Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Movie: Song of the Thin Man

Song of the Thin Man
Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett

My plan was to watch the six installments of The Thin Man series in order. Which plan held up quite nicely for the first three movies. Then TCM showed Song of the Thin Man recently and I figured I might as well go for it.

There are those who will tell you that the latter installments of the series are lesser creatures than the first one or two. I won't go so far as to argue the point but I'd say that I found this, the last of the bunch, to be nearly as entertaining as any of the others I've seen.

By this late stage of the game Nick and Nora are pretty thoroughly domesticated. Nick Jr. is getting up there and is portrayed here by a very young Dean Stockwell. The family scenes are closer to Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best than the Thin Man movies of yore, but of course there is some crime afoot - specifically the killing of a bandleader on a gambling ship.

Needless to say, Nick and Nora get involved and wend their way through another circuitous plot to make things right again. One of the most notable points about this installment, given that it's dated 1947, is how enamored it is with jazz culture - or perhaps it's more correct to say subculture. This is most evident in the frequent (to the point of being excessive) jazz cat lingo that the characters toss off. All of which leaves Nick and Nora looking like the squares, which is quite a departure from the early days, when they were the life of the party and up to the minute swinging hipsters.

If you're only going to watch one or two Thin Man movies this probably shouldn't be one of them. But it's not a bad way to pass an hour or so.


  1. Really interesting to read our take on this one Bill - when I re-watched this one last, I fell into the category of those who were mightily disappointed. Partly because, as your rightly point out, it turns our iconoclastic heroes into a pair of utterly domesticated and thoroughly old-fashioned homebodies. I kept thinking that Gloria Grahame had stepped out of a hardboiled Film Noir and couldn't really reconcile to her role in a cozy THIN MAN movie. Also, I always felt like the second part of the film must have had a fair amount of post-production rejigging since it starts feeling quite abrupt and choppy in its story-telling. Its also weird to have Leon Ames playing a different role than he had in the previous THIN MAN film, though that wasn't so unusual at the time. I do love the series as a whole, but I still think it is fair to consider this to be the least of them.

  2. I have to agree, this is the weakest of the six; possibly because the emphasis is on a musical style whose importance and associated vocabulary haven't lasted to this day. I looked at the trailer you kindly posted -- seen the movie a couple of times, but never the trailer, thanks! -- and it seemed to me that Myrna Loy looked strangely frozen-faced throughout. Really, she looks as Botoxed as Nicole Kidman. Anyway, the mystery at the heart of this film isn't very difficult, the finale is a cliche, and Nick and Nora only have flashes of the interaction that so delighted audiences in the past. Sad to think that this might have been the final nail in the coffin for this series. But thanks for the trailer and for reminding us to watch these when TCM carries them!