The Long And The Short (Series) Of It on… The “Thin Man” Series

Well, now that we’ve looked into all six of the individual movies, it’s time to take a look at the Thin Man series as a whole!

Famous for his detective stories, Dashiell Hammett finished off his novel-writing career with his late 1933/1934 novel The Thin Man. MGM bought the film rights, much to the happiness of director W. S. “Woody” Van Dyke, who wanted to take on the project himself. However, the studio really didn’t think the property would be that popular with audiences, figuring they were tired of all the various sleuthing movies that had been made about that time. They really only let Van Dyke take a whack at the property due to his reputation for getting movies done quickly and under budget. Van Dyke wanted William Powell for the role of Nick Charles, much to the objections of the studio executives, since he was already known for playing the detective Philo Vance (but, the director obviously got him). Having seen the way that William Powell had gotten along with actress Myrna Loy both on- and off-screen when he directed them in Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Van Dyke made a pitch to get her for The Thin Man. The studio executives were reluctant to cast her as well, and only relented on the condition that all her scenes be shot within three weeks so that she could start shooting Stamboul Quest (1934). Of course, Van Dyke managed to get not only all of her scenes shot within that time, but also the rest of the film, too. He also had convinced married couple Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett to help adapt the novel for the big screen, and pushed them to focus more on Nick and Nora’s relationship than on the mystery (which wasn’t too hard for them, as their own marriage was quite similar to Nick and Nora’s). Of course, the results on The Thin Man (1934) at the box office spoke for themselves, with audiences making the film a big hit (with Powell even getting nominated for an Oscar).

Of course, being such a big hit meant that the MGM executives were eager to follow it up with even more! So, they gave the filmmakers a bigger budget to work with (and weren’t quite so stingy as to their requirements about how quickly the film had to be made). With the bigger budget, they were able to do some location shooting in San Francisco itself. Van Dyke and his screenwriters from the first film were brought back, with original author Dashiell Hammett brought in to write an all-new story for the film. The new film was intended to take place on the train almost immediately after the first film (albeit without the couple portrayed by Maureen O’Sullivan and Henry Wadsworth). That was their aim when they decided to give it the title After The Thin Man (1936), but, even though the “Thin Man” of the title was the murder victim in the first film, audiences came to associate it with William Powell’s Nick Charles, and “Thin Man” was retained as part of the title for the remainder of the series.

However, in spite of the series’ success at the box office, trouble was starting to creep in behind-the-scenes. The success of the second film meant the MGM executives wanted another film, but William Powell was hit with a double-whammy when his fiancée, Jean Harlow, passed away unexpectedly in 1937, followed quickly by his diagnosis of rectal cancer, which he underwent an experimental treatment for. The treatment was successful, but he had to take it easy while he recovered. In between his grief and his recovery, he didn’t take on too many projects for a few years, mainly working on the Thin Man series and a few other films with Myrna Loy. After they wrote the third film, Another Thin Man (1939) (based on another Dashiell Hammett story), Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett had had enough, and refused to come back for another series entry, so the screenwriting duties for the fourth film were passed along to Harry Kurnitz (who wrote the story) and Irving Brecher. After Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941), Myrna Loy left Hollywood, first to spend time with her then-new husband (John Hertz, Jr.) and then, when that marriage fizzled, she spent her time helping with the war effort. Tragedy struck when series director Woody Van Dyke became ill from cancer and a bad heart, and later committed suicide (since, as a devout Christian Scientist, he refused medical care). So, for The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) and Song Of The Thin Man (1947), they had two different directors. The Thin Man Goes Home did well enough at the box office, but Song Of The Thin Man lost money and effectively ended the series (not to mention Myrna Loy’s contract with MGM).

Of course, the series’ legacy is hard to deny. As Hollywood has always done, the success of the first film spawned a group of imitations all trying to cash in on the concept, with varying degrees of success. In fact, William Powell starred in two of these clones (Star Of Midnight from 1935 and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford from 1936) before he signed a new contract with MGM (and did the first sequel, After The Thin Man). Even with the Thin Man film series finally ending in the late 1940s, the franchise still enjoyed some popularity, resulting in a half hour TV series (1957-1959) starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk (with one episode included as an extra on the Blu-ray for the first film). The characters would continue to be referenced and spoofed, including in the 1976 comedy Murder By Death (with Myrna Loy reportedly being offered the chance to play Dora Charleston, although she declined).

As I’ve essentially indicated in each of my reviews, these films were all quite new for me when I first got the chance to see them in preparation for writing those reviews. As you can see from those reviews, I enjoyed the entire series. As I indicated in my review of the second film, I do really prefer the first film, not only for its mystery, but also for some of the pre-Code humor they were still able to get away with in that film. That being said, the first three are all really enjoyable, and when the series was at its best. I think that, within the last three films, The Thin Man Goes Home manages to come the closest to recapturing the magic of the first three, if only because it feels like it knows that the series has gotten formulaic, and is able to make fun of that. Admittedly, the last three films do seem to lose their way a bit, particularly with regard to the character of Nick, Jr., since he seems to disappear partway through the fourth film (and, outside of a brief mention as to why he isn’t there, he is completely out of the picture for the fifth film), and returns for the sixth film (albeit with a different child actor taking over the role), which just leaves me with the feeling that they didn’t really know what to do with him past the third film. Regardless, it’s still a very enjoyable series from start to finish (particularly if you’re smart enough not to binge-watch the whole series in short order). For that reason, I have no problem recommending this series for those who love a group of good mysteries/ screwball comedies (especially since they all look fantastic now with their new restorations for Blu-ray)!

