|THE THIN MAN (1934)|
W.S. Van Dyke
|"Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?"|
|Time: 93 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
One of all time favorite classic films, where men and men, woman are pretty and everyone enjoys a good stiff drink at the end of the day...or whenever there's a break in the action. A much-beloved detective series in the 30s and early 40s starring the ever-dashing William Powell and the intelligent, yet pretty Myrna Loy. Though the crimes they reluctantly solve are serious, the way to catching the killer(s) is anything but. THE THIN MAN is filled with witty one-liners, silly pratfalls and enough double entendres to keep you laughing for days. Whenever I need a little pick-me-up and it's too early for happy hour, I like to spend time with Nick and Nora Charles, whose escapades are intriguing, but not too complicated. Powell and Loy banter off one another like they've been sparring since kindergarten. It is a joy to watch a screen team who clearly enjoys the company.
In this first installment, taken from the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, we encounter Nick and Nora on Christmas vacation in New York, celebrating their newly-wedded bliss by shopping and downing martinis. Nick encounters an old friend's daughter Dorothy (O'Sullivan) in a local bar. She's getting married soon and her father Clyde Wynant, who took a sabbatical but promised to return in time, is nowhere to be found. She implores Nick to find him for her, but he flatly refuses. He's no longer a detective. The only employment he's currently seeking is how to spend his heiress wife's money. He suggest she talk to her father's lawyer, MacCaulay (Hall). MacCauley claims he's recently heard from Wynant and that he's just arrived in town. His reappearance just so happens to coincide with several murders of his close acquaintances, his mistress, who supposedly stole a large sum of bonds from Wynant and her accomplice. Of course, the deaths are blamed on Wynant. Who else would have a reason to kill these people? As hard as he tries to stay out of the whole affair and keep up a constant level of inebriation, everyone from his wife to the newspapers are begging Nick to solve the crimes.
Nick and Wynant's daughter Dorothy are the only ones who believe Wynant is innocent. The only person who's had direct contact with Wynant is his lawyer MacCauley. Everyone else, from MacCauley to Wynant's horribly mean-spirited ex-wife, think Wynant is a cold-blooded killer. Except for Nora. She doesn't really care either way, she's just excited to be involved. When Nick gets accidently shot it's only a flesh wound she's more upset that she missed the action than that he got injured. When Nick goes to investigate another dead body, this time at Wynant's office, he discovers the one clue necessary to solve this rash of murders. With great flourish, he invites all the parties involves in this little scandal to a dinner party, with undercover policemen as the waiters. It is here that he tightens the screws on the real killer, by announcing exactly how all the murders were committed, forcing the murderer to expose themselves. It's a thrilling display of intelligence for a man who's spends much of the film buried in a martini glass. Just think what he could accomplish sober. Of course, than it wouldn't be half the fun.
There are many films that just don't stand up to the test of time. This isn't one of them. Just as witty and urbane as ever, this is a solid detective story wrapped in clever dialogue and wacky antics. It doesn't get better than this. Loy and Powell have great chemistry and even better timing, passing and feeding lines to each other like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin in the Bulls NBA heyday. They're also delightfully naughty, making sure the audience knows, even though they're shown sleeping in separate beds, that they enjoy each other in the biblical sense as often as possible, unless they're hung over. If you've never seen this film or any of the others in the series, you're truly missing one of the great screen teams in action. Think of them as the Astaire/Rogers of the drinking set. THE THIN MAN is definitely the best one, which is de rigueur when it comes to series, but the others are delightful diversions that go down smooth with minimal damage to the brain cells. If you want a fun date movie, that stars intelligent people and actually has a plot, check this one out. If you get bored, start matching Nick and Nora drink for drink, then see how interesting the evening gets.