The movie adaptation of The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, directed by W.S. Van Dyke, is unfortunately hilarious, and what I mean by that is that even though it entertains a dark story filled with unfortunate circumstances, it remains a comedy at heart, and can be laugh out loud entertaining. Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) is back in New York, and an old friend Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O’Sullivan) approaches him with a problem. Her father is missing, and implicated in the murder of Julia Wolf, his mistress. Nick could probably figure this one out in his sleep, and you know from the beginning that he is going to charm his way to the answer of this mystery.
Like most comedies, the character development is very, if not the most important, aspect of the work. The main characters of this film were very likeable, charming and funny. William Powell and Myrna Loy, are so natural together, you forget that it’s a murder mystery and that it is not about these two charming people flying about town. Their chemistry as a couple puts almost every other Hollywood male/female team up to shame. It could be the single greatest pairing of actors in film history. Even their dog, Asta, is part of the team, and is anthropomorphized into one of the better characters. They do overshadow some of the other characters who make funny appearances, but nothing as memorable like moments with our main characters. The mystery itself sometimes takes the second chair during the film, but this does not bring it down at all.
The last star of the film is alcohol, which can be seen regularly throughout the film. The cast, in order of appearance is, Martini’s, William Powell, and Myrna Loy. The actors chemistry cannot be denied but they also seem to be the most boozy couple in film as well. It is a trait they both share as a husband and wife and it is also the source of some of the funnier scenes and lines from the film. They meet up in a restaurant and Nora sits down and asks how many drinks have been had. After the answer, SIX, Nora asks for five more. This is something I noticed after watching the film more than once after you start to notice more going on and there was a lot of fake booze on set.
The plot does have many of the film noir conventions we are used to, and the mystery is deep and is surprising at the end. The film does wrap up its mystery and intrigue in an exquisite way. Even though it is one of the more used mystery film tropes. Nick Charles has all of his suspects brought, some against their will, to a dinner party he hosts where he announces his thought process through the evidence and comes to the conclusion seemingly on the spot. A great way for the audience to resolve the plot for themselves. The movie does take some time to set the full story in motion, but it is upbeat and fun throughout, and it pays off everything it sets up. The film was so incredibly successful that it spawned five more sequels. So, if you haven’t had enough of this wonderful murder-solving couple than you can have much, much more.