The comedian Andy Kaufman refused to play somebody who was drunk or stoned, dismissing it is cheap way to get laughs. The Thin Man is a critically-revered film that I feel validates that belief.
I was shocked I could feel anything less than love for a movie with this pedigree. The top-billed stars are William Powell, astounding in My Man Godfrey, and Myrna Loy. It was made in 1934, the last year where Hollywood could get away in murder in what is now called the “pre-code” era. The next year, the Academy nominated the picture in four categories, including Best Picture. It was even based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Maltese Falcon.
Good lord, I couldn’t wait for this movie to be over.
Powell and Loy play married wealthy sophisticates who inevitably get involved in a mystery they most solve. Their dialogue is supposedly to be endlessly clever and sparkling, but I would sum it up in just one word: drunk. These two drink a lot and snipe at each other in a way we are supposed to find amusing. I found these two annoying, and I didn’t care to spend any more time with them. Unfortunately, I probably will, as this movie spawned five sequels and, lacking foresight, I already own those films on disc.
I won’t bother going into the plot, but here is how I would describe the movie to somebody completely unfamiliar with it: drinking, sniping, drinking, everybody talking over each other, drinking, cute dog, drinking, everybody talking over each other, murder, repeated use of footage of cute dog we saw earlier, drinking, everybody talking over each other, dinner party where killer is revealed, drinking, dog. And as for those bits where everybody is talking over each other, there is a party scene that may transcend any Altman scene where dialogue overlaps. It’s like a room full of people talking at the same loud volume, and with the machine-gun-fire patter of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday.
I’m still baffled by how much I disliked The Thin Man. Maybe I will appreciate it better if I watch it again years from now, as has been the case for me with many other movies of this vintage. If nothing else, I hope I will find more to appreciate in its five sequels since it is inevitable I’m going to be seeing them.
Dir: W. S. Van Dyke
Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy
Watched on blu-ray