Song of the Thin Man (Review)

Song of the Thin Man

Song of the Thin Man
Screenplay by Steve Fisher and Nat Perrin
Story by Stanley Roberts
Additional dialogue by James O’Hanlon and Harry Crane
Directed by Edward Buzzell

Song of the Thin Man
Song of the Thin Man puts Nick and Nora in the secret world of jazz club singers in New York. It’s also a sort of pun, as this is the swan song of the series. Some of the charm is still there, William Powell and Myrna Loy can’t not be charming when together in a room. The film spends too much time on the jazz atmosphere to trust the actors to carry scenes. It can get a bit tedious when there is yet another jazz scene, yet another instance of Clinker using weird slang, and yet another instance of Nick and Nora trying to fit in and absorbing the language. The outside scenes where other things happen become breaths of fresh air, but there isn’t enough in this ecosystem to make it stand out.

We again get a new creative crew for this Thin Man entry. The direction is by Edward Buzzell, who had previously directed the Marx Brothers’ film At the Circus Stanley Roberts came up with the story, and Steve Fisher and Nat Perrin handle the script, with additional dialogue thanks to James O’Hanlon and Harry Crane (are they who came up with all the goofy slang?) Once again Nick and Nora become inserted in a more generic plot, something that could even be used as a plot for a comedy mystery tv show episode. Did Monk ever hang around with musicians? A large amount of writers is usually a bad sign for a film.
Song of the Thin Man
While this team realized they can’t ignore the Nick Jr. character, they don’t do one of the reoccurring gags of the series, the procession of former criminals Nick Charles knows because he busted them long ago. They’ve all been replaced by the jazz musicians, which don’t quite have the same stereotypical wackiness that nicknamed criminal types bring to the table. One weird thing is despite this entire entry being about jazz and musicians, almost every one is white. The lack of black jazz musicians in 1940s New York City is the most unbelievable thing about this entry, and I’m including the ridiculous jazz slang in the unbelievable things list.
Song of the Thin Man

Nick Charles (William Powell) – Nick can’t even have a good time gambling on a boat without being drawn into yet another murder mystery. As he needs to explore the weird world of jazz, Nick has Clinker Krause guide him and Nora around the town to the late night secret jazz parties that don’t even start until 2 am, as well as explaining all the jazz lingo.
Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) – Nora latches on as an integral part of the investigation, pushing Nick into investigating and accompanying him on the jazz excursions, as well as sneaking in to see Buddy Hollis.
Asta (Asta) – Asta helps Nick investigate and sneak around, but doesn’t have a huge role.
Nick Charles Jr. (Dean Stockwell) – It’s cool to see Al back before he was helping Sam leap through time…wait a minute! Dean Stockwell takes over as Nick Jr., and this was how I learned he was a child actor! Nick Jr. is picking up a lot of his dad’s traits, had the series gone on longer his character might have taken over. Nick Jr. has the special power to project visions of himself and his dad having sentimental times together whenever he’s threatened with spanking. It’s definitely that and not Nick Charles having regret that he’s about to spank his son, even though he spanked his wife just last film.
Clarence “Clinker” Krause (Keenan Wynn) – Jazz musician who becomes the guide for Nick and Nora to the jazz club afterparties nightlife, as well as explaining all the slang.
Phil Orval Brant (Bruce Cowling) – Accused of murder, Phil Brant owns a gambling boat that host charity functions and is in love with Janet Thayar. Her father disapproves because Phil isn’t old money, even though he must have some money to own a fancy gambling boat rich people hang out on. Gets eloped to Janet over her father’s objections, only to be immediately accused of murder.
Janet Thayar (Jayne Meadows) – Loves Phil and tries to get Nick to help him, only to get upset when Nick turns Phil in, not aware he’s doing it to protect Phil from the mob.
Mitchell Talbin (Leon Ames) – Famed music producer who has stolen away conductor Tommy Drake for his next tour, but doesn’t want to pay off Drake’s gambling debts or deal with all his other problems. Does do some things to try to help Drake to prevent the drama from landing in his own business, but Drake ends up too dead for it to matter.
Phyllis Talbin (Patricia Morison) – Mitchell’s longtime wife, their marriage isn’t as pleasant as it appears.
Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor) – A reed man (this means a guy who plays instruments that require a reed, specifically the clarinet) who starts to lose it because Fran Page likes Tommy Drake more than him. Is put away in a home, and has a powerful scene where we see the full scale effects of his illness.
Fran Ledue Page (Gloria Grahame) – Singer who is having a fling with Tommy Drake, though not happy with how he’s a jerk and stuff. She’s also not interested in Buddy Hollis, who is desperately in love with her.

Song of the Thin Man
Continue reading

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
Continue reading