Watching Old Movies: The Thin Man (1934)

1934

Highest Grossing Film: The Merry Widow- $2,608,000

Best Picture: It Happened One Night (which is great, fyi)

What happened this year?

More shitty Nazi stuff. In this specific case, the Night of Long Knives, where the Nazis purged the significant left-wing and anti-Nazi conservative political factions of their country. This was shortly followed by Hitler declaring himself Fuhrer. And the Nuremberg Rally happens as well, just to put the shitty cherry on top.

In less awful news, the Flash Gordon comic strip got its start, the first Three Stooges short was aired, Bonny and Clyde died in a shootout and the first quintruplets to survive infancy were born. (Alright look, I was short on interesting non-political/war/natural disaster based news this year, okay?)

As for famous births, we’ve got Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Alan Arkin, Carl Sagan, the late unlamented Charles Manson, Giorgio Armani, Sidney Pollack and Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel into space.

Right, with all that out of the way, onto the pre-show.

Pre-Show: Betty Boop in ‘Poor Cinderella’

My Thoughts:

Welp, that sure was the Cinderella story. Yup. They sure did Cinderella the heck out of that story.

Okay, I don’t really have all that much to say about this one. It’s a solid, if unexceptional, retelling of Cinderella just with Betty Boop in the titular role. I think the only real major difference is that they just cut out the middleman at the end and just have Booperella turn up while everyone’s putting on the shoes. So credit to that.

Honestly, the most interesting thing I can talk about in regards to it is the unexpectedly terrifying nightmare fuel when the animals start talking. I mean, Jesus, that pumpkin. That fucking pumpkin. I nearly spat my drink out. Also, I don’t know what wrong with the Prince’s face, but ‘Charming’ sure as hell ain’t how I’d describe.

That said, again, I really don’t have much to say about this one. It’s probably the most unexceptional short I’ve seen thus far. Not great, not bad, just an average telling of Cinderella. B

Main Feature: The Thin Man

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Plot:  After a four year absence, one time detective Nick Charles returns to New York with his new wife Nora and their dog, Asta. Nick re-connects with many of his old cronies, several of whom are eccentric characters, to say the least. He’s also approached by Dorothy Wynant whose inventor father Clyde Wynant is suspected of murdering his former secretary. Her father had left on a planned trip some months before and she has had no contact with him. Nick isn’t all that keen on resuming his former profession but egged-on by wife Nora, who thinks this all very exciting, he agrees to help out.

Trivia: William Powell spoke of how much he loved working with Myrna Loy because of her naturalness, her professionalism, and her lack of any kind of “diva” temperament. “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,” he said. “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.”

My Thoughts:

You know, this was actually probably one of the less anticipated movies of this decade for me when I was deciding on which films to watch? I knew barely anything about it when I selected it other than that it was a detective story and relatively well-regarded. But honestly, I wasn’t really expecting much from it.

So, imagine my surprise when I didn’t just enjoy it, but I ended up actively really really loving it.

Now a large part of this praise does come down thanks to the two main heroes, Nick and Nora Charles, played by William Powell and Myrna Loy. It’s rare that I’m ever really all that interested in onscreen romances but these two don’t just have chemistry, they have it in fucking spades. Almost every interaction between the two is delightful and witty and charming and they play off each other with an almost casual ease. The obnoxious childish genius detective trope is nothing new, but seeing Nora Charles give as good as she gets and play off her husband perfectly just makes it all the more fresh and enjoyable. I can genuinely believe these two have been married and in love for all these years, even as they snark and joke at each other.

To sum up why I love these two so much, one of my favourite moments with them was when Nick was in a private room, embracing an attractive younger woman to comfort her (in a clearly platonic way, mind), just as Nora walked in. Now, the set-up of the scene makes it appear like its going to be the typical romantic misunderstanding and that Nora will think Nick is cheating on her. But that isn’t what happens at all. Instead, Nick just makes a face at her and Nora makes the exact same face back at him, before getting on with her work. I don’t know why I love this tiny moment so much, but it really sums why I adore these two and their chemistry so so much.

The rest of the movie is also pretty damn good too. Each of the side characters are memorable and distinct (especially besuited oddball Gilbert), the mystery is interesting and the pacing and tension is both pretty solid. My only complaint is that it does feel a bit uneven towards the final act. The filmmakers obviously realised how good the chemistry was between their stars and thus dedicated a bit more screentime towards their interactions (not that I’m complaining mind,) but at the cost of taking away from the mystery and its conclusion. Hell, the main culprit (who I managed to figure out about halfway through) doesn’t even get a scene to really explain his motives or thoughts. He’s just arrested and that’s the end of it.

That said, this is still a really great movie. The mystery is interesting, it’s well shot, acted and written and, as mentioned, the two stars have the sort of chemistry where I can barely count on one hand the number of films that match it. So I’m giving it a nice strong A.

Feature Rankings (1930s):

  1. The Thin Man- A
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front- A/A-
  3. M- B+
  4. King Kong- B-
  5. Vampyr- C

Short Rankings (1930s):

  1. Popeye the Sailor Man in Blow Me Down- A+
  2. Flowers and Trees- A
  3. Swing, you Sinners- A
  4. Betty Boop in Poor Cinderella- B
  5. Egyptian Melodies- C-

 

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