles.

When inventor William Henry goes missing his daughter, Maureen O’Sullivan, calls on William Powell, former private investigator, to help her locate him. Powell and Loy, his wife, as the loveable lushes Nick and Nora Charles who, along with their little dog Asta, are the only ones who can solve the case. But is there a case? Henry’s apparently been seen in New York by his lawyer and when his ex-wife calls on him at the apartment of his “secretary” to ask for money, she finds the woman dead. And still no sign of Henry. As with any good mystery there are any number of suspects: the ex-wife, her gigolo husband, the mob, or Henry himself . . . and with Nick and Nora there to booze and schmooze their way to a solution it’s always a good time.

Unfortunately for nearly everyone involved, Powell doesn’t want to get involved. But as a reluctant detective he sure manages to get a lot accomplished. Maureen O’Sullivan is probably best known for her appearances in the Tarzan films, including her nude swim--though, of course, it wasn’t really her--in Tarzan and his Mate, from the same year. She had a fairly prolific career, but wasn’t in anything really major. The great character actor Porter Hall appears as Henry’s lawyer, and Cesar Romero is Minna Gombell’s gigolo husband. Pug-faced Nat Pendleton makes a very strange police inspector, and in a bit part is Charles Williams, Eustace from It’s a Wonderful Life, who appeared in over two hundred films. The Thin Man was one of the big hits of its time and is still a classic today.

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