Nick Charles (Powell) is a retired detective who has married the wealthy Nora (Loy) and now intends to devote himself to looking after her money and doing some serious drinking. (You can tell this film was made just after the repeal of Prohibition.) They travel to New York for the
holidays, and there meet Dorothy (O'Sullivan), who asks Nick to help her find her missing father (Ellis). He's an inventor who months before went into seclusion to work on a project but hasn't been heard from since. Nick, whose reputation precedes him, isn't anxious to end his happy retirement,
but Nora, eager for thrills, prods him into it. Together with their wire-haired terrier Asta, the newlyweds solve the case.
Praise should go to the writers of the film's delightful dialogue and to the underrated Van Dyke, a director of craft who knows how to make a film move. The story, meanwhile, faithfully taken from Hammett's novel, proves eminently serviceable if not quite the stuff of genius. What really makes THE
THIN MAN an enduring classic, though, is the interplay between Powell and Loy, one of the greatest happily married couples ever to flicker on a screen. The repartee they shoot back and forth is priceless, as in one scene the morning after a gunman has broken into their suite and superficially
wounded Nick before being subdued and hauled away. As they read the morning papers about the event, Powell says, "I'm a hero, I was shot twice in the Tribune." Loy: "I read you were shot five times in the tabloids." "It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids," Powell parries. Loy has
a terrific comic bit entering a scene loaded down with packages and dragged by their feisty pooch, and Powell has great fun shooting the balls off a Christmas tree with his favorite present, a gun. Loy and Powell proved so popular that they were teamed twelve more times during their careers
(thirteen if you count her cameo in THE SENATOR WAS INDISCREET), six of the pairings coming in the THIN MAN series. These sleuthfests would continue with lessening success for 13 years, but at their peak (the first three films), Nick and Nora were one of the best movie buys around. Loy and Powell
set a style for connubial comic banter which many performers still attempt in vain to duplicate today.
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