Nick Charles, a retired detective, and his wife Nora are attempting to settle down when he's pulled back into service by a friend's disappearance and possible involvement in a murder. The friend, Clyde Wynant (the "thin man" referenced by the film's title), has mysteriously vanished just after his former girlfriend, Julia Wolfe, was found dead. Wynant quickly becomes the prime suspect, but his daughter Dorothy can't believe he did it. She convinces Nick to take the case much to the amusement of his socialite wife. With a drink in his hand and a smirk on his face, the detective stumbles off to find clues. The mystery deepens as the empty martini glasses and dead bodies pile up. Between witty exchanges, the couple manages to piece things together. The murderer is finally revealed in an amusing dinner-party scene, featuring all of the suspects.
Nick and Nora Charles return from vacation to their home in San Francisco on New Years Eve, where Nora's stuffy family expect the couple to join them for a formal dinner. Nick is despised by Nora's Aunt Katherine, as his immigrant heritage and experience as a "flat foot" are considered below Nora. The true reason for their invitation is that Nora's cousin Selma's ne'er-do-well husband Robert has been missing. Nick is coerced into a little quiet detective work for the family.
They easily find Robert at a Chinese nightclub, where he's been conducting an affair with Polly, the star performer. He extorts money from Selma's unrequited love, David (James Stewart), in exchange for leaving Selma permanently. Unknown to Robert, Polly and the nightclub's owner, Phil Dancer, plan to grift the money and dispose of him. After being paid off, and returning home for some clothes, Robert is shot at the stroke of midnight. David finds Selma standing over Robert and hurriedly disposes of her gun. Despite this, the police determine that she's the prime suspect, and her fragile mental state only strengthens the case. Selma insists that she never fired her gun, and Nick is now obliged to investigate and determine the true murderer.
As suspects pile up, schemes and double-crosses are found and two more murders occur. Lt. Abrams (Sam Levene, making his series debut) readily accepts Nick's assistance. As in the previous film, the true murderer is the least likely suspect, betrayed by a trivial slip-up during a final interrogation and denouement featuring all the suspects. The case solved, and once again traveling by train, Nora reveals to Nick something he hasn't detected yet: they're going to have a baby.
Another thin Man
In this adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's "The Farewell Murder", Nick and Nora Charles are back in New York with Asta and a new arrival - Nicky Jr. They are invited by Colonel MacFey to spend the weekend at his house in Long Island as he desperately wants Nick to put his well-known detective skills to work. It seems the Colonel has been receiving threats from Phil Church, a very shady character. When Col. McFey is killed, Church seems to be the obvious suspect. However, Nick is skeptical. He suspects there is something far more complicated going on. McFey's housekeeper, daughter and various hangers-on all may have had an interest in seeking the old man's demise.
Nick and Nora Charles are looking forward to a relaxing day, but when they visit a racetrack, they find a jockey accused of throwing a race has been murdered, and Nick has difficulty from getting involved.
**Shadow of the Thin Man was eagerly welcomed, coming two years after the previous outing and hitting theaters just two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It would be three years before Loy would make another film (The Thin Man Goes Home in 1945) as she left Hollywood for New York, where she volunteered with the Red Cross. As a world-famous movie star at the top of her game, her passionate condemnation of fascism reportedly earned her a spot near the top of Hitler's "hate list" after she spoke out against Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia. She also went through a messy public divorce and remarriage, after which there was speculation that her wholesome image had been irreparably tarnished and she might not work again.
The Thin Man Goes Home
The film involves Nick and Nora's visit to Nick's parents who live in the small town of Sycamore Springs. The early part of the film highlights difficulties in traveling during wartime with some very funny attempts to smuggle Asta on the train. Early on, it is revealed that Nick's father, Dr. Charles (Harry Davenport) has never been overly impressed with his son's career choice. The remainder of the film is not just about solving the crime, which as typically Nick and Nora stumble into quite innocently, but also about resolving this issue between Nick and his father.
The town citizens are convinced that Nick is in town to solve a case and all the denials from both him and Nora only deepen their conviction. However, Nora's purchase of an old painting provides the means for the pair to become involved in a murder mystery with complications involving an abandoned baby, a spy ring, and a childhood rivalry gone awry. Eventually, Dr. Charles sees how special Nick's talents are and the movie ends on a high note with him finally respecting the talents of his offspring.
The background that the movie provides for Nick is rather interesting as it is totally at odds with what is revealed in the book by Dashiell Hammett. In the book, Nick is of Greek origin from a father who changed his surname from Charalambides to Charles to fit a photograph. The type of small town upbringing which is portrayed in the movie is seemingly at odds with the characterization in the book.
In the sixth and final Thin Man whodunit, Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) look into the mysterious killing of bandleader Tommy Drake (Phillip Reed). The police quickly hone in on the owner of a gambling ship, Phil Brant (Bruce Cowling), who was about to lose Drake's band to a competitor. Also among the many and varied suspects are: Phil's new wife, socialite Janet Thayar (Jayne Meadows); the band's voluptuous vocalist, Fran Page (Gloria Grahame); and the troubled clarinetist, Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor). With the assistance of jive-talking "Clinker" Krause (Keenan Wynn) and the clever terrier Asta, Nick and Nora are soon able to gather all the suspects at the reopening of the floating gaming establishment. In between the skullduggery and the usual wisecracks, Gloria Grahame performs a sultry version of Herb Magidson and Ben Oakland's "You're Not So Easy to Forget."