The Thin Man (film)
|The Thin Man|
|Directed by||W. S. Van Dyke|
|Produced by||Hunt Stromberg|
|Written by||Albert Hackett
|Based on||The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
|Music by||William Axt|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Editing by||Robert Kern|
|Running time||93 minutes|
The Thin Man (1934) is an American comedy-mystery film directed by W.S. Van Dyke, 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 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's pulled back into service by a friend's disappearance and possible involvement in a murder. The friend, Clyde Wynant (Ellis) (the eponymous "thin man"), has mysteriously vanished. When his former secretary/girlfriend, Julia Wolf, is found dead, evidence points to Wynant as the prime suspect, but his daughter Dorothy (O'Sullivan) can't believe he did it. She convinces Nick to take the case, much to the amusement of his socialite wife. The detective stumbles off to find clues and manages to piece things together through intensive investigation.
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" due to its being found in clothing from a much heavier man. This clothing is revealed to be a diversion, and the identity of the body is finally revealed, on the basis of an old war wound to the leg, as that of a particular "thin man" — the missing Wynant. The murder has been disguised in a way to frame the dead Wynant by people who have stolen a great deal of money from Wynant and killed him on the night he was last seen.
- William Powell as Nick Charles
- Myrna Loy as Nora Charles
- Skippy as Asta, their dog
- Maureen O'Sullivan as Dorothy Wynant
- Nat Pendleton as Lt. John Guild
- Minna Gombell as Mimi Wynant Jorgenson
- Porter Hall as Herbert MacCaulay
- Henry Wadsworth as Tommy
- William Henry as Gilbert Wynant
- Harold Huber as Arthur Nunheim
- Cesar Romero as Chris Jorgenson
- Natalie Moorhead as Julia Wolf
- Edward Ellis as Clyde Wynant
- Edward Brophy as Joe Morelli
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.
- David Townsend - Associate Art Director
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:
- After the Thin Man (1936)
- Another Thin Man (1939)
- Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
- The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
- Song of the Thin Man (1947)
In 2002, critic Roger Ebert added the film to his list of Great Movies.  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."
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 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.
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- The Thin Man at the Internet Movie Database
- The Thin Man at AllRovi
- The Thin Man at the TCM Movie Database
- The Thin Man on Lux Radio Theater: June 8, 1936