The Thin Man is based on mystery writer Dashiell Hammett’s celebrated novel, but the mystery isn’t all that important, nor is it the reason for the film’s enduring appeal. Instead, it’s the relationship between Nick (William Powell, To Be Or Not to Be) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy, Midnight Lace) which depicted a new kind of onscreen marriage–one where the spark was still obvious, and the occasional disagreement was healthy. There sometimes cynical banter is funny, but also lends an air of authenticity to the story rarely seen in films at the time.
Nick has essentially retired from the detective game, after having married the wealthy Nora. Now, he’s quite happy managing her financial affairs and staying inebriated. While vacationing in New York, Nick is pressed back into service by Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O’Sullivan). Her father Clyde (Edward Ellis), a professor, has gone missing and Dorothy, his daughter, is desperate to find him. In this first of what would become a six-film series, Nora convinces Nick to become involved in solving a series of murders. With their wire fox terrier Asta in tow, the couple put down their martini’s (yeah, right!) to crack cases that stump police. The Wynant case involves a dysfunctional family, marital infidelity and a series of goons. The case culminates in a dinner party thrown by Nick and Nora, where they invite all the possible suspects.
The interplay between Powell and Loy doesn’t move the plot forward, it generates its own momentum and makes us want to see more of the couple. Nick and Nora make everything an adventure. As wonderful as Powell and Loy are, they benefit from the humor standards of 1934 Hollywood and the bawdy dialogue of screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich (It’s A Wonderful Life). In one early scene, a man comes into their bedroom brandishing a gun. Nick says to him, “Would you mind putting that gun away? My wife doesn’t care, but I am a very timid fellow.” Nora adds, “You idiot!” The banter holds up almost ninety years later.
Made in just twelve days by director W.S. Van Dyke, The Thin Man earned the Best Picture Oscar, William Powell was nominated for Best Actor and the script was nominated for Best Screenplay.
Taken from a “brand new 4K remaster sourced from the best surviving elements,” Warner Archive’s 1080p transfer is a noticeable improvement over previous DVD editions. Earlier instances of dirt, debris and scratches have been removed. Whether it be the fabric of clothing or a piece of furniture, details are much clearer throughout. Contrast is strong, with no sign of blooming or crush. Black levels are surprisingly inky. All in all, Warner Archive has delivered a stunning transfer of a beloved classic.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track does a fine job of replicating the films original single channel design. Dialogue and ambient sounds are clean, clear and concise throughout. The track is well balanced, with only a few brief instances of a low hiss apparent at higher volumes. For a film this old, the track is a solid achievement.
English SDH subtitles are included. Oddly, they are formatted in ALL CAPS.
The following extras are available:
- Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (58:21) This audio broadcast, guest hosted by director W.S. Van Dyke, aired on June 8, 1936. It stars William Powell and Myrna Loy, who reprise their roles as Nick and Nora Charles.
- Scene of the Crime (SD, 25:48) Originally aired on October 24, 1858, this is the second season premiere of The Thin Man TV series. Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk star as Nick and Nora Charles.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:18)
The Thin Man (1934)
Movie title: The Thin Man
Director(s): W.S. Van Dyke
Actor(s): William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell , Porter Hall
Genre: Romance, Mystery, Crime, Comedy