(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: The Thin Man (1934)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A functioning alcoholic is badgered by his wife to solve a murder, so he does.
Why It’s on the List: This was the first in a series, and what makes this series so special has nothing to do with any of the individual mysteries being solved, but the banter between Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wife Nora Charles (Myrna Loy). I remember being made aware of this franchise at a time when I was working through some Warner Bros. classics. I actually blind bought the DVDs and binged the collection over a matter of days. I could probably have put a couple of the movies on the list, but this one felt the most appropriate since it’s the start.
The level of banter increased between the Charles couple in ensuing movies, but this was a very fun watch. At a breezy 90 minutes, the mystery gets just convoluted enough to ensure Nick Charles has to untangle the web at the end during a dinner party but not enough to leave an audience member completely confused. There’s still a fair amount of sexism as Nora is mostly sidelines to be a cheerleader. The one time she tries to engage in the action, she gets sent to a tomb (no, seriously, gotta love 1934). This isn’t a very deep, meaningful film, but it’s a fun one.
I also have to mention Asta, the Charles’s pet dog who makes an appearance throughout these movies. He’s a very good boy.
*Seriously, there’s a lot of drinking in this movie, especially among the two leads.
*Nick slaps his wife to make sure she doesn’t get shot…what a weird scene.
MVP and Best Performance: William Powell is so great throughout this movie. If I were evaluating the whole series, I’d say both Powell and Loy are co-MVPs, but Powell controls so much of the action. He also has to make the idea of functioning alcoholic seem fun and plausible. He does it successfully. Would it be something I would enjoy in a more modern context? Doubtful, but it works for a film that’s almost 80 years old. I get a little bit of Dominic Cooper when he’s playing Howard Stark vibes.
Best Quote: “Will you serve the nuts? (Pause) Will you serve the guests the nuts?” Nora Charles
Is there a sequel? There are a few sequels, and all of them are solid. The next two specifically are as good as this original one. It’s only the last couple where you can tell the magic has been lost, but the two leads still have incredible chemistry.
Check out Mike & Matt’s podcast review of this film as part of their 2019 Christmas Special!