If you’re ready for mystery mixed in with a bit of screwball comedy (not to mention one that works at Christmastime, too), then look no further than The Thin Man from 1934, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy!
Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O’Sullivan) announces to her inventor father Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis) that she plans to marry her boyfriend Tommy (Henry Wadsworth) just after Christmas. Clyde says he has a business trip (which he refuses to discuss), but he promises to return before Christmas. However, when he doesn’t show up by Christmas Eve, Dorothy begins to worry. At a party, she runs into an old family friend, former detective Nick Charles (William Powell), who is in New York for the holidays with his wife, Nora (Myrna Loy), and their dog Asta. She tries to convince him to look for her father, but he doesn’t want to become involved. After Clyde’s mistress Julia Wolf (Natalie Moorhead) is discovered murdered, Nick can’t help but get dragged into the case, pushed along by his wife. After a thug is murdered and another body is discovered in Clyde’s laboratory, Nick and Nora gather all the suspects together at a dinner party, where the murderer is revealed.
Ah, yes, the movie that was the beginning of a franchise (and yet, in making it, who knew that would be the case). MGM had gotten the rights to the novel, written by Dashiell Hammett (who had also written The Maltese Falcon, amongst other novels). Director W.S. Van Dyke, himself a fan of detective novels, wanted to do it. And he wanted William Powell and Myrna Loy to do it, after working with them on the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama and seeing how well they had gotten along on that film behind the scenes. However, the MGM executives were against the idea. At most, they were willing to let William Powell do it, since he had already portrayed some other detectives, but they weren’t as thrilled with Myrna Loy, supposedly only giving in if the movie could be done within three weeks so she could start her next film. Of course, Van Dyke (known to some as “One-Take Woody”) ran with it, getting the movie finished within twelve to eighteen days, and the movie became a big classic, spawning five sequels, many copycats and a two season TV series in the late fifties starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk, not to mention seven more films (besides the already mentioned Manhattan Melodrama) that paired up William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Going into the recent Blu-ray release, this was my first time seeing this movie. It turned out to be a wonderful and very enjoyable surprise! While the mystery itself was fun, it was very much secondary in this movie. Instead, the focus was on the relationship of William Powell’s Nick Charles and Myrna Loy’s Nora. For a film that was shot in a very short period of time, they give us such a rich relationship! Their banter alone makes the film fun (with some lines definitely showing the movie to be a pre-Code). And, of course, they clearly make good use of the then-recent repeal of Prohibition, considering how much they imbibe martinis and other alcoholic drinks. But the comedy works, and for that alone, I have absolutely no trouble whatsoever with recommending this movie to anybody!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Thin Man (1934)
As with a lot of older movies, being a popular film proves to be just as much a curse as it is a blessing. Due to its popularity, the studio made so many release prints off the original camera negative that it was in bad shape, and was essentially destroyed back in the late 1960s. Partly because of that, this movie has apparently never looked that great on home video. But in preparing this movie for Blu-ray, the good people working for the Warner Archive Collection made use of a safety fine grain film stock (made before the original camera negative was gone) and a dupe negative in place of some sections that were in bad shape to restore this movie. All I can say is that, in my opinion, their hard work has paid off, resulting in one of this year’s best film restorations (so far)! So I would definitely recommend WAC’s recent Blu-ray release of this great film!
Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
*ranked #3 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Man Of The World (1931) – William Powell – Star Of Midnight (1935)
Love Me Tonight (1932) – Myrna Loy – Libeled Lady (1936)
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