All six movies are available individually on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

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The Thin Man (1934)

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

After The Thin Man (1936)

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Another Thin Man (1939)

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

The Thin Man Goes Home (1944)

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

Here’s the list you have been waiting for, on what I think are some of the best releases for 2019, giving new life to old classics and forgotten gems!  Again, my thoughts are coming ONLY from what I have been able to see myself. I do NOT receive screeners of any kind (nor, quite frankly, would I want to), these are all movies I myself bought. These are chosen from among the 2019 releases I have seen, as of 11/27/2019.  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon!

  1. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in their sixth film together, with him playing a dancer and a gambler, who falls for a dance teacher. The transfer on the new Blu-ray may not be pristine, but the movie looks better than I’ve seen it previously, and just makes all the wonderful dances just look that much better! Full review here.
  2. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • James Cagney and Joan Blondell star in this classic Busby Berkeley musical, about a man trying to create prologues for movie theaters. The Blu-ray restoration shines, and is never more evident than with Busby Berkeley’s wonderful musical numbers! Full review here.
  3. The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic screwball mystery featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy. A fun mystery, but the real enjoyment is in watching the relationship of the two main stars and their antics. While this movie hasn’t looked great in a long time, the recent Warner Archive Blu-ray has brought this film back to life! Easily one of the best film restorations of the year! Full review here.
  4. The Major And The Minor (1942) (Arrow Films, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Ginger Rogers stars in this Billy Wilder-directed comedy about a woman posing as a 12-year-old girl as she tries to get home, and is delayed by an army major at a military academy. A wonderful comedy, and one that looks so much better in the new Blu-ray release from Arrow films! Full review here.
  5. Summer Stock (1950) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Judy Garland’s last film at MGM, and her third film teaming her up with Gene Kelly as a pair who put on a show in her family’s barn! While not a perfect film due to stuff going on behind the scenes, the new Blu-ray release shows off the look of the 3-strip Technicolor, and makes the movie seem just that much better! Full review here.
  6. Jezebel (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Bette Davis stars in one of her Oscar winning roles as the vain Southern belle Julie Marsden, as she goes against tradition and chases after Henry Fonda’s Pres Dillard in 1850s New Orleans. For this release, Warner Archives did a lot or work to restore it when it hasn’t looked good in a long time, and their work has really paid off with a fantastic restoration that makes this release easy to recommend! Full review here.
  7. The Kid Brother (1927) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Harold Lloyd silent comedy, he stars as the son of the town sheriff, who must now deal with the problems that arise when he signs some permits in place of his father allowing a traveling medicine show to perform in town. With this release boasting a new restoration of the movie that looks fantastic in high definition, outside of a few scratches here and there, but some fun bonus features, including two of Harold’s earlier shorts, I can’t help but recommend this set! Full review here.
  8. Notorious (1946) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant star in this Alfred Hitchcock film about the daughter of a Nazi conspirator who tries to help an American agent take don some Nazis living in South America. With a new restoration for the second go-round on Blu-ray, this movie looks fantastic, and is definitely the way to go for this movie! Full review here.
  9. Road To Singapore (1940) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • The first film in the Road series, with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour as the two men escape impending marriages as they make their way towards Singapore. The transfer on Kino’s new Blu-ray release looks fantastic, and is easily the best way to see this movie! Full review here.
  10. Detour (1945) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • In this classic noir starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage, he is a pianist hitchhiking his way across the country when he accidentally kills the man he is traveling with and is forced to take over his identity. Due to being in the public domain, this movie has lloked terrible for a long time, but this recent restoration looks fantastic! Certainly the best way to see this wonderful movie! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Road To Zanzibar (1941) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), Road To Morocco (1942) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), Stand-In (1937) (Classicflix, Blu-ray and DVD)

Honestly, though, it’s hard not to say that this has been a fantastic year of releases! A lot of the labels have really been upping their game this year when it comes to releases of many classic and obscure older movies. My own opinion is that the Warner Archive Collection has come out the best of everybody. After a couple years of mainly focusing on titles made in 1954 and later on Blu-ray (with the occasional pre-1954 title here and there), WAC has dug into their library to release a number of classic titles from the forties this year, and released a few from the thirties, the first time in four years the decade has been represented on Blu-ray from them, and all three titles were well worth it! Plus, in digging into Summer Stock, they have released their first new-to-Blu-ray pre-1954 MGM musical (marking the first time since Warner Home Video stopped releasing catalog titles on blu after 2015 that era of musicals has been represented on the format from Warner’s library). They even released a few movies on DVD I’ve long been waiting for on the format (although I haven’t quite managed to get my hands on them yet). Honestly, the only complaint I have with their releases is that they only released two new-to-blu musicals this year (since that is one of my favorite genres), but otherwise they have had a great year!

And of course, they’re not the only ones with a good year, either! Kino Lorber has been digging into the Universal library through their licensing deal with them, releasing a number of great films (plus a few obscure ones), with 2020 looking to bring even more! Criterion has had many good releases through their licenses with all the studios, plus some classic silent comedies making their debut with new restorations! And while Classicflix has had to pull back on how much they have been releasing, they still continue to maintain their high levels of quality in their releases, making it easy to try their films (most of which, I hadn’t even heard of before they announced them). And labels like Shout Factory and Arrow Films have both been delving into a number of Universal-owned classics, the first time either label’s Blu-ray releases have appealed to me! All in all, a great year of releases (and not enough time/money to keep up with all of them)! I can only hope 2020 looks this good!

Previous years:


An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… The Thin Man (1934)

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)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!