Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) live in California and are in New York City for the Christmas holiday. Nick was a private detective before he married his rich wife and New York City was his old stomping ground. While in New York Nick is approached by Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O’Sullivan). Dorothy is supposed to be marrying Tommy (Henry Wadsworth) and her father Clyde (Edward Ellis) promised to be there but he’s been missing for a couple months. Clyde is an inventor and had been working on a secret project but no one has heard from him. Clyde had been a client of Nick’s in the past. At first Nick is averse to getting involved in the case. His wife Nora encourages him. She is interested in seeing Nick at work first hand.

Clyde and his wife Mimi (Minna Gombell) were divorced when she found out Clyde had been having an affair with his secretary Julia Wolf (Natalie Moorehead). Mimi had since remarried a gold digger named Chris Jorgenson (Cesar Romero). Julia, while still having a relationship with Clyde is also seeing other men on the side. When Julia is found dead Clyde is suspected of her murder. Dorothy refuses to believe her father is the killer until her mother shows her evidence that points to her father. Mimi found Julia’s body and clutched in her hand was a unique watch chain that her ex-husband always carried.

Now Dorothy is beginning to think her father really did kill Julia. Nick knows there are other suspects lined up that could have done it since Julia hung out with some unsavory characters. When two more bodies are found Nick is in full sleuth mode. One of the dead is a crook named Nunheim (Harold Huber) that hung around Julia. The other is a body found buried in the floor of Clyde’s shop. With three murders tied to Clyde it’s no wonder he’s disappeared.

“The Thin Man” was released in 1934 and was directed by W. S. VanDyke. It is based on the story by Dashiell Hammett. It is a pre-code mystery and the first of six films in the franchise. It is also the only one to be actually based on the novel.

The "Thin Man" name actually refers to the character Clyde Wynant that Nick Charles is looking for. People thought it referred to Nick himself as being the thin man. After a while it ended up being used in the titles of sequels as if referring to Nick. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. In 1997, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The film is a mystery with a good amount of humor sprinkled in between Nick and Nora. Most of which Nick goes through inebriated. Although the mystery is not all that mysterious the light banter back and forth between the couple is what makes the film rather delightful. The chemistry between the two actors comes across as if the two were actually a couple in real life that just enjoyed each other’s company and loved to tease each other. I’m not sure what the big fuss is about the dog “Asta”. It seems as if his function is just as a plot devise. He’s fine, but he’s no “Friday” like blind detective Mac Maclain’s seeing-eye German Shepherd in “Eyes in the Night” 1942.

According to film historian Andrew Sarris, Nick and Nora were the first on-screen Hollywood couple for whom matrimony did not signal the end of sex, romance and adventure. In the thirties the sex aspect of the couple’s relationship may have been a concern for the censors but it seems the overindulgence of alcohol was not. Nick, at least, appears to be slightly if not mostly pickled during all of the movie. Drinks seem to appear in almost every scene from the first to the last. What a difference a generation makes.

The trailer for the film is of special note. Nick Charles, who is played by William Powell steps off a book cover to have a conversation with Philo Vance, who was also played by William Powell in several movies.

“The Thin Man” was also a TV series from 1957 through 1959 with Peter Lawford. The Nick and Nora characters were also spoofed in “Murder by Death” 1976.



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