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William Powell . . . . . Nick Charles Studio . . . . . . . . . . . MGM
Myrna Loy. . . . . . . . Nora Charles Director . . . . . . . . . W.S. Van Dyke
Maureen O'Sullivan. . Dorothy Wynant Novel by. . . . . . . . . Dashiell Hammett
Nat Pendleton. . . . . . Lt. John Guild Cinematography. . . .James Wong Howe
Minna Gombell. . . . . Mimi Wynant Edited by . . . . . . . . .Robert J. Kern
Wynant Porter Hall . .MacCauley Sound by. . . . . . . . . Douglas Shearer
Henry Wadsworth . . Tommy Music by. . . . . . . . . .William Axt
Run Time: 93 minutes
The possible ratings are as follows:
Abysmal. Complete trash-- bad acting, writing, cinematography, etc.
Bomb. One or two redeeming qualities, but inferior overall.
Average. Not outstanding in most respects, but worth checking out.
I had a ball. Solid acting, writing, cinematography, etc. Superior in many respects.
Excellent. A true classic. Few, if any, flaws.
The Thin Man is a stylish, well crafted comedy mystery. It is a fairly straightfrward mystery. Someone has killed Clyde Wynant's secretary/lover, Julia Wolf, and suspects abound. Did Wynant himself do it? How about Wynant's ex-wife, Mrs. Jorgenson? How about half a dozen other suspects? It's up to Nick Charles to solve this mystery. The problem is Nick doesn't want to do it. He left the detective business behind for a life of easy living shamelessly sponging off the fortune his father-in-law left his wife. However, before long, he gets sucked into the case. He does figure it out, but always ready for a party, he outs the killer at a lavish dinner party. Solving mystery with style is what Nick is all about.
If you are a mystery fan, this is a must see. This is the classic detective team story. It is remarkable that this film is as good as it is. Mysteries were not new when this film was released and the public craved something new. The idea of combining screwball comedy and mystery was unique but frought with potential pitfalls. How would the audience respond to the comedy when people are getting killed with some frequency? The comedy, if not done properly, could have come off as a transparent attempt to juice up a stalling genre. However, when Loy and Powell were teamed up, the film took on a life of its own. The chemistry between these actors is so good, it seems that we are not watching fiction, but rather a documentary about a husband and wife sleuth team. It is this chemistry, along with some pretty witty dialogue, which makes this film work. If you see any modern lover/detective team movies, you can be sure that the memory of Nick and Nora hangs heavily over that movie.
All aspects of this film are wonderful. I particularly liked the stark contrast in color and shading. This effect was helped out with well planned set designing and costuming. Throughout most of the film, we are either in a very brightly lit room with most or all of the people wearing black and white patterned clothing or a very dark room with very bright light entering the scene. This contarsting brings a crispness to the mood which nicely compliments the sharp, clever dialogue. The use of contrasting whites and blacks would become a staple of film noir; however, we don't get washed out in greys and shadows in The Thin Man as many later film noirs would do.
I would also like to make a note of the direction in this film. you have to watch the film to really appreciate what is about to follow. This film was shot in 2 weeks. That is simply amazing given the large cast and multiple sets that were utilized. For one who lives in the age of the 3 month production shoot, that simply blows my mind. Woody Van Dyke was either very lucky with this film or quite simply a genius.
As you can tell, I very much liked this film. It does what it intended better than most. However, while it is a great movie, I don't know that it's really cinema. True enough, the technical aspects of the film are near perfection; however, there is a superficiality to the characters and the story here. We don't really get to know Nick or Nora beyond their wise-cracking, fun-loving facades even though, we can tell that they probably do love each other very much. We don't really learn anything about the dynamics of their relationship. We are just presented with this couple, which is very funny and very handsome, and we accept them. I have lots of "whys" about the characters in addition to the "who, what, when, wheres" that are solved in the mystery. For that reason, I cannot give this film the highest rating. Rather, my rating:
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