About a year ago I picked up the box set of all of the Thin Man series of films with Nick and Nora Charles, the detective duo of the classic age of films, with their humor and silly wit as they non-stop drink bourbons and scotches on their way to solve murders, even without trying all that hard.
The following are my brief impressions of each DVD, a “quick tip” if you will, of what I liked about each DVD or its matter of interest.
First is a documentary profile of each of the main stars, William Powell and Myrna Loy. Also included is an episode of the 1950s TV series with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk in The Thin Man. Even a radio show episode with Powell and Loy!
What I found interesting was not only the camaraderie between these two stars but the fact that they never had a romance or were engaged or anything. To watch them work, it’s magic really. Critic Richard Schickel and others narrate their lives, going through the actors’ filmography and style, even going back to the Silent film era.
The Thin Man with Maureen O’Sullivan, the first movie and really the best of the series. Directed by W. S. Van Dyke and based on the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, it pulled in four Academy Awards in 1934. We meet their dog Asta and the bantering back and forth and the wit is just so side-splitting.
After The Thin Man, with Jimmy Stewart. Again directed by W. S. Van Dyke, clearly the studio wanted the cash in on Nick & Nora’s popularity. It’s New Year’s Eve and Nora’s cousin is missing. Nick’s wife ends up in jail, and Jimmy Stewart, a young star plays one of the supporting cast. Even though Nick tries to convince people he’s retired, they just keep plying him with questions about this case!
Another Thin Man, Nick & Nora have a baby and try to solve crime while dealing with their family situation. Someone tries to tell Nick that someone is out to kill him and sure enough it happens. After that, they try to solve this crime. A bit slow and not as endearing as the first film. Next, Shadow of the Thin Man takes Nick and Nora to the race track where a jockey is killed. The series is starting to wear “thin” at this point, but still makes an interesting family show.
Their kid is a bit more grown up which adds a family affair to it. The supporting cast includes Donna Reed.
In the fifth Thin Man film, Nick is showing off to his parents in Sycamore Springs about what a fine detective he is. And he gets a chance to prove it with a murder in town! Five years after the first film, still has a few laughs but again it’s getting tiresome to some degree.
The last Thin Man film has Nick and Nora dealing with a gangster on a ship, a jazz singer who is killed and his way of solving the crime. It’s not bad at all, just like a comedic Bogart film (if there were such a thing).
All the DVDs have special features, including cartoons, trailers and foreign subtitles.