Saturday, July 9, 2011
The Thin Man
Today's movie was The Thin Man, directed by W. S. Van Dyke in 1934. It's a really charming movie, an adaptation of a Dashiell Hammett novel. I loved the chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy, and the witty banter was amazing. The dialogue was so quick, funny, and intelligent, and the actors just delivered the lines so naturally. It felt very easy and relaxed. My mom read somewhere, and Wikipedia confirms it, that this film was only shot in 12 days! I never would have guessed that from how laid back the actors seemed to be. I also loved the dog in this movie - I love all dogs, so watching a cute one help with detecting was great. Daw!
Like many noirs, the plot is not as important as the characters in this movie. Sometimes the stories are so twisted and confusing that it's not even possible to follow them, but it never matters. This movie is all about the characters, and the dialogue. The film is about Nick and Nora Charles, a really cute couple. Nick was once a detective, and returns to New York after being gone for four years. When a murder occurs, Nick doesn't really want to jump back into is old profession, but Nora eggs him on. Despite drinking non-stop throughout the whole film, Nick is pretty good at remaining witty and smart, and is really helpful with the case.
But the case doesn't really matter. The real focus of the movie is the characters. Nick is suave and constantly drunk, but it never seems to stop him from having a witty comeback at the ready. I loved watching that - it was so well-written and so much fun to watch. Sometimes the witty banter was full of puns or some sigh-inducing jokes, but I couldn't help but like it regardless. Something about Nick was really appealing to me. I think I just enjoyed that he seemed so effortlessly funny and intelligent. He was just able to fire off great little remarks and somehow figure everything out, as well.
I really enjoyed the playfulness of Nick and Nora's relationship. To me, it seemed like the most equal and honest relationship that I've seen from this time period. They both seemed to have equal power, but they teased each other the way that couples do when they are each others' best friends. It seemed, dare I say, realistic? I just loved how they worked together. They were always pulling goofy faces at each other, and shoving each other around like kids. They were so much fun to watch, and to me, felt like the only normal and realistic couple I've seen in a movie in a long time.
Ebert loved watching Powell in this movie, and it's easy to understand why. He wrote, "William Powell is to dialogue as Fred Astaire is to dance. His delivery is so droll and insinuating, so knowing and innocent at the same time, that it hardly matters what he's saying" (Great Movies II, 451). That's a pretty big compliment! But it's not really that exaggerated, honestly. Powell is wonderful to watch, because he does such a great job being a lovable lush. He's smarmy and sarcastic, but smart and charming. I love characters like that, and I loved the way he played Nick - he really stole the whole movie for me, and I actually want to rent more of the films he was in because I so enjoyed watching his acting.
This was such a fun movie to watch, and it was full of amazing characters. Powell was incredible to watch as Nick, and I hope to see more of the movies featuring Nick and Nora. I really recommend this - I think anyone would love it, especially since it isn't just a crime film or a comedy. It has a little bit of everything! Let me know if you check it out!
Have any thoughts on The Thin Man? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Thin Man
Buy or rent it at Amazon