The Thin Man (1934)

91 mins | Comedy | 25 May 1934

Director:

W. S. Van Dyke

Producer:

Hunt Stromberg

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Robert J. Kern

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Dashiell Hammett's novel first appeared in Redbook in Dec 1933. Some early trade reviews list the running time variously at 80 minutes and 95 minutes. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, M-G-M was advised that some dialogue such as William Powell's line "He didn't come anywhere near my Tabloids," and Myrna Loy's line "What's that man doing in my drawers?" were "censorable," the picture was approved for exhibition in 1934 and was granted a PCA certificate in Aug 1935. After the film's release, some territories did censor some lines of dialogue, and at least one theater owner from the South wrote to the PCA to complain of excessive drinking in the picture which his patrons found offensive. Although the "Thin Man" of the title was the character Clyde Wynant, fans of the picture and the subsequent series began to refer to the Nick Charles character as "The Thin Man," and all subsequent films included "The Thin Man" in their titles. The film was one of the top-ten money-makers of 1934 and one of the biggest hits of William Powell's and Myrna Loy's careers. In addition, it earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor. It was also named one of the top ten films of the year by FD and NYT. Powell and Loy recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 8 Jun 1936. According to a HR news item, the film was shot in only sixteen days. Though many films of the ...

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Dashiell Hammett's novel first appeared in Redbook in Dec 1933. Some early trade reviews list the running time variously at 80 minutes and 95 minutes. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, M-G-M was advised that some dialogue such as William Powell's line "He didn't come anywhere near my Tabloids," and Myrna Loy's line "What's that man doing in my drawers?" were "censorable," the picture was approved for exhibition in 1934 and was granted a PCA certificate in Aug 1935. After the film's release, some territories did censor some lines of dialogue, and at least one theater owner from the South wrote to the PCA to complain of excessive drinking in the picture which his patrons found offensive. Although the "Thin Man" of the title was the character Clyde Wynant, fans of the picture and the subsequent series began to refer to the Nick Charles character as "The Thin Man," and all subsequent films included "The Thin Man" in their titles. The film was one of the top-ten money-makers of 1934 and one of the biggest hits of William Powell's and Myrna Loy's careers. In addition, it earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor. It was also named one of the top ten films of the year by FD and NYT. Powell and Loy recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 8 Jun 1936. According to a HR news item, the film was shot in only sixteen days. Though many films of the era were shot within a ten to fifteen day period, sixteen days was considered very quick for a major film such as The Thin Man. Modern sources note that the speed of this film and others shot by director W. S. Van Dyke led to his nickname, "One Shot Woody." A news item in HR on 11 May 1934 noted that the picture was "back today for added scenes," subsequent to the picture's press preview, and that actor William Augustin was to appear in the scenes, his appearance in the film has not been confirmed and it is possible that the added scenes did not appear in the released film. Many modern sources have credited the film's sophisticated style, blending mystery with comedy and romance as the inspiration for a new type of detective film that was to remain popular for many years. Five additional films were made by M-G-M in the series, After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1943), and Song of the Thin Man (1947). Powell, Loy and "Asta," their dog appeared in all six films. In 1938, Powell was said to be leaving the series, at least temporarily, due to illness. Melvyn Douglas and Reginald Gardiner were both considered as replacements, but Powell did return to the series in 1939. In addition to the M-G-M films, there was a radio series in the 1930s based on the Dashiell Hammett characters, a television series from 1957 to 1959 starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk and a 1977 television movie called Nick and Nora starring Craig Stevens and JoAnn Pflug. A musical play called Nick and Nora, starring Barry Bostwick and Joanna Gleason, opened on Broadway on 8 Dec 1991, but closed on 15 Dec 1991.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 May 1934
p. 3
Film Daily
23 May 1934
p.7
HF
14 Apr 1934
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1934
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1934
p.3
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1938
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1938
p. 2
Motion Picture Daily
11 May 1934
p.3
Motion Picture Herald
19 May 1934
p.68
New York Times
30 Jun 1934
p.18
Variety
3 Jul 1934
p.26
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
BRAND NAMES
A Cosmopolitan Production
A Cosmopolitan Production
A Cosmopolitan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Les Selander
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Ward
SOUND
Rec dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Press agent
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (New York, 1934).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
25 May 1934
Production Date:
9 Apr--27 Apr 1934; retakes mid May 1934
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
24 May 1934
LP4745
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Soon after Dorothy Wynant announces to her inventor father that she plans to marry, he goes on a mysterious business trip, promising to return in time for Dorothy's wedding. As the day approaches and Wynant fails to return, Dorothy worries, while her mother, Mimi, is frantic that her ex-husband is unavailable to give her and her new husband, Chris Jorgenson, more money. When Mimi goes to see Julia Wolf, Wynant's mistress, to ask for money, she finds her dead body clutching Wynant's watch chain. Meanwhile, sophisticated former detective Nick Charles and his wealthy wife Nora have come to New York for the Christmas holidays and become enmeshed in the case, despite Nick's protests that he is no longer a detective. Nora enthusiastically encourages Nick, and one evening he and Asta, their terrier, discover the skeletal remains of a body in Wynant's laboratory. The police suspect that Wynant has committed another murder, but Nick realizes that the body must be Wynant's because of a trace of shrapnel found in the leg. Nick and Nora give a dinner party, to which they invite all of the suspects as guests. There it is revealed that Mimi had been aiding MacCaulay, Wynant's lawyer, in exchange for cash. When Nick exposes Chris as a bigamist, thus making Mimi realize that she will now be free to inherit Wynant's money, she incriminates MacCaulay, who had been embezzling from Wynant with Julia's compliance. Finally, Nick and Nora and Dorothy and her new husband Tommy are on a train, happily bound for ...

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Soon after Dorothy Wynant announces to her inventor father that she plans to marry, he goes on a mysterious business trip, promising to return in time for Dorothy's wedding. As the day approaches and Wynant fails to return, Dorothy worries, while her mother, Mimi, is frantic that her ex-husband is unavailable to give her and her new husband, Chris Jorgenson, more money. When Mimi goes to see Julia Wolf, Wynant's mistress, to ask for money, she finds her dead body clutching Wynant's watch chain. Meanwhile, sophisticated former detective Nick Charles and his wealthy wife Nora have come to New York for the Christmas holidays and become enmeshed in the case, despite Nick's protests that he is no longer a detective. Nora enthusiastically encourages Nick, and one evening he and Asta, their terrier, discover the skeletal remains of a body in Wynant's laboratory. The police suspect that Wynant has committed another murder, but Nick realizes that the body must be Wynant's because of a trace of shrapnel found in the leg. Nick and Nora give a dinner party, to which they invite all of the suspects as guests. There it is revealed that Mimi had been aiding MacCaulay, Wynant's lawyer, in exchange for cash. When Nick exposes Chris as a bigamist, thus making Mimi realize that she will now be free to inherit Wynant's money, she incriminates MacCaulay, who had been embezzling from Wynant with Julia's compliance. Finally, Nick and Nora and Dorothy and her new husband Tommy are on a train, happily bound for California.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.