Friday, May 13, 2022

"The Thin Man" (1934)

This is one of the few movies that my husband willingly rewatches.  Actually, he'll rewatch the whole Thin Man series with me every few years, which puts it in a very special class indeed.  Most movies, he'll watch them once and that's all he wants.  Some, he'll watch again with me with a little grumbling.  But a very rare few, he will actually say, "Let's watch such-and-such again," and this series is one of those.

The Thin Man (1934) is like an ice cream soda.  It's a fizzy and sweet treat, but with a little tangy bite to it too.  The dialog is filled with witty zingers, there are funny reaction shots and the occasional sight gag, and it is altogether a bright and cheerful movie, even though it's also a murder mystery.

The mystery here revolves around a cranky scientist named Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis) disappears after wishing his daughter Dorothy (Maureen O'Sullivan) well on her engagement and promising to be back from his mysterious trip in time for her wedding after the holidays.

Wynant vacillates between cranky, abrupt, and downright nasty with other people, but he's very sweet to Dorothy, so he can't be all bad, right?

Cut to a hotel bar, where Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy), a wealthy married couple, are knocking back an alarming amount of alcohol.  Don't worry -- Prohibition was repealed in 1933, so all this gin they're swilling is perfectly legal ;-)  

Nick and Nora live in California but are spending Christmas and New Year's in New York.  Nick used to live in NYC and be a private detective, but when he married Nora, he moved to her home in California.  Nora is an heiress who owns lots of things like railroads and factories -- but that's not important, we just need to know that she was born rich, but Nick only became rich when he married her.

Dorothy Wynant finds them there and begs Nick to look for her father.  He once did some sleuthing for her father, back when he was a detective, and she is convinced he can find her dad.  Wynant was supposed to be home for her wedding after New Year's, but it's Christmas Eve and he's not back yet, and she is frantic.

Nick reluctantly agrees to look for her father, of course.

Oh, and I can't forget to mention the Charles's dog Asta!  He is a cute little stinker who sometimes helps solve cases, but mostly gets into mischief.

And then there's Wynant's ex-wife Mimi (Minna Gombell), Dorothy's mother.  She is quite a piece of work, always scheming about how to get more money out of Wynant to spend on her new husband.

Mimi's new husband Chris (Cesar Romero) is also a piece of work.  They quite deserve each other.

Nick and Nora spend the holiday season hosting and attending a variety of parties where the alcohol continues to flow freely.  Honestly, it's just astonishing how much liquor gets swilled in this movie.

This next photo is here because I absolutely adore this dress of Nora's.  She has loads of cute ensembles, but this one is my favorite.  It's bias cut and just hangs off her like she was born wearing it.  I adore it.  I want it.

Anyway, Nick spends a lot of time trying to figure out where Wynant has gone, and why.  And whether or not he's committed a murder while he's been gone.  Everyone from Wynant's daughter Dorothy to his ex-wife Mimi to his lawyer try to be helpful, with varying rates of success.  But it's actually Nick and Nora's dog Asta who breaks the case wide open!  Then Nick invites all the people involved in Wynant's life to a dinner party, where he reveals the truth at last.

The whole thing winds up with Nick and Nora on a train, heading back to California for some peace and quiet after the holidays.

Is this movie family friendly?  I vote YES.  No cussing, no racy scenes, no bloody violence.  There are murders, and there's a LOT of drinking, but I consider this a clean movie.  Definitely cleaner than the book by Dashiell Hammett, which I also enjoy, but which is not kid-appropriate.


  1. I watched this with Ezra and he said it was 'boring'. I, on the other hand, found it delightful! Looking forward to watching some of the other films as well, thanks to winning them in your giveaway. ;)

    1. Well, Ezra clearly needs to acquire better taste. I hope you enjoy the next ones too! We just rewatched After the Thin Man this weekend, so I'm hoping to review it this week :-D I'd like to review all of them! They're so jolly.


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