Frank's Movie Log

Quality reviews of films of questionable quality.
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The Thin Man

4 Stars (out of 5)

The Thin Man drags at first, but give it a chance.

It opens with eccentric inventor Clyde Wynant preparing to go into seclusion to work on a new project. He's interrupted by a visit from his daughter Dorothy who announces her engagement.

Wynant hurries Dorothy out but promises to return in time for her wedding. Wynant continues his preparations but finds the $50,000 in bonds he'd earmarked as a wedding present to Dorothy have gone missing.

Wynant storms over to his mistress Julia's apartment and catches her in another man's arms. Wynant accuses Julia of stealing the bonds and threatens to turn her over to the police.

Three months later, Dorothy hasn't heard from her father. While out at a restaurant, she recognizes former detective Nick Charles, played by William Powell, and approaches him for help. Nick declines, citing his new life of leisure with his heiress wife Nora, played by Myrna Loy.

But when circumstances pin a pair of murders on the still missing Wynant, Nick steps in, uncovering a buried skeleton and a labyrinthine array of suspects and motives. The mystery culminates with New York's finest corralling everyone to a dinner party where Nick reveals the true killer.

The talky opening betrays the film's B-movie production. It's a stiff ten minutes but don't worry. Once Powell makes his appearance—in a posh bar showing an impromptu crowd how various cocktails demand unique shaking rhythms (Manhattans a Fox-Trot, Bronxs a Two-Step, and Dry Martinis a Waltz)—everything changes. The dialog shifts from stilted exposition to witty banter as Powell glides through the film as the witty urbane charmer we believe ourselves to be after a few drinks.

The script offers little real danger and the entire plot proves little more than a MacGuffin to support his lyrical banter, which reaches its apex during the iconic dinner party scene. As Nora says, “It's the best dinner I've ever listened to.”

Grade: B+

The Thin Man (1934)D: W.S. Van Dyke1934 | USA | 91 mins.I've seen it 1 time.