Review: The Thin Man (1934)

>> Saturday, December 30, 2006

USA/B&W-93 m./Dir: W.S. Van Dyke/Wr: Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich/Cast: William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), Skippy (Asta), Maureen O’Sullivan (Dorothy Wynant)

The Thirties saw hardboiled detectives and screwball socialites put away liquor with equal aplomb. So when the two genres were combined with 1934’s The Thin Man, it was a cocktail of explosive magnitude.

This loose adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett novel features William Powell as Nick Charles, a retired detective with a Herculean capacity for Scotch, and Myrna Loy as Nora, his equally swizzled socialite wife. Nick is perfectly happy spending his wife’s money pickling his liver until the daughter of an old client requests his help. It’s only after several dead bodies pile up that he grudgingly agrees to take the case. Once involved, Nick proves himself to be one of soused cinema's most functional alcoholics by solving the murder with a little help from Nora and his tenacious terrier, Asta. Nick’s initial reluctance to get drawn into the investigation is perfectly understandable, because as he states, “It’s putting me way behind in my drinking.”

Incidentally, although the popularity of this screwball mystery led to five sequels with “The Thin Man” in the title, the “thin man” referred to in the original film is not Nick but one of the murder victims.

Drinks Consumed--Gin (dry martinis), rye (straight & highballs), Scotch (straight & with soda), champagne, and cocktails (type unspecified)

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, swaying, staggering, stumbling, sentimentality, harmonizing, and hangover

Potent Quotables-- NORA: Say, how many drinks have you had?
NICK: This will make six martinis.
NORA: All right. (To waiter) Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo, and line them right up here?

Video Availability--The Thin Man is available as a standalone DVD or as part of The Complete Thin Man Collection (The Thin Man / After the Thin Man / Another Thin Man / Shadow of the Thin Man / The Thin Man Goes Home / Song of the Thin Man).

Similarly Sauced Cinema--After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), and Song of the Thin Man (1947). The second film is nearly as flammable as the first, but Nick and Nora curbed the cocktails dramatically in the later series entries.

The Complete Thin Man Collection (The Thin Man / After the Thin Man / Another Thin Man / Shadow of the Thin Man / The Thin Man Goes Home / Song of the Thin Man)


Anonymous July 10, 2008 at 11:12 AM  

Thanks for your review of one of my favorite films. My girlfriend and I often re-enact a piece of dialog from this film at parties:

She: Would you like a drink?
Me: It's a little early, isn't it?
She: Too early for a drink?
Me: No! Too early for stupid questions! Of course I want a drink!

Great site, keep it up!....Chicago Jake

GoldenBear July 15, 2010 at 11:42 AM  

The Thin Man is one of the best series of movies ever made. The interaction of Nick and Nora (and Asta) is priceless. Their love of cocktails and each other is awe inspiring. It features so many of my favorite things...San Francisco, martini's, dogs and sexy strong minded women.

TRI September 13, 2011 at 4:27 PM  

GOD BLESS THE THIN MAN SERIES. ive loved these films from the 1st time i saw The Thin Man on TCM. i have the box set. i hear there getting ready to remake it i pray they dong BLEEP it up i hear johnny depp is set to play nick. not my choice but oh well if it bombs ill boycott the no talent hack for life.......

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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