Thursday, April 21, 2016
The Thin Man
This is probably the best example of mixing a screwball comedy with a murder mystery. You get the fun of watching the impossibly chic characters throwing out impossibly witty repartee, and this time it's highlighted with the solving of multiple homicides. I'm not sure why this one seemed classier to me than His Girl Friday - perhaps because Nick Charles is a retired detective, and as far as he knew, no one's life was hanging in the balance whether he took the case or not. And there was no point where the subtitles gave up trying to subtitle because of the atrocious din. Or maybe it was the presence of Skippy the Dog as Nick and Nora's faithful terrier, Asta. I do love pups. Interestingly, the titular “Thin Man” is not supposed to be Nick Charles. Instead, it is supposed to be the missing scientist who is accused of triple homicide – Claude Wynant. However, seeing as William Powell was a slender fellow, people forgot that the case described the missing person as a “thin man”, and assumed the title was referring to the devotee of the Drinking Man's Diet, Nick Charles. Thus, the title was kept for a series of movies, which I fully intend to watch.
William Powell and Myrna Loy are just so very, very likable, and of course, Skippy is adorable and very well trained for perfect comedic timing. The Wikipedia page credits the director, W.S. Van Dyke, with the atmosphere of the film, since he apparently was very much of the school of turning a camera on a talented cast and letting them go. Except according to the sources, he usually didn't even tell them he was filming, because the improv and the banter and the relaxed atmosphere were more important to him than getting perfect lines and reads – basically an exact opposite of Stanley Kubrick. He can't be faulted for results. We got a product of a married couple who actually seem like they would be married, and who actually do make the audience laugh.
I watched this film with my parents, and while my stepmother often falls asleep while we watch films, she was awake and chuckling or interested through the whole thing. I think that's a pretty good recommendation, since this is a lady who has fallen asleep during pretty much every comedy or thriller I have watched with her over the last fifteen years. Most of the film isn't guffaw-level funny, but it's chuckling and wishing you were that witty level funny. I'd say this is a definite watch. I wish I had watched it years ago myself.