Academy Nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (W.S. Van Dyke), and Actor (William Powell)
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, "The Thin Man" was briskly completed on a low-budget by director W.S. Van Dyke (aka "One Take Woody"), an old timer from the silent days, whose no-nonsense pacing transformed a dialogue-heavy script into a tight little fluff mystery.
The real focus is the chemistry between William Powell & Myrna Loy, two actors who would pair up for four sequels, ending with "Song of the Thin Man," in 1947. Powell had already made a name for himself playing Philo Vance in Warner Bros' successful series, but "The Thin Man" showed off his talents as a dapper leading man and his gift for wry comedy (with delightfully risky Production Code banter), and Loy playing the straight partner to his smart-aleck gambolling. (The Xmas day scene involving Powell and his new air gun is hysterical.)
The film's other asset lay in James Wong Howe's beautiful cinematography, giving the B-grade film an A-level gloss for the Charles' lushly decorated apartment (Nora having inherited megabucks from her family), plus moody shadows and low-light images for the film's effective suspense sequences. Warner Bros' transfer from a decent print shows beautiful and clean grey levels, with only a few minor scratches appearing during reel changes. The sound is a straightforward mono track, with dialogue and sound effects bookended by main and end credit music.
Warner Bros have happily chosen to include all of the "Thin Man" trailers. The first one is a Powell talking from a giant book cover (duplicating the original book art) to himself as Philo Vance (!), and through their repartees we learn of the film's basic story. "After the Thin Man" introduces 'new screen talent' Sheldon Leonard (who'd later enjoy a successful career producing "The Danny Thomas Show" and "I Spy"), and the remaining trailers offer the familiar BIG text and ebullient wipes that characterized the ad style of the day. The oldest trailer's a bit shopworn, but the rest look and sound quite good for their age.
Graphically styled after the gorgeous original Art Deco artwork, "The Thin Man" is available separately, or as part of the Complete Thin Man Collection, which includes the entire series - "The Thin Man" (1934), "After the Thin Man" (1936), "Another Thin Man" (1939), "Shadow of the Thin Man" (1941), "The Thin Man Goes Home" (1945), and "Song of the Thin Man" (1947) - plus a Bonus Disc.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
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