The Thin Man Goes Home (Review)

The Thin Man Goes Home

The Thin Man Goes Home
Story by Robert Riskin and Harry Kurnitz
Screenplay by Robert Riskin and Dwight Taylor
Directed by Richard Thorpe

The Thin Man Goes Home
The Thin Man Goes Home doesn’t feature the regular creative crew of the series. Regular director W. S. Van Dyke, had committed suicide in 1943, suffering from illness and unwilling to go seek treatment due to his Christian Scientist beliefs. Regular script writing team Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich also didn’t return, nor did series creator Dashiell Hammett, who had worked with the writing pair to help develop the prior entries.

The new director was Richard Thorpe. Thorpe was the original director of the 1939 The Wizard of Oz, though most of his work was discarded when he was fired after two weeks. He directed several Tarzan flicks and a bunch of adventure dramas, many featuring Robert Taylor. The story for The Thin Man Goes Home was conceived by Harry Kurnitz and Robert Riskin, Riskin going on to write the screenplay with Dwight Taylor. The lack of continuity is easily apparent with the many small changes in the film.

Most importantly, this entry changes Nick’s family from Greek immigrants (Hammett had Nick’s father change their last name from Charalambides to Charles to fit on a photograph) to an upper class family headed by a respected community doctor. This switches Nick from an immigrant’s son who done good to a black sheep who left his family to find his own path. That craps on a lot of the class issues from the previous four films, and turns things into an attempt by Nick to finally impress his father.
The Thin Man Goes Home
The Thin Man Goes Home was a 1945 pictures, released while the US was in the midst of the Second World War. This is reflected in the film itself, and we see the Charles deal with wartime rationing. Their normally spacious private train cars are gone, replaced by packing in like sardines on the train, and even being forced into the baggage car because they bring Asta along with them. Nick Charles is forced to drop his usual 100 martinis a day habit due to alcohol rationing (explained in the film as abstaining from drinking because his father disapproves), and instead chugs cider. Many of the background actors are dressed as members of the armed forces.

Myrna Loy actually stopped acting to get married and become a big booster during the war, working with the Red Cross and ticking off Hitler (a feather in anyone’s cap!) Shadow of the Thin Man was her last film before stopping, and The Thin Man Goes Home was her return. Rumor was they were trying to make the sequel earlier and bring in Irene Dunne as Nora Charles, but Dunne flatly refused, saying the chemistry between Powell and Loy was why the series worked (and she was subsequently no longer offered scripts by MGM!)

There is a nod to pulp detectives as Nick lounges in the hammock and reads a Nick Carter magazine.
The Thin Man Goes Home
Nick Charles Jr. isn’t in this entry, as explained he’s away at school, and pulling him out of school so the senior Charles family could meet their only grandson for the first time is just wand-waved away. That’s the sort of thing that if I pulled it off with my mom, she’d have sent me immediately away on a train to go get my son. He does return in the final film, which is good because it would just be too weird otherwise.

Nick Charles (William Powell) – Nick Charles returns to his hometown to visit his folks, only to have yet another murder happen literally at his doorstep. So it’s back to detecting again! Maybe this time he can finally impress his father…. ::sad eyes::
Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) – Nora spends part of the film trying to impress Nick’s dad with stories about Nick, and part of the film trying to help Nick only to get sent on a wild goose chase.
Asta (Asta) – Asta returns but doesn’t cause a whole bunch of trouble, just a small amount of trouble.
Dr. Bertram Charles (Harry Davenport) – Nick’s father, a respected physician who was disappointed when Nick quit medical school to become a detective. Has never been proud of his son since. Unless maybe Nick solved a murder mystery using medical knowledge…
Mrs. Charles (Lucile Watson) – Nick’s mother, who doesn’t get much characterization and is actually proud of her son, because moms are like that, proud of their children.
Brogan (Edward Brophy) – Yet another guy Nick Charles sent up the river and has returned as a reformed criminal, thankful to Nick for being so awesome and willing to help him out. Spends an inordinate amount of time hiding in the bushes outside Nick’s parents’ home. Sells greeting cards, and on Nick’s suggestion memorized many of their sayings, so he’ll randomly spout platitudes. Edward Brophy had a role in The Thin Man as Joe Morelli.
Dr. Bruce Clayworth (Lloyd Corrigan) – A childhood friend of Nick, who actually went into the medical field instead of quitting to become a detective.

The Thin Man Goes Home
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Shadow of the Thin Man (Review)

Shadow of the Thin Man

Shadow of the Thin Man
Story by Harry Kurnitz
Screenplay by Harry Kurnitz and Irving Brecher
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke

Shadow of the Thin Man
Shadow of the Thin Man is the last of the classic four Thin Man films before the large drop in quality of the final two flicks. Dashiell Hammett doesn’t help provide the story, and Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett have also moved on, leaving the writing in the hands of Harry Kurnitz and Irving Brecher (Kurnitz also developing the story) Director W. S. Van Dyke returns for his last Thin Man entry.

