The Thin Man (film)

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The Thin Man
Poster - Thin Man, The 02.jpg
Theatrical release lobby card
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke
Produced by Hunt Stromberg
Written by Albert Hackett
Frances Goodrich
Based on the novel The Thin Man 
by Dashiell Hammett
Starring William Powell
Myrna Loy
Music by William Axt
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Editing by Robert Kern
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • May 23, 1934 (1934-05-23)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $226,408 (est.)

The Thin Man (1934) is an American comedy-mystery directed by W.S. Van Dyke and based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. The film stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles; Nick is a hard-drinking, retired private detective and Nora is a wealthy heiress. Their wire-haired fox terrier Asta was played by canine actor Skippy.

The film's screenplay was written by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, a married couple. In 1934, the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The titular "Thin Man" is not Nick Charles, but the man Charles is initially hired to find - Clyde Wynant (part way through the film, Charles characterizes Wynant as a "thin man with white hair"). The "Thin Man" moniker was thought by many viewers to refer to Nick Charles and, after a time, it was used in the titles of sequels as if referring to Charles.


Nick Charles (Powell), a retired detective, and his wife Nora (Loy) are attempting to settle down when he is pressed back into service when a friend disappears after a murder. The friend, Clyde Wynant (Ellis) (the eponymous "thin man"), has mysteriously vanished. When his former secretary and love interest, Julia Wolf, is found dead, evidence points to Wynant as the prime suspect, but his daughter Dorothy (O'Sullivan) refuses to believe that her father is guilty. She convinces Nick to take the case, much to the amusement of his socialite wife. The detective begins to uncover clues and eventually solves the mystery of the disappearance through a series of investigative steps.

The murderer is finally revealed in a classic dinner-party scene that features all of the suspects. A skeletonized body, found during the investigation, had been assumed to be that of a "fat man" because it is wearing oversize clothing. The clothes are revealed to be planted, and the identity of the body is accurately determined by an old war wound to the leg. It turns out that the body belongs to a "thin man" — the missing Wynant. The double murder has been disguised in such a way as to make it seem that Wynant is the killer and still alive. The real killers are people who stole a lot of money from Wynant and killed him on the night he was last seen.


Uncredited cast members include Clay Clement, Pat Flaherty, Douglas Fowley, Christian J. Frank, Creighton Hale, Edward Hearn, Robert Homans, Walter Long, Fred Malatesta, Lee Phelps, Bert Roach, Rolfe Sedan, Gertrude Short, Lee Shumway, Ben Taggart, Harry Tenbrook and Leo White.[2]



The entire film was shot in twelve (out of fourteen) days. Some of the interior scenes were shot inside the Bidwell Mansion in Chico, California. The film was released on May 24, 1934, only five months after the release of the book, which had been released in January 1934.


The film was such a success that it spawned five sequels:

In 2002, critic Roger Ebert added the film to his list of Great Movies. [3] Ebert praises William Powell's performance in particular, stating that Powell "is to dialogue as Fred Astaire is to dance. His delivery is so droll and insinuating, so knowing and innocent at the same time, that it hardly matters what he's saying."[4]

In 1997, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In 2000 American Film Institute designated the film as one of the great comedies in the previous hundred years of cinema.


The trailer contained specially filmed footage in which Nick Charles (William Powell) is seen on the cover of the Dashiell Hammett novel The Thin Man. Nick Charles then steps out of the cover to talk to fellow detective Philo Vance (also played by Powell) about his latest case.

Charles mentions he hasn't seen Vance since The Kennel Murder Case, a film in which Powell played Vance. The Kennel Murder Case was released in October 1933, just seven months prior to the release of The Thin Man.

Charles goes on to explain to Vance that his latest case revolves around a "tall, thin man" (referring to Clyde Wynant), just before clips of the film are shown.


The Thin Man was dramatized as a radio play on the June 8, 1936 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater, with William Powell and Myrna Loy reprising their film roles.


In May 2011, it was reported that Johnny Depp will star in a remake of the film, directed by Rob Marshall.[5]


In the 1976 comedy spoof movie Murder by Death, the characters of Nick and Nora Charles became Dick and Dora Charleston, played by David Niven and Maggie Smith. The 1979-1984 ABC television weekly romantic detective series Hart To Hart also mimicked the central conceit. It starred Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers and Lionel Stander. In the 2005 animated film Hoodwinked!, the character Nicky Flippers, a frog detective voiced by David Ogden Stiers, was based on Nick Charles.


  1. ^ Brophy would return to the series in 1944 as Brogan in The Thin Man Goes Home.
  2. ^ Full cast & crew at Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Great Movies
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. 22 Dec. 2002. The Thin Man. Accessed 29 June 2010
  5. ^ Johnny Depp will star in a remake of the movie. Guardian article

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