RogerBW's Blog

The Thin Man (1934) 26 October 2023

1934 mystery-comedy, dir. W. S. van Dyke, William Powell, Myrna Loy: IMDb / allmovie. Turns out life doesn't have to end at marriage.

Know, o prince, that between the years of Prohibition and the years of the Production Code, there was an age undreamed-of… a period of almost six months when drinking was legal again but the Code hadn't yet clamped down. And this is a preeminent film of that brief age.

For many years it's been my touchstone for quick-fire witty dialogue, and certainly it delivers that; but it's interesting in other ways too. The novel was originally going to be a standard Hammett hard-boiled story, but he felt it wasn't working and shifted it setting to New York and the protagonist to a wealthy amateur—which means we get the contrst of the deadly serious criminals of the hard-boiled world with the happy-go-lucky hard-drinking couple of Nick and Nora Charles. And because they're married (though even pre-Code they sleep in single beds, albeit in the same room), Nora's still an active participant in both the investigation and the banter, a very rare cinematic view of marriage as something that could be fun, rather than settling down into dull conformity.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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