Shadow of the Thin Man was released November 21, 1941, on the eve of the US’s entrance into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. None of the ongoing worldwide conflict is reflected in the film, which involves murder and horse gambling conspiracies. The only real acknowledgement of real world events seems to be the rolling back of displays of Nora’s wealth, though it is still obvious they are flushed with money.

The Thin Man flicks zigzag back and forth between New York and San Francisco, so we return to the Bay Area for good time Bay Area fun. Also returning is Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene) from After the Thin Man, because we’re back on his beat. Once again he needs Nick Charles’ help, because of mystery murders with lots of complications.
Shadow of the Thin Man
Murder victim “Whitey” Barrow (Alan Baxter) is one of those obvious murder victims. Baxter’s also ridiculously overacting when he’s playing the tough mobster guy, yet sounds like a normal person when he’s hiding his gangster persona. It’s a weird choice (and frankly a bit distracting), luckily he gets knocked off early enough it doesn’t become a big problem.

Nora keeps up with Nick’s investigations the most in this sequel, following him on his searches, showing him up when it comes to dealing with his son, and even luring him home with the siren song of a shaking martini mixer. There are bonus points added for Nora heroically leaping onto a gun during the climactic scene where the real murderer reveals themselves by grabbing the gun they always have.

Aside from Nora Charles, most of the female roles are pretty thankless, despite being filled with quality actresses. Stella Adler manages to turn the limited role of Claire Porter into something amazing. Porter is drenched in the casings of the upper class, appearing to be well-to-do despite her gangster boyfriend. But her money comes from a job not so well-to-do, a job they can only hint at (due to the Hays Code) by her switching up accents when flustered by Nick Charles. Donna Reed has the truly thankless role as the secretary girlfriend to the accused murderer Paul. Despite a hint that she might be more than she looks due to who she works for, her character is given little to do except worry about her man.

Louise Beavers’ character of Stella, the Charles’ maid, is the largest part for a black actor in the Thin Man series. Sadly it’s what I call a Mammy Whammy, in that it’s over the top servant character. Beavers is associated with that type of role, partially because those roles were the only roles available to black performers. She gained fame with a non-stereotypical black maid role, Delilah in 1934’s Imitation of Life.
Shadow of the Thin Man
This is the Thin Man entry with some of the funniest bits in the series – the wrestling scene, the merry-go-round, the brawl at the restaurant, Nick getting a speeding ticket, and Nick’s encounter with an old landlady obsessed with radio crime shows and police gazettes, who talks Nick’s lingo and then some.

One of the major criticisms is the film focuses on too much that isn’t the murder mystery, and the sequence of events that the mystery follows are practically spelled out. It is true that things seem almost designed to happen no matter what Nick and Nora do, they are practically swept up into the original murder and are present at every important event following it, complete with the police actively encouraging them. The killer is the most obvious of the whole series, but my view on the films are that it is about the journey, not the destination. After being raised on two decades of carbon-copy police procedurals where the real differences are the show’s characters and gimmicks, which quickly become the defining reason to watch. The old detective movies that are memorable have their own cool characters and gimmicks, of which the Thin Man flicks excels. I don’t think Shadow of the Thin Man is a shadow of the prior films (BOOOOO!!! to that pun!), instead standing tall with the original four despite a few flaws.
Shadow of the Thin Man

Nick Charles (William Powell) – The oft-retired Nick Charles drives right into another murder mystery, turning his day at the races into a day of investigating.
Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) – Nora follows along with Nick’s plans and manages to come along to a variety of locations. Is very into the wrestling event. Sneaks her way into the investigation as well.
Asta (Asta) – Asta is back causing lots and lots of chaos and fighting, when he isn’t hiding from kittens!
Nick Charles, Jr. (Richard Hall as Dickie Hall) – Old enough to actually talk, Nick Jr. becomes a character who helps push Nick to be more responsible, and to do things to impress his son.
Paul Clarke (Barry Nelson) – A good reporter who gets framed for Whitey Barrow’s murder. He’s trying to take down the mob interests that are running the track and several other operations.
Molly (Donna Reed) – Paul’s girlfriend, she works as mob boss Link Stephens’ secretary in a bid to pass information along to Paul.
Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene) – Lieutenant Abrams returns to the series, though the San Francisco detective is investigating murders in Oakland, not that the Thin Man movies have worried about jurisdiction before! Is practically begging Nick Charles to help with the case.
“Whitey” Barrow (Alan Baxter) – A shady reporter who extorts money from mob guys he helped cover up/fix stories for. Becomes a murder victim thanks to everyone wanting him dead, and someone granting that wish.
Claire Porter aka Clara Peters (Stella Adler) – Rich lady who is a former girl involved in all the mob business and some adult business we can’t discuss openly because of codes. Yes, this is THAT Stella Adler, the famed acting teacher, in one of her rare film roles.

Shadow of the Thin Man
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