One year, one film: 1934
The Thin Man, dir. W. S. Van Dyke
starring Myrna Loy and William Powell
Recommended | Highly Recommended | MUST-SEE
Today is a landmark day for the “One year, one film” series: Mourdant Hall gets his last chance to agree (or disagree) with TMP. Hall stopped reviewing films for The New York Times in 1934 and went on to work as a drama critic and copy editor for other publications, so this is the last time his words will be featured. Luckily, today’s film is one that he and I both adore!
Before we get into the contemporary reviews of The Thin Man, let’s talk a little bit about the film itself. This is the first of six films to feature William Powell and Myrna Loy as a husband and wife sleuthing team, Nick and Nora Charles. Nick is a retired detective, but he gets back in the business when his friend Clyde vanishes, and Clyde’s former secretary/lover is found dead. Nick and his witty, socialite wife Nora try to track down Clyde and find out who the real killer is.
It may sound like a pretty standard murder-mystery, but The Thin Man is a cut above them all. The performances are stellar, Myrna and Bill have great chemistry, and the script is as witty as it could possibly be. These films are, without a doubt, the most entertaining mystery-comedies around!
This seems to be an opinion pretty universally shared by anyone who watches these films — including Mourdant Hall, that disgruntled critic who seems to hate just about everything. (Okay, maybe not everything. But he was a pretty critical critic.) Hall’s June 30, 1934 review gives hefty praise to the film. Van Dyke is “one of Hollywood’s most versatile directors,” Powell is “thoroughly in his element,” and even Asta (aka Skippy) the pup “serve[s] the film well.”
Mourdant Hall wasn’t the only critic to praise the film. Variety‘s reviewer wrote highly of the film as an adaptation, saying that Dashiell Hammett’s story doesn’t lose any of its “punch” on screen, and that the spirit of the novel and its characters are captured well.
The film landed on Photoplay’s “Best Films of the Month” list (August 1934 issue), with both Loy and Powell taking spots on the “Best Performances of the Month” list. The review describes the film as equal parts suspenseful and fun — a very true summary of The Thin Man‘s appeal!
I don’t know of many classic film fans who haven’t already watched and fallen in love with this series, but if you haven’t, drop what you’re doing and watch The Thin Man now! Better yet, buy the boxed set and marathon-watch the whole series!