Best Movies From the 30s: The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, isn’t just one of the best movies from the 1930s. It also happens to be one of the best movies from Old Hollywood as a whole. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke, The Thin Man is an old detective mystery/comedy that follows the delightful Nick and Nora Charles as they attempt to solve a disappearance that eventually results in more than one murder. As Nick and Nora attempt to solve this mystery, they get caught in many different adventures… and also find themselves having fun, one drink at a time.

The main reason The Thin Man is one of the best movies to come out of the 1930s is because of the amazing chemistry between leads William Powell and Myrna Loy. Powell and Loy made 14 films together — all of which are amazing — but The Thin Man happens to be their best collaboration, in our opinion. The duo is absolute dynamite in this movie. But the film would still fall flat if it didn’t have a great storyline — and amazing dialogue — to back it up. The Thin Man has all of this, including fantastic directing by W.S. Van Dyke, who would continue to collaborate with both Myrna Loy and William Powell after 1934. Overall, The Thin Man is simply an amazing movie that still holds up decades after it was made. Therefore, it’s one of the best movies from the 1930s!

Related: Check out Myrna Loy and William Powell’s 14 Film Collaborations, Ranked!

The Thin Man (1934), Starring Myrna Loy and William Powell

Myrna Loy and William Powell in the Thin Man
Keep reading to learn more information about The Thin Man, including what the movie is about and what the initial screenplay is based off of!

Related: Check out Myrna Loy’s Top 10 Best Movies of All Time here!

What is The Thin Man about?

The 1934 film follows Nick and Nora Charles as they get caught up in a murder case, whether they like it or not. Nick, a retired detective, just wants to relax with his wife while in the city. But after being shot at, he takes the case and attempts to uncover the mystery of a missing inventor.

Who stars in The Thin Man?

William Powell and Myrna Loy star in all of the Thin Man series. The first movie also stars Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, and Minna Gombell.

Myrna Loy and William Powell

Related: Check out William Powell’s Top 10 Best Movies Ranked!

Who directed The Thin Man?

W.S. Van Dyke directed the first Thin Man film. He would also go on to direct After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), and Shadow of the Thin Man (1939). Van Dyke also directed William Powell and Myrna Loy in Manhattan Melodrama (1934) and I Love You Again (1940).

What is The Thin Man based on?

The first movie is based on the Dashiell Hammett novel The Thin Man, which was published in 1933.

How long did it take to film the movie?

The movie was filmed very quickly and only took about two weeks to shoot. Director W.S. Van Dyke was known for his quick shooting schedules. He was against cover shots and always tried to get scenes done within the first take. He felt that after multiple takes, actors tended to lose their spark and fire. The only scene that actually required more than one take was the long ending scene where Nick Charles reveals the killer with everyone around the dinner table with him.

Was the movie successful when it was first released?

The movie actually was quite successful when it was released in 1934. It was one of the top 10 films of the year (in regards to earnings) and would be one of the biggest hits for both Myrna Loy and William Powell. Because of its great success, five other Thin Man movies would be made in the next ten years.

Film Daily’s annual list of the best movies ranked The Thin Man at number five! Only Barretts of Wimpole Street, House of Rothschild, It Happened One Night, and One Night of Love ranked ahead of it. Check out the full Film Daily list of 1934 films here!

Was The Thin Man nominated for any awards?

The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1935: Best Picture, William Powell for Best Actor in a Leading Role, W.S. Van Dyke for Best Director, and Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett for Best Writing – Adaption. Unfortunately, the film didn’t win any Oscars.

Instead, It Happened One Night won Best Picture. Clark Gable won for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in It Happened One Night. Frank Capra won Best Director for his work in It Happened One Night. Robert Riskin won for Best Writing – Adaption for his work on It Happened One Night. Basically, It Happened One night swept the 1935 Academy Awards completely. And while The Thin Man is a wonderful film, so is It Happened One Night.

Was The Thin Man ever remade?

There were multiple remakes of the movie on different platforms. In the 1930s, there was a radio show created based on the Dashiell Hammett book. A TV series, starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk, based on the characters ran from 1957 to 1959. A TV movie from 1977 titled Nick and Nora starred Craig Stevens and JoAnn Pflug. Finally, a Broadway musical called Nick and Nora opened on Broadway but closed after only a week.

Did William Powell and Myrna Loy get along while filming The Thin Man?

Yes, the two loved working together. Powell and Loy enjoyed working together and would film 14 collaborations together. Discussing why he loved working with Loy, Powell said, “When we did a scene together, we forgot about technique, camera angles, and microphones. We weren’t acting. We were just two people in perfect harmony… Myrna, unlike some actresses who think only of themselves, has the happy faculty of being able to listen while the other fellow says his lines. She has the give and take of acting that brings out the best.”

Was Myrna Loy always the number-one choice for Nora Charles?

MGM didn’t have Loy in mind at all when casting Nora Charles. W.S. Van Dyke, however, wanted her for the part. He had previously directed both William Powell and Myrna Loy in Manhattan Melodrama and wanted them back together for this movie. MGM even tried to prevent her from appearing in the film by telling director Van Dyke that he could only have her for the film if they were done filming by the time shooting for Stamboul Quest (1934) began in three weeks. Van Dyke, by far their speediest directed, finished filming in two!

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