Eighty-eight years ago today, the film The Thin Man premiered. This is by far one of my very favorite movies for a multitude of reasons, it is a screwball comedy murder mystery written by a master and performed by masters. I remember the first time I watched it and how quickly I sought out it’s five sequels. It lead me to going to a small revival movie house every Friday for six weeks to see them all in a theater. You must watch this film. I have attached The Thin Man radio play below.
Title: The Thin Man
Directed by: W. S. Van Dyke
Produced by: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay by: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich
Based on: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell
Music by: William Axt
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Edited by: Robert Kern
Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: May 25, 1934
Running time: 93 minutes
Box office: $1,423,000
Nick Charles (William Powell), a retired detective, and his wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy), are visiting New York City to spend the Christmas holidays. There, Nick is pressed back into service by Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O’Sullivan), a young woman whose father, Clyde (Edward Ellis), was an old client of Nick’s. Clyde, the title’s “thin man”, was supposed to be on a secret business trip and promised to be home before his daughter’s wedding, but has mysteriously vanished. She convinces Nick to take the case, with the assistance of his socialite wife, eager to see him in action. What appears to be a missing person case turns into a murder case when Julia Wolf (Natalie Moorhead), Clyde’s former secretary and love interest, is found dead, and evidence points to Clyde as the prime suspect. Dorothy refuses to believe that her father is guilty. The detective uncovers clues and eventually solves the mystery of the disappearance.
The murderer is exposed at a dinner party: A skeletonized body, found buried in Wynant’s workshop during the investigation, had been assumed to be that of a “fat man” because it was wearing oversized clothing. However, Nick alleges that the clothes were planted to hide the true identity of the body, which still has shrapnel from an old war wound in one leg and belongs to a “thin man”: the missing Wynant. Nick deduces that the real culprit murdered Clyde once Clyde found out he had been embezzling from him, then murdered Julia who knew about Clyde’s murder, then also murdered Nunheim, who witnessed Julia’s murder.
Nick reveals the identity of the killer as Wynant’s attorney Herbert MacCauley (Porter Hall). Panicked, MacCauley tries to shoot Nick, but Nick punches him out.
Finally, Nick and Nora, as well as Dorothy and her new husband Tommy (Henry Wadsworth), celebrate as they take a train back to California.
My personal favorite of The Thin Man films was the sequel, “After The Thin Man”. It’s among my top 10. This film runs a close 2nd. Ed Brophy, Nat Pendelton and Harold Huber were three of the most reliable character actors of the time and they certainly don’t disappoint! Minna Gombell chews up the scenery and is the only drawback. It was only the 3rd film for actor Porter Hall and he held his own next to the heavyweights. I especially love the instrumental version of San Francisco Here I Come at the end.