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the thin man

THE THIN MAN (1934)

Follows the comedic adventures of former New York City police detective Nick Charles and his rich, fun-loving wife, Nora Charles, as they become involved in a mystery, which involves murder, and a disappearance, all for the fun and thrill of it.

The cast includes: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell, William Henry, Edward Ellis, Edward Brophy, Harold Huber, Cesar Romero, and Asta - the dog.

Directed by W.S. Van Dyke. Albert Hackett, wrote the screenplay, based on the novel written by Dashiell Hammett.

THE THIN MAN was nominated for the Best Picture award.

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Promotional Line: "A laugh tops every thrilling moment!"

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The story opens with Nick (Powell) and Nora Charles (Loy) enjoying the good life in New York, and each other's company, drinking a lot and partying. They stop by to see an old friend, an eccentric inventor, Prof. Clyde Wynant (Ellis), who had left his wife and family for the love of his mistress secretary, Julia Wolf ( Moorehead). In his laboratory, Prof. Clyde Wynant announces to Nick and Nora, and his daughter, Dorothy (O'Sullivan), and soon to be son-in law, Tommy (Wadsworth), that he plans to go away for awhile where he can work on his experiments without being disturbed by distractions. He wouldn't even tell his lawyer, Herbert MacCaulay (Hall), where he could be reached. He promises his daughter that he would return in time to be in her wedding in December.

In December, there is no sign of Prof. Wynant, and his mistress is murdered in her apartment. Nick Charles is put on the case by Dorothy, who wants her father found, and his name cleared, as he has become the main suspect in Julia Wolf's murder. Before he went away, Wynant finds out that Julia, who had access to his personal safe, had sold the bonds that Wynant had planned to give Dorothy as a wedding present.

But there are many other suspects to consider. Clyde's ex-wife, Mimi (Minna Gombell), had recently hooked up with a freeloader, Chris Jorgenson (Cesar Romero). Mimi, hated Julia, and Julia was the one in charge of giving Wynant's money to Mimi when the good professor was out of town. Mimi always needed more and more money from her ex-husband, because she had secretly married the dead-beat, Chris Jorgenson. If her husband had found out that she had remarried, she would be cut off from all of his money.

In-between hilarious lines and quips between Nick and Nora, Nick has a lot of suspects to investigate, and the screenplay gives him plenty of misdirection to shift through, with twists and turns galore before the final gathering of all the suspects, where the murderer exposes him/herself, like in an Agatha Christi story. The audience is thoroughly entertained as Nick Charles ferrets out the relevant clues that his hunches lead him to investigate, and how he puts it all together in the exciting ending of this comedy mystery film is a real crowd pleaser.

The funny and witty, exciting 1934 screenplay, by Albert Hackett, based on the novel written by Dashiell Hammett, the fine direction by W.S. Van Dyke, the great pacing and fine cast all work together to give us this entertaining film, that has held up very well over the years, and is timeless entertainment.

William Powell won a best actor nomination for his portrayal of Nick Charles, a hard drinking, but sharp thinking sleuth with a sense of humor and fun.

William Powell and Myrna Loy (as Nora) are fabulous together, and bring out the intended hilarity in the cleverly scripted screenplay, with their comic timing and delivery of their lines, which shows the talent of their comedic acting ability, as their characters weather the twists and turns of the puzzling and sometimes exciting plotline. They really enjoyed acting together and it shows in their onscreen chemistry.

This winning combination of Powell and Loy inspired 5 more Thin Man movies. Their special chemistry and witty exchanges hold true through the whole series of films. As the characters mature in these sequels, they become less the party goers, and drink a lot less, as the screenwriter builds on their personalities, and their lives change.

Nat Pendleton, does a good job playing Police Lt. John Guild, who helps Nick Charles in the investigation, after he and his men rescue Nick and Nora from Joe Morelli, who appears in the Charles' bedroom to confront Nick Charles.

Edward Brophy, a character actor who made a fine living playing thugs and dumb policemen, does a great job in this small role of playing Julia's thug boyfriend, Joe Morelli, she had on the side, who is also a suspect.

Harold Huber, a character actor who made a lot of films in the 1930's & 1940's, did a convincing job in his small role as a slimy police informer /small-time crook, Arthur Nunheim, who gets himself into hot water with his girl friend, the police, and the person he is blackmailing. The script has the audience thinking that he may be the suspect at one point.

The cast members, (Maureen O'Sullivan, Minna Gombell, William Henry) who portrayed the rather odd bunch of Wynant family members do a great job of bringing out the peculiarities of their characters, which adds to the humor and plot points of the script. A favorite scene takes place during a Christmas Eve party at the Charles' apartment. A wide variety of people are there. Ex-con friends of Nick, reporters trying to get a scoop, friends of Nora, etc. One by one, members of the Wynant family sneak into the party to talk to Nick Charles, and he has to put them in separate rooms, including the bathroom to talk to them individually, and be a host at the party at the same time.

Other favorite scenes include Nick Charles' investigation efforts with Asta, the questioning of small-time crook, Arthur Nunheim (Harold Huber), the bedroom confrontation with the thug boyfriend of Julia, Joe Morelli (Edward Brophy), and the climatic final dinner party in the Charles' apartment dining room, when all the suspects and related parties are escorted by the police to dine with Nick and Nora.

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If you enjoyed THE THIN MAN, you may like the whole series: AFTER THE THIN MAN, ANOTHER THIN MAN, SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN, THE THIN MAN GOES HOME, and THE SONG OF THE THIN MAN. You also may enjoy UNDERCOVER BLUES and KINDERGARDEN COP.