The Thin Man
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic Hollywood screwball comedy/murder story from 1934 includes free-flowing hard liquor -- characters drink a great deal, with very few realistic consequences (only one hangover). Three dead bodies are involved in this murder story, and several guns are brandished and fired, though there's no gore or blood. The lead characters are married and occasionally pass some playful innuendo back and forth. Given that the movie is about grown-ups in grown-up relationships, some kids or teens may not be interested, but if they relent, they'll probably enjoy it. (Plus, there is a cute dog.)
What's the story?
The famous detective Nick Charles (William Powell) visits New York with his new, wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy). He has left sleuthing behind, interested mainly in drinking and enjoying life. He runs into an old acquaintance, Dorothy (Maureen O'Sullivan), whose father, Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis), is a successful, yet elusive inventor (and the "thin man" of the title). When Wynant is accused of murder and disappears, Nick finds himself pushed and pulled into the case from every direction. Before long, it appears that Wynant is actually guilty -- except that Nick doesn't believe it. Will he finally take action, solve the case, and clear the Wynants' good name?
Is it any good?
Adapted from Dashiell Hammett's novel, The Thin Man is one of those rare examples of a Hollywood studio production on which everything came together perfectly. Director W.S. Van Dyke, also known as "One Take Woody," reportedly shot the entire movie in 12 days, giving it a kind of zippy, relaxed quality, which is odd -- and refreshing -- for an otherwise glossy MGM production. Van Dyke seamlessly combines a playful post-marriage romance, sophisticated comedy, and a tense, beautifully-crafted murder mystery in such a way that has rarely been repeated.
William Powell and Myrna Loy came together onscreen with perhaps the most perfect chemistry ever seen; they bounced off one another with a sparkle and shine that has rarely been matched (they repeated these roles five more times, and appeared together in eight additional movies). Throw in the adorable pooch Asta, and you've got a winner. Though the movie was made for adults, it's entertaining enough that teens should get a kick out of it.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the massive alcohol consumption in the movie. How do the characters behave around or under the influence alcohol? How realistic is this depiction? What is missing?
What is special about the relationship of the married Nick and Nora? Why aren't more married couples portrayed onscreen like this?
This movie was released during the Great Depression. Discuss why it was a success. What would have drawn so many people to see this kind of movie?