Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man ★★★★ 4/5

Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O'Sullivan) and her fiance Tommy (Henry Wadsworth) explode into Dorothy's Father Clyde's (Edward Ellis) laboratory to announce to her father that they are going to be married. After the announcement they leave excited for the wedding and Dorothy looking forward to her father walking her down the aisle when the time comes. Before leaving her Father indicates he is going to be going on a trip but gives no indication to anyone as to why, where or when. On Christmas Eve, shorty before the wedding, there is no sign of Dorothy's Father and she expresses her concern to retired Detective Nick Charles (William Powell). Nick tells them not to worry and is soon greeted by his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) and their dog Asta. The tone is set with likable characters and feel good scripting.

Quickly the scene shifts to the Wynant home where Dorothy is telephoned by Charles and informs her that her Father is no longer missing. Dorothy begins to talk to her Mother Mimi Wynant Jorgenson (Minna Gombell) and their family dynamic is laid out. Dorothy's parents are divorced and her Mother relies on money from her ex-husband Clyde. However she is finding the money is going towards his new love interest Julia (Natalie Moorhead). Mimi decides to go and confront Julia only to find her dead. Dorothy finds her ex-husband's bracelet and immediately implies he is the murderer. However rather then turn him in, she tries to hide the bracelet in a safe only to be caught by Dorothy.

Nick and Nora host a fabulous party. The party is crashed by police and reporters who have heard that Nick was working the case. According to Nora, the only case he is working on is a "case of scotch." The comical lines are smooth and delivered with no force or awkwardness. Dorothy arrives to confession she committed the murder and to ask for Nick's help. Mimi then shows up to try to get help finding her ex-husband to let him know what she knows. Or think she knows. Naturally the reporters see this and think that Nick is working the case.

Plot twist and turns, and a few more murders bring Nick to conclude he knows who the murderer is. For him to prove it, and solve the mystery, he devises a plan. A dinner party where all the suspects are involved. At the party Nick begins to unravel the mystery and share his findings. He reveals to Dorothy that one of the bodies they found was that of her Father. He proceeds to explain how Clyde's bracelet ended up at Julia's murder scene. Throughout the scene he seems to make up what might have happened and only Nora knows that his theory may not be all together true. As he explains, the guests pipe in with their objections. Finally a gun is pulled by one of the guests. The mystery is solved and the murderer is identified.

Nick and Nora delightfully entertain the guests and keep the party rolling. The relationship between the couple is delightful. They have full trust and respect for each other. Powell and Loy are indeed a magical couple on screen and they pair together nicely. So nicely in fact that I would watch other movies starring them. Somehow they have been overlooked in studies of the silver screen. How these two have not become as well known as the pairings of Gable & Leigh, Tracey & Hepburn or Astaire & Rogers is beyond me. On screen they come off as real. The way they talk, act and interact. They love each other and it is not an over dramatic, corny love. It is genuine.

The highlight of the film is the relationship between Nick and Nora. They are so idea as a couple. so playful. There is a scene where the two are relaxing i their home enjoying their Christmas gifts. It is a scene unlike any other I have seen. The couple is lounging in their pajamas. Nick playing with a gun like a little boy and Nora watching on while she lavishes her new fur coat. The two lazily occupy the screen as one would expect to see on a reality TV show. The two become pulled further into the investigation of the murder and while it is the plot of the film it hardly becomes relevant as Powell and Loy could carry the film regardless of what the subject matter was. One might actually wonder if the title character's of Nick And Nora's Infinite Playlist (2008) took inspiration from The Thin Man.

I would guess this movie is on the list specifically to see the performances of Powell and Loy. Their interaction holds up today much better then that of other onscreen couples from the 1930's. There is a realism to their chemistry that you don't often see on screen. for this alone the movie is worth seeing. As far as being a murder mystery, it is not long or drawn out. The plot doesn't get complex or drag on with unbelievable storylines that are twisted and hard to follow. In fact the movie has very little time spent on trying to solve the mysteries. Everything kind of happens and then the time spent on explaining it takes place during the dinner scene. The comedy in the movie is not exaggerated either. The one liners are not off the wall zingers or randomly positioned to evoke a laugh. They are most often comments that follow the story line and can be perceived in two ways: either figuratively or literally. Such a classic line is "Would you serve the nuts? I mean would you serve the guests the nuts?" Sly and clever lines line this can be found through the whole movie.

If you do like it, it is the first in a series of 5 more films that followed.

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