The Return of the Thin Man

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Hammett completists and film fans will best appreciate this collection containing the story treatments that became After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man , the sequels to the original Hollywood hit, The Thin Man , starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as imbibing investigators Nick and Nora Charles, abetted by their adorable dog, Asta. Written in movie shorthand "Nick and Nora exchange suspicious glances" , these treatments don't represent Hammett's artistic peak, though there's the occasional nugget "He is having the first clean' love affair of his life and thinks this slut is Joan of Arc".

Rivett, provide background on such matters as negotiations with MGM. Amazingly, the alcoholic author reported he spent 10 months sober while writing one of these bibulous scripts.

In the effort, one of the two words uttered by the infant Nick Jr. A short unproduced treatment from titled "Sequel to the Thin Man" rounds out the book. The Maltese Falcon. Shot over a mere two weeks, on a fairly shoestring budget, the film was conceived by MGM as a B-movie. Director W.

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Also integral were screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, a husband-and-wife team who infused the central relationship with an authentically playful, affectionate spirit. There was no one quite like them gracing Hollywood screens at the time—or now, really.

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Subsequent entries in the series would nevertheless include the Thin Man moniker, presumably to preserve brand recognition. It becomes an implied alias for Nick himself, who is admittedly much more svelte than the heavyset gumshoe Hammett described. Beyond titular influence, this inaugural installment set the template for the whole series, firmly prioritizing whip-smart banter over the accumulation of clues—though there is plenty of the latter.

As much as any low-aiming action or horror franchise, the Thin Man movies adhere to a rigid formula. They gave people what they wanted, over and over again, until profit diminished with the returns.

a book review by Sam Millar: The Return of the Thin Man

There may be a brawl. What changes, predominately, is the backdrop: Nick works his magic in New York and San Francisco, Long Island and his New England hometown, on a race track and a gambling boat. Trouble seems to find him wherever he goes, usually on vacation. Without fail, the accused will cop to his or her crimes, before being tackled to the floor during a pathetic attempt to go out in a blaze of gunfire glory.

The below scene, from the original, exemplifies this convention, but any and all entries in the series build to a basically identical climax. So inevitable is this repeated conclusion that Nora actually acknowledges it, adding meta interjections during the final minutes of The Thin Man Goes Home. The most perverse thing about the Thin Man movies is that they star a couple of obvious sensation addicts, who become interested in all the mayhem happening around them—the crimes of passion and greed—for its entertainment value.

The main draw of this franchise, from its auspicious start to its underwhelming finish, is the sophisticated comic interplay between Nick and Nora. She frequently wakes him up in the middle of the night, dragging him out of slumber and back into action. He loses her when she tries to tag along on dangerous assignments, though usually only for a moment. The two seem to be using the death of strangers as a kind of foreplay, reinvigorating their marriage every time a body hits the floor.

They are impossibly droll, fearless, knowing—genius playmates in a game without personal stakes. Powell delivers each line with withering precision.


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Loy, capering in his periphery, dances through the plot as lightly as a feather. Nick and Nora are that charismatic reason. At the same time, the best of the Thin Man movies are the ones that weave interesting mysteries. These sequels are convoluted in all the right ways. The franchise started to go south when it began shedding principal participants: Hammett had no hand in Shadow Of The Thin Man , about the murder of a horse jockey—and nor did Goodrich and Hackett, whose clever wordplay largely goes missing. After directing the first four films in the series, Van Dyke fell ill of cancer and committed suicide in His respective replacements, Richard Thorpe and Edward Buzzell, struggled to balance comedy and suspense as gracefully.

The films get goofier, cornier, and less cool as they go.

But, again, the mystery is no great shakes, and the jazz-scene backdrop does little to enliven a half-baked plot. Part of that is surely the domestic evolution they go through: The two have a baby by the third chapter, which cramps their lush, paint-the-town-red style a little.

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