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THE THIN MAN (1934)

Director: W. S. Van Dyke

Screenplay: Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich (Novel by Dashiell Hammett)

Cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Asta

Available on DVD
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Genre: Humorous Film Noir

Reviewed by Judith Fox

Ah yes. Nick and Nora Charles. This is the famous couple in The Thin Man series films produced in the 30’s. The reason for their popularity is obvious. They ooze charm and wit. They’re debonair, gorgeous and rich. Mold that together with the fact they are irresistibly likeable. And their fuzzy terrier dog makes three.

The first of six films, this is by far the best. The original story written as a novel by Dashiell Hammett, (The Maltese Falcon) proved to be a shoe-in screenplay written by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich.

Add in the ingredients, Nick Charles (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) and poof, it’s the magic formula for this reviewer. The happy couple are also newlyweds. A marriage made in heaven.

Nick, a slick and handsome private investigator, always with a smart answer, has just married Nora, a beautiful rich heiress, not at a loss for words herself.

A zany comedy this film was made in 12 days. Unbelievable really as it has nary a bump. Totally entertaining, perhaps a little dated with clothes with furs, but beautiful otherwise.

Nora suffers the silly pranks of her husband with poise and couth. She gets in a few pranks herself.

The story involves Nick and Nora meeting their sweet young woman friend, Dorothy Winent (Maureen O’Sullivan), also rich, whose father, a scientist, deciding to go into hiding to get some work done, is never seen again.

Rumors of death move into dead bodies (three in total) being discovered, and Nick who doesn’t want to be involved, is involved, much to the excitement of Nora who has never seen her husband at work.

Despite the booze that flows at the Charles’ house, Nick is still a capable man solving crimes.

In one scene Nora and Nick throw a Christmas party, to which all the suspects and more attend. There are a lot of Nick’s friends in New York, ex-cons and police galore. Each of these characters is not playing with a full deck. Ideal for this crazy mystery. Late in the evening the guests drunk as drunk can be gather together around the Christmas Tree singing a Christmas song. The camera swings over to Nora hugging Nick. "Oh Nick, you have such lovely friends." Though I could have sworn she said "looney" friends. She is a well bred woman however.

Even Asta is just the dog for them. If he could talk he’d been right in there making glib remarks. Of course, he doesn’t have a lot of time on screen, just a few important moments.

As a reviewer I don’t want to tell you the story. Suffice it to say it’s a mystery, and there are three murders. However, this movie is the opposite tone to "The Maltese Falcon."

"The Thin Man" is a film noir without the gloom.

It’s like opening a Christmas present. Enjoy. I certainly did. Recommended to anyone with a sense of humor.

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