Oct 10, 2019
On Blu-ray: William Powell and Myrna Loy Bring Thrills to Marriage in The Thin Man (1934)
The first film in the Thin Man series has long been my cinematic comfort food. William Powell and Myrna Loy are the kind of stars that feel like home, because their wit and high spirits lift you, despite or maybe because of the sour past you can see behind the characters they play. Life has imbued them with cynicism, which they medicate with cocktails, but they are also wealthy, occupied in pursuits that amuse them, and in love in a way that seems off-hand, until you recognize the forces working to pull them apart.
Much like the close-knit marriage that drives the Thin Man movies, Powell and Loy developed an easy, natural partnership on the screen, which they would also enjoy in several films outside of the series. The key factor was that they listened to each other. Director W.S. Van Dyke honed in on that connection; he’d purposely selected actors that were not heartthrobs, so that the romantic excitement came purely from chemistry.
Unsurprisingly, the thrill of Powell and Loy together neuters much of the rest of the film. Its greatest flaw is that the pair is absent from the long exposition in the opening scenes, a problem that is solved when Asta the dog pulls Loy into a bar, off her feet, and she is finally united with her boozy spouse. The best moments are between them: the Christmas morning where Powell blasts balloons off the tree with a bb gun, the smirking lack of concern with which Loy greets her man with another woman in his arms, and the chaos of the dinner party they throw together to catch a murderer are all classics and far more interesting than any mystery they have to solve.
Now available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive, the film looks magnificent; as luxurious as it should be. Special features on the disc include audio of a 1936 Lux Radio Theater broadcast of The Thin Man starring Loy and Powell, a theatrical trailer, and a 1957 episode of the lackluster The Thin Man television series starring Phyllis Kirk and Peter Lawford.